Compiled by Travis Hurley
Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) — Despite its age, this remains essential reading for anyone looking to get a grasp on evangelical religion and the problem of race in America. There are helpful historical summaries of the church and race in America in early chapters, and once you understand their explanation of the “white evangelical tool kit,” you’ll start to see how using these tools actually hinders reconciliatory progress before it even begins.
Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity, by Edward Gilbreath (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2006) — Written by the former editor of Christianity Today and founder of UrbanFaith.com, this is a great read and resource for those who want to better understand and communicate the experiences of ethnic minorities who are actively engaged in the culture of American (predominantly white) Christianity.
Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation, by Mark DeYmaz (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007) — This is the go-to source for an in-depth explanation of the biblical mandate for multiethnic ministry. The second half of the book is also valuable, as characteristics of good health in multiethnic churches are identified and explained.
The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009) — Kingdom over culture, right? Yet it is nearly impossible to separate the development of Christianity from the culture and traditions of Western civilization. Soong-Chan Rah explores the limitations of congregations ill-equipped to deal with the cultural realities of a diverse society.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander (New York: The New Press, 2010) — A great challenge for white evangelicals is learning to see systemic issues of racism versus individual instances. Alexander’s book helps reveal the systemic problems, particularly within our country’s criminal justice system. The impact of mass incarceration on communities of color is broad in scope. People who care deeply about racial justice need to be familiar with this book.
Churches, Cultures and Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities, by Mark Lau Branson and Juan F. Martinez (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011) — This is an excellent resource to help church leaders see and understand the importance of cultural awareness and agility in leading a multiethnic congregation. Without awareness, education, and growth, a well-intentioned leader can perpetuate majority cultural dominance even as the people in the pews begin to reflect greater diversity.
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible, by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012) — The most significant cultural realities don’t need to be explained; they go without saying. When those details are excluded, modern-day readers unconsciously fill in their own go-without-saying realities, reflecting their own assumptions and bias and causing them to “misread Scripture with Western eyes.”
Leading a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Seven Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them, by Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013) — This book, originally distributed under the title Ethnic Blends, explores the obstacles that arise in leading an intentional multiethnic church. Personal, theological, philosophical, practical, cross-cultural, relational, and spiritual issues are identified, and practical steps are offered for navigating them.
Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart, by Christena Cleveland (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013) — Cleveland uses insights from social psychology to explore the persistent divisions in the church, but in a very down-to-earth, often humorous fashion. This would be a useful resource for church leaders, church members, and educators.
Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bryan Loritts, editor (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014) — Dr. King’s original letter from the Birmingham Jail is included, followed by essays in response, now 50 years later, from men of various ages and ethnic backgrounds. Responses from contributors like John M. Perkins, John Piper, Albert Tate, Matt Chandler, and more, consider the intersection of faith and culture, calling the church to an intentional, active pursuit of unity in Christ.
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates (New York: Random House, 2015) — In this book, Coates offers an examination of what life is like for black men. He composed the book in the form of letters written to his teenage son in the aftermath of recent highly publicized shootings of African-Americans by police officers. Coates, an atheist, is a leading intellectual voice on issues of race in America, contributing regularly to The Atlantic.
Travis Hurley serves as vice president of development and diversity with Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri, and as director for Dream of Destiny.