CHURCH HEALTH & A Review of “The Healthy Church” book from @WPHbooks

Book: The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart, Author: Bob Whitesel (2013) reviewed by John (Jack) PladdysHealthy Church Cover sm, 4/14/15.

What section of the book (pages and/or chapter) impacted you the most and why?

Chapter 4: The Church as a Mosaic provided a great look into how a congregation moves from segregation to diversity. I believe most congregations want to be culturally diverse, but they do not know what that means or how to carry out the idea of diversity. I struggled to understand this concept before learning about the difference between diversity and tolerance – assimilation and acculturalizaton – and I am someone with a high CQ. Whitesel’s description of the Creator Complex shows how well-meaning people do the wrong thing when it comes to diversity.

Whitesel gives a good reason as to why diversity is important. We shouldn’t be diverse for the sake of diversity. Whitesel says, “To bring about both spiritual and cultural reconciliation, we need churches where people of differing cultures are not only reconnecting with their heavenly Father, but also who are reconnecting with one another” (Kindle Locations 813-815). All attempts at being a diverse congregation should be a result of wanting to connect people to God and each other.

Of the five types of multicultural congregations, I am most drawn to the Multicultural Alliance Church model. I believe this is the most ideal model of the five Whitesel presents. It may not be the easiest to accomplish, but easy should not be our concern when we are attempting to diversify.

What were the two most helpful tools, insights or practices that you gained and why?

  1. “The primary purpose of worship is for us to communicate with God, not communicate with each other” (Kindle Location 1418). Worship is not the place to reconcile cultures together. This truth is resounding in our time of trying to blend worship styles together in order to make everyone happy. This is also a powerful reason as to why congregations need to start new worship gatherings of different styles if they are going to reach different people.
  2. Whitesel updated definition of conversion was extremely helpful. (Although, I’m not sure this is as much of an updated version as it is the actually version that we lost throughout the years.) When trying to describe the necessity of salvation to others, many times we give them the simplest answer in order to not scare them away. This could be why congregations are not doing a very good job of reaching people outside of their cultural group. People are not being transformed when we include them in our congregations.

What will you change about yourself and your tactics as a result of this reading?

I am starting to insist that unity is holding back congregations from moving forward. For the sake of unity, congregations are not able to be cultural diverse. We try to build in unity in everything we do, and that is only making everything we do mediocre. I think we need to start celebrating our diversity and invite others into the celebration. Worship gatherings should be a place where God communicates to us through our heart language. I should not force someone to connect with God in my heart language. If we start thinking harmony instead of unity, I believe we will be the diverse church God calls us to be.

DISSONANT ADAPTERS & The Tanning of America. Is a New Blended Culture Emerging?

by Bob Whitesel, Feb. 1, 2015.

Author Steve Stoute in his book The Tanning of America (2011) points out a new culture is emerging in America where “brown, black and white mixed together makes tan” (quote by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, “Steve Stoute’s New World Order.” Ebony Magazine, Dec. 2011 – Jan. 2012, p. 87 – attached below).  Stoute argues (see the attached article in Ebony Magazine for an overview) that there is arising a mixed Tan Culture among the Millennial Generation that does not see divisions based upon skin color.

I ask my students to read the article and tell me if you agree with Stoute, that a new culture is emerging.  And then I ask students to …

1) Suggest what the church should do about this.

2) Discuss briefly why they think everyone will become part of this tan culture or if some people will remain “dissonant adapters.”

To understand “dissonant 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).

Healthy Church Cover sm“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.

ARTICLE Steve Stoute Tanning of America

See also on 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.