Diversity WhoDunIt

Each Monday this summer, I’m blogging Scott Williams’ book, Church Diversity, because I won the book from Michael Perkins’ blog and because I’m puzzled by the phenomenon of segregated Sundays.

As you know if you read here regularly at MessiahMom, I love a good mystery, especially old English country house mysteries by Agatha Christie or Georgette Heyer. In those formulaic mysteries, the body is found in a locked room, everyone present at the weekend party is a suspect, weapons abound, etc. The reader’s task is to discover WhoDunIt before the inspector or amateur sleuth in the novel.

As Scott Williams does in his 2nd chapter of Church Diversity, readers must also face the “brutal facts” of the case. If we are to solve the case of missing diversity, let’s look at those brutal facts.

*According to Mark DeYmaz, pastor of Mosaic, The Multi-Ethnic church, in his podcast, 92.5% of churches are segregated by race and class.

*Curtis DeYoung found that only about 5% of churches are fully integrated (meaning, made of up of ethnic groups that constitute more than 20% of the population of the largest ethnic group).

*Sociologist Michael Emerson found that non-denominational megachurches are much more likely to be racially diverse (and otherwise diverse) than smaller, tradition-bound congregations.

These are the facts of the case. Let’s look at our cast of suspects. People investigating church diversity often point to THESE to identify the cause. So, Who is Kaiser Soze?

Pastor: People like to blame the pastor when their church doesn’t look like they believe it should. Pastors are expected to welcome visitors and drop ’round member’s houses and make hospital visits and create, share and execute the vision of the church. Pressure much? No wonder pastor burnout is a problem!

Sure, Pastors can be a contributing factor in church diversity. Like attracts like. Is he or she reaching out to minorities and actively pursuing diversity? What about Staff?

Staff: Associate ministers, Music Directors, Youth Directors, Church Secretary, Custodial staff, Nursery Director… I’m not asking churches to make hiring or calling decisions based on race, but given that our communities are diverse, it would stand to reason that there would be SOME diversity on staff. That’s something to pray about, yes?At the same time, can we encourage a diverse congregation with the staff we have?

Ushers: Some day, I’ll write about how a rogue usher almost convinced me never to go back to my former church. Ushers are the front lines of greeting in many churches, but they might also be serving as gatekeepers to determine who is in and who is Auf Wiedersehen (pardon my Project Runway ref). For instance, there was the story of the special needs child whose family was escorted out on Easter Sunday, to help create a “distraction free” worship environment.

Congregation: Couldn’t the people in the pews be inviting a variety of their friends and neighbors to church? Shouldn’t the people in the pews have reason to believe their church is open and welcoming to all races, ages, economies, abilities, backgrounds… what about those sex offenders?

Honestly, and I’m about to ruin a great Christie novel for you, so, turn away if you don’t like spoilers… I think that lack of diversity in the church isn’t a matter of WhoDunIt, but, like Murder on the Orient Express, we have ALL contributed to the segregation of congregations across the nation.

Our weapons were apathy, omission, snide comments, cliquishness, nepotism, risk aversion, myopia and distrust. Those weapons are not God’s weapons, they belong to the enemy.

This week, I’m asking you to pray for our churches. Pray for a destruction of the weapons that are so easily available to us.

What weapons would you like to see destroyed?

What’s your favorite mystery novel?

11 responses to “Diversity WhoDunIt

  1. I am reminded of a little church I once visited, in a small town, which had not a single non-white person. And the chief reason for this? There weren’t any non-whites living near it. It was mostly elderly, too, because that part of town had mostly retired older folks.

    Now, I’m not saying by any means that there aren’t churches with prejudice problems. But I do think we have to take community factors into account. People tend to move into communities with people like them, and attend the church in their community. A mega-church, whether non-denominational or not, is likely to be diverse simply by the size of its population sample. People will come from all around a city to a mega-church. People generally don’t come from very far to a little community church. If you examine the content of the church without examining the content of the community, you won’t get an accurate picture.

    • I agree. Community does play a big role. I go to a Latino church and most people are Latino. Anyone is welcome, but would they feel comfortable in a Latino church? I don’t know the answer to that.

    • I realize that not all communities are diverse, but I can’t believe that 92.5% of communities are as segregated as those numbers when it comes to churches.

      In my suburban area, there are 6 churches within walking distance of me. Two are predominantly black churches, one Hispanic church and three “white” churches (Lutheran, Non-denomination and Church of Christ). I know denominational differences might account for some of that, but… I’m still confused.

  2. I agree that all of us play a big role in the lack of true diversity in the church. I think “cliquishness” is one of the most evil tools in the church today. I have seen how any “new” movement comes and the church adopts it and integrates it and when it’s no longer cool, they move on to the next one. We need to go back to Biblical Acts type of church service.

    There’s lots to say, but as you have mentioned, prayer is a wonderful start.

    • I don’t remember when, but at some point, I realized that we’ve come to think of church as “going to hear someone preach” and we’ve moved away from every single person in the congregation being equipped to spread the gospel with everyone they know. That is what brings about diversity… think of the diversity of people on your friend’s list or Twitter feed… if we were all sharing with all the people we know, that’s a much wider net with which to be fishers of men.

  3. In terms of responsibility, the pastor is the one ultimately responsible for the climate and atmosphere of the church. He’s the one who’s going to have to answer before God for the decisions he made. Pressure much? Absolutely. But being a leader is a high call not to be taken lightly. His job is to get all the other people you listed on board with the will of God. He can’t do it alone, so he has to get them to do their part in it.

    Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

    James 3:1, “My brethren, be not many masters [NKJV: teachers], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”

  4. I totally agree mo….this is how my church is too….everyone is welcome…but will they feel comfortable…..guys bring there white girlfriends and they rather go to sunday school for our college goers with our co-pastor who teaches it in english….so I think we good….but main church services are completely in spanish….

  5. Very interesting thoughts here, Kristin. When I think about why there isn’t more diversity in the church, in the workplace, in my community, it can be overwhelming to consider why and what can be done to change it. There are so many factors at work. We definitely all play a part so I guess it goes back to being the change we wish to see. That’s not a new idea for me, just hadn’t considered it in this context before.

    I used to be a Mary Higgins Clark fan until I was able to predict the killer within the first few pages. The latest mystery I’m still contemplating is The Distant Hours. It’s not a mystery novel per se, more like contemporary lit but the mystery inherent in the plot kept me guessing the whole way through.

  6. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen is the clique mentality. I’ve experienced it in every kind of church. I’ve seen it in white, black, hispanic and diverse churches. It’s not necessarily connected to skin color as much as a mentality of being attracted to people who are like you.

    I’m guilty of it and I know I have to set my mind to be intentional about talking to people that I’m not normally drawn to. It stretches me but it’s ALWAYS worth it.

    My love for reading was set off by mystery novels. I don’t read many these days but the last few I read by Harlan Coban were fantastic. That guy knows how to write a page turner!

  7. The cliques in my church are rampant….and I think cliques form out of a desire for comfort, which is contrary to where God calls us to be. I’m not surprised by those numbers because comfort is also at the root of segregation – we want to do life with people who look, act, and feel like us. But, that’s not what we’re called to do.

  8. Would love to read the book when you are through Kristin. I’ve been walking past it now for a while in Mardel and never got around to purchasing it. Great thoughts here!

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