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Church Diversity Review by Kathy Gelzer

By Scott Williams
New Leaf Press
PO Box 726
Green Forest, AR 72638

This quote from Marin Luther King Jr. sums up the main idea in Church Diversity: "We must face the sad fact that at the eleven o'clock hour on Sunday morning when we stand to sing, we stand in the most segregated hour in America." That quote is from 40 years ago, and the author of Church Diversity, Scott Williams, contends that not much has changed since then.

In the first chapter, Scott Williams, former pastor at, presents his thesis: "Church Diversity is more than a book--it's a movement of God, pastors, ministry leaders, volunteers, congregants, and the community at large." On the first page of every chapter, as well as the title page, table of contents, foreword, and introduction, is a strip of small photos running across the book, picturing faces of Twitter friends who support the church diversity stance/movement. There's no duplication; every photo is different.

The author shares his faith story and church journey as a black kid growing up near Tulsa, Oklahoma. He and his family attended and experienced a variety of churches. Scott Williams's background gives credence to his writing. He says we need to be more concerned with our hearts matching Christ's than our faces matching those around us.

Each chapter opens with a link to a video and closes with a "Church Diversity Challenge" that includes great personal or group questions: How have your experiences shaped your belief as it relates to diversity? How could embracing more diversity in your worship help your church boldly confront the elephant in the pew?

The author's "Seven-Point Checkup" aids the reader in internalizing right thinking on the issue of church diversity: Check your heart, check your head, be prayerful, be intentional, be confrontational, be authentic, and be patient. In order to achieve diversity in the pew, Scott Williams says we need to have diversity in church staff and also in front of the congregation in a visible spot in the church service. "No diversity on the staff + no diversity on the platform = no diversity in the church."

Three "schools (of thought) of church diversity" are explained: the city, the community, and the heart. I had trouble distinguishing between the first two. The city way of thinking is that "the church should be a reflection of the demographics represented in the church's surrounding population," and the community opinion is this: "Our church reflects our immediate local community." The goal would be the final school of thought, the heart, which says that "the heart of the leader and heart of the church will break down diversity barriers. If the church has a heart for diversity, people will drive many miles, across the train tracks and in and out of 'the city' and 'the community' to be a part of it."

Scott Williams raises some difficult issues. For example, there are many ethnic churches available to specific cultures in the United States: Russian, Spanish-speaking, Chinese, etc. The author contends that these congregations are not welcoming to other populations. He says, "This is a wake-up call for the traditional ethnic churches, such as black, Indian, Asian, and Hispanic. The arguments that 'we must remain separate because it's about the community' or 'it's the only piece of culture that we have left' are not valid arguments." One valid concern, however, is language issues?

The author, who is currently a speaker, strategist, consultant, entrepreneur, and influencer, is a forward thinker who believes in using models from the community and the business world for the church. In chapter five, "Corporate America Cares More Than the Church," Scott Williams contends that the business world is far more progressive in its cultural acceptance. Examples of how this is demonstrated include ten top companies from DiversityInc Magazine, such as IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Marriot, and AT&T.

Next are eight churches in the United States today (and one in Nigeria) that are highlighted as examples of embracing diversity. These are mostly "mega churches" and are ones whose pastors Scott Williams personally knows. They share their stories, and Scott Williams provides his own commentary on what they say.

Not surprisingly, diversity in worship is discussed in one of the last chapters. Worship can be a divisive topic, even in homogenous congregations. The final chapter includes a self-assessment as well as a church assessment, which are useful tools in incorporating the concepts presented in Church Diversity.

A neat feature is the very last page of the book, where you will find an Appendix on Church Diversity Week. Included are 15 great ideas for your church to commemorate this holiday, which will begin Friday, January 13, 2012 and will be held the second Friday in January (the Friday preceding Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) each year thereafter.

Church Diversity is an important book, especially for church pastors, leaders, and staff members -- but also for the church at large.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2011