Today we celebrate and remember Martin Luther King, Jr. Though we’ve come a long way as a country, I still think we have a ways to go. Days like today make me think of my friend, Scott Williams and his forth-coming book on Church Diversity with a subtitle of “Sunday: The Most Segregated Day of the Week.”
I’ve written about this subject before, but I ask again: When it comes to Sunday and our churches – How diverse are we really? Yesterday, at church, I played keys as I usually do when I’m in town and I looked out and saw a total of two African-American people in both services. Do we live in a “white” town? Far from it!
My business is a member of both the Greene County Chamber of Commerce and the Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce. These two counties have two very different economic situations. Both counties have luxury neighborhoods with world-class golf courses located on Lake Oconee in gated communities like Reynolds Plantation, Harbor Club, Del Webb, Cuscowilla and Great Waters. If you remember when Pittsburg Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger, got in trouble for sexual assault, he was in Georgia because he has a home in a neighborhood 5 minutes from my house.
Our community has one of the nicest hotels in the country: The Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee where Carey Underwood got married and is also where many special guests, including President Bush go to get away. Not even 5 miles from the Ritz, there are people sleeping on the ground that our church has tried to help.
How drastic is the split in my community? Recently, at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, a guest speaker shared the demographic results of our community. The facts are staggering. Inside the gated communities, the average income is $150,000. Outside the gated communities, the average income is $24,000. These two average incomes live within minutes of each other.
The divide is also very evident in our school system. Our community has 2 or 3 private schools which are really nice and one charter school, which you have to live in the right part of town to get into (or else you’re put on a long waiting list). My kids go to public school at Greensboro Elementary (in Greene County) and are a minority. Each of my kids is 1 of 2 or 3 white kids in their classroom. Read that again. My kids are a part of a tiny, minority in their classrooms, yet I see only 2 black people at a church of 400 people.
Please know, I’m not picking on my current home church. I’ve seen this at each church I’ve served or attended in my lifetime. I’ve always had a heart for diversity and I’m always very aware of how many minorities attend my given church. This is something I look for when I do secret shoppers, too. I’ve never had the joy of being a member of a truly diverse church, though I have visited some in my travels and consulting.
The churches that I’ve seen that are diverse had diverse staff and diversity up on the platform during worship. This does not happen by accident and this is my personal “dream”. To see churches intentionally hire for diversity and fill the stage with color.
What are your thoughts? Do you see the need for a book like Scott is writing? Have we reached the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of or are we still short? Is your church closed today in honor of this holiday??? Read Scott’s blog from last night HERE.