Rediscipling the White Church
"Many white Christians across America are waking up to the fact that something is seriously wrong—but often this is where we get stuck."
Confronted by the deep-rooted racial injustice in our society, many white Christians instinctively scramble to add diversity to their churches and ministries. But is diversity really the answer to the widespread racial dysfunction we see in the church?
In this simple but powerful book, Pastor David Swanson contends that discipleship, not diversity, lies at the heart of our white churches' racial brokenness. Before white churches can pursue diversity, he argues, we must first take steps to address the faulty discipleship that has led to our segregation in the first place. Drawing on the work of philosopher James K. A. Smith and others, Swanson proposes that we rethink our churches' habits, or liturgies, and imagine together holistic, communal discipleship practices that can reform us as members of Christ's diverse body.
"David offers a new discipleship pathway by speaking honestly and precisely to white people and elevating the voices and histories of people of color, who have been calling for a more honest conversation about faith and race all along. Rediscipling the White Church is a unique contribution to this discussion because, unlike other white people who keep denying it, David tells the truth about the reality of whiteness in the church and society. . . . David knows that racism is insidious, and he has chosen to expose how it operates so we can all see it and be healed of its power and influence over us. I can't think of anybody I trust more to write this important book."
"There are few pastors I trust more to take on a major task like this. David is an astute theologian and is well trained and positioned to lead this conversation. Just as importantly, David is a respected and credible practitioner. He is highly regarded in the city of Chicago for his humility, his tenacity, and his commitment to first experiencing the necessary rediscipling in his own life. If you are a white Christian longing for a resource that will help you name where things went wrong and create a roadmap for how to get realigned with King Jesus, this is your book."
"David brings a fresh lens not just in how to view the state of race in the church but how to address it. He integrates the practices of any congregation, including children, with God's call toward unity across race and toward addressing the systems of racial oppression in both the church and in the world. His emphasis on our communal discipleship is a great addition to the resources available to the white church to understand their history and role in reconciliation and justice."
"This book does not ask you to diversify your congregation. Instead it invites you to join the reconciled body of Christ. To that end, David Swanson has reimagined how to leverage the features of worship and service you already use—preaching, communion, children's ministry, evangelism, and more—to disciple the congregation you already have, regardless of its racial makeup. This is clear-headed, concrete guidance from a humble and experienced leader."
"David Swanson takes a deep dive into the very formation process for white Christians—discipleship. This new and altered rediscipleship, designed under the influence of mentors of color, addresses structures of white supremacy, privilege, and segregation. Simultaneously, it reforms white Christians using the central structures of church life—worship, preaching, fellowship, and the like. I know Daniel Swanson. He has been thoroughly rediscipled himself before inviting others to embrace the journey he proposes."
"David Swanson is a fresh and needed voice in our day. In this important book he treats the challenges of race from the most important starting point: discipleship. While diversity is a great thing, the church (and in particular the white church David writes to) needs a broader vision of what it means to follow Jesus in this arena. I'm so glad he has provided a powerful vision for the flourishing of the church!"
"Rediscipling the White Church illuminates the worldviews and customs hindering white Christianity's witness. Swanson prophetically models how confession, repentance, and renewed minds liberate captive congregations and embolden them to holistically redefine discipleship. Through reimagined liturgical, spiritual, and ecclesial practices, this book offers a tangible framework for producing Christlike disciples who will in turn make Christlike disciples."
"'Rediscipling' is the operative assertion and action at the heart of David Swanson's powerful book about the white church. This means for him that exposing and dismantling racism in the church is not primarily a political task but a spiritual and theological one. It has to do with a deep reformation of Christian practice that reflects the just heart of God rather than hiding racial injustice within sometimes false language and practices of Christian faith. Swanson's book and his example, interacting with key insights from James K. A. Smith, present a raw, compelling, and urgent call."
"Having journeyed with David Swanson over the last decade, he has shown up and locked arms with people of color. David has learned that any approach to diversity that ignores discipleship simply rearranges the church furniture. In Rediscipling the White Church he offers a down-to-the-marrow look at how whiteness can be named and supplanted as a framing identity. Through reclaiming its rhythms, namely in its collective discernment and practices, he invites the church to reimagine itself through life in the embodied Christ. This book is incisive, winsome, and hopeful, and will be a gift to future generations of churches."
"If there is one book every Christian leader in America should read, it's this one. The wisdom Swanson communicates is hard won and applicable to ministries in any setting, not merely those in urban or racially diverse communities. Swanson deserves credit for approaching the entire subject though the timeless framework of making disciples, who obey all that Jesus commanded, rather than using divisive and fleeting cultural hashtags. Of course, not everyone is ready to receive this important word for our times, but whoever has ears, let them hear."
"Rediscipling the White Church is deeply needed, richly informed, wonderfully organized, and profoundly impactful. Framing the issue as a discipleship problem, David Swanson helps us down a clear path to be authentic Christ followers. I will recommend this book often."
"David Swanson unveils the need and strategies for new trajectories of discipleship amid the entrenched challenges of race. Challenge and discomfort will be companions on the path from segregation to solidarity, but these are necessary growing pains if the church is to become the people who demonstrate that the legacy of race is not insurmountable when courageous Christians take a deeper discipleship dive than ever."
"David Swanson offers all Christians a gift in Rediscipling the White Church. He not only presents redemptive practices that white Christians might engage as discipleship pathways, he challenges white Christians by offering us his intellect and his story as sacred entry points into the work of confronting racism. The end is good news—Christ's reconciliation is an invitation wide enough and deep enough to save our lives and our communion."
"Let us not come up with more white solutions to the problems of white Christianity in the United States. Instead let us all follow a discipleship that shapes us beyond segregation, racial habits, and other cultural captivities to a new way of being . . . a way of being we call church. Allow David Swanson to lead us to the 'uncomfortable truth' that can free us to a whole new world of embodied solidarity as Christians of all colors. Read Rediscipling the White Church and awaken to discover Jesus at the center of a flourishing that includes all people in the Kingdom of God."
"I guarantee you will disagree with something David Swanson has to say in Rediscipling the White Church. That is exactly why leaders like me (and you) need to read this book! It is in listening that we learn and in exposing ourselves to dissenting opinions that we discover our own blind spots. For anyone who wants to learn and grow in their understanding of discipleship, race, and justice, read this book!"
Foreword by Brenda Salter McNeil
Introduction to Part One: From Cheap Diversity . . .
1 Discipled by Race
2 Concealed by Race
3 Wounded by Race
Introduction to Part Two: . . . To True Solidarity.
4 Practicing Table Fellowship
5 Practicing Kingdom Preaching
6 Practicing Subversive Liturgies
7 Practicing Children's Ministry of Reconciliation
8 Practicing Presence
9 Practicing Salvation from Superiority
10 Practicing Uncommon Friendship