MERGERS & How to utilize mergers to grow multicultural congregations (& reconciliation too) #HealthyChurchBook #reMIXbook

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I created a new typology for understanding multicultural churches: The 5 Types of Multicultural Churches and ranked each based on how well they create reconciliation (to God) and reconciliation (to one another). See my address to academics and popular articles on this here:

MULTICULTURAL & 8 Steps to Transitioning to 1 of 5 Models of a Multicultural Church #GCRNJournal by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., The Great Commission Research Journal, Biola University, 3/1/17.

UNITY & 5 ways church unity creates a powerful influence in your city by Bob Whitesel, chapter “The Church as a Mosiax: Exercise for Cultural Diversity” in

re;MIX Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press, 2017).

The Church as a Mosaic: Exercises for Cultural Diversity, A Guest Post by Dr. Bob Whitesel (Dr. Bob Whitesel explores what it would look like for the church to be variety of ethnicities and culturesoverview courtesy of Ed Stetzer on The Exchange, Christianity Today, 2/10/14.

If Reconcilation are the goals, then one of the best strategies is to integrate a church rather than just plant or support an autonomous congregation (and in the push both congregations apart).

In the chapter I contributed to the book, Gospel after Christendom: New voices, New cultures, New expressions (ed. Bolger, Baker Academic Books, 2012), that before St. Thomas’s Church in Sheffield, England became England’s largest multicultural congregation … it was first a multicultural merger between a small Baptist church and a small Church of England congregation.

The power of mergers has been under estimated and underutilized in creating multicultural churches.

And, with so many small struggling mono-cultural congregations, the idea of merging two homogeneous congregations to create a multicultural congregation needs to be the strategy of more churches and denominations.

The power of mergers has been under estimated and underutilized in creating multicultural churches.

See my book The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013) for ideas and the chapter “The Church as a Mosiax: Exercise for Cultural Diversity.” You can read an overview courtesy of Ed Stetzer on The Exchange, in Christianity Today.

Also, read this article for more ideas:

Integrating Sunday Morning Church Service — A Prayer Answered

by Sandhya Dirks, National Public Radio, Weekend Edition, 8/11/18.

… Which brings us to Pastor Kyle Brooks and Pastor Bernard Emerson. They knew creating an inter-racial church was not going to be easy, but they kept kicking the idea around. They would take long walks through Oakland’s Dimond District and dream about it out loud. Maybe at some point in the future, they thought.

Then a year ago, Neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, and they felt like they could no longer wait.

First, they had to break it to their congregations.

“I saw it on facebook, and instantly I typed back, ‘oh my god, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for,'” said LaSonya Brown, who had been attending Emerson’s church, The Way, for about a year. “I’ll be the first one to join,” she said.

Brown was raised in a black church with only two white people in it. One was her godfather, who had married into the black community, the other was a white woman who would “speak in tongues, and then translate the tongue.”

“I never knew her name, but I’ll never forget her,” Brown said. Despite it being different than what she had known before, Brown welcomed the idea of an inclusive congregregation. “I think it was something that I wanted, but I didn’t realize that I wanted it until I saw his post,” she said.

At first she thought it was going to happen instantly, just everyone showing up to church together. But it is not that easy to flip the switch on hundreds of years of segregated worship.

“It’s much more complicated than that,” Brown said. “You don’t think that your life is different than somebody else,” but it can be. In an ideal world, she said, people want to think about what they have in common and not their differences.

But we do not live in that ideal world of race relations. “There’s a lot of things that we don’t do in common,” she said. “But we do want to know how to be together.”

Each church individually went through months of workshops and classes, owning up to their own fears about what merging would mean.

Many people in Pastor Brooks’ white congregation were afraid of being uncomfortable. There was a feeling of discomfort around everything from different hymns, to the service being in a different neighborhood, to different styles of worship. There was also discomfort in having to face up to their responsibility, as white people, in ongoing American racism. Everyone in the church was excited about the merger, but that did not make it easy.

Pastor Emerson’s congregation was also supportive, and not just because they are largely family. The black congregants of The Way had different fears, fears that they might not be welcomed. Emerson said some of them asked, “will they accept us for who we are?”

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2018/08/11/637552132/integrating-sunday-morning-church-service-a-prayer-answered

UNITY & 5 ways church unity creates a powerful influence in your city

There are many ways to describe the church: a fellowship, a congregation and a community. But, I’ve noticed a refreshing alternative among those who lead young churches. They often find the terms fellowship, community, etc. as too associated with a complex organizational structure. Instead, they often use a word borrowed from the developing world: tribe.

At a church called “The Tribe of Los Angeles,” a young attendee described it this way, “Tribe tells people we are doing something different at church. It means we are close, like a family. And, it also says we are in this together in this, (that) we are small but mobile, that we have a closely held, common task. It’s just like a tribe in the developing world that must work together to survive.”  

I find something refreshing in terms that sum up for younger people a family-like dependence. Now, I am not recommending that churches adopt such terminology to be voguish or appear relevant. But I find that using the term on occasion reminds us all that the church is on a mission and the accomplishment of that mission depends upon the church being a mutually supportive team.

The power of unity

In John 17:20-23 Jesus prayed that all believers, throughout all time, would demonstrate a supernatural unity. And, He stressed that this unity would amaze the world:

The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us….
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me. (MSG)

Such a passionate desire from the Son of God cannot easily be dismissed. But this was more than just a longing. Jesus emphasized a purpose in this unity when He stated, “Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them” (v. 23, MSG). Let’s look at a few practical ways that a church can give evidence that God is working through it.

1. Unity supports God’s mission

God’s mission (sometimes called the missio Dei) is that He wants to reunite with His wayward offspring. Jesus made it clear that only through His sacrifice was this reconciliation possible (John 14:6-7, Romans 3:23-24, 5:8, 6:23). And through the Church supports this mission in many ways, there are at least three important ways church unity contributes to reconnecting people with their heavenly Father.

2. Unity influence the community.

Jesus wanted His church to be so loving, forgiving and united that the secular world would take notice. He desired the evidence of this amazement to not be theatrics, but to “give the godless world evidence that You’ve sent me and loved them” (John 17:23 MSG).  And so, when a church is uncommonly united, this contrasts with the disunity found in most worldly organizations. It reminds the watching world that something supernatural is at work in our churches, and it models to the world the undivided nature of God.

3. Unity can impact cross-denominational influence.

I’ve noticed that church leaders often influence other congregations by packaging innovative programs and selling them as growth inducers to other congregations.  But, too often these are only tactical programs, that may work only for a short time. Churches who latch onto such tactical programs often adopt tactical names, such as Seeker-friendly Churches, Cell Churches, Missional Churches, Body-life Churches or Samaritan Churches. But, as seen in Jesus’ prayer, it might be more fitting for networks of churches to be known for their unity more than their innovations.  Congregations that are united can model important attributes of forgiveness, harmony and agreement that the secular world finds hard to muster.

4. Unity influences a congregation.

A united congregation provides an environment where congregants can spend more time and energy focusing on the needs of those outside of the organization, rather than scrutinizing the differences of those within. I have often observed churches so focused on their internal squabbles that they miss (and usually repel) visitors and seekers who God is sending their way. But when churches become more united, they recycle more time and energy into the dire problems of those not yet reunited with their heavenly Father.

5. Unity influences non-churchgoers.

The secular realm can be a bastion of antagonism, rancor and factions. Little wonder that weary souls worn down by this often search for an environment where divisiveness is minimal. Many hope to find in Christ’s Church this harbor. If they instead encounter false-compassion and hypocritical jockeying for influence, they can easily conclude that the church is hypocritical: promising solace but offering rancor. As Paul noted, a united, loving and forgiving church means “no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd” (Ephesians 4:17 MSG).

The church should strive, with God’s help, to be increasingly united. The goal is not perfectunity, but more unity. Two colleagues of mine label this “dissonant harmony.” By this, they mean that a church can never attain perfect harmony, but it can attain a degree of harmony (though not perfect) that is increasingly harmonious but acknowledges some dissonance and dissension.

Christ’s prayer is not that churches fabricate mindless slaves to corporate vision. Rather Jesus emphasized that Church unity was to be a earthly reflection of the miraculous oneness amid diversity of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And so, striving to be more unified has benefits and caveats that still make the effort worth it.

Excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2013).

Photo source: istock 

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-ways-church-unity-creates-a-powerful-influence/

CULTURAL ADAPTERS & A exercise to help you identify consonant, selective and dissonant adapters.

Commentary by Prof. B.: Recently a student shared a case study which is not too dissimilar to what many of my students and colleagues have experienced. This student created an informal fallacy by equating generational age to culture. Here is the LEAD 600 student’s case study followed by an exercise  the reader can utilize to identify the consonant, selective and dissonant adapters in the story.

Student: You’ve presented a particularly intriguing ethical dilemma. You (another student) said, “Based upon research from Barna, more than ¾ of Christians come to faith before they are 21 years old.” However, you also stated, “The older worship leader should have equal opportunity to a worship position.” Therein lies the dilemma. Equality has forever been a problem in society. In his classic book on poverty and racism, Howard Thurmon closed a chapter with the following words: “Instead of relation between the weak and the strong there is merely a relationship between human beings. A man is a man, no more, no less. The awareness of this fact marks the supreme moment of human dignity.” In a conversation about church strategy and demographics, the desire to hire a younger person makes complete sense. However, in a conversation about equality and human dignity, the reduction of possibility for an older candidate is an offense. Of course, Thurmon is referring to serious issues like the racism of the 40’s and 50’s. However, from a broad ethical perspective, his statement remains true and useful.”

I responded:  I appreciate that you stated, “In a conversation about church strategy and demographics, the desire to hire a younger person makes complete sense.  However, in a conversation about equality and human dignity, the reduction of possibility for an older candidate is an offense.”

I think the key is to not always equate age with culture. Doing su could be an informal fallacy. By that I mean, your point seems to be that the worship leader should relate to the age of those people who make a decision for Christ. However as we know, being part of an age demarcation, i.e. generation, does not necessarily mean they are part of that culture. There are many people who live and assimilate into a dissimilar culture from which they’ve been raised. The culture in which most people have been raised is age specific. But we all know people who have been raised in one culture and yet relate to another… even assimilate into it.

To understand this phenomena is to understand the difference between “consonant, selective and dissonant adapters.” Charles Kraft gives an introduction to this phenomena in his classic, “Christianity in Culture: A Study of Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective” (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), p. 113.

Kraft points out there are three types of adapters:

1) Dissonant adapters adapt very little to another culture because they’re very proud of their existing culture. They can become xenophobic and can usually only be reached by indigenous art forms such as music, liturgy and language.

2) Selective adapters adapting some areas but like to preserve the traditions of their culture. in my experience, they are often found in churches that offer blended services. They enjoy multiple cultures but sometimes are disingenuous: seeking to push other dissonant adapters to adapt beyond the comfort level of the dissonant adapters. This has been called the “creator complex,” e.g. to make over others in the image of our culture or the dominant culture. Wagner describes this as “Deep in the heart of man (sic), even in missionaries, lurks that ‘creator complex’ by which he (sic) delights in making other people over in his (sic) own image.” Wagner, C. P. (1979). “Our kind of people: The ethical dimensions of church growth in America,” John Knox Press, p. 76.

3) Consonant adapters adapt to a different culture previous culture and hold on very little to their previous culture.

There is a further an explanation of this in “The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart,” The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013, pp. 69-70) https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/cultural-adapters-3-types-consonant-selective-dissonant/

Now, knowing those missiological terms, how would you analyze the players in this example? The purpose of this exercise is to increase your awareness to anthropological in sociological dynamics in our staffing, volunteerism and leadership.

BLENDED WORSHIP & Sharing our homes & lives creates more unity than sharing a pew #BiblicalTheology

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/26/17.

A biblical theology of worship.

Churches often want blended worship services because they seek to create cross-cultural understanding and unity. But, while earning my PhD in intercultural studies at Fuller Sem., I came to believe a Biblical theology of worship does not include creating unity.

Do we try to make worship do too much?

Because we feel we only have people for 1 hour on Sunday morning, we cram too much into that one hour.  That one hour becomes announcement time, unity-building time and worship time.  If that is the case we should call it the “Communication – Unity– Worship Hour” 😉

My goal is to get back to a biblical theology of worship which includes encounter, more than unity.  Theologically I think that unity and encounter are mutually exclusive (see the excerpt from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013, below).

Sharing our homes & lives creates more unity

If you’re there to encounter God, you’re not going to spend time encountering your neighbor. Jesus created unity usually over meals.

Thus, I would suggest that sharing our homes and our lives creates more unity than sharing a pew.

Here are some thoughts I’ve written with more detail in The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013).

“… the Hebrew word for “worship” implies God-directed, not neighbor-directed reconciliation.(Footnote 1)”  p. 64

(Footnote 1) The Hebrew word for “worship” means to come close to God’s majesty and adore Him. It carries the idea of reverence, respect and praise that results from a close encounter with a king, see Francis Brown, S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament Based Upon the Lexicon of William Gesenius (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 1005. Thus, worship should not be about fellowship (the New Testament Christians had meals for that), but rather worship was to be about personal communing with God. This reminds us that worship should be about connecting with God and not about creating friendships among people (we have time before and after “worship” for getting to know one another in “fellowship” halls and in common areas). Making worship into a fellowship among humans, robs its place as the supernatural intersection between humans with their heavenly Father. We shall discuss the Multicultural Blended Model shortly, but I have noticed in most blended models I have attended, that supernatural connection is not the focus or their aim, but rather unity is the objective. While the later goal (unity) is needed, it should not be attained at the expense of worship which is primarily intended as a environment in which to connect with God.  p. 158

MULTIPLICATION & Instead of planting an independent new church, what about planting a new venue instead? Pros & cons considered.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2/19/17.

A student once asked, “I am picturing a situation where a large church wants to plant an (independent) daughter church because they have a growing sub-congregation in the church that is mostly Hispanic, or Gen Y.  Is that a better way to help them, by launching them as an independent church plant?  Or can we help them better by offering to share the church with them as a venue or sub-congregation in the mother church?”

I replied …

What we often do when we launch a typical church “plant” is to create an “external” sub-congregation.  And, this is okay. But, I think it is usually not the best way to proceed.  Rather, the “internal planting” of a sub-congregation (fostering the growth of a sub-congregation that remains part of the church) is a better strategy.

This is because external plants have the following PLUSES (strengths) and NEGATIVES (weaknesses):

Short/long-term growth?

Pluses: External plants (in my consulting practice) grow quicker than Internal Plants (developing a sub-congregation and a venue), because they are homogeneous (i.e. largely attracting one culture).

Negatives: External plants (in my consulting practice) die quicker. They are smaller and often don’t reach critical mass for long-term sustainability.

Leadership?

Pluses: External plants have experienced leadership, because the leader has been trained in the mother church.

Negatives: External plants often lack good accountability and thus succumb to leadership/ethical weaknesses.

Attraction?

Pluses: External plants attract people who do not have a church home and/or who are dissatisfied with the church they attend.

Negatives: External plants often attract disgruntled people:

  1. Who don’t like the church they attend
  2. And/ or who do not want to rub shoulders with another culture (generational, ethnic, affinity, etc.). Thus, reconciliation does not take place.

More churches?

Pluses: External plants create more churches, though they may be smaller and not healthy for many years.

Negatives: External plants often kill existing churches, when the people who are attracted to the external plant leave the mother church, and other churches, weakening the churches they left.  This is the main reason pastors of established churches don’t like external plants, it cannibalizes the people they need to survive.

Diversity?

Pluses: External plants cater to a specific cultural market.  This creates a like-minded community that grows because of the things it holds in common.

Negatives: External plants don’t promote inter-cultural understanding.  This would be like the second-generation Koreans wanting their own church. The first-generation Koreans would feel abandoned and disconnected. And the externally planted 2nd-gen congregation might develop distain (due to distance) for the 1st-gen culture.

This illustration highlights the differences between first and second generational cultures.  But it happens in even a more damaging fashion between ethnic cultures.

The result of a good work, like church planting, can be that the cultures are distance organizationally and physically from one another by the planting of a separate congregation.

But it often makes the mother church feel good, because it can say, “We planted another church.” But in reality they often push them away because of their differences.  This creates distance between them and us. In my consulting work, no matter how much churches protest they … “Will stay connected to our daughter church,” they never stay as close as they would if they were sharing the church as fellow sub-congregations.

Thus, if a church is really committed to reconciliation and multi-culturalism (as I am) then Internal Planting is the better choice. Thus, with Internal Planting the church becomes in a community the main avenue for building multi-cultural understanding and tolerance, e.g. unity building and changing biases.

A name for this type of church is The Multicultural Alliance Model.

See all five models here: MULTICULTURAL CHURCHES & 5 Models: A New Paradigm Evaluated and Differentiated #AICR #AcademyForInterculturalChurchResearch

CULTURAL ADAPTERS & 3-Types: Consonant, Selective & Dissonant

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 5/12/16.

To understand 3-types of “cultural adapters” read the paragraph below excerpted from Bob Whitesel (The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart, The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013, pp. 69-70).

“People from emerging cultures usually adapt to the dominant culture in one of three ways.

Consonant adapters are people from an emerging culture who adapt almost entirely to the dominant culture. Over time they will mirror the dominant culture in behavior, ideas and products. Thus, they will usually be drawn to a church that reflects the dominant culture.

Selective adapters adapt to some parts of a dominant culture, but reject other aspects. They want to preserve their cultural heritage, but will compromise in most areas to preserve harmony.(1) They can be drawn to the Blended Model because it still celebrates to a degree their culture.

Dissonant adapters fight to preserve their culture in the face of a dominant culture’s influence. (2) Dissonant adapters may find the blended format of the Blended Church as too inauthentic and disingenuous to their strongly held cultural traditions.”

(1) Alejandro Portes and Ruben G. Rumbaut in Immigrant American: A Portrait (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996). They suggest that organizations comprised of selective adapters will be a more harmonious organization.

(2) Ruben G. Rumbaut, “Acculturation, Discrimination, and Ethnic Identity Among Children of Immigrants,” in Discovering Successful Pathways in Children’s Development: Mixed Methods in the Study of Childhood and Family Life, Thomas S. Weisner ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), Charles Kraft, Christianity in Culture: A Study of Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), p. 113.

See also on ChurchHealth.wiki info on the related study of “ethnic consciousness” by Tetsunao Yamamori, who created an “Ethnic Consciousness Scale” to measure the degree to which a person identifies with a specific culture. Tetsunao Yamamori’s article on ethnic consciousness and titled, “How to reach a new culture in your community” can be found online and in Win Arn et al., The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook (1979), pp. 171-181.

DISSONANT ADAPTERS & Reasons Why Churches Must Understand Ethnic Consciousness

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2/24/16.

In my latest book (re:MIX – Transitioning Your Church to Living Color) my co-author Mark DeYmaz and I show why it is important for all churches to understand “ethnic consciousness.”  Let me share a story that explains why this is necessary.

A student once shared that her church was utilizing (in her words) “bridge events … designed to bring people onto your campus for a non-church related event to have fun and to experience the people in your congregation and to demonstrate to your community what it is your congregation cares about.”

Bridge events have been highly popular, but often with less than expected results.  Let me explain why.

Usually bridge strategies do not work well across large cultural gaps.  That is because you are inviting them to experience your congregation, and unless they are interested in assimilating they will not likely join your congregation.

Instead Look at Different Levels of Ethnic Consciousness   

Ethnic consciousness means a person has a high degree of loyalty and identity with a culture and they do not want to lose that strong affiliation. Tetsunao Yamamori created an “Ethnic Consciousness Scale” to measure the degree to which a person identifies with a specific culture (Tetsunao Yamamori’s article on ethnic consciousness and titled, “How to reach a new culture in your community” can be found online and in Win Arn et al., The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook [1979], pp. 171-181).

Yamamori said those with a high degree of loyalty to a culture, have a high degree of “consciousness” of their ethnicity.  There is nothing wrong with this of course. But, churches and other organizations need to be sensitive to this, because if a person has a high degree of ethnic consciousness, they will usually prefer ministry in their ethnic style and pattern.

And, a high degree of ethnic consciousness will often lead to individuals resisting adapting to the dominant culture.  Those who resist strongly are called “dissonant adapters” and those that resist to a moderate degree are called “selective adapters.” And, “consonant adapters” adapt almost completely to another culture.

Now, this is not just relevant to ethnicities, because all cultures have different degrees of preference for their cultural way of doing things.  So, it would be best to call this: “cultural consciousness.”

An Example: Harley Motorcycle Riders

Yamamori suggests that all people within all different cultures, for many different reasons, have different degrees of loyalty to that culture.  For instance, a die-hard Harley-Davidson motorcycle rider would probably never be found riding a Honda.  This person who rides only Harleys might be said to have a high degree of “cultural consciousness.”  But, a motorcycle rider such as myself, who enjoys riding all bikes rather than a certain brand (or culture), might have ridden and owned Hondas, Yamahas, Kawasakis and even a Vespa 😉

The idea, and there is nothing wrong with this, is that some people like to identify strongly with a certain culture while others might identify less strongly.  Those with strong identity to a culture might be best served by a congregation that has a ministry to which that culture can relate.

Another Example: Youth Programs

Everyone knows that youth in a church want their own room, music, program, etc.  There is nothing wrong with this, unless morals and Biblical principles are compromised.  The key to remember is, that we understand youth have a strong loyalty to their “youth culture” and so we try to have ministry that is culturally relevant for them.

Check for Cultural Consciousness Before You Undertake Bridge Events

The same assessment needs to be done by a church before it hosts “bridge events” and simply invites other cultural groups (Latino/Latina, Asian, African-American, etc.) to its events.  Our events are usually too specific to our culture, and when we tell these people “Hey, come to my church.  You will like it” and our church is culturally specific, they wonder how can we be so out of touch with the differences in their culture. Simply because we like it, does not mean others from other cultures will like it too.

So, when planning to reach out to other cultures it helps to gauge the degree of a community’s identification with a culture, or what Tetsunao Yamamori calls the “Ethnic Consciousness Scale.”

Thus, when ministering to cultural groups that have a strong identity to that culture (i.e. a strong cultural consciousness), the best method is to find the most basic “needs” of the that ethnicity (or culture) and begin to meet those.  Do this in the name of our Heavenly Father (and His mission).  Then as you meet their needs, look for a local leader from their culture that can grow a co-congregation within your church that has ministries which are relevant to that culture. Then they will encounter your faith community first as people interested in meeting their needs, rather than simply attracting them to your culturally-different church.

See also the discussion on ChurchHealth.wiki regarding selective adapters, consonant adapters and dissonant adapters.

Download Tetsunao Yamamori’s “How to reach a new culture in your community” here: ARTICLE Yamamori How to Reach Cross-Culturally – Win Arn, ed. Church Growth Handbook