Posted by: Brian Musser | March 5, 2013

The Skin You Live In – Book Review

9781612910963The Skin You Live In: Building Friendships Across Cultural Lines by David D. Ireland, PhD

This book was amazing.  I live in a multicultural world.  I am the Baptist Campus Minister at Drexel University in Philadelphia.  I work primarily with African American students but also I am the faculty adviser for the Chinese Christian Fellowship, connect with the Muslim Student Association on regular basis and help out with International student programming.  As the Baptist Campus Minister I represent the Greater Philadelphia Baptist Association which is a network of 170 churches, 100 African American churches, 35 predominantly white churches and 35 churches that worship on Sunday in a language other than English, including Ukranian, Russian, Romanian, Spanish, Korean, Tagalog, Urdu, Arabic, Chinese, French-Creole and others.  I’ve had the opportunity to stand in front of my University and describe for them my job as being trying to connect the diversity within the church in Philadelphia to the diversity within the Academic community at Drexel.  My job is awesome and this book described my job in ways that I was never able to.  Although, we have some great things going for us within Christianity in Philadelphia there is still enormous room for growth.  Dr. Ireland gives us a great tool for that purpose.

The subtitle is bit of a understatement.  This book is not just about building friendships.  It goes so much deeper.  It is a call to all Christians to get into the business of racial and ethnic reconciliation.  It calls us to stand up and stop allowing our outward differences to separate  that which Christ has prayed to His Father to unite.

I have read other books that dealt with the idea from a more theological aspect.  I love some of the books Miroslav Volf writing from Yale Divinity School.  But after reading them I’ve wondered, “How do I communicate this to others?”  and “How do I get people passionate about idea in a textbook?”  The Skin You Live In answers those questions.  Each chapter is concise, easily understood, directly applicable and powerfully motivating.  The organized part of my brain loved the simple bullet point list of specific aspect of each chapter.  For example the eight point list in chapter four about how to be racially attractive:

  1. Offer hospitality
  2. Be free to laugh and joke
  3. Go on social outings
  4. Engage in vulnerable conversations
  5. Have cross-race friends
  6. Seek mutually rewarding outcomes
  7. Demonstrate comfort in the friendship
  8. Practice honest in the relationship

You do not need a seminary degree to comprehend and apply that list.  The emotional side of me love the personal stories.  The story of the church foot-washing service in chapter six brought tears to my eyes.

In case you have not realized yet, I highly recommend this book.  I will be using it as a checklist for my ministries in the future.  I will be using this book with students as we become Christians in an age in America without a racial majority.  I will be featuring this book as we look to impact the entire globe from our base in Philadelphia.  I will be recommending this book to pastors as we try to navigate what it means to exist in a racially and ethnically diverse group of churches ministering to a racially and ethnically diverse city.  Dr. Ireland’s book impacted me and then gave me practical ways to use that impact for change.

You can find the book on NAVPRESS’s website and there is also a free PDF study guide there as well.  SkinYouLiveIn_SG

I have to acknowledge that this book was brought to my attention by Christ Community Church at 40th and Chestnut.  They have recently gone through this book as an entire church so if you are in the Drexel University area and passionate about becoming like Christ in the area of racial and ethnic reconciliation you should check them out on a Sunday.


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