Check out @imterencelester
Thanks @thecharliemitchell, amen and amen.
Check out @imterencelester
Thanks @thecharliemitchell, amen and amen.
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.
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.
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Nov 15, 2020.
I have been taken aback by how two crises happened at the same time. First there was the pandemic. Then on top of that was the call for racial justice and healing. However, I noticed that usually researchers/writers wrote on one topic or the other. But I thought, they are inextricably connected. Leaders are talking about reopening their churches with new safety protocols. But we should also be talking about reopening our churches with new intercultural protocols too.
But what we’re not doing is addressing sufficiently yet the racial divide in North America. If we are going to reopen with a changed church, let’s change more than the cleanliness. Let’s begin to clean our hearts and souls from racial division.
In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). He describes this ministry of reconciliation as between God and humans AND between humans and one other. You see, Paul was reaching out to the Gentiles. And they were the persecutors of the Jews. The Jews had a lot of qualms about reaching out to the Gentiles. These were their oppressors. These were their enemies, the occupiers of the Jewish homeland who abused and killed innocent people because of racial hatred. And Paul is reaching out to them and seeing Christ change them! That is the background behind Paul’s description of our ministry of reconciliation. He sees the Church as bringing divergent groups together while also bringing we who are estranged from God, back to God.
Look at how Paul describes it in the contemporary language of The Message Bible:
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: It is important that while we are thinking about re-opening our churches, we also address re-orienting our ministry to unite the divisions in society. I’ve written about this in the book “Growing the post-pandemic church” in the chapter, “The one thing churches aren’t doing as they prepare to reopen: reconciliation.”
Read this article below to see what biblical topics people are searching for at this time.
Blog / The 4 Main Themes People Engaged With the Bible in 2020 on Bible Gateway
Critical news events of 2020 corresponded with extreme spikes in keyword/keyphrase searches of the Bible over 2019 on Bible Gateway—the world’s most visited Christian website—and can be grouped into the four main themes of social, pandemic, political, and end times.
Searches in each of the four areas occurred at least ten times more in 2020 than last year, with social-related terms searched more than 100 times following the death of George Floyd. With the ensuing and ongoing protests, Bible search terms included such topics as racism, justice, equality, and oppression, and notable Scripture verse results included “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15) and “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow”(Isaiah 1:17).
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.”
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 7/12/20. Pictured below is the pastor of a Spanish-speaking congregation preaching to the entire congregation. This reminds the church of its diversity, plus gives it a opportunity to experience the anointing of diverse leaders within the church.
Yet too often leaders of smaller sub-congregations and venues are afforded the opportunity to preach only on special occasions or during low attendance periods (such as the middle of the summer).
Relegating them to preach sparingly and at low attendance times sends a subtle message of inferiority. This works against reconciliation.
To create reconciliation in a church begins with affording all cultures equal status and affirming their ministry beyond equal opportunity.
“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
Therefore a Sunday Church Hack can be to let the leaders of various venues and sub-congregations preach on a more regular and desirable basis. If not, cultural chasms develop, not bridges.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Having researched, written and coached churches on diversity for almost 20 years, I find that sometimes those I coach are challenged to explain the “why” and the “history” behind their beliefs. Ruchika Tulshyan, writing in the Harvard Business Review gives practical steps to embrace when explaining about your beliefs (excerpted below).
Ruchika Tulshyan, Harvard Business Review, 6/30/20.
… Here are some suggestions for how your team can meaningfully communicate and execute your commitment to anti-bias and dismantling racism:
Do not send communication on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts without explicitly calling out the reasoning for it…
Understand the history of bias and discrimination — which explains how these initiatives and programs are righting past wrongs. While many of us theoretically believe discrimination of an employee because of their race, gender, ability, or other identity is wrong and even illegal, in practice, bias is present in many key decisions made in the workplace. A small but eye-opening example; a 2003 Harvard study found that employers preferred white candidates with a criminal record over Black employees who didn’t have a criminal history. Professional women of color face a number of impediments to hiring and advancement that white women do not…
Invite buy-in and advice from people of color…and listen with humility.
Prioritize anti-racism efforts in-house. Leaders must do the tough work of identifying where bias shows up in their organizations right now — hiring, retention, or advancement of employees of color — and fix those issues before moving to grand gestures that could be misinterpreted as PR stunts…
Show up personally … I do wish more leaders were present and engaged in conversations already taking place right in their backyards… When those in charge don’t engage in the work personally, it gives others in the organization to also take a back seat in this important work.
by Amos C. Brown, Sojourners Magazine, 6/16/29.
… In July 1952, when I was 11 years old, some of my relatives took me to witness the Billy Graham Crusade in Jackson, Miss. Ropes were strung across the athletic field and stands where more than 300,000 people would gather to hear him preach during those hot summer nights. The ropes had one purpose: to keep the crowd segregated by the color of their skin.
I still remember, nearly 70 years later, watching as Rev. Graham walked down off the podium where he was to preach and pulled down those ropes. That was the day that he declared he would never again preach to a segregated congregation, because the gospel of Jesus Christ welcomes all equally. It was a courageous act for which he was heavily criticized, notoriously so in the segregated South. Nonetheless, in pulling down those ropes he demonstrated his belief in the words of the gospel, and over the rest of life stood with other religious leaders who were working to bring down the barriers of racism.
From the article “BILLY GRAHAM RAISED HIS VOICE AGAINST RACISM. SO SHOULD HIS SON.” Read the full article here … https://sojo.net/articles/billy-graham-raised-his-voice-against-racism-so-should-his-son
And watch a video here …https://billygraham.org/video/taking-ropes-segregation-part-4/
“Evangelical Christians grapple with racism as sin,” by Tom Gjelten, NPR, National Public Radio, 6/7/20.
… For evangelical Christian leaders, however, crafting a response to Floyd’s killing is complicated by their view of sin in individual, not societal, terms and their belief in the need for personal salvation above all. Evangelical theologians have long rejected the idea of a “social gospel,” which holds that the kingdom of God should be pursued by making life better here on earth.
Among African American evangelicals, one theologian who has vigorously challenged such views is Darrell Harrison, an ordained Baptist deacon and co-host of the Just Thinking podcast.
“One way to distinguish the biblical gospel from the ‘social gospel,’ ” Harrison tweeted last week, “is that the social gospel preaches structural transformation that works in society from the outside-in, whereas the biblical gospel preaches spiritual transformation that works in society from the inside-out.”
Racism, in Harrison’s view, is often misunderstood. “Biblically, ethnic prejudice is not an ‘ism,’ ” he argued in response to George Floyd’s killing. “It is hate —period. … You end hatred by repenting and believing the gospel.”
Other evangelicals take a more nuanced view of a Christian obligation to work for social justice.
“The way that we live and work in the world, how we care for our communities, how we care for our neighbors. Those are all things that the Bible speaks really clearly about,” says Alan Cross, a white Southern Baptist pastor now leading a congregation in northern California. “Somebody who is transformed from their relationship with Christ should have a transformed view of how they see their neighbor or how they perceive issues of life and justice. That’s the situation we’re in right now.”
For Cross, whose book When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus is in part a memoir of his 15 years leading a Southern Baptist congregation in Montgomery, Ala., the opposition of biblical and social gospel is a “false dichotomy.”
“We don’t believe that people are saved by restructuring society,” Cross says. “But if you do know Christ, if you have a relationship with him, you should see the pain of people around you, and you should say, ‘What can I do?’ ”
This is second in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/24/16) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.
FOR BEST PRACTICES CLICK on “Best Practices (plus exercises) for Growing a Multiethnic Church”.
The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7Systems.church) is upon an analysis of 32,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice. An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7Systems.church) can be found here: www.7Systems.church
To revitalize a church, we must first understand what we are revitalizing it into.
This article is the second in the series investigating the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7systems.church) that describes what a revitalized and healthy church looks like. These seven characteristics are drawn from the exhaustive research in Hartford Seminary’s: “American Congregations Study” (available free at http://www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org). While the survey is long, I have broken it down into seven categories of a healthy, revitalized church.
In the series’ first article we looked at “visibility.” Healthy churches are visible either through location or by making an impact in the community. In that Church Revitalizer magazine article you will find ideas to increase physical visibility, social media visibility and member visibility.
The Second Characteristic is a product of a church’s reconciling system: “Reaching Out to a New Culture.”
This article will look at how to reach out to a new, but growing culture. That’s right, most revitalized churches have looked around them and seen what cultures are emerging in the community and they have reached out to them one at a time.
There are many different types of cultures. Most churches already have some experience reaching out to different age cultures. For example, many aging church have looked around and seen younger people moving into the area and reached out to them.
But most churches are less experienced with reaching out to different ethnic cultures. For instance, congregations today are increasingly looking around and noticing that people who speak a different language are moving into the community. Most church do not (yet) have ideas about how to reach out to a ethnic culture. But read on, for this article will show you seven steps to reaching a new and different culture.
How to “Reach a Growing Culture.”
In the above scenarios, a church realizes that the culture that comprises the existing church is not the growing culture in the community. And the church realizes in order to be healthy, it’s existing leaders must help the church transform into a church that represents the growing culture in the community.
This is done in seven field-tested steps first suggested by Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter.
1. Communicate the urgency. The congregation must realize that it has to reach a growing culture or die with its existing culture. This must include studying the behaviors, ideas and traditions of the new culture. While some aspects of a culture can run counter to the Good News, other aspects may not. Leaders have to do what Eddie Gibbs calls “sift a culture.” He uses a colander metaphor to describe how mature leaders must sift out the impurities that run counter to the Good News, while retaining the good.
2. Create a guiding coalition. This means partnering with leaders from the emerging culture. One of the best ways to do this is to look for what the Bible calls “persons of peace” from the emerging culture (Luke 10:6). The biblical word for peace comes from the Greek “to join” and indicates a person who unites people from divergent cultures. So, look for people who are “peacemakers” with a demonstrated ability to bring different people together. They are usually recognized as a leader or at least an informal influencer in their culture. Begin by looking for them, then invite them to bring along several of their colleagues to help you understand and plan ministry to this culture.
3. Create a vision. This coalition creates a vision to help people visualize what the church will look in five years. This can be a descriptive paragraph depicting what a revitalized and intercultural church might look like.
4. Communicate the vision. You can’t just make a vision statement, you need to regularly in sermons and then Bible studies, stress what the church will look like in the future. Painting the picture over and over again is critical. Research also shows that you are almost three times more likely to change if you attach a story (such as a biblical story) to the change.
5. Empower others to act on the vision. This means beginning to give people from the other culture permission to lead. It also means experimenting with and supporting new ideas from that culture. Because the vision has already been cast and promoted, people are more willing to experiment and try new ideas.
6. Celebrate small wins. After you experiment (in step 5) you will then want to celebrate small wins. Perhaps opening up your facility for use by another culture or if you can afford it hiring a person of peace from that culture to be a minister to that culture. Churches customarily do this by hiring a youth minister to reach out to younger generations or a Hispanic Spanish-speaking minister to reach out to the Hispanic community. When fruit results, no matter how small, you must celebrate it. This gives people an opportunity to see progress.
7. Create bigger and better wins. Don’t be satisfied with small wins, but use them as a stepping stone to more progress. Here is a key most churches overlook, because once they have some success they stop. Church revitalization will stall unless you keep a church moving forward. So, keep pushing ahead for bigger and bigger wins … but have tact and don’t go too fast. Too often churches are satisfied with small changes, but long-term health requires a continued expansion of bigger and better changes.
8. Institutionalize the change in your structure. Here you begin to change the organizational structure of the church, by voting people of the new culture into leadership and decision-making committees. The church now begins to become intercultural in all of its committees, teams and structures. Leaders often baulk at this last element, but to bring about intercultural understanding and partnership for the cause of Christ requires partnering with new, emerging cultures (c.f. Acts, 17:26-28, 1 Corinthians 9:20, Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 4:2-5, Colossians 3:11, Revelation 7:9-10.)
For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7Systems.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7Systems.church
Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology
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 cultures) overview 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:
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?”
Article by Rev. Elaine A. Heath, Ph.D., Dean, Duke Divinity School, The Duke Center for Reconciliation, 12/6/16.
In her book, Trauma and Grace, Serene Jones offers the proposal that both individuals and communities who suffer from trauma, can find healing and hope in certain biblical narratives.  For example she cites the story of the Walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-49) as a text about the communal trauma that the disciples experienced, and how Jesus broke through and helped them to begin to re-narrate their experience and their future. Jones specifically uses this text in conjunction with the trauma inflicted upon the United States on September 11, 2001. The story of the Walk to Emmaus thus becomes a template with which to imagine our own collective healing from other kinds of community trauma.
The process of healing trauma, writes Jones, includes speaking about the original harm that caused trauma, doing so in the presence of witnesses who create a safe environment as a container for the story, and finally, both those who experienced trauma and the witnesses to their story, begin to create a new story together, “to pave a new road through the brain.” By creating the new narrative of hope, survivors of trauma develop agency to enact a better future. They reframe their understanding of themselves and increase their capacity to resist further victimization or enactments of violence, as well as the paralyzing apathy that can be a side effect of trauma. For communities in trauma, the corporate creation of a new pathway “through the brain” takes place through a new set of shared practices that foster communal healing. The appropriation of what Richard Hays calls Scriptural Imagination is a key element in healing communal trauma as Christians.
Scriptural Imagination and Post-Election Communal Trauma
A primary task of the church in post-2016 election United States is to invite a deep reading of Scripture within the church in order to facilitate healing of communal trauma within and beyond the church. Indeed this is a significant aspect the Church’s “working out our salvation” at this volatile and polarized time…
The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Us
The first place to begin is to remember our identity. When Jesus stepped into his public ministry and preached for the first time in his hometown, he read from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4: 18-19, 21).
Jesus, in other words, claimed Isaiah 61 as his mission statement. He then went on to live this text throughout his ministry. Because the church is the Body of Christ, Isaiah 61 is also a defining vision for the church, and no text is more powerful than this for helping the church to once again imagine how to live with and for our neighbors. This text is, indeed, a template for us to imagine God’s preferred future for the world, and to live into that future together.
Consider these verses, for example, and how they might shape our plans of action as congregations working together for the common good: ”They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:3-4). This is our vocation, our identity—to step forward and create a new story with our neighbors, one in which devastated cities and ruined neighborhoods are renewed, children grow up with a future, and the church behaves like Jesus.
In the midst of a climate of fear, despair, and hate, the church can and must live into this text, to work together for the healing of our nation. We can do this because “the Spirit of the Lord is upon us.” Not only is it possible for us to bear witness to the trauma and usher in healing through this text, but it is a gospel imperative. The church is in the world for “such a time as this…”
1. Jones defines trauma as “…an event in which a person or persons perceives themselves or others as threatened by an external force that seeks to annihilate them and against which they are unable to resist and which overwhelms their ability to cope.” Serene Jones, Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World (Louisville: Westminster/John Knowx, 2009) 13. Gabor Mate describes it this way: “Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold in the absence of an empathetic witness.” Gabor Mate, “Foreward” in Peter A. Levine, In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2010), xii.
2. Jones, 31-32.
3. Richard Hays discusses Scriptural Imagination as a crucial skill that fosters renewal of the church with colleagues L. Gregory Jones, Ellen Davis, and Stanley Hauerwas at Duke Divinity School in a panel discussion Feb. 14, 2013.
4. Also see William J. Barber II, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, with a Foreward by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Boston: Beacon Press, 2016).
6. According to a Pew survey released 11/9/16 the divide between evangelicals and other Christians in this election was similar to previous elections of recent decades.
Read more at … https://nccumc.org/news/2016/12/repairers-ruined-cities-healers-many-devastations/
by Kyle J. Howard, 1/29/18.
PTSD AND RACIAL TRAUMA
… 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.
Read more at … http://kylejhoward.com/blog/dr-king-racial-trauma-and-the-church/
“Dr. King was a social reformer, we were personal friends and he understood my position completely – – That I was using one type of method to accomplish the same thing and he was using another type of method.” (Read the context and Dr. King’s comments below.)
Access the complete documents at http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bulletin/bu1402c.htm
by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., Church Central, 4/10/17.
…Reconciliation begins with dialogue.
Reconciliation is not going to take place in the limited conversations of a fellowship foyer, fellowship hall, etc. But it needs to start somewhere, and it can be fostered there. What if people who enjoyed different musical genres could attend the same church, hear the same sermon (perhaps by different culturally relevant preachers) and then exit into a “fellowship hall/foyer” to meet with people of other cultures and learn how the sermon impacts each culture similarly and differently. This can begin a dialogue that can then branch out from Sunday morning to the rest of the week.
Here I think is the reason the quote that “10:30 is the most segregated time of the week” was utilized by Martin Luther King Jr. That is because our churches are segregated on Sunday mornings. This may be because most churches offer only one musical genre style of worship and therefore those who come to worship are primarily people attracted to one musical genre. I recently wrote a book with a colleague titled: re:MIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press).
I pray fervently for churches to develop a ministry of reconciliation to God and one another (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)…
Reconcilation is not about acculturation or blending, but about giving up power.
– Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/26/17.
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.
Hear it at:
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:
#DMin LEAD 716
by Aron Earls, Facts & Trends, 8/16/17.
Racial reconciliation seems to be an issue many have decided is too difficult. According to LifeWay Research, more than 8 in 10 Americans say we have “so far to go on racial relations.”
Yet a separate LifeWay Research study found almost 67 percent of Protestant churchgoers say their church is “doing enough to be ethnically diverse.”
Meanwhile, in a 2010 study, Rice University sociologist Michael Emerson found that while diversity in churches is increasing, most churches are still 10 times more segregated than their neighborhoods, and 20 times more segregated than nearby public schools.
Nine in 10 pastors say their congregation would welcome a sermon on racial reconciliation, according to LifeWay Research, but only 45 percent have preached on it in the last three months.
Most churchgoers and pastors recognize a need to do more on issues of race, but fewer seem committed to actually doing more than they already are.
So what can local churches do to serve as a unifying force in a fragmented culture?
Recognize reconciliation is a gospel issue.
Reconciliation is at the very heart of the gospel, says author and church planter D.A. Horton. “The reality of the gospel message found in Christ is to bring those who were separated from God near to God,” he says. “That’s reconciliation.”
Reconciliation is then extended to Jesus’ disciples in the Great Commission, “the work boots of the gospel message,” according to Horton. “Christ was very specific,” he says. “We make disciples of all ethnicities. Christ’s death and resurrection expiates the sins of every sinner regardless of ethnicity, gender, or former sinful orientation.”
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2/19/17.
A student once asked, “I am picturing a situation where a large church wants to plant an (independent) daughter church because they have a growing sub-congregation in the church that is mostly Hispanic, or Gen Y. Is that a better way to help them, by launching them as an independent church plant? Or can we help them better by offering to share the church with them as a venue or sub-congregation in the mother church?”
I replied …
What we often do when we launch a typical church “plant” is to create an “external” sub-congregation. And, this is okay. But, I think it is usually not the best way to proceed. Rather, the “internal planting” of a sub-congregation (fostering the growth of a sub-congregation that remains part of the church) is a better strategy.
This is because external plants have the following PLUSES (strengths) and NEGATIVES (weaknesses):
Pluses: External plants (in my consulting practice) grow quicker than Internal Plants (developing a sub-congregation and a venue), because they are homogeneous (i.e. largely attracting one culture).
Negatives: External plants (in my consulting practice) die quicker. They are smaller and often don’t reach critical mass for long-term sustainability.
Pluses: External plants have experienced leadership, because the leader has been trained in the mother church.
Negatives: External plants often lack good accountability and thus succumb to leadership/ethical weaknesses.
Pluses: External plants attract people who do not have a church home and/or who are dissatisfied with the church they attend.
Negatives: External plants often attract disgruntled people:
Pluses: External plants create more churches, though they may be smaller and not healthy for many years.
Negatives: External plants often kill existing churches, when the people who are attracted to the external plant leave the mother church, and other churches, weakening the churches they left. This is the main reason pastors of established churches don’t like external plants, it cannibalizes the people they need to survive.
Pluses: External plants cater to a specific cultural market. This creates a like-minded community that grows because of the things it holds in common.
Negatives: External plants don’t promote inter-cultural understanding. This would be like the second-generation Koreans wanting their own church. The first-generation Koreans would feel abandoned and disconnected. And the externally planted 2nd-gen congregation might develop distain (due to distance) for the 1st-gen culture.
This illustration highlights the differences between first and second generational cultures. But it happens in even a more damaging fashion between ethnic cultures.
The result of a good work, like church planting, can be that the cultures are distance organizationally and physically from one another by the planting of a separate congregation.
But it often makes the mother church feel good, because it can say, “We planted another church.” But in reality they often push them away because of their differences. This creates distance between them and us. In my consulting work, no matter how much churches protest they … “Will stay connected to our daughter church,” they never stay as close as they would if they were sharing the church as fellow sub-congregations.
Thus, if a church is really committed to reconciliation and multi-culturalism (as I am) then Internal Planting is the better choice. Thus, with Internal Planting the church becomes in a community the main avenue for building multi-cultural understanding and tolerance, e.g. unity building and changing biases.
A name for this type of church is The Multicultural Alliance Model.