MULTIRACIAL & Planting/pastoring a multicultural church takes it toll on pastors. See what you can do …

“Dr. King, Racial Trauma, and The Church”

by Kyle J. Howard, 1/29/18.


… Tears streamed down my face, and my body shook as I witnessed another man who looked like me die. As I watched Philando Castille’s blood pour out of his body and his life slip away, my own past traumatic experiences with police officer’s flashed before my eyes. I kept hearing a voice inside tell me over and over, “it could’ve been you.” I watched live on social media as the police officer pointed the gun at the black woman’s body who sat next to her dying partner. It was clear that the police officer had lost all control and with a screaming black baby in the back seat, I felt like I was moments away from witnessing a double homicide and the beginning moments of life long trauma in the little girl. The woman’s life was spared, but the killing of Philando Castile broke me. For a few years now, I had witnessed the public execution of unarmed black bodies on a regular basis. I, along with many others, had to navigate living as men of color in a racialized society and a largely racially indifferent church and seminary community. As we felt like we were dying inside, we listened as friends and pastors spoke with racial insensitivity and at times antagonism towards issues concerning race as well as these traumatizing acts of violence. With the little emotional energy we had left, we sought to speak up about how these events made us feel, but many of us were quickly dismissed by our friends and white spiritual leaders as being divisive. Instead of being shepherded, many of us were told that we were threats to the unity of our church and that we needed to remain silent.

Martin Luther King Jr. recognized the psychological and spiritual affects that unjust murder had on the black community. He understood that witnessing the unlawful execution of black people perpetrated by white men in authority like police officers was traumatic. In response to white evangelical pastors telling King to simply wait for equality, King wrote, “BUT WHEN YOU HAVE SEEN VICIOUS MOBS LYNCH YOUR MOTHERS AND FATHERS AT WILL AND DROWN YOUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS AT WHIM; WHEN YOU HAVE SEEN HATE FILLED POLICEMEN CURSE, KICK AND EVEN KILL YOUR BLACK BROTHERS AND SISTERS… THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHY WE FIND IT DIFFICULT TO WAIT.” The black community has always lived in a constant state of fear. This fear is perpetuated by the reality that unjust black death has always been made a public spectacle. Whether it be public lynchings or police shootings, the black community is constantly reminded that their life does not matter and this reality assaults the psyche of the black community on a daily basis. The assault on the black mind is perpetuated when they belong to predominately white spaces that do not affirm their value either. Over the past few years, we have seen a generation of new racial trauma victims birthed out of majority white churches. For the black community, the church has always been a place of refuge. For centuries, the Black Church has served as a hospital for racial trauma victims. As more African Americans migrate to majority white churches, these churches are not equipped to care for these traumatized saints and the indifference and antagonism these black saints experience perpetuate and deepen, rather than sooth what I call racial trauma.

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SOCIO-ECONOMICS & Research shows churches have grown weakest in communities that need them most: poor & working-class

Commentary by Professor B. In my books I advocate that growing and healthy churches will participate in the “3Rs of reconciliation” as put forth by John Perkins:

  • R-1 Reconciliation both spiritual and physical,
  • R-2 Relocation and as Robert Putnam points out in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,”
  • R-3 Redistribution of wealth should be on the agenda of healthy churches.

See my chapters/articles/interviews on this:

Still, I have grown tired and cynical at watching churches spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new sound and lighting systems to approximate a rock concert and “attract” a crowd when similar churches just a few miles away are struggling to stay open in lower social economic communities.

This article from The Washington Post highlights the research by Robert Putman which should be a warning to growing and healthy churches that Jesus admonition still holds today: “Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much…” Luke 12:48.

Why so many empty church pews? Here’s what money, sex, divorce and TV are doing to American religion

By W. Bradford Wilcox, The Washington Post, 3/26/15.

One of the tragic tales told by Harvard scholar Robert Putnam in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” is that America’s churches have grown weakest in some of the communities that need them most: poor and working-class communities across the country. The way he puts it, our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques give children a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose — in a word, hope — that allows them to steer clear of trouble, from drugs to delinquency, and toward a bright and better future, warmer family relationships and significantly higher odds of attending college.

The tragedy is that even though religious involvement “makes a bigger difference in the lives of poor kids than rich kids,” Putnam writes, involvement is dropping off fastest among children from the least privileged background, as the figure below indicates.

Courtesy of Robert Putnam, "Our Kids."
Courtesy of Robert Putnam, “Our Kids.”

In “Our Kids,” Putnam assigns much of the blame for the unraveling of America’s religious, communal and familial fabric to shift from an industrial to an information economy. The 1970s saw declines in employment for less-educated men, divergent incomes for college-educated and less-educated men, and a “breathtaking increase in inequality” — all of which left college-educated families and their communities with more financial resources, and poor and working-class communities with fewer resources. The figure below, taken from Nicholas Eberstadt’s essay on men’s employment, shows that work dropped precipitously for men in the 1970s.

(Courtesy of U.S. Department of Labor)

A key reason that working-class men are now less likely to attend church is that they cannot access the kind of stable, good-paying jobs that sustain a “decent” lifestyle and stable, married family life — two key ingredients associated with churchgoing in America.

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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.


Theories of change and theories of changing 1 are insufficiently studied, hence often inadequately understood by the ecclesial academy. The few theories that are available are based on an author’s experience with singular process model developed from similar homogeneous contexts. However, the present author, reflecting on case studies over a ten-year window, strengthens the argument for a holistic, eight-step model as first developed by John P. Kotter at Harvard University. Whitesel argues that the eight-step process model is resident and visible in ecclesiological change. He then suggests that the requisite change objective for many churches will be a heterogeneous, multicultural model, which will intentionally or unintentionally follow one or more of the five classifications.

Delivered to the Great Commission Research Network, Oct. 6, 2016, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX

Author Dr. Robert Whitesel Pages 212 – 222

The need for research by the Academy.

In my literature review on ecclesial change 2 I found that most popular books on church change are penned by prominent (e.g. megachurch) authors who customarily tout one model that has worked for her or him. Subsequently, overall general principles of organizational change in the ecclesial context are contextually bound and may be too narrow.

In addition, a theology of change/changing is poorly understood. Yet, both the Bible and church history are replete with ecclesial change, e.g. from old covenant to new covenant (Hebrews 8:13, Col. 2:16-17) and from monarchies (1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings), to oligarchies (e.g. Judges) to synodical forms of government (e.g. the council of Jerusalem, Acts 15, 1-12, see Schaff, 1910, p. 504)

To establish a theological context for church change, I penned three chapters in the book Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church. This current article will assume that either the reader has read those chapters or will consult them later. Subsequently, the present discussion will be delimited to the theory and practice of changing with one of five potential multicultural objectives.3

A case study basis for research.

Reliable and valid process models usually arise from examining and comparing numerous case studies. In this regard, the best organizational researcher may be John P. Kotter, former professor at Harvard Business School. Having read hundreds, if not thousands of student case studies, he began to formulate a process model that would explain successful change. His seminal article in Harvard Business Review titled “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” created a seismic shift in the way organizational theorists and practitioners applied the change process. His theory of changing as reflected in his 8-steps for leading change became a staple for the study of organizational change in business schools and increasingly in seminaries.

In my position as professor of missional leadership for over a decade, first at Indiana Wesleyan University and then at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, I have been afforded the opportunity to also study hundreds of student case studies on ecclesial change. I have observed that ecclesial change follows very closely Kotter’s 8-step model. In this paper I will briefly explain how Kotter’s model can inform a process model for ecclesial change.

Outcomes: 5 Models of Multicultural Churches

As mentioned above, a delimiter for this article is that I will consider objectives with more colorful (i.e. multicultural) outcomes. I do this because of my research interest and because it is of growing relevance to homogeneous churches in an increasingly heterogeneous world. I employ the term multicultural in the broadest sociological sense and a list of ethnic, generational, socioeconomic, affinity, etc. cultures as relevant to this discussion can be found in The Healthy Church, pp. 58-59.

In a previous article for The Great Commission Research Journal, I put forth in detail five multicultural models as a contemporary update of the historical categories of Sanchez (1976). I also demonstrated some of these models afford a more comprehensive and reconciliation-based approach. I then evaluated each model through a 10-point grid of “nomenclature, mode of growth, relationships, pluses, minuses, degree of difficulty, creator complex, redistribution, relocation and reconciliation” (2014). This present article will assume that the reader has access to this article for further reading. An overview of the five models will frame the process model’s objectives….

Read more here (purchase a copy) …

Students/researchers may read more here by downloading for personal use: ARTICLE CGRJ 8 Steps to Transitioning to One of Five Models of a Multicultural Church

GCRJ Article 8 Steps to Multicultural Website COVER copy.jpg


1 There is an important difference between theories of change and theories of changing. The latter, and the focus of this article, investigate how to control and manage change. Theories of change however seek to understand how change occurs. I have discussed theories of change as well as theologies of change in the book Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007). For a fuller treatment of the differences between theories of change and theories of changing see Warren G. Bennis, Changing Organizations (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996).

2 This article will expand some of my previous theorizing as represented in two of my books: Preparing for change reaction: How to introduce change in your church (2007) and The healthy church: practical ways to strengthen a church’s heart (2013). In addition, my initial thoughts on the “How to Change a Church in 8 Steps” can be found in my article of the same title for “Church Revitalizer Magazine.”

3 I embrace the term multicultural in lieu of multiethnic or multiracial, because the latter carry important implications for reconciliation between cultures that have been polarized by violence and bigotry. My co-author Mark DeYmaz and I in re:MIX – Transitioning your church to living color (2016) spend several chapters addressing the importance of multiethnic and multiracial reconciliation. The reader of this present article should consult our more exhaustive treatment there. Thus, the present article will be delimited to general procedures, processes and plans that can result in a multicultural church regardless if that cultural mix is ethnic cultures, affinity cultures, generational cultures, social economic cultures, etc.

MULTIETHNIC & “It’s… impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first”

“(Bob) Whitesel agrees that diverse leadership is a crucial point,

‘Oftentimes, the dominant culture will have a tendency to try and run a multicultural church,’ he said. ‘We teach in this book about shared leadership. It’s almost impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first. You have to include these people and their voices in the decision-making process before you make structural change’.”

From “Move to multiethnicity is not easy, but worth it” by Emily Snell, United Methodist Interpreter Magazine (n.d.), retrieved from

MULTIETHNIC & Move to multiethnicity is not easy, but worth it #UMCIntrepreterMagazine

“Three congregations share learnings”
By Emily Snell

“If heaven is not segregated, why on earth is the church?”The work of Mark DeYmaz inspired the Rev. In-Yong Lee to challenge her congregants to think about this question.Lee is pastor of Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her church has been striving to become a more multiethnic congregation.

In the early stages of its renewed emphasis on diversity, Lee said Cokesbury hosted small groups, which intentionally met outside of the church building, to discuss The Multi-Ethnic Christian Life Primer (Mosaix) by DeYmaz, who is a pastor, author and leader on multiethnic ministry.

This was important in “challenging our preconceived notions about race and pushing us to the higher level of cross-cultural competence,” Lee said.

Change consultants often cite Garfield Memorial United Methodist Church in Cleveland as an example of a successful multicultural body. The Rev. Chip Freed said the church views its multiethnicity as “a faithful commitment to the great commission, to go and make disciples of all nations, not just some nations.

“We’re really serious about reaching non-church people. Non-church people live in diverse environments. It’s only church people who live in segregated environments.”

For Freed, the church’s multiethnic identity is about “presenting a credible witness to the gospel.”

“If we want to be relevant, if we want to connect with a growing new generation of people, we need to commit to this, or people will write us off as irrelevant,” he said.

In 2011, the Rev. DeAndre Johnson began serving as pastor of music and worship at Westbury United Methodist Church in Houston — another congregation focused on reaching diverse people.

As Westbury saw its neighborhood demographics change, Johnson said, the congregation began asking, “How do we let our multicultural identity shape everything about us?”

The church envisioned being “a church for all people with more than enough love to go around.”

“We are committed to maintaining and living out what it means to come from different places but have a common vision and life together,” Johnson said.

The church’s first core value is “multicultural inclusivity.”

Ministry for reconciliation

The Rev. Bob Whitesel, author, professor and national church change consultant, said multiethnic ministry is about reconciliation.

“We are given the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation is more than just reconciliation to God. That’s the most important, but it also means reconciliation of people from different cultures,” he said.

In his latest book, re:MIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press), written with DeYmaz, Whitesel said multicultural identity is a crucial aspect of the church’s mission on earth.

“We’re never going to reconcile people unless we get the established church today to embrace this, to embrace a church of living color,” he said.

Moving toward multiculturalism, Cokesbury decided that listening sessions would allow groups within the church to learn.

“We’ve realized, not only in different ethnic groups but across the economic divide, there are so many classes and groups that are divided from one another,” Lee said. “They all act out of preconceived notions, assumptions, prejudices. So we are intentionally breaking those barriers between us by reaching out and listening to one another.”

Cheryl LaTanya Walker, director of African-American ministries at Discipleship Ministries, said her goal is to “demystify” differences and break down “assumptions based on race or class.”

“We can worship together, be vital together if we break down the assumptions on what we see with the physical eye but look to God’s spirit,” she said. “We will see that we are more the same than we are different.”

To that end, Walker suggests that historically black churches begin by “doing pulpit exchanges” with congregations that seem different.

“Take your congregation, confirmation class and other ministry groups to churches that have different worship styles and persons who are outside of the African descent family,” she said. “Tour the facilities. Observe what is on their bulletin boards. Listen to the announcements. What are they doing in the community? Listen and observe what they are doing that may be the same or different.”

Start with leadership

At Garfield Memorial, “empowering diverse leaders was a very important strategy,” Freed said. “We don’t want the people on stage to be all one race. We try to represent diversity from top to bottom in our staff.”

Whitesel agrees that diverse leadership is a crucial point,

“Oftentimes, the dominant culture will have a tendency to try and run a multicultural church,” he said. “We teach in this book about shared leadership. It’s almost impossible to grow a multiethnic church without having multiethnic leadership in place first. You have to include these people and their voices in the decision-making process before you make structural change.”

Walker observes, “Bishops are assigning black pastors to historically Anglo churches that were in downtown with a specific mission of moving that pretty much Anglo congregation with some black members, to a more diverse, more multiethnic congregation,” she said.

Renovate worship, outreach

Westbury shifted from a “traditional, middle class, Anglo worship service” to something “in the language and style of peoples worldwide.”

“We started singing in languages other than English — some represented in our congregation and some not,” Johnson said. “We did this to nurture this sense of multicultural inclusivity within us and to challenge us to go further.”

Another key for all of the churches was a renewed vision for ministry in the community.

Walker pushes congregations to be creative in their outreach.

“What mission things are you doing for the neighborhood?” she asks. “What is your piece to get them in the congregation? Once they’re in the congregation, you begin the disciple process and inviting them to be involved.”

That involvement is not limited to Bible study or even to something in the church building, she adds.

“Particularly for our young folks, they are the ‘do’ generation. Sitting in a service for two to three hours doesn’t make a lot of sense to them, unless they see some output from doing that,” she said, “but they will go volunteer.”

In July, Garfield Memorial hosted “freedom week,” similar to vacation Bible school, at its South Euclid campus.

“It’s focused around teaching some of the Civil Rights movement,” Freed said. “As part of that, we have police officers come in and talk to the youth. They played a whiffle ball game.”

Partner with schools

Cokesbury and other churches are working to “do even more for the school” in their neighborhood. “Every time we meet and talk, we sense that it is not we who are doing this, but God is guiding us,” Lee said.

Garfield Memorial hosts an annual back-to-school event to assist low-income families by providing health screenings, haircuts, backpacks and supplies. “We’re trying to meet a need,” Freed said. “We’re bringing joy to the city. We want to make Cleveland a better place.”

Westbury also created the Fondren Apartment Ministry (FAM), a ministry at a nearby apartment complex, which houses many refugee families.

The ministry has led the congregation to be “tremendously blessed” as people from all over the world join in Westbury’s worship services.

“Many of these dear friends of ours have also become part of our worship life,” Johnson said, adding that they “faithfully participate” in worship despite some language struggles. “You can watch them begin to feel comfortable in the space and to take ownership of their own place here.”

“A person who doesn’t know the love of Christ, they’re our VIPs,” Freed said. The mentality is, “I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll set aside my personal preferences to reach those who are unchurched. When you do that, diversity will walk through your door.”

As churches embrace new cultures, Whitesel said, it’s important to create short-term wins. “Demonstrate to the congregation that this is going to work, that this is a worthwhile way to go.”

Humility, courage, vulnerability

DeYmaz emphasizes that, if a congregation tries to grow into a multiethnic church, “there is a 100 percent chance to offend each other.”

“Humility is the only way to approach one another,” Lee said. “We will offend the others without meaning to, because we don’t know them well, but we will be willing to approach each other. If offense happens, (we apologize), and mutually we will learn better together.”

Moving toward diversity requires pastors to take risks — and not worry about themselves.

“When you venture out to something new, there is a big possibility of failure,” Lee said. “Only when you are ready for failure can you do something.

“Those of us, when we are trying to grow in diversity, we need patience, persistence and perseverance. It’ll turn out to be a blessing to your local church, to your community and to yourself, so do some-thing!”

Emily Snell is a freelance writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. She writes frequently for Interpreter and other publications.

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RECONCILIATION & The Power Struggle Involved in Transitioning to a Multiethnic Church

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Reconciliation is not about acculturation or blending, but about “giving up power.” That’s what Mark and I tried to say in our book: re;MIX Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press, 2017). Read this article below for a good corollary.

“Transitioning to a Multiethnic Church” By Eric Nykamp, Global Christian Worship, 8/25/17.

Many urban white churches realize that their congregation doesn’t reflect the diversity of the cities they reside in, and many of these churches desire to become multi-ethnic communities. However, moving from this desire to developing into an actual multi-ethnic community can be challenging, especially for churches with a track-record of being a “whites only” worship space in their city. Since most white people have little awareness of their white cultural norms, they mistakenly assume that what is normal for them is also the norm for all people … and are puzzled when their “outreach” or “welcome and enfolding” efforts fall flat with people of color. Due to this cultural blindspot, they are unable to recognize that some of their white cultural norms send the message that people of color with different norms of worship are not welcomed, unless the person of color is willing to assimilate.

Some majority-white churches realize that changing their worship norms will help them develop into the multi-ethnic space they desire to become … but find that they are stuck in making this happen. This talk, given at one such church, addresses how white Christians need to recognize and understand how white norms about worship may operate within their church. The presentation asks questions about what it would mean for white people to change their ways and give up power in order to become a multiethnic community. He concludes with a challenge to white Christians in multiethnic churches to love their brothers and sisters of color with Christ self-sacrificial love for the church, especially when it comes to issues of power and control in multiethnic churches.

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RECONCILATION & 5 Non-Negotiables for White Folks In Pursuing Reconciliation

by Andrew Draper, Taylor University, 8/8/17.

…Pursuing reconciliation … does not mean that having white skin is inherently sinful or that appreciating historically “white” cultural particularities is necessarily problematic. However, this is not the way white identity has functioned in modernity. Since at least the days of colonization, whiteness has been presented as the universal “good.” In this sense, “whiteness” names a way of being in the world, a sociopolitical order that is best understood as idolatry. Pursuing reconciliation demands that the altars of whiteness be cast down and its high places laid low.

Here are 5 practices in which white folks must engage if we are to seriously pursue reconciliation:

  1. We must repent for complicity in systemic sin.
    White folks must repent for histories of slavery, subjugation, segregation, and a racialized criminal justice system…
  2. We must learn from cultural and theological resources, not our own.
    Rather than gravitating toward books and sermons from “white” sources, white folks must listen to other interpretive trajectories on those tradition’s terms…
  3. We must locate our lives in places and structures in which we are necessarily guests.
    Christian theology and ecclesial practice has often understood itself as being “host” to the world. White Christians often enter unfamiliar places not as guests, but as self-appointed arbiters of divine hospitality. How different it would be if white folks practiced withholding judgment about what is “needed” in specific places and structures…
  4. We must tangibly submit to non-white church leadership.
    …White Christians desiring to practice reconciliation must not unilaterally start churches, plan worship services, design cultural events, and organize community activities and then invite “others” to them. Rather, white folks must join churches or ministry associations in which they are a minority and which are led by non-white folks.
  5. We must learn to hear and speak the glory of God in unfamiliar cadences.
    If white folks practice being guests and submitting to non-white leadership, we will begin to hear God spoken about in ways with which we are not familiar. Rather than jumping to evaluation of previously unfamiliar modes of discourse, white folks must learn to “sit with it” for a while, to join in and experience the praises of Jesus in ways that may be initially uncomfortable…

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#DMin LEAD 716