DIVERSITY & How Meatpacking Work & Faith Intersect as Immigrants Diversify Congregations in the Heartland.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I tell in my “Growing the post-pandemic church” seminars about a congregation I coached in Illinois. While the town was decreasing in size among its historical Anglo inhabitants, this rural town was growing with people from Africa who were coming to work in the meatpacking plant.

The pastor I coached followed my advice to reach out to the immigrants in the community and a new congregation developed within the aging Presbyterian Church. The pastor later became the Presbyter of the southern region of a nearby state. This was in part because of her success in reaching out to a new demographic in her community and helping these immigrant meatpacking families save this aging church and continue its missional legacy.

In this article you will find a reminder that growth is happening in some of the more unlikely places. Churches must open their eyes and see that the fields are ripe.

How Meatpacking Work and Faith Intersect in the Heartland by Eric C. Miller, Religion & Politics, 11/16/21.

In the Heartland, things are changing. Over the past century, the expansion of the meatpacking industry in rural areas has created high demand for workers willing to perform difficult and dangerous jobs. In recent years, these positions have been filled mostly by migrants, asylees, and refugees seeking some measure of stability and security in the United States. As they have arrived, the longtime residents have also had to adapt, resulting in a story of survival, change, resistance, and religion. In her new book, Meatpacking America: How Migration, Work, and Faith Unite and Divide the Heartland, Kristy Nabhan-Warren documents this transformation. It is driven, she writes, by “the conjoined passions of religious faith and desire to work hard for one’s children and grandchildren in order to achieve a slice of heaven on earth.”

… (the following is an interview with the author)

R&P: What goes on in these plants, and who does the work?

 KNW: When I started this project, the working title was Cornbelt Catholicism. I was really focused on parishes in rural Iowa and how these places are changing with the arrival of migrants from Africa, Asia, and Central America. When folks think about Iowa, they probably imagine a population of White farmers. But what’s really fascinating—and what ultimately changed the course of my project—is that meatpacking plants, specifically, have become an engine of diversification in the Midwest and on the Plains. When you walk into one of them, you hear a variety of languages being spoken. The first time I walked into the Tyson plant in Columbus Junction, the first thing I saw was an enormous sign stating “welcome” in fifteen languages. It is obvious, right away, that White folks are a minority in that building. The majority are Brown and Black folks from Central America and Africa.

… I learned in the course of my research that the rural Midwest is much more complicated than most people assume. When we put in the time and do the work—and I should note that I did my fieldwork over more than six years—we can see that these are dynamic places where refugees, migrants, and asylees from all over the world are coming together to find work and provide for their families. Their presence is changing the face of the Heartland.

R&P: How have the Protestant and Catholic descendants of past European immigrants reacted to the influx of religiously and racially diverse immigrants in the present?

KNW: In many ways, they’re vexed. They’re pleased that their formerly crumbling downtowns are being revitalized, but they’re not necessarily happy that the revitalization is driven by Latinos, Africans, and Burmese people. I start the book with a deep dive into the biography of Corinne Hargrafen, who is now in her 90s, of Irish-German Catholic ancestry, has lived in Iowa all of her life, and is typical of a lot of older, White Iowans in that she is pretty fearful of going downtown now that so much of the population is Brown and Black. And yet, she tries hard to engage in some intercultural dialogue at her parish. With her story, I try to paint a portrait of the White Midwesterner who goes to church, who tries her best, but who no longer really feels at home in the new Midwest. I also offer portraits, through the stories of several recent refugees, of the immigrant who comes to America to escape poverty or violence, is grateful for safety and opportunity in Iowa, but who doesn’t quite feel at home either, because the locals seem so suspicious and unwelcoming. Those refugees coming from Latin America, especially, have become a dominant presence in Catholic parishes, but they are constantly being reminded by White parishioners that the Whites are in charge.

Again, it’s easy to portray the Midwest simply as an overwhelmingly White, unrepentantly racist, overtly Trumpy place, and that is certainly part of the story. But when you take the time to sit and talk with these White folks—the descendants of migrants from Germany, Ireland, Czechoslovakia—you come to understand that they really do appreciate what the more recent migrants have done for their towns, even as they continue to struggle with the scale of the change. I try to draw out the flawed, complicated humanity of that story.

Read more at … https://religionandpolitics.org/2021/11/16/how-meatpacking-work-and-faith-intersect-in-the-heartland/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=How%20meatpacking%20work%20and%20faith%20intersect%20in%20the%20heartland&utm_campaign=ni_newsletter

MULTICULTURAL & Steps 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

BLACK BONHOEFFER & How the Black Church in America helped convert Bonhoeffer from his racist roots

Commentary by Prof. B:  The following is an powerful excerpt from Reggie Williams’ powerful book Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus (Baylor Univ. Press., 2014). I hosted Dr. Williams when he visited IWU and was still conducting research on Bonheoffer.  He found prior to the time Bonhoeffer spent in NYC among the Black community, that he considered himself a theologian … but in hindsight not converted (in a similar fashion as did John Wesley).

The following excerpts (quoted at the bottom of the first page and top of the second) show how villainous Nazi ideology had crept into Bonhoeffer’s thinking prior to his experiences in African American churches. Soon after, Bonhoeffer would be converted in a Harlem, African American church. The African American community impacted this theologian so deeply (my students are encouraged to read the book to understand more) that Bonhoeffer became a brilliant and sensitive theologian who gave us among others, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community and The Cost of Discipleship . To better understand how Christians can reconcile in a polarized world, read Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus and then Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community and The Cost of Discipleship . You will find the call to reconciliation is difficult, but a cost Bonhoeffer reminds us that maturing Christians are prepared to bear.

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Black Bonheoffer 3.jpgRead more at … Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance.

MISSIONAL COACHES & As part of the MissionalCoaches.network these 3 African-American church planters are shadowing me (pictured w/ client church pastor In the middle). It feels good to give back the tools I’ve discovered from 30+ years of coaching / consulting & 2 doctorates. www.Leadership.church

Learn about a opportunity to shadow me and learn my tools from two doctorates and 30+ years of consulting at … MissionalCoaches.network

reMIX & Biblical understandings of race. @EdStetzer #USAtoday #MustRead

“When will Christians learn from the unending engagement cycle of evangelicalism and race?”

Evangelical culture is an unending story of engagement, retreat when pressures intensify, and regret at our failure to achieve any lasting change.

Ed Stetzer

by Ed Stetzer, Opinion contributor, USA Today, 10/7/21.

… Biblical understandings of race

A biblical understanding of race is not silent or neutral but celebratory. Where McDowell is correct, and where evangelicals can find unity, is in looking to Scripture as the lens for understanding race. As Christians, we believe God’s word is sufficient to teach us how to relate to one another, and our reconciliation with Christ is what opens the door for reconciliation with each other.

However, it is important to recognize that Scripture does not flatten race into a homogenized culture. It is an enduring exegetical mistake of many evangelicals to depict Scripture as reinforcing a “color-blind” approach to race. 

Throughout Scripture, God consistently upends prejudice, particularly when it arises because of racial or ethnic biases. Yet beyond simply rejecting prejudice, Scripture presents a positive interpretation of race as holding a distinctive place within the kingdom of God. At Pentecost in Acts 2, the miraculous arrival of the Holy Spirit leads to understanding of diverse languages. This gathering then foreshadows Scriptures depiction of heaven where every tongue, tribe and nation make up the choir of eternal praise (Revelation 7:9). In both instances, God’s presence works through rather than collapses cultural diversity. Both our worship and our witness are made more perfect when we model Gospel-centered diversity.

Read more at … https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/09/28/bible-evangelicals-duty-fight-racism/5847173001/?

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 & 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.

DIVERSITY & Your church may need to become multicultural. But there’s a wrong way & there’s an “organic” way. Here’s a video of how I do it differently. (I earned my PhD at Fuller Seminary in the School of Intercultural Studies where I researched the best ways to diversity. If you’re interested in really integrating – contact me.)

Interested in finding out more about a consultation? And if you are in certain regions of the country where I am already coaching churches you can have a consultation very inexpensively.

But contact me now: bob@churchhealth.expert

MULTICULTURAL LEADERSHIP & When I designed a doctor of ministry program on leadership, the first thing I wanted to emphasize is that church leadership varies by culture. Here’s why …

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My PhD from the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary immersed me in the tensions and bridges of cultural differences.

So, when I designed a doctor of ministry program on leadership, the first thing I wanted to emphasize is that church leadership varies by culture. I also have a sensitivity to this because many of my students and Missional Coach mentees are African-American. For over 25 years they have taught me much about how leadership differs between cultures.

Toward that end, two of the first leaders that I had address my DMin students were African-American leaders: Dr. Dewey Smith of Greater Travelers’ Rest Church and Dr. Raphael Warnock of Ebeneezer Baptist Church.

Regardless of where your politics lie, it’s important for today’s leader to have a multicultural understanding about the different ways to lead. I hope you will read this article and begin to learn more about the ways different cultures lead so as a result that we can complement and coach one another.

Senate race thrusts ‘Black America’s church’ into spotlight.

by Aaron Morrison, Associated Press News, 1/3/21.

For decades, the red-bricked Gothic Revival church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached has been a monument to the history of Black Americans’ fight for civil rights and the legacy of an activist icon…

For King’s former church, the intense spotlight isn’t new. Its 6,000 members are accustomed to standing-room only Sunday services, due in large part to the out-of-town visitors who flocked to the church. Still, Loeffler’s criticisms have renewed attention on a pillar of Black life in Atlanta and a tradition of political activism it represents.

Read more at … https://apnews.com/article/race-and-ethnicity-georgia-senate-2563753b703f7a46af9a0e75565b84db

CULTURAL HISTORIES & How “hush harbors” carved out black sacred spaces where God could be worshipped in the majesty (and safety) of His creation.

“The Message of the Hush Harbor: History and Theology of African Descent Traditions” by the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson, South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, 3/1/19.

Today, I serve as the second female pastor of Good Hope Wesley Chapel UMC in its 147-year history, a history that began in the secrecy of a hush harbor and continues amid changing times.

But what was the hush harbor? Who were some of those who risked it all to worship the God of their ancestors and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? What was worship like in these sacred spaces?

And what is the message of the hush harbor for us today?

What was the Hush Harbor?

The hush harbor, also known as a brush harbor or a bush arbor, was “a secluded informal structure, often built with tree branches, set in places away from masters so that slaves could meet to worship in private,” according to Paul Harvey’s “Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity.” During the Antebellum period, and subsequent to the Great Awakenings, Christianity grew rapidly in America. This growth included a number of African Americans who assumed the Christianity of their masters and shaped it into what author Albert J. Raboteau and others call the “Invisible Institution.” This institution, which was characterized in large part by the hush harbor, enabled slaves to worship in spirit and in truth in thickly forested areas which were hidden from their masters, wrote Raboteau. In parallel to the invisible institution of worship, there was a visible one.

To this end, Harvey explains there were actually three ways in which African-American worship took shape during this period: Firstly, in segregated biracial churches where white ministers preached. Secondly, in African-American churches such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church founded in 1816. And thirdly, in hidden hush harbors where slaves were free to combine both African and Christian worship practices.

It was in the hush harbor, buried deep within the untended woods on the plantation that slaves remembered the forests of their homeland. As Noel Leo Erskine wrote in “Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery,” it was there that they escaped the confining worship of segregated chapels and were able to practice African rituals and to rest in knowing that the spirits of their ancestors followed them—even into slavery:

“It was primarily through religious rituals and the carving out of black sacred spaces that enslaved persons were able to affirm self and create a world over against the world proffered by the master for their families.”

The hush harbor would eventually serve as not only a place for worship, but also as a place where unrelated slaves would become a sustaining family of faith.

Hush Harbor worshippers

Leaders within the slave community announced hush harbor gatherings or “meetin’s” with the use of coded language or songs, which traveled from one slave to another until the appointed time of the gathering.

Singer and preacher Melody Bennett Gayle explains that on the day of the meeting, slaves would work all day in the hot sun, gather at night in the hush harbor to worship until the sun came back up, and then return to the fields in the morning renewed to begin work again. These worshippers risked being severely beaten, sold off from their families and even killed if they were caught; however, the risk was worth it because of the liberating power of the unfettered Gospel that was preached in the woods.

To this end, former slave Lucretia Alexander explained that in the white church, the preacher would tell slaves to obey their masters and they had to sing softly. Further, per Raboteau’s “African American Religion,” escaped slave Henry Atkins lamented that “white clergymen don’t preach the whole Gospel there.” It was in the hush harbor that slaves could hear stories of the children of Israel and their exodus from the slavery of Egypt and envision their own freedom in this world and the world to come.

Read more at … https://advocatesc.org/2019/03/the-message-of-the-hush-harbor-history-and-theology-of-african-descent-traditions/

CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE & 55% of Black churchgoers say they “are aware of what race they are about every day.” White churchgoers, only 17%. #AmericanReligiousDataArchives #ARDA

by David Briggs, ARDA, 7/29/20.

There is a cavernous gap in attitudes on race in America.

Within the church, for example, more than four in five black Protestants said their race was very important to their sense of who they are; 55 percent said they are aware of what race they are about every day.

In contrast, less than a quarter of overwhelmingly white mainline Protestants attached the same importance to their racial identity; just 17 percent think about their race daily.

This lack of sensitivity to race – and the racial structures that impact the lives of people of color – present special challenges for racially diverse congregations.

A good deal of ethnographic research has indicated people of color pay “the lion’s share” of the personal costs associated with attending multiracial churches, Edwards and Kim noted.

These costs include feeling isolated, not having their religious and cultural preferences met and having only symbolic influence in their congregations.

The recent research involved 121 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with head clergy of multiracial churches as part of the religious diversity project, a nationwide study led by Edwards of leadership in multiracial religious organizations in the United States.

… The findings were not surprising to M. Garlinda Burton, a black woman who is resource development manager at and a former interim head of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race.

“Racial justice has gone to the bottom of the list of priorities” for many predominantly white denominations, Burton said.

That is reflected within the church, she said, in ways from discounting the voices of people of color on either side of major issues confronting the denomination to many people considering the appointment of a pastor of color as a punishment to a congregation.

In many ways, even if left unsaid, “There is a sense among white people that white is better.”

Read more at … http://blogs.thearda.com/trend/featured/in-multiracial-churches-pastors-of-color-hitting-the-same-white-wall/

MULTICULTURAL & In multiracial churches, pastors of color hitting ‘the same white wall.’ #AmericanReligiousDataArchives #ARDA

by David Briggs, ARDA, 7/20/20.

… New findings from the Religious Leadership and Diversity Project suggest white pastors of multiracial churches receive disproportionate resources, have greater authority and are valued more by their congregations than clergy of color.

In their own words, many black and Asian pastors in multiracial churches say they are denied a seat at the table in predominantly white denominations, while they are also alienated from their spiritual homes in Asian American and African American churches.

“The stories of the African American pastors and Asian American pastors are ones of people standing on the doorsteps of assimilation only to be ultimately denied entrance through the door of whiteness and access to the privileges enjoyed by the white majority,” reported researchers Korie Edwards of Ohio State University and Rebecca Kim of Pepperdine University.

… A good deal of ethnographic research has indicated people of color pay “the lion’s share” of the personal costs associated with attending multiracial churches, Edwards and Kim noted.

These costs include feeling isolated, not having their religious and cultural preferences met and having only symbolic influence in their congregations.

The recent research involved 121 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with head clergy of multiracial churches as part of the religious diversity project, a nationwide study led by Edwards of leadership in multiracial religious organizations in the United States.

Three articles analyzing study data were recently published in the journal Sociology of Religion.

What the research revealed is that even in multiracial churches, “Neither African American nor Asian American pastors—regardless of their particular ethnicity, race, culture, or histories—are gaining entrée into the white majority. They are both hitting the same white wall,” Edwards and Kim wrote.

Read more here … http://blogs.thearda.com/trend/featured/in-multiracial-churches-pastors-of-color-hitting-the-same-white-wall/

MULTIRACIAL CHURCHES & How researchers found that a multiracial church won’t succeed unless it is more about reconciling cultures, than about reconciling styles. #reMIX #AbingdonPress

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: For over a decade I have coached hundreds of church leaders on how to become multiracial congregations. I’ve even written a book with my colleague Mark DeYmaz in how to do it, titled: reMIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press)

But churches only succeed at this when their goal is not to become multiracial. Instead they succeed when they step up and undertake the goal Paul gave us, which I call “a holistic ministry of reconciliation.”

Look at the scripture below from The Message Bible. Paul is not just talking about reconciliation between humans and God. He is also talking about how the Church is to be a community of reconciliation between prosecutors and the persecuted, Jews and Greeks, etc. and etc. Without a focus on reconciling our histories, fears and aspirations we won’t be partnering with God in a ministry of reconciliation.

I know, there are some people that say if we undertake a ministry of reconciliation between people, we will lose our emphasis upon a ministry of reconciliation heavenward. But churches do so many things at the same time! Certainly they should be able to embrace both these important aspects of reconciliation at the same time?

I am calling upon young pastors, planting pastors, church revitalization pastors and judicatory leaders to start showing how these dual aspects of reconciliation can be practiced at the same time in the local church!

If readers wonder about details of how this can be done, I just point them to my and Mark DeYmaz’s book on transitioning your church to living color..

And, don’t get me wrong, spiritual reconciliation is the fulcrum for eternal life.

But one of the ways we demonstrate it down here is by practicing physical reconciliation too, as did Paul who at one time lined up with the persecutors but eventually was the one to build bridges to them.

Here is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 about the synergetic nature of spiritual reconciliation and physical reconciliation.

“Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:16-20‬ ‭MSG‬‬

“Multiracial Congregations May Not Bridge Racial Divide” by Tom Gjelten, National Public Radio, 7/14/20.

…Integrated churches are tough things,” says Keith Moore, a Black pastor in Montgomery, Ala., who works closely with local white pastors. “When you see both African Americans and Caucasian Americans [in a church], it’s more than likely to have a Caucasian pastor,” he says. “I think it’s sometimes more difficult for whites to look at a black pastor and see him as their authority. That’s a tough call for many.”

… As a result, Moore says, African Americans ready to worship in a multiracial church are often forced to accept white leadership and a different worship style.

“You have to abandon some of your ethnic culture and become more palatable to the majority white culture,” Moore says, “give up some of the old traditional African American experience to fit in. So there is a sacrifice.”

Moore’s impressions, in fact, are supported by the research of Emerson and Dougherty.

“All the growth [in multiracial churches] has been people of color moving into white churches,” Emerson says. “We have seen zero change in the percentage of whites moving into churches of color.” Once a multiracial church becomes less than 50% white, Emerson says, the white members leave. Such findings have left Emerson discouraged.

“For the leaders of color who were trying to create the multiracial church movement,” Emerson says, “they’re basically saying, ‘It doesn’t work. The white brothers and sisters just won’t give up their privilege. And so we’ve been defeated, in a sense.'”

The continuing power of race 

In Columbus, Ohio, Korie Little Edwards found a similar pattern in her own research. After her personal interest led her to join a multiracial church, her subsequent study left her skeptical that such churches were making the difference in promoting equality that she had hoped to see.

“I came to a point where I realized that, you know, these multiracial churches, just because they’re multiracial, doesn’t mean they have somehow escaped white supremacy,” she says. “Being diverse doesn’t mean that white people are not going to still be in charge and run things.”

In her book The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches, Little Edwards argued that people of color often lose out.

“The pain people experience is not feeling like they’re accepted for who they are,” she told NPR, “not being able to be themselves, not being able to worship how they want to worship, feeling like you have to fall in line with what white people expect you to do.”

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2020/07/17/891600067/multiracial-congregations-may-not-bridge-racial-divide

MULTICULTURAL & #SundayChurchHacks: If you are reaching multiple cultures, then include in worship symbols/aesthetics from all cultures. Here a client church creates an “ancient-future” environment to make two cultures feel at home.

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Note the detail in the stained-glass windows above the minimalist depictions of buildings on the stage.

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Notice how the speaker dresses in a manner that can relate to multiple generations.  The older culture has expectations of dressing up to honor God, which usually in their culture includes a jacket.  Younger generations may synergize styles to create innovation, sometimes called aesthetic fashion.

MOSIAC CHURCHES & Understanding Graffiti Leadership by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 2/21/19.

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One of the most influential art forms in American history first appeared in its current form on public walls in the late 1960s.

Graffiti is an improvised, colorful and risky art that is layered on public buildings, bridges, railway cars and subways. A product of urban artists who often eschew training, it is a fitting metaphor for another characteristic of millennial leadership.

While modern leadership often disciplines itself to keep colors and lines in their place, millennial leaders create a leadership collage of colors, symbols and statements. (Paradoxically, the style known as “modern art,” including the works of Matisse, Picasso and others, shunned the orderliness of previous periods of art and acted as a precursor to millennial thinking. This demonstrates the broad strokes and limitations underscored by the term “modern.”)

Some of the attributes of graffiti artists are:

  • Risk-takers
  • Improvisers
  • Led by spirit and passion
  • Breaking human convention for the sake of improvement
  • Creating a collage of colors, styles, messages and meanings that make the world take notice
  • Different artists add their style to others’ art
  • Personal symbols and icons retain individuality.
  • And, graffiti often contains reoccurring elements, including:
  • Name or epithet
  • A philosophy line
  • Synergy created by blending multiple shapes, styles and colors

Graffiti reminds us of the improvisational, risky and outward-focused collage of Millennial leadership. This is not for the faint-hearted, nor the small-minded.

Graffiti leadership embraces risk

In response to these modern perils, the Millennial leader seeks a more elastic and organic approach. While the modern leader tries to create stability and minimize risk, the millennial leader recognizes that chaos is a byproduct of the human condition (Romans 3:23, 5:12). According to organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch, the millennial leader “embraces complexity and uncertainty and their contradictory demands.”

When researcher Lois Barrett and her colleagues studied churches that were effectively reaching young non-churchgoers they found that a reoccurring pattern was “taking risks as a contrast community.” This is a church that is learning to take risk for the sake of the gospel. It understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death and resurrection of its Lord. It is raising questions, often threatening ones, about the church’s cultural captivity and it is grappling with the ethical and structural implications of its missional vocation.

A moving example of risk-taking comes from the story of John Perkins, a black man who left Mississippi after his brother was shot by a policeman. After an encounter with Christ he retuned to Mississippi to work with children during the turbulent civic rights struggles of the 1950s.  Eventually, Perkins founded a Christian ministry that included student tutoring, co-ops to share food, child care, nutrition programs, medical facilities and Bible studies. This was risky behavior in 1950s Mississippi.

The millennial leader understands such risk because as Lewis Drummond observes, “In postmodern terms, we might say that Jesus came to bring equal access and opportunity to this in substandard living condition, to give voice and identity to those other than the dominant elite and to alleviate the ravages of capitalistic imperialism and colonialist economic aggression.”

Lois Barrett concluded, “These congregations seem to be living by a set of rules different from that of dominant culture. Their priorities are different. They act against ‘common sense.’  They are trying to conform to Jesus Christ rather than to the surrounding society.”

Such risk-taking for the sake of the missio Dei is akin to the risks a graffiti artist takes for one’s craft.

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press). Used with permission.

Photo source: istock 

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/understanding-graffiti-leadership/

MOSIAC CHURCHES & How Millennial leadership grows mosaic churches by @BobWhitesel published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 3/20/19.

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Millennial leadership recognizes the need for cultural sensitivity, awareness and autonomy.  Though there is a healthy respect for different traditions, there is also a concern that the body of Christ not be splintered into smaller and less holistic factions. Millennial leaders see two types of church planting and increasingly utilize internal instead of external church plants.

External church plants

When modern leaders think of church planting, they usually think about launching a new and autonomous congregation to reach a new culture. However, many millennial leaders have seen their parents’ churches use a “church planting excuse” to push out a different culture. Whether it be a generational culture or an ethnic culture, these ”forced plants” often don’t survive. The millennial leader often wonders, why can’t the church just get along and stay together as a spiritual network?

Internal church plants (or network churches)

This is an increasingly popular strategy that plants new sub-congregations, but keeps them part of one inclusive and multicultural congregation. Called “network churches,” these can be multiple-site and multiple-venue churches, and as such, they are examples of internal church planting.

Advantages of internal church plants

Sharing finances: In the business world this is called an “economy of scale,” which means that a network of sub-congregations will have more financial resources together than if each were independent organizations. For example, if emergency funds are needed by one sub-congregation, the network can provide those funds more readily and smoothly because they are all part of one organizational system.

Sharing facilities: Internal church plants that employ a multi-site approach foster a sharing of facilities, technology and physical resources. This can help fulfill John M. Perkins’ goal of “redistribution.”

Sharing staff:  Network churches benefit from sharing support staff, allowing sub-congregations to avoid duplicating their workforces.

Culture sharing:  This is a strategic advantage. More cultural sharing will take place if multiple ethnicities are meeting in the same building and sharing the same budget, etc. than will take place if an emerging culture is forced to move down the street to an independent church plant.

Disadvantages of internalchurch plants 

They can become divisive:This is often cited as a main concern.  But, if they exit the church, it is divided anyway.  Division can be addressed by having different preachers at different venues/times share the same message and by holding regular unity events.

Marginalized cultures:Often the largest cultures will try, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes intentionally, to dominate the smaller culture.  Yet, this should not deter a congregation from practicing a ministry that reconciles different cultures in the same church.

One way to address this is to require proportional representation on decision-making committees.

If these caveats can be addressed, the end result is the mosaic church, where the glue of being one united organization unites different cultural expressions. A true image of a “mosaic” is created, where different colors and shades create a unified picture when viewed from a distance, but up close reveals a collage of different cultures working in unity and harmony.

This Millennial “graffiti” leadership is full of colorful layering and icons that when combined produce a new multifaceted, yet integrated image. This is the church.

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press). Used with permission.

Photo source: istock 

Read the original article here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-millennial-leadership-grows-mosaic-churches/

MULTICULTURAL & Researchers find that almost 20% of churches are transitioning to multicultural congregations. #BaylorUniversity #re:MIXbook

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This latest research from my friend and colleague, Dr. Kevin Daughtery at Baylor University, indicates that almost 20% of churches are transitioning to multicultural congregations.

Learn about this exciting new trend in the article below and then pick up a copy of ReMIX: Transitioning your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press) to find out how almost any church can do it.

Multiracial Congregations Have Nearly Doubled, But They Still Lag Behind the Makeup of Neighborhoods

By Terry Goodrich, Baylor Univ. communications, 6/20/18

The percentage of multiracial congregations in the United States nearly doubled from 1998 to 2012, with about one in five American congregants attending a place of worship that is racially mixed, according to a Baylor University study.

While Catholic churches remain more likely to be multiracial — about one in four — a growing number of Protestant churches are multiracial, the study found. The percentage of Protestant churches that are multiracial tripled, from 4 percent in 1998 to 12 percent in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available.

In addition, more African-Americans are in the pulpits and pews of U.S. multiracial churches than in the past, according to the study.

Multiracial congregations are places of worship in which less than 80 percent of participants are of the same race or ethnicity.

“Congregations are looking more like their neighborhoods racially and ethnically, but they still lag behind,” said lead author Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. “The average congregation was eight times less diverse racially than its neighborhood in 1998 and four times less diverse in 2012.”

“More congregations seem to be growing more attentive to the changing demographics outside their doors, and as U.S. society continues to diversify by race and ethnicity, congregations’ ability to adapt to those changes will grow in importance,” said co-author Michael O. Emerson, Ph.D., provost of North Park University in Chicago.

  • The percentage of Americans worshipping in multiracial congregations climbed to 18 percent in 2012, up from 13 percent in 1998.
  • Mainline Protestant and Evangelical Protestant churches have become more common in the count of multiracial congregations, but Catholic churches continue to show higher percentages of multiracial congregations. One in four Catholic churches was multiracial in 2012.
  • While whites are the head ministers in more than two-thirds (70 percent) of multiracial congregations, the percentage of those led by black clergy has risen to 17 percent, up from fewer than 5 percent in 1998.
  • Blacks have replaced Latinos as the most likely group to worship with whites. In the typical multiracial congregation, the percentage of black members rose to nearly a quarter in 2012, up from 16 percent in 1998. Meanwhile, Latinos in multiracial congregations dropped from 22 percent in 1998 to 13 percent in 2012.
  • The percentage of immigrants in multiracial congregations decreased from over 5 percent in 1998 to under 3 percent in 2012.

Read more at … https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=199850

Learn about this exciting new trend in the article below and then pick up a copy of ReMIX: Transitioning your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press) to find out how almost any church can do it.

remix cover

UNAFFILIATED & Research shows younger Christians have moved from being evangelical to being “unaffiliated.”

America’s Changing Religious Landscape, podcast with Robert P. Jones (18 February 2019), interviewed by Benjamin P. Marcus.

…Atheists and agnostics actually only make up only a minority of that category of a quarter of the US population. And the rest of them are kind of a mixed bag. When we’ve looked underneath the hood, there’s kind of two other groups in there. There’s one group that looks . . . that we’ve just broadly labelled “secular” in some of our reporting, that looks broadly like a cross-section of the country. But there’s another group in there that we’ve actually dubbed “unattached believers”. And that group looks, on many measures of religiosity – like, “How often do you pray?”, “How often do you attend religious services?”, “Do you believe in God?”, those kind of questions – they look like religious Americans, even though they refuse the category and won’t identify with any particular religious group. That group tends to be less white, more African American or Latino. And they tend to be younger. And so it’s a very interesting group. I think, as a whole, this group has moved so fast now that it is a very diverse group. I mean, after all, it’s a quarter of Americans, so that is a big, big group that we’re talking about, now...

So if we go back ten years ago, I think that was more true than it is today. But it is true that young evangelicals have moved. But what they have moved from is from being evangelical to be unaffiliated. So they’ve actually exited the category over time. And we can see that a couple of ways in the data. For example, among young people today, only eight percent identify as white evangelical Protestant, right? And again that’s compared to about fifteen percent in the population. So young people are only half as likely to identify as evangelical as Americans overall. And when we look underneath the hood, and we look at the median age, for example, of white evangelicals over time, we see it creeping up. And the main reason for that is that, as they’ve lost members, they’re disproportionately losing members from their younger ranks. So what’s happening is, yes indeed, the young evangelicals of ten years ago have moved. But they’ve not moved over to be Democrats – or they might have – but they’ve mostly moved out of the whole category. They’ve stopped identifying as evangelical. And I think that’s the real shift. So if you’re looking for those people who were young evangelicals a decade ago, you should look for them in the unaffiliated category and not in the evangelical category. And what we’re seeing is that, among the young people who have stayed, the generational differences are now kind-of muted. Because the people who have stayed are actually people who hold views that are fairly consistent with older evangelicals. But the ones who had views, for example, that were in great tension – like on gay rights – have largely left the fold.

Audio and transcript available at: Jones_-_America_s_Changing__Religious_Landscape_1

Read/hear more at … https://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/podcast/americas-changing-religious-landscape/