Diversity in the Church

Originally published Monday, 03 March 2014.

In Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream Speech," he spoke of his longing to see "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers." Though he was speaking specifically of children in Alabama, he hoped to see that dream as a reality spread across our nation.

Today, when we look back over the time that has spanned between the Civil Rights Movement and where we are now, a lot has changed. In my own generation, I played with children of all races. My children do as well.

But as far as we've come, there's one place where the barrier separating people by the color of their skin still remains in many places: In our churches.


My dear friend, Trillia Newbell, has written a book on this very topic, United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity. In her book she looks at the issue of race, ethnicity, our history as a nation, and the church. Sharing her own personal stories and perspective as an African-American raised in the heart of the South, Trillia shares her heart for seeing our churches filled with the diversity of all God's cultures and people groups.

This is God's heart as well.

Trillia returns to the creation account to remind us that we all come from one set of parents. We all have the same Maker and the same Savior. We are family. At our Lord's return, we all join together with our brothers and sisters from across the globe and across the ages in worship, singing praise to our Savior for all eternity.

Why not start now?

In United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity, Trillia shares her own story of being one of a handful of blacks in a predominantly white church. Part of her story includes God's provision of diversity in the form of two friends. Though of different skin color than she, the three of them became quick friends. Using stories and quotes from her friends, Trillia shares how this friendship helped her see how beautiful diversity in the Body of Christ can be.

Here's where the book struck me. Though I was raised in a multi-cultural area (Washington, D.C.) and though I've always had friends of all backgrounds and cultures, when it comes to church, diversity is not something I have intentionally sought out. I don't go out of my way to invite or reach out to people of other ethnicities to worship at my church. I tend to accept my mostly white church the way it is.

Trillia's vision for the church is also God's vision and it should be our vision as well. United includes chapters with ideas and thoughts on ways to pursue diversity in our churches. It prompts us to step outside our comfort zones and evaluate the way our churches do evangelism and ministry. Our nation is growing and changing in its diversity, our churches ought to reflect that change as well.

May her dream become ours as well:

"My dream and hope is that my black-and-white children (the sweet gift of biracial blood) will be holding hands with black, Latino, Chinese, European, and African children in church one day, worshipping together. Stop and think about that. Isn't it a beautiful picture? My dream is that they would not have to wonder if the church they attend will reject them because of the color of their skin. My dream is that as they enter into adulthood, they will wonder why their mother thought a book about diversity, friendship, and the church was needed...Let's pave the way so that one day our children will be worshipping together, celebrating their differences and unity as God's family in a powerful and beautiful way." (p.144)

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for this review. The words and opinions are my own.