Bridging the Diversity Gap by Alvin Sanders is a good book exposing the “lack of diversity at 11:00 am on Sunday morning.” Sanders attributes Martin Luther King Jr for that quote and lays out reasons why the church should continue to press forward to champion a “Multi-ethnic Kingdom.” This is a historical problem. Some people wonder today what the problem is, but that normally is asked by young people who are not a part of an ethnic minority.
Sanders includes a great summary of each of his chapters in the “Learning Lab” on pages 187-222. I would encourage you to read this section first, because it gives a good overview of the content of each chapter and then read the initial seven chapters for a fuller explanation.
There are several things Sanders does well in his book. First, he exposes that I (being white) cannot just try to be color-blind (pp. 65-67). The reality is even if I was not a part of the prejudicial treatment of minorities, I cannot love those in ethnic-diverse cultures, unless I see them for who they are and love them for who they are, let alone understand how they may relate to a person of my race. I cannot assume we can live together easily, because our cultures are different, but we can both learn from each other. He defines five terms that may help people living in a diverse environment (pp. 73-78).
Secondly, he points out many secular organizations deal with racial-diversity better than religious organizations (p. 15), but they leave out God, so they will never be able to fulfill God’s purposes for diversity (p. 17). This is often because religious organizations have freedom to worship as they please. If the man-centered mindset is not open to diversity, then there will be little multi-ethnicity in a church.
Thirdly, he warns against “renting a race” (p. 95). Renting a race is hiring a person of a minority race in order to help the organization overcome racism. Unfortunately, one person cannot be expected to make the diversity change in an organization. It is a top-down influence as much as an inside out opportunity that will have the most influence.
Fourthly, he warns us not to “go it alone” (pp. 154-157). It is important to have at least another co-laborer who is on board, praying and supporting the influence. Too many times a person can act like a benevolent dictator to facilitate change, but every person has bias, may become a zealot and lack objectivity.
There are times when Sanders will make comments that seem like there should be a primary source. Comments like “It wasn’t until the Enlightenment that categorizing people into genetic groups was considered.” (p. 63) He uses the anthropologist Johann Blumenbach (1752-1840) as his example (p. 63), but it seems that I remember from anthropology racial categorization was part of the whole process of conquering to conquer in the ancient world.
He mentions his main focus is on majority-white organizations, who desire to ethnically integrate and are in the initial stages (p. 25), which has one set of principles. If this was written to a majority African-American, Asian, or Latino organization, there would be different principles. I would certainly like to read what would be written to those organizations.
His summary best defines the challenges of moving an organization to become multi-ethnic. He writes,
I’ve mentioned before that leading multi-ethnic change is more art than science and is highly contingent and situational. It’s like a chameleon, changing colors based on the situation it finds itself in, but at the end of the day is it still a chameleon. Although you have read my story, I want to be very clear—there is no one-size –fits-all formula for success. (p. 183)
Multi-Ethnic issues are challenging to deal with in life. I have not gone through living as a minority in a country or all the trials many face. I have my own set of challenges, but I can only seek to empathize and facilitate the oneness that Jesus prayed would happen among His people (John 17:20-23). I am always grateful when those from a minority attend and join my church, because it helps our church reflect the true body of Christ.