SPIRITUAL FORMATION & How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently (& Natasha Sistrunk Robinson’s Analysis of What Every Church Can Learn)

Commentary by Dr  Whitesel: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a colleague in the Mosiax network whom I once tried to recruit for Wesley Seminary. I was privileged to endorse her book because it offers great help to the Church regarding how to disciple younger generations. Here she gives an overview into what every church can learn from the immersive manner in which the Black church conducts spiritual formation. I have long been a fan and student of the Black church realizing our too long separated judicatories have left the Church universal not only more fragmented, but also less wise.

Millennials are Leaving the Church, Who Cares?“ by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Missio Alliance, March 6, 2017.

…Solution Three: Focus on the Group and not the Individual

This year, Christianity Today published an article titled, “How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently.” In it, they focus on Barna’s recent study regarding “Racial Divides in Spiritual Practices.” Concerning the state of discipleship, Barna reports that “black Christian leaders are more likely to say that ‘deepening one’s faith through education and fellowship’ is a goal of discipleship,” and mentorship as part of a group is a crucial part of fellowship.

This education includes the study of the Bible in a group, memorizing and meditating on Scriptures. Furthermore, they conclude that “Black communities tend toward communal rhythms of spiritual development” and that “one’s personal spiritual life had implication for social justice.” Finally, the report indicates that Black Christians place a higher value on their friends.

In short, the Black church tradition and African American culture in which I was groomed intentionally offers discipleship and mentorship within the context of groups or communities, instead of focusing on one-on-one mentoring or discipleship models.

Several of these articles are consistent when reporting that millennials value relationships and authentic conversation. Because communal relationships are already a high value for communities of color, this is an area where Christian leaders from the majority group can learn from leaders of color.

This survey of the Black church and their discipleship model reveals that discipleship can indeed take place within the context of groups. More specially, discipling and mentoring within groups offers a layered approach to discipleship that includes:

  • Bible reading and study,
  • Cultivation of spiritual disciplines like scripture memorization,
  • Positive peer pressure, peer-to-peer mentoring, and accountability,
  • A holistic Christian ethic that includes the pursuit of biblical justice, and
  • Grooming and training mentees for leadership.

Read more at … http://www.missioalliance.org/millennials-leaving-church-cares/

TRENDS & Millennials are Leaving the Church… But Black Millennials Aren’t. My colleague Natasha Sistrunk Robinson explains why.

“Millennials are Leaving the Church, Who Cares?“ by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Missio Alliance, March 6, 2017..

…But Black Millennials Aren’t

In his article titled, “Why Aren’t Black Millennials Leaving the Church,” Bryan T. Calvin drew on the 2012 PEW Research Center to make the case that Black millennials are not leaving the church, and there are specific reasons why they are staying. He writes, “In general, the numbers consistently show that blacks of all ages are more likely to maintain religious affiliation that whites.”

Why is this? He continues, “It seems that blacks are more invested in the practices and rituals associated with church life…Maybe the difference is that whites and blacks view the institution of the Church differently. Historically, the black church has always played an important communal role.”

Calvin continues his piece with another observation, “Talking about Millennials leaving the Church without specifying which Millennials is only half the conversation. And if the American Church is willing to enter into conversation beyond the racial lines that has often been drawn up around it, they may realize that the solution to their ‘problem’ of Millennials leaving is closer than they thought.”

Solution One: Embrace Diversity

Diversity seems like a buzz word and the lack of ethnic diversity in various arenas seems like am ever trending topic these days. I almost hesitated to use the wording here. Yet I persisted because I don’t know if the reality of the lack of ethnic diversity— including the lack of value of diverse voices, diverse experiences, and diversity in leadership— has sunk in to the psyche of the evangelical church.

The millennial generation values diversity while the evangelical church gives diversity lip service. The millennials have observed this hypocrisy and they are voting with their feet. The writing is on the wall. White millennials will not come back to the church unless there is authenticity and drastic change…

Solution Three: Focus on the Group and not the Individual

This year, Christianity Today published an article titled, “How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently.” In it, they focus on Barna’s recent study regarding “Racial Divides in Spiritual Practices.” Concerning the state of discipleship, Barna reports that “black Christian leaders are more likely to say that ‘deepening one’s faith through education and fellowship’ is a goal of discipleship,” and mentorship as part of a group is a crucial part of fellowship.

This education includes the study of the Bible in a group, memorizing and meditating on Scriptures. Furthermore, they conclude that “Black communities tend toward communal rhythms of spiritual development” and that “one’s personal spiritual life had implication for social justice.” Finally, the report indicates that Black Christians place a higher value on their friends.

Read more at … http://www.missioalliance.org/millennials-leaving-church-cares/

MULTIPLICATION & The Problematic ‘Creative Class’: When a Generation of Church Planters Only Reach White People

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my book “The Healthy Church” I describe five models of multicultural churches and show how two of the models are better than all others at breaking down racial walls and creating physical, as well as spiritual reconciliation. Readers often ask me if this is really necessary. And, I believe it is based upon the reasons cited in this important article.

The Problematic ‘Creative Class’: When a Generation of Church Planters Only Reach White People

Written by Doug Paul, Missio Alliance, on January 26, 2016

So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

Scholar Stephen Hayes has long noted that Sunday mornings are the most segregated time in America. There are many reasons for this, most of which I will not delve into in this post. Instead, I want to explore one, perhaps hidden force that may be perpetuating this trend.

Closing in on 10 years ago, my wife and I, along with some close friends and a few pie-in-the-sky ideas, started the process of planting a church.

Around this time, a book came out of nowhere, capturing the imagination of America and finding a spot on the New York Times best seller list: The Rise of the Creative Class (by Richard Florida).

In a nutshell:

This book quickly achieved classic status for its identification of forces then only beginning to reshape our economy, geography, and workplace. Weaving story-telling with original research, Richard Florida identified a fundamental shift linking a host of seemingly unrelated changes in American society: the growing importance of creativity in people’s work lives and the emergence of a class of people unified by their engagement in creative work. Millions of us were beginning to work and live much as creative types like artists and scientists always had, Florida observed, and this Creative Class was determining how the workplace was organized, what companies would prosper or go bankrupt, and even which cities would thrive. –Description of the newly revised and expanded The Rise of the Creative Class

Not only was this book a best seller, but it changed the way people started talking about vocational desire. This was injected straight into church planting conversations in ways that went something like this: “What if we had churches that reached the creative class? After all, these will be the people who are shaping culture!”

The missiological question that came to dominate these conversations was essentially, “What if church (in structure, in practice and in ethos), was built to reach this cooler-than-thou group of culture makers that so many suburbanites aspirational?”

Seemingly overnight, church plant after church plant after church plant popped up…all looking somewhat similar taking their cues from the concept of reaching the”creative class.” It would be difficult to describe the impact of this book on church planting in the last decade. Not just the church planting world…but our country as a whole.

In fact…it’s gone mainstream. Today, the core principles planted with these concepts have born the fruit that is lovingly, ironically, and sardonically called Hipster Church (a purposeful over-generalization). And Hipster Church? Well…it’s everywhere in church plants. If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve visited such a church. You might even be part of one.

But there was one thing that always seemed to be missing in the description of this creative class. Yes, they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Yes, they like flexibility in workspace and dress. Yes, they want to tap into and blend all of the various creative avenues in their life. (I could go on with these descriptions.)

But the one unspoken?

The creative class is disproportionately WHITE.

Because of the racialization of America, the vast majority of people who have access to the experiences one would need to become a part of this class means that most of these people are:

Disproportionately affluent
-1 in 3 earn over $100,000 per year, 9% earn over $150,000
-48% are members of what is called “the Investor Class”

Disproportionately educated
-Over half have college degrees (compared to 30% nationally)

And disproportionately white
-65%, according to Forbes, but I think this is significantly off (but is still 2/3rds!)

Just so I am 100% clear, I’m not saying that there aren’t loads of creative voices who are minority voices. Rather – and this is how race and class come together in a subtle way – the sociological distinction known as the “creative class” means things that include economic realities and educational realities. And study after study shows that white people have more access to these opportunities than anyone else.

So it’s not, “Who is creative?” It’s about who fits the sociological description of “creative class.”

Now, I’m not going to spend lots of time proving the point above. Chances are, if you don’t believe the creative class is mostly white, and the ability to access the creative class is far easier if you’re white, even if I try to prove the point, I doubt you’ll agree with what I’m saying. So no need to take up any more space. 😉

So herein lies the problem: What happens when a generation of church planters buy into a core concept that, almost by nature, is seeking to reach one group of people? White people.

If you’re not white and you walk into one of these churches, even though they are trying to reach the “creative class,” my sneaking suspicion is that it still feels distinctly white. And if you’re a minority voice in America, something that feels white doesn’t tend to feel safe.

Read more at … http://www.missioalliance.org/the-problematic-creative-class-when-a-generation-of-church-planters-only-reached-white-people/

WOMEN LEADERS & When She Preaches #MissioAlliance #TaraBethLeach

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Tara Beth Leach’s article ( below) is important. Having consulted for many churches with female pastors over the years, I have found one of the strongest bastions of male dominance is often the pulpit.  Once that ceiling is broken with her anointing, other walls may fall.  This is what Susanna counseled John Wesley (1791), and it seemed to work. John had originally asked a female preacher in the Wesleyan Connexion to refrain from calling her sermonizing: preaching.  Instead, he suggested, it could be called a “testimony.”  Susanna, John’s mother and by all accounts a better preacher than John’s father Samuel, told John to go, hear her and see for himself if the anointing rested on her.  Soon thereafter, John agreed that women could preach within the Methodist movement.

When She Preaches

Growing up, I sat at the feet of countless remarkable male preachers. Besides Beth Moore, I don’t recall ever hearing a woman preach until my sophomore or junior year of college. I witnessed countless men stand behind pulpits, open their Bibles, and preach the Word of God in awe-inspiring ways. I am thankful for these men, because at the feet of them, my faith was formed and challenged. But I often wonder what it would have been like for me to listen to a woman preacher before I myself preached for the first time. I imagine I would have been deeply encouraged and wildly inspired.

When women don’t preach, the church suffers. It is as Carolyn Custis James says in her book, Half the Church,

When half the church holds back – whether by choice or because we have no choice – everybody loses and our mission suffers setbacks. Tragically, we are squandering the opportunity to display to an embattled world a gospel that causes both men and women to flourish and unites us in a Blessed Alliance that only the presence of Jesus can explain.[1]

Because, when a woman preaches, something profound begins to happen in the pews, the ground begins to shift, barriers are torn down, and the once silenced mouths are opened.[2]

When She Preaches, Women in the Congregation Begin to Imagine Gifts Outside of the Traditional/Patriarchal Roles

When she preaches, the women in the pews can begin to undo the narrative that tells them they are inferior to men. Many women sitting in the pews on Sunday morning aren’t sure what to do with scriptures that tell them to “keep quiet in the church” and are even told that scriptures like this should be applied to all women in every context. However, when she preaches, other women in the pews are pushed to think critically about those tough passages; they are pushed to consider their own gifts; they are forced to ponder a false narrative that they have embraced for far too long – that they are somehow less capable or less gifted in the Kingdom of God. When she preaches, women see a super-natural talent embodied in another woman, empowered by the Spirit, and propelled to edify all of the people of God. And it is then that women in the congregation begin to ask: can I preach, too? Maybe they will unearth the talents that have been buried for far too long; maybe they will spread their wings and fly; maybe they, too, will use their gifts in new and inspiring ways.

[1] Carolyn Custis James, Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 19.

[2] See a powerful post on Sarah Bessey’s blog, Why Not Have a Woman Preach” right here.

Read more here … http://www.missioalliance.org/when-she-preaches/