RACIAL RECONCILIATION & Why it is more than just worshipping together. #7Systems #System2 www.7Systems.church

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: For almost 3 decades I’ve helped churches become culturally integrated. And, an important aspect of that is working towards “racial reconciliation.” But it’s not as easy as most churches think. Churches hope by integrating their worship teams and even their boards they can accomplish racial reconciliation. But racial reconciliation is something much deeper that requires addressing practices that run throughout society. And, so it requires a church to take a more expansive stand.

Read this interview with my IWU colleague who has investigated this and explains the phenomenon.

An Interview With Russell (Rusty) Hawkins.

…(Hawkins) For the last 20 years, according to sociologists, there’s been this really significant move among white evangelical Christians to embrace racial reconciliation. This has become a big part of white evangelical Christianity, this move to become diverse and have diverse churches as a way to achieve this reconciliation. So, there’s an attentiveness over the last two decades to becoming more racially diverse within American churches, particularly among white evangelical Christians. The problem here is that the tools that get used to bring about this racial reconciliation are very much centered on ideas about just interpersonal relationships and ideas about colorblindness. White evangelical Christians say, “We recognize that there has been a problem in the past. The way we’re going to move forward is becoming friends. Ultimately, we’re trying to get to the point where race doesn’t matter at all. So, we’re getting to the point where we’re colorblind.”

While that might have some particular outcomes at the individual level and the interpersonal level, what that leaves in place are all sorts of structural disparities that continue to persist within American society along racial lines. And so, you get black Christians who enter into these churches, into these relationships, and say, “Well, okay, so there’s an interpersonal thing going on here too, but there’s also a larger reality about the experiences of people of color in this country that we need to address at the structural level or at the level of systems that operate in this country.” And when those conversations start to happen, suddenly these white evangelical Christians pull way back and say, “No! That’s not what we’re talking about here. That stuff doesn’t exist. Or if it exists, it doesn’t exist to the extent that you are claiming exists.” And the problem here is that you can’t just get over these past things and just enter into these relationships.

In other words, these white evangelical Christians have been influenced by decades’ worth of this teaching that tells them don’t talk about race, try not to see race, be colorblind. And when someone tells you that structural racism or systemic racism exists, you can ignore them…

Read more of the interview here … https://religionandpolitics.org/2021/06/29/how-white-southern-christians-fought-to-preserve-segregation/?

reMIX & Researchers tell us what’s dramatically declining in the U.S. is white Christianity. It’s time you get serious and hire a coach to help you become a church of living color. MarkDeYmaz & I coach churches & together co-authored a practical book on how to do it.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I have taught hundreds of churches how to become multi-ethnic. And I’ve produced books and scholarly research/papers on how to do this too.

If your church is serious about becoming multiethnic you need someone to coach you. And that’s what I do.

For background why you need a coach, see this article of March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelsonhttps://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/ where the author said:

“Sociologists also report that the experience of immigration increases the intensity of whatever religious convictions are held by migrants. They find religious homes in the U.S. within existing congregations and through establishing new ones, often using the facilities of declining churches. Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.”

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reMIX & Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.

Sociologists also report that the experience of immigration increases the intensity of whatever religious convictions are held by migrants. They find religious homes in the U.S. within existing congregations and through establishing new ones, often using the facilities of declining churches. Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

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reMIX & Those who enjoy lattes at downtown coffee shops on Sunday mornings instead of singing in church are largely young, hip and white. But the country’s demographic future as a whole is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, and this will impact the religious landscape.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

For strategies almost any church can utilize to become a church of living color see my and Mark DeYmaz’s Abingdon Dress book: reMIX – Transitioning Your Church to Living Color.

REVITALIZATION & For Crumbling Urban Congregations, an Economic Handbook on How to Save a House of Worship

by Rachael Holliday Smith, The NY City Magazine, 3/22/21.

…“Many churches have plateaued,” Hildebrandt said. “There’s just a general uneasiness about the future right now — and I think COVID made it worse.”

A cadre of clergy, congregants, land use experts and planners are fighting back against the trend in one of the places hit hardest by the pandemic with a new handbook — a bible, of sorts.

The “Action Book,” released this week by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, is chock full of answers to the question: How can a congregation keep its building, while still carrying out its mission?

…Judson founded a nonprofit called Bricks and Mortals that aims to help religious institutions cope with mounting bills and the pressures to sell.

Schaper said she’s found that small churches with fewer than 20 members are most at risk. Many haven’t paid their pastor in months, or have had their water cut, or lights turned off.

“A lot of these congregations just disappear,” Schaper said.

Nationally, about 1% of congregations close each year, according to research cited by The New York Times late last year. Brewer’s office found that between 2010 and 2020, the numbers of religious congregations in Manhattan declined by 7% from 976 to 907. 

Karen DiLossi, director of arts at Partners for Sacred Places — which also informed Brewer’s report — said the pressure is worse in Black and brown neighborhoods where would-be buyers target weakened churches.

“They may have a diminishing congregation, and maybe they have a huge facility, but the upkeep is too much,” she said. “They feel tremendous amounts of pressure to sell.”

The Action Book, written in partnership with the NYU Wagner School of Public Service, offers guidance about alternatives to cashing out. The report also explains the basics of New York’s land use rules, how air rights work, the pros and cons of landmarking a building and what to know about redevelopment.

Brewer’s guide gives local examples of how some local congregations have made their properties work for them. It describes a deal made in Harlem by Bethel Gospel Assembly to sell air rights and allow a developer to build on the church’s former parking lot. In Washington Heights, Rocky Mountain Baptist Church arranged to be part of a senior housing development under construction now.

Read more at … https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/3/22/22345713/for-crumbling-congregations-a-bible-on-how-to-save-a-house-of-worship

REMOTE LEADERSHIP & 3 Ways to Lead Through Crisis at a Distance.

by Matt Garratt, Entrepreneur Magazine, 2/4/21.

…I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with CEOs about how they’re leading through this period of intense change. I hope that by sharing some of their best practices and advice, it can help you answer some critical questions.

Their top three pieces of advice: Show empathy and support, listen and make an effort to build community. 

1. Show empathy and support employees in the home office and at home

Making day-to-day life easier for your employees while supporting their families shows you care about more than just what they can do for you, and it also means you can contribute to improvements in their mental health, morale and productivity…

2. Prioritize communication — even more than usual — and listen more

The most effective leaders foster an environment of open communication, including providing forums for direct conversations about difficult topics. “Opportunities to be heard and provide feedback are the best ways we’ve been able to maintain morale,” Gainsight’s Mehta says. “When teammates know they can be heard from different areas of the company, they know they are supported…

3. Reinforce company values through community

Creating and sustaining genuine connections between employees is vital to employee health, satisfaction and performance — especially when everyone is physically far apart and spontaneous conversations are so hard to come by.

Mihir Shukla, CEO of Automation Anywhere, has been able to stay in touch with how the employees are feeling through “pulse” surveys. Shukla says the most important initiative has been an online gathering called “TenForward Lounge,” a digital event space where employees can engage in conversations via moderators and share their thoughts and feelings. “It’s also an opportunity to reinforce company values,” Shukla says.

Read more at … https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/363949?utm_source=flipboard&utm_medium=related&utm_campaign=syndication

RECONCILIATION & My article “Racial Healing or Reopening? How to do Both Well” published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Nov 15, 2020.

I have been taken aback by how two crises happened at the same time. First there was the pandemic. Then on top of that was the call for racial justice and healing. However, I noticed that usually researchers/writers wrote on one topic or the other. But I thought, they are inextricably connected. Leaders are talking about reopening their churches with new safety protocols. But we should also be talking about reopening our churches with new intercultural protocols too.

But what we’re not doing is addressing sufficiently yet the racial divide in North America. If we are going to reopen with a changed church, let’s change more than the cleanliness. Let’s begin to clean our hearts and souls from racial division.

In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). He describes this ministry of reconciliation as between God and humans AND between humans and one other. You see, Paul was reaching out to the Gentiles. And they were the persecutors of the Jews. The Jews had a lot of qualms about reaching out to the Gentiles. These were their oppressors. These were their enemies, the occupiers of the Jewish homeland who abused and killed innocent people because of racial hatred. And Paul is reaching out to them and seeing Christ change them! That is the background behind Paul’s description of our ministry of reconciliation. He sees the Church as bringing divergent groups together while also bringing we who are estranged from God, back to God.

Look at how Paul describes it in the contemporary language of The Message Bible:

RELATIONAL LEADERS & 5 reasons highly sensitive people are an asset to your team. #3StrandLeadership

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: The three basic “leadership types” are anchored by the relational leader. Sometimes called the “highly sensitive person” they take longer to process new ideas because they know the new ideas will strain relationships.

However, you need this highly relational leader on your team or else your plans will be perceived as uncaring and damaging to personal relationships.

Here’s a quick questionnaire to find the relational leaders on your team. And below is an article that explains more about how to keep this very valuable person as part of your team.

5 reasons highly sensitive people are an asset to your team by Harvey Deutschendorf, Fast Company Magazine, 12/2/20.

Psychologist Elaine Aron, who has been studying the innate temperament trait of high sensitivity since 1991, coined the phrase “Highly Sensitive Person.”

For those individuals who have these traits—about 20% of the general population—it can be a gift and a curse. HSPs feel both positive and negative emotions more intensely than non-HSPs. This sensitivity is thought to be linked to higher levels of creativity, richer personal relationships, and a greater appreciation for beauty.

Highly sensitive people require extra time to process, and if something seems off, they will usually identify an issue to be looked into further. Brain scans have shown that HSPs have more active mirror neurons, which are responsible for feelings of empathy for others, and more activity in brain areas that are involved with emotional responses.

Let’s take a look at the qualities of highly sensitive people so that you will recognize their traits, gifts, and the way they can feel most comfortable in the workplace.

1. THEY PROCESS THINGS DEEPLY

The highly sensitive brain has a more active insula, the part of the brain that helps enhance perception and increase self-awareness. HSPs are also wired to pause and reflect before engaging. Therefore, HSPs are always taking in a lot of information around them and thinking deeply about it.

Since HSPs notice more subtle details in their environments, they are more emotionally impacted by social stimulation and will notice the “pulse” of the workplace energy, which can be very helpful. They notice little details that others may miss, such as subtle body language or small changes to an environment. They are the first to notice if a colleague gets a new haircut or if someone is upset.

2. THEY FEEL EMOTIONS INTENSELY

HSPs feel more emotional in response to both positive and negative events, and they notice subtle details that others miss, such as nonverbal cues or small changes in their environment.

Read more at … https://www.fastcompany.com/90581287/5-reasons-highly-sensitive-people-are-an-asset-to-your-team?

RECONCILIATION & How Billy Graham stood up against racism and modeled reconciliation, as told by someone who was there: Amos C. Brown.

by Amos C. Brown, Sojourners Magazine, 6/16/29.

… In July 1952, when I was 11 years old, some of my relatives took me to witness the Billy Graham Crusade in Jackson, Miss. Ropes were strung across the athletic field and stands where more than 300,000 people would gather to hear him preach during those hot summer nights. The ropes had one purpose: to keep the crowd segregated by the color of their skin.

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I still remember, nearly 70 years later, watching as Rev. Graham walked down off the podium where he was to preach and pulled down those ropes. That was the day that he declared he would never again preach to a segregated congregation, because the gospel of Jesus Christ welcomes all equally. It was a courageous act for which he was heavily criticized, notoriously so in the segregated South. Nonetheless, in pulling down those ropes he demonstrated his belief in the words of the gospel, and over the rest of life stood with other religious leaders who were working to bring down the barriers of racism.

From the article “BILLY GRAHAM RAISED HIS VOICE AGAINST RACISM. SO SHOULD HIS SON.” Read the full article here … https://sojo.net/articles/billy-graham-raised-his-voice-against-racism-so-should-his-son

And watch a video here …https://billygraham.org/video/taking-ropes-segregation-part-4/

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Image: LancasterOnline.com

REBOUND & RENEW TOOLS: 8 nationally published articles on how to grow a healthy church after a crisis (resource page w/ tools) excerpted from my book “Growing the Post-pandemic Church.”

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Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  During a shutdown, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, churches have an opportunity to prepare for rebounding and renewing into  healthier churches.  Here are articles I’ve written about how to accomplish this (published by magazines with national platforms, i.e. Outreach Magazine and Biblical Leadership Magazine).  These articles are excerpted from my book: “Growing the Post-pandemic Church.” Excerpted below you will find …
  • How to use these difficult times as a springboard for churches to rebound and renew,
  • With greater long-term health and more powerful Good News impact.
  • Click on the pictures (below) to access the articles published by Outreach Magazine and Biblical Leadership Magazine.
ARTICLE ©BobWhitesel Most Churches Are Not Doing Screen Shot St. Paul's Guide to Leading Remotely 2.2.png

Read more in Biblical Leadership Magazine here.


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Read more in Biblical Leadership Magazine here.


8C9182E5-2942-46A4-86A8-5EFCA2D6EB90.jpeg Now that banning gatherings is becoming commonplace, the faith community will be temporarily forced to morph into something new (or maybe something old, read on). During this time and afterward some churches will thrive, but others may struggle. Having coached churches for 30 years, trained hundreds of church leaders and earned two doctorates in the field, here is my forecast with survival options for those churches at risk.

Click to read the article in Outreach Magazine here.


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Read more of this article published by Biblical Leadership Magazine here.


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Read more of this article published by Outreach Magazine Here.


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Read more of this article in Biblical Leadership Magazine HERE.


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Read this article in Outreach Magazine by clicking here.

RESURRECTION & ‪“Easter—Myth, Hallucination, or History?” A powerful & classic article by #EdwinYamuchi via @CTmagazine

‪Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. This is an insightful article by a renowned scholar on the reality of the resurrection, via @CTmagazine archives.

Read the article (with a subscription) here … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1974/march-15/eastermyth-hallucination-or-history.html?visit_source=twitter‬

RELIGIONS & These are all the world’s major religions in one map. #InfoGraphic #WorldEconomicForum

by Frank Jacobs, World Economic Forum, 3/26/19.

  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There’s one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which? 

Image: Carrie Osgood

A picture says more than a thousand words, and that goes for this world map as well. This map conveys not just the size but also the distribution of world religions, at both a global and national level.

Strictly speaking it’s an infographic rather than a map, but you get the idea. The circles represent countries, their varying sizes reflect population sizes, and the slices in each circle indicate religious affiliation.

The result is both panoramic and detailed. In other words, this is the best, simplest map of world religions ever. Some quick takeaways:

  • Christianity (blue) dominates in the Americas, Europe and the southern half of Africa.
  • Islam (green) is the top religion in a string of countries from northern Africa through the Middle East to Indonesia.
  • India stands out as a huge Hindu bloc (dark orange).
  • Buddhism (light orange) is the majority religion in South East Asia and Japan.
  • China is the country with the world’s largest ‘atheist/agnostic’ population (grey) as well as worshippers of ‘other’ religions (yellow).
  • The Americas are (mostly) solidly Christian 
 Which is the least Christian country in the Americas? The answer may surprise you.

… But the map – based on figures from the World Religion Database (behind a paywall) – also allows for some more detailed observations.

Read more at … https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/this-is-the-best-and-simplest-world-map-of-religions/

RELIGIOSITY & Highly religious adults are more engaged with family, more likely to volunteer & happier overall. #PewResearch

by Pew Research Center, 4/12/16.

Highly religious Americans are happier and more involved with family but are no more likely to exercise, recycle or make socially conscious consumer choices

Highly religious adults more engaged with family, more likely to volunteer and happier overallA new Pew Research Center study of the ways religion influences the daily lives of Americans finds that people who are highly religious are more engaged with their extended families, more likely to volunteer, more involved in their communities and generally happier with the way things are going in their lives.

Highly religious adults not distinctive in interpersonal interactions, health, social consciousness

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2016/04/12/religion-in-everyday-life/

REVIVAL & Over 100,000 people in Wales came to know Christ doing these 4 things.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Jay Morgan is a Missional Coach graduate (www.MissionalCoaches.net) who shadowed me for a year to learn my coaching tools. He is now is the director of the Appalachian Prayer Center And regularly combines history, the Bible and practice in mission-expanding postings. Here is an example:

Lessons from the Welsh Revival Pt.1: Confess Sin by Jay Morgan, Appalachian Prayer Center, 3/11/19.

the four tenets of the message that fueled the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905.  During this short period of time, revival swept through nearly every town in the Island of Wales and over 100,000 people came to faith in Christ.

A young preacher, Evan Roberts stressed the following four tenets to his companions.  As they began to personally do these, God used this group to help spread revival all over Wales.  There is much to be learned from these tenets as we prepare for revival today.

    Confess all known sin, receiving forgiveness through Jesus Christ

    Remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about

    Be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly

    Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ.

Read more at … https://www.apcwv.com/single-post/2019/03/11/Lessons-from-the-Welsh-Revival-Pt1-Confess-Sin?utm_campaign=673fb5d5-3021-4f5d-b119-4a5359bc4ec1&utm_source=so

RECLAIMED & Why brokenness is better than giftedness in ministry.

by Brian Loritt, LifeWay, 12/8/18.

…At 25, I became the first African-American pastor at a historic white church in Southern California.

The best pastors I know aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but the most wounded.  The most dangerous are the gifted ones who can’t empathize.

Along the way I was plagued by an eerie sense that my platform was a lot larger than my character infrastructure could support. Or to say it in football language: I was out-punting my coverage.

I was gifted.

But I was also tragically unbroken, and the symptoms of this disorder manifested itself in the following ways:

  • An inability to connect with those who were afflicted and beaten down by life.
  • A nauseating arrogance seen in the judgmental spirit I nurtured towards those who made mistakes. I would often find myself thinking: What a loser. Why can’t they get it together?
  • Intense isolation. Because my ministerial paradigm made no room for those who had been wounded or defeated, I had to become my own personal PR management firm. The truth is we all have wounds and struggles, but no one could see mine.

In life and in ministry you’ll have trouble. You’ll deal with ungrateful parishioners. You’ll have leaders within your church who have one agenda—to get you out.

People will gossip about you, and even betray you.

I had these wounds; I just wasn’t broken. There’s a difference between the two.

Wounds are painful things that happen to us. Brokenness is the redemptive, Christ-exalting response to those wounds.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul—in painfully autobiographical terms—pulls us into his journey of wounds, describing his “thorn in the flesh”. While we can make good guesses as to what it was (probably some lingering health issues from his stoning in Lystra), at the end of the day they are exactly that—guesses.

What we do know is that it was painful, shameful, and constant.  Paul prayed several times for God to take it away, and God responded by saying in so many words—no.  More accurately, God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The best pastors I know aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but the most wounded.  The most dangerous are the gifted ones who can’t empathize.

The word “sufficient” in 2 Corinthians 12 is a poignant one, because it speaks of grace in both quality and quantity. God will give Paul not just general grace, but a specific measure of grace to get through the wounds in his life in a way that gives God glory and blesses His people.

…limp.

A LEADER’S RESPONSE TO BROKENNESS

What was the result of Paul leaning into God’s grace and experiencing Christ-exalting brokenness?

  • He was able to connect in a tender way with those who were hurting. Writing to the Thessalonians he says, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (Thessalonians 2:7).
  • He possessed a deep-seated humility seen in his repeated refrain of being the least among the disciples, or the chief of sinners.
  • He was transparent about his weakness. We know those who have not just been wounded, but redemptively broken. They’re people on public record when it comes to their weaknesses. This is Paul: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30).

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/03/why-brokenness-is-better-than-giftedness-in-ministry/

RELIGION & The potential benefits of personal religiousness according to science. #BostonUniversity

… The potential benefits associated with personal religiousness have been well-documented. They may include less drug, alcohol, and tobacco use; lower rates of depression and suicide; better sleep quality; and greater hopefulness and life satisfaction. A 2001 study showed that personal religious belief and practice act as a buffer against stress and the negative effects of trauma among first- and second-generation immigrant youth, and reduces the rates of depression among that population. Another study linked higher rates of religious service attendance with better test scores among US girls in the South, pointing to an emerging consensus on “the generally positive role of religious practice on education,” according to a 2003 Boston University study.

From “Should you raise your kids religious? Here’s what the science says” by Annabelle Timsit, August 5, 2018, Quartz.

Read more at … https://qz.com/1301084/should-you-raise-your-kids-religious-heres-what-the-science-says/

RECONCILIATION & Practical Ideas for Repairers of Ruined Cities, Healers of Many Devastations Written By My Colleague #ElaineHeath

Article by Rev. Elaine A. Heath, Ph.D., Dean, Duke Divinity School, The Duke Center for Reconciliation, 12/6/16.

In her book, Trauma and Grace, Serene Jones offers the proposal that both individuals and communities who suffer from trauma, can find healing and hope in certain biblical narratives. [1] For example she cites the story of the Walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-49) as a text about the communal trauma that the disciples experienced, and how Jesus broke through and helped them to begin to re-narrate their experience and their future. Jones specifically uses this text in conjunction with the trauma inflicted upon the United States on September 11, 2001. The story of the Walk to Emmaus thus becomes a template with which to imagine our own collective healing from other kinds of community trauma.

The process of healing trauma, writes Jones, includes speaking about the original harm that caused trauma, doing so in the presence of witnesses who create a safe environment as a container for the story, and finally, both those who experienced trauma and the witnesses to their story, begin to create a new story together, “to pave a new road through the brain.”[2] By creating the new narrative of hope, survivors of trauma develop agency to enact a better future. They reframe their understanding of themselves and increase their capacity to resist further victimization or enactments of violence, as well as the paralyzing apathy that can be a side effect of trauma. For communities in trauma, the corporate creation of a new pathway “through the brain” takes place through a new set of shared practices that foster communal healing. The appropriation of what Richard Hays calls Scriptural Imagination is a key element in healing communal trauma as Christians.[3]

Scriptural Imagination and Post-Election Communal Trauma

A primary task of the church in post-2016 election United States is to invite a deep reading of Scripture within the church in order to facilitate healing of communal trauma within and beyond the church. Indeed this is a significant aspect the Church’s “working out our salvation” at this volatile and polarized time…

The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Us

The first place to begin is to remember our identity. When Jesus stepped into his public ministry and preached for the first time in his hometown, he read from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4: 18-19, 21).

Jesus, in other words, claimed Isaiah 61 as his mission statement. He then went on to live this text throughout his ministry. Because the church is the Body of Christ, Isaiah 61 is also a defining vision for the church, and no text is more powerful than this for helping the church to once again imagine how to live with and for our neighbors. This text is, indeed, a template for us to imagine God’s preferred future for the world, and to live into that future together.

Consider these verses, for example, and how they might shape our plans of action as congregations working together for the common good: ”They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:3-4). This is our vocation, our identity—to step forward and create a new story with our neighbors, one in which devastated cities and ruined neighborhoods are renewed, children grow up with a future, and the church behaves like Jesus.

In the midst of a climate of fear, despair, and hate, the church can and must live into this text, to work together for the healing of our nation. We can do this because “the Spirit of the Lord is upon us.” Not only is it possible for us to bear witness to the trauma and usher in healing through this text, but it is a gospel imperative. The church is in the world for “such a time as this…”

 

End Notes

1. Jones defines trauma as “…an event in which a person or persons perceives themselves or others as threatened by an external force that seeks to annihilate them and against which they are unable to resist and which overwhelms their ability to cope.” Serene Jones, Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World (Louisville: Westminster/John Knowx, 2009) 13. Gabor Mate describes it this way: “Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold in the absence of an empathetic witness.” Gabor Mate, “Foreward” in Peter A. Levine, In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2010), xii.

2. Jones, 31-32.

3. Richard Hays discusses Scriptural Imagination as a crucial skill that fosters renewal of the church with colleagues L. Gregory Jones, Ellen Davis, and Stanley Hauerwas at Duke Divinity School in a panel discussion Feb. 14, 2013.

4. Also see William J. Barber II, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, with a Foreward by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Boston: Beacon Press, 2016).

5. Harassment Incidents Since Election Day.

6. According to a Pew survey released 11/9/16 the divide between evangelicals and other Christians in this election was similar to previous elections of recent decades.

7. Election Fears

Read more at … https://nccumc.org/news/2016/12/repairers-ruined-cities-healers-many-devastations/

REFUGEES & Reaching the nations from a small Georgia town.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I took my first-year DMin students to “the most diverse square mile in America” (Clarkston, GA) to learn first-hand from my colleague Brian Bollinger and Friends of Refugees. Here is an article about what another church is doing in the area.

“Reaching the nations from a small Georgia town” by NAMB staff, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 3/8/18

More than 1,000 refugees come to Clarkston, Ga., each year.

Send Relief missionaries Trent and Elizabeth DeLoach and the believers at Clarkston International Bible Church (CIBC) have made it their mission to help these men, women and children feel not only welcome but at home in their new country.

A U.S. refugee resettlement program in the 1990s opened the door of opportunity for people from around the world to start a new life in Clarkston.

This suburb of Atlanta eventually became known as “the most diverse square mile in America.” More than 60 countries and 100-plus languages are represented, and the population continues to grow.

A place so rich in culture is exactly the kind of city the DeLoach family dreamed of finding—however it was hard to believe such a place existed in North America, especially in Trent’s home state of Georgia…

After they married, the DeLoaches moved to Kentucky to work with a church in Louisville. They were astonished that more than 5,000 Bosnian refugees lived in the area.

They started “restaurant hopping” and praying for connections. “The different cultures, religions, languages—it was all very intimidating,” DeLoach said.

Over the course of two years, Elizabeth’s influence and passion for those forcibly displaced from their homelands slowly affected her husband’s heart…

We have people [in the city] from different religious backgrounds that include Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. Most refugees have significant physical and emotional needs. They need Christian friends who can share the love of Jesus while helping them transition to life in America..,”

By living next door to families with diverse cultural backgrounds, Elizabeth says they have opportunities to influence the nations.

“We share with our people a three-step process — learn a name, make a friend, share Jesus. It’s simple. That’s our dream. And we see God bringing the nations to us.”

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/03/09/reaching-the-nations-in-a-small-georgia-town/

RURAL CHURCH HEALTH & @EdStetzer on challenges in rural contexts, talks research, opioids, economics & why Christians should care.

by Ed Stetzer, Twitter, 3/10/18

Glad to get a copy the @TheInfluenceMag today. In this issue, Tena Stone and I write about challenges in rural contexts, talk research, opioids, economics, and explain why Christians should care. Be sure to check out the magazine. https://t.co/DgaGaLjoOz

RESILIENCE & These 3 words helped Nick Foles succeed under pressure & win the Super Bowl

by Scott Mautz, Inc. Magazine, 2/5/18.

“It’s just football.” (Text message to Super Bowl winning quarterback Nick Foles before the game from friend and fellow Christian Drew Brees.)

Even on the biggest stage of Foles’ life, with literally millions of armchair quarterbacks waiting to throw their beer cans at the screen, it’s just football. Given what Foles has been going through with his wife having serious health problems and a terrible prior year with the St. Louis Rams that nearly made him retire, it’s just football.

Foles went on to say that the sentiment of the text was true and that it settled him down. A settled Foles meant he leveraged one of his greatest strengths, what fellow Eagle players have called “tremendous poise”. That poise led Foles to Super Bowl MVP honors.

Read more of the article “Nick Foles’ Pre-Game Text From Drew Brees Is a 3-Word Secret For Succeeding Under Pressure” at https://www.inc.com/scott-mautz/nick-foles-pre-game-text-from-drew-brees-is-a-3-word-secret-for-succeeding-under-pressure.html