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

#SundayChurchHacks & Here is why you should let leaders of diverse sub-congregations preach more often to the entire congregation (and on more desirable dates too)

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.


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DIVERSITY & Do Your Congregants Know Why You Believe in Diversity?

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).

Do Your Employees Know Why You Believe in Diversity?

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.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2020/06/do-your-employees-know-why-you-believe-in-diversity

RECONCILIATION & How Billy Graham stood up against racism and modeled reconciliation, as told by someone who was there: Amos C. Brown.

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.

image

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/

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Image: LancasterOnline.com

THEOLOGY & Comparing two dominant theological views of racism as sin.

“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?’ ”

Read more at … https://whyy.org/npr_story_post/evangelical-christians-grapple-with-racism-as-sin/

SYSTEM 2 of 7SYSTEMS.church: RECONCILING & How to reach a growing culture.

7.2 systems yellow

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.

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

 

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

RECONCILIATION & Practical Ideas for Repairers of Ruined Cities, Healers of Many Devastations Written By My Colleague #ElaineHeath

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. [1] 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.”[2] 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.[3]

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…”

 

End Notes

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).

5. Harassment Incidents Since Election Day.

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.

7. Election Fears

Read more at … https://nccumc.org/news/2016/12/repairers-ruined-cities-healers-many-devastations/

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

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

by Kyle J. Howard, 1/29/18.

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/

RECONCILIATION & Billy Graham on his friendship/methods with Martin Luther King Jr.:

“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.)

WHEATON Archives Billy Graham on MLK 1.jpg

WHEATON Archives Billy Graham on MLK 2.jpgAccess the complete documents at http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bulletin/bu1402c.htm

RECONCILIATION & It is not going to take place in the limited conversations of a church foyer. #Quote

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)…

Read more at … https://www.churchcentral.com/blogs/why-i-dont-have-a-problem-with-segregated-worship-services/?utm_source=Email_marketing&utm_campaign=emnaCCC04112017&cmp=1&utm_medium=html_email

RECONCILIATION & Quote: Reconcilation is not about acculturation or blending, but about “giving up power”

Reconcilation is not about acculturation or blending, but about giving up power.

– Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/26/17.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at … http://globalworship.tumblr.com/post/164621929550/transitioning-into-a-multi-ethnic-church-eric

Hear it at:

http://cdn.antiochpodcast.org/021.mp3

and go here for more:
http://antiochpodcast.org/podcast/episode-21-worshiping-whiteness-a-presentation-by-eric-nykamp/

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at … http://fuller.edu/Blogs/Global-Reflections/Posts/Five-Non-Negotiables-for-White-Folks-In-Pursuing-Reconciliation/

#DMin LEAD 716

RECONCILIATION & Most churches are 10x more segregated than their neighborhoods: What to do…

What Role Does Your Church Plan in Racial Reconciliation?

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.”

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2017/08/16/role-church-play-racial-reconciliation/

MULTIPLICATION & Instead of planting an independent new church, what about planting a new venue instead? Pros & cons considered.

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):

Short/long-term growth?

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.

Leadership?

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.

Attraction?

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:

  1. Who don’t like the church they attend
  2. And/ or who do not want to rub shoulders with another culture (generational, ethnic, affinity, etc.). Thus, reconciliation does not take place.

More churches?

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.

Diversity?

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.

See all five models here: MULTICULTURAL CHURCHES & 5 Models: A New Paradigm Evaluated and Differentiated #AICR #AcademyForInterculturalChurchResearch

ETHICS & The Role of Agape in the Ethics of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Pursuit of Justice #FullerSemDissertation

by Jerry Ogoegbunem Nwonye, dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, 1/2009.

Available via ProQuest and at https://books.google.com/books?id=_0b6NTQGcKUC&dq=Where+Do+We+Go+from+Here:+agape&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Thesis excerpt, p. 2:

Ethics agape in MLK.jpgHashtags:  #WesleySeminary #DMinTL

RECONCILATION & Everything I Know about Reconciliation I Learned in the Church #ChristenaCleveland

by Christena Cleveland, 8/12/13.

WHEN I LEARNED THAT THE CHURCH CAN HEAL WHAT THE CHURCH HAS BROKEN

When the VBS teacher called me a nigger, she cursed my identity. Though I never explicitly referred to myself as a nigger, I internalized the teacher’s racism and developed an inferiority complex that was fueled by my subsequent experiences of racism. I’m sad to say that my race-based feelings of inferiority lived on through my childhood, adolescent and college years.

By the time I started graduate school, my identity was exiled and I felt like I belonged no where; my self-esteem was clinically low; and while I somehow remained committed to following Jesus, I didn’t believe that God’s love for the world applied to me specifically.

But God lovingly and specifically led me to a small but mighty multiethnic church — in super-segregated Santa Barbara, of all places – led by a middle-aged black man with a striking afro and a wise, reconciling spirit.

Afro Pastor led the congregation in the practice of radical, cross-cultural solidarity by preaching it, modeling it and prioritizing it. As a result, the church excelled at honoring the image of God in diverse people. At this church, which had representatives from over ten ethnicities, everything was upside down: difference was valued, diverse perspectives were given voice, and the congregants from privileged groups in society served the congregants from oppressed groups.

Even though I was culturally different than everyone else in the church, they immediately accepted me, cherished me and invited me way in. I shared countless meals, long conversations, fiery prayer meetings, Sunday gatherings and service opportunities with my fellow congregants. And in the midst of this, God partnered with this church to call me out of my forced migration, beckon me home, and reverse the curse on my identity.

  • There I learned that I belonged and that my perspective was valuable.
  • There my identity took root in God’s love and the church’s love.
  • There my unique experience of blackness was affirmed.
  • There I learned that I am no longer called Deserted; I am Sought After.
  • There the chip on my shoulder softened and morphed into a fiery passion for reconciliation.

The church taught me that though racism steals, kills and destroys, the church can partner with God to restore, resurrect and heal.

WHEN I LEARNED THAT RECONCILIATION COSTS EVERYTHING[i]

Read more at … http://www.christenacleveland.com/blogarchive/2013/08/everything-i-know-about-reconciliation-i-learned-in-the-church?rq=everything%20i%20know%20about

RACISM & Preaching To Confront Racism by retired bishop Dr. Will Willimon

rf-5

By William H. Willimon, excerpted from Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism (forthcoming from Abingdon Press, February 2017)

Moralism (substituting law for gospel, exhorting better human behavior without dependency upon God’s grace) is no match for racism. While urging us to preach justice, Lutheran James Childs warns: “Preaching that always goes directly from sin to salvation or from cross to resurrection without ever stopping off at sanctification is missing something of crucial importance…. The grace of God in Christ, which justifies, also sanctifies … The good tree bears good fruit … (Matt. 7:18).” (Childs, Preaching Justice, 2000). I thank God that I am a Wesleyan Christian who, after admitting that I’m guilty of the sin of racism can say that’s not all I am. I’m someone in whom the grace of God is actively, daily, persistently at work healing me of my sin, perfecting God’s intentions for me, in spite of me.

Moralism is unavoidable if a preacher conceives of the congregation as good people who come to church to be even better. The Christian faith is presented as common sense with a spiritual veneer. Moralism is notoriously anthropological rather than theological in its assumption that listeners already have all they need in order to be good. History, structural injustices, the human propensity to self-interest, the various psychological binds in which we are caught, human feelings of vulnerability and threat are all ignored in moralism’s appeal to our “better angels.” The sermon is in the imperative mood as the preacher fills the air with should, ought, must.

As Chuck Campbell points out, preaching on social issues tends to imply that good people of good will have the power to solve their own problems (a thought dearly loved by liberal white people who enjoy thinking of ourselves as the masters of our domain). Moralistic preaching overlooks how structural, systemic, principalities and powers have us under their sway. Campbell urges us, “always rely on the power of God, not on our own strength, in resistance.” (Campbell, The Word Before the Powers, 2003).

Sermons whose intent is to build guilt are universally resisted. Not only does Jesus tend toward forgiveness rather than guilt but also preaching that provokes guilt backfires as hearers are encouraged to become more introspective, more obsessed with ourselves and our histories, more egotistical, not less. White people ascribed far too much power to our egos and are already narcissistic without help from the preacher. The default Christian position with regard to guilt is to confess sin, offer it up and then allow ourselves to be unburdened by the justifying grace of God and to be spurred on by sanctifying grace in our acts of contrition.

Conservative, Reformed pastor, John Piper’s sermon, “Racial Reconciliation” begins by asserting (without citing support) that, “There is strong evidence that stressing differences does little to improve race relations, and may even exacerbate them.” The rest of his sermon attacks the notion of racial difference. Using Scripture, Piper asserts that, “God made all ethnic groups from one human ancestor,” and that all “are made in the image of God.” Your “ethnic identity” is of no consequence when compared with the biblical truth that we are all created “in the image of God.” That’s why programs in “diversity training” “backfire.” We ought to teach our children to put all their “eggs in the basket called personhood in the image of God and one egg in the basket called ethnic distinction.” The problem is not the sin of white racism, the problem is a failure to think about our humanity in a biblical way. Though Piper is a strong Calvinist, there is nothing in the sermon about confession of sin, forgiveness, repentance or the need for the grace of God.

While it’s good that Piper attempts to think theologically beyond rather limp, secular notions of “diversity,” Piper’s exhortation to color-blind Christianity overlooks that persons of color did not come up with the idea that skin color was a valid way of defining humanity in order to oppress nonwhites — that nefarious idea came exclusively from white people. Piper, perhaps unintentionally, bolsters white evasion of engagement in issues of systemic racial injustice when he ends his sermon with a stirring call to “banish every belittling and unloving thought from our minds,” “to show personal, affectionate oneness” with Christians of all ethnic backgrounds, and to be “salt and light” “with courageous acts of inter-racial kindness and respect.”

We don’t need “diversity training” because racial reconciliation is a personal matter of individual piety in thoughts, speech and kindness, according to Piper’s sermon. We wouldn’t have racism if Christians refused to acknowledge the reality of race. This is the call for “reconciliation” white folks love to hear.

“Reconciliation” too often focuses, as in Piper’s sermon, upon interpersonal reconciliation without focus on systemic and structural justice. Many black people push back against the call for “reconciliation” because it presumes there was a time when we were in a right relationship. It also implies that we work toward reconciliation from an equal footing. “Hospitality” also implies that we, the powerful, are the hosts; the less powerful are the guests, outsiders whom we graciously welcome. Talk of reconciliation without recognition of power arrangements degenerates into sentimentality. (see Jennifer Harvey, Dear White Christians, 2014). And speaking of my church family, sentimental accounts of human nature, racial harmony and Christian ethics is killing us. Recently a United Methodist told me that her preacher had preached a sermon on racism.

“What did you learn from the sermon?” I asked.

“That we ought to be nice to black people,” she responded. Far from being confrontation with the sin of racism, sentimental narrations of racism and sentimental appeals for white people to be nice are a primary means of avoiding conversations about race among United Methodists.

A white male (Paul Tillich), preaching to white males, preached a famous sermon: “You are Accepted,” (Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, 1963) as if unconditional acceptance were the core of the Good News. That I am graced, loved, and accepted by God, just as I am, racism and all, at first sounds charitable. But there is a more sinister side to such cheery, sentimentally blissful ignorance. Preaching is also a call to conversion, transformation, detoxification. The evil we face is more than wrong thinking about ourselves; it’s our captivity to principalities and powers.

Grace, Wesleyan grace, is not a paternal pat on the head; it’s the power of God that enables us to live different lives than the lives we would be condemned to live if we had not been met by God in Jesus Christ.

As Luther said, apples do not come from a thorn bush. Good deeds arise from good people. At our best, we preach to defeat racism every Sunday because every Sunday’s sermon contributes to the character of Christians. That’s why some of our best preaching against racism will not seem to the congregation a direct attack on racism. Preaching’s value is often in the subtle but powerful ways it forms us into people who have empathy for others, who assume responsibility for the needs of strangers, who feel that they are under judgment from some higher criterion than their own conscience, and who believe that, with the Holy Spirit set loose among us, who believe that we can be born again.

Before consideration of the obviously ethical “What ought we to do?” preaching considers the theologically determinative and ethically formative, “Who is God?”, “What doth the Lord require?” Human action is responsive reaction to God’s initiatives. Our discipleship is our human affirmation of how God is already busy in the world. It’s not for us to defeat the sin of racism; God in Christ is already doing that. Our chief ethical question is, “Will I join with Christ in his world-changing, world-ending, resurrection-work or not?”

Chuck Campbell, speaks of preaching in the face of powers like racism as “exorcism”:

Don’t many folks — preachers included — long to be set free from the powers of death that have us in their grip and won’t let us go — powers from which we cannot seem to free ourselves no matter how hard we try? After all, this is the key characteristic of demon possession: We are no longer agents of our own lives, but go through the deadly motions dictated to us by the powers of the world that hold us captive — that “possess” us. And we need a word from beyond ourselves to set us free from our captivity. (Campbell, “Resisting the Powers” in Purposes of Preaching, 2004).

The challenge is for us to move beyond being non-racist to being actively anti-racist, always remembering that,

We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

That’s why it’s not enough for us to share our personal story or to exhort the congregation to greater striving for justice. “We don’t preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord…” (2 Corinthians 4:5). In Campbell’s words, “We need a word beyond ourselves to set us free,” Jesus, the Word made flesh, God’s word in action.

CULTURE DEFINITION & Multicultural or Multiethnic – Why Understanding the Difference is Crucial (including a list of cultures)

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/16/15.

CHAPTER 4: The Church as a mosaic … Exercises for Cultural Diversity

We do not want the westernization of the universal Church. On the other hand we don’t want the ecumenical cooks to throw all the cultural traditions on which they can lay their hands into one bowl and stir them to a hash of indeterminate colour. – John V. Taylor, statesman, Africanist and Bishop of Winchester [i]

A Church of Many Colors (and Multiple Cultures)

Culture. Though the term multiethnic church is often used today, researchers prefer the term “multicultural,” because culture is a more accurate way to describe people who share similar behaviors, ideas, fashion, literature, music, etc. Christian anthropologist Paul Hiebert defined culture as people who join together because of “shared patterns of behavior, ideas and products.”[ii]

  • Behaviors are the way we act,
  • Ideas are the way we think, and
  • Products are the things we create such as fashion, literature, music, etc.

Therefore, people of a culture can tell who is in their group and who is out of their group by the way they talk, the way they think and the way they act.

Ethnicity. Ethnicity is a type of culture, often based on biological connections to a geographic area of origin, such as Sri Lankans (from the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka), Yemenis (from the Republic of Yemen) or Chinese (from the People’s Republic of China). But the term ethnicity is very imprecise, because there may be dozens of different ethnic groups that hail from the same area of origin (and thus the term ethnicity is not without controversy[iii]). For instance, China has 50+ recognized ethnic groups but they all originate from the same country.[iv] While all are Chinese, so too are all 50+ different cultures.[v] Since ethnicity is so imprecise, culture is usually preferred.

Multicultural or Multiethnic Church? So, what should we call a church that reaches multiple groups of people? And what should we call a neighborhood that has Guatemalan Hispanics, Mexican Hispanics, aging Lutherans and a growing base of young Anglo professional? The accurate answer is a multicultural neighborhood. And, such a mosaic of cultures should give rise to a multicultural church.

Below are examples of groups that have been identified as justifiable cultures:

Affinity cultures (these are cultures that are based upon a shared fondness or affinity):

  • Motorcycle riders
  • Country music fans
  • The NASCAR nation
  • Heavy metal music fans
  • Contemporary Christian music fans
  • Surfers

Ethnic cultures:

  • Latin American,
  • Hispanic American
  • African American,
  • Asian American
  • Native American, etc..

Socio-economic cultures[vi]

  • Upper Socio-economic Level[vii]
  • Upper Middle socio-economic Level[viii]
  • Lower Middle Socio-economic Level[ix]
  • Lower Working Socio-economic Level[x]
  • Lower Socio-economic Level[xi]

Generational cultures:[xii]

  • Builder[xiii] (or the Silent[xiv] or Greatest[xv]) Generation, b. 1945 and before
  • Boomer Generation, b. 1946-1964
  • Leading-edge Generation X, b. 1965-1974
  • Post-modern Generation X, b. 1975-1983
  • Generation Y, b. 1984-2002

Therefore, to help our churches grow in the most ways possible while recognizing the broadest variety of cultures, it is good to speak of multicultural churches. These are churches where people from several cultures (e.g. ethnic, affinity, socio-economic, etc.) learn to work together in one church.

Avoiding the Creator Complex

The Creator Complex. Sociologists have long known that people of a dominant culture will try, sometimes even subconsciously, to make over people from an emerging culture into their own image.[xvi] One missiologist called this the “creator complex” and said, “Deep in the heart of man, even in missionaries, lurks that ‘creator complex’ by which he delights in making other people over in his own image.”[xvii] And so, when humans encounter different customs, the creator complex in us wants us to view their customs as abnormal and change them to be more in keeping with our traditions.[xviii]

Cultural Filters and Firewalls. The creator complex arises because it seems easier and quicker to assimilate a culture and make it look like us, than to try and sift out any impurities that run counter to the message of Christ. But in the words of missiologist Charles Kraft, every culture is “corrupt, but convertible.”[xix] To convert any culture thus entails sifting out elements that run counter to Christ’s Good News while retaining elements that affirm it. Eddie Gibbs calls this “sifting a culture,” drawing from the image of a colander or strainer that sifts out impurities in food.[xx] But, purifying processes in factories instead of in the kitchen may today rob this metaphor of some familiarity. Thus, a more contemporary idiom may be helpful.

Terms such as “firewall” and “spam filter” are broadly used today to describe how computer networks sift out malicious computer viruses and unwelcomed (i.e. spam) email. A cultural filter and firewall may serve as a better image to depict a community of faith that is analyzing a culture, noting which elements run counter to the teachings of Christ, and openly filtering out perverse elements.

A Goal: Spiritual and Cultural Reconciliation

So what then is the goal for our filtering of cultures? Let us return to Charles Kraft’s reminder, that every culture is “corrupt, but convertible.” Our purpose thus becomes to assist God in His quest to convert or transform a culture. Such transformation begins by reconnecting people to their loving heavenly father. This has been called the ministry of reconciliation, which Paul described this way:

So we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord. … So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:11, 17-18)

But John Perkins suggested that today’s divided world needs churches that will foster both spiritual reconciliation and physical reconciliation. This would fulfill Jesus’ prayer that His children would be united as the Father and Son are united (John 17:20). To describe this goal, Perkins employed 3 Rs:

  • Redistribution (sharing money from wealthier cultures with struggling cultures),
  • Relocation (relocating ministry to needy areas) and
  • Reconciliation (physical and spiritual reconciliation, first between humans and their heavenly Father, and then between humans).

And, among today’s emerging generations I am seeing young people more attune to this need for reconciliation between people of different cultures. Today’s young people have been born into a very divided world of politics, economics and cultural clashes. Yet, across the nation I have observed churches lead by these young leaders that refuse to limit themselves to just spiritual reconciliation, but also see maturity in Christ as advancing cultural reconciliation. I agree with Brenda Salter McNeil who sees the emergence of a reconciliation generation, who in addition to a spiritual reconciliation, sees “a host of people from various tribes, nations, and ethnicities who are Kingdom people called to do the work of racial reconciliation.”[xxi]

And so, to bring about both spiritual and cultural reconciliation, we need churches where people of differing cultures are not only reconnecting with their heavenly Father, but also who reconnecting with one another. A multicultural church may provide the best locale. Let’s look at five types of multicultural churches to discover which type might be right for your church.

(Excerpted with permission from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to strengthen a Church’s Heart, Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013).

Endnotes:

[i] John V. Taylor, “Cultural Ecumenism,” Church Missionary Society Newsletter, Nov. 1974, p. 3, see also John V. Taylor, The Theological Basis of Interfaith Dialogue, in Faith Meets Faith, ed. Gerald M. Anderson and Thomas F. Stansky, Mission Trends, no. 5 (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), pp. 93ff.

[ii] Paul Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1976), p. 25.

[iii] The United Kingdom created controversy when its 2001 census divided ethnicity into the following; White: British, White: Irish, White: Other; Mixed: White and Black Caribbean, Mixed: White and Black African, Mixed: White and Asian, Mixed: Other; Asian: Indian, Asian: Sri Lankan, Asian: Pakistani, Asian: Bangladeshi, Asian: Other; Black or Black British: Black Caribbean, Black or Black British: Black African, Black or Black British: Other, Chinese or Other: Chinese, Chinese or Other: and Other. These designations were still too imprecise for many British residents.

[iv] The World Factbook: CIA Edition (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books; Rev Ed, 2006, CIA 2005 Edition).

[v] The term ethnicity, while unwieldy and imprecise, is still employed by church leadership writers to describe various cultural heritages, when the more precise term culture would be more appropriate, c.f. Kathleen Graces-Foley, Crossing the Ethnic Divide: The Multiethnic Church on a Mission (XXX), Mark DeYmaz, Building a Healthy Multiethnic Church (XXX), Gary McIntosh, Being the Church in a Multi-Ethnic Community: Why It Matters and How It Works (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012).

[vi] Joseph V. Hickey and William E. Thompson, Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology (Boston, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon, 5th ed. 2004).

[vii] They are approximately 1-5% of the No. American population and are characterized by power over economic, business and political organizations and institutions.

[viii] They represent approximately 15% of the North American population and are usually white-collar workers who hold graduate degrees, possessing a significant degree of flexibility and autonomy in their work.

[ix] They are approximately 33% of the North American population and are usually white-collar workers with some college education. Subsequently, they have a degree of flexibility and autonomy at work, though not as much as those of the Upper Middle Socio-economic strata.

[x] They are approximately 30% of the North American population). Both white- and blue-collar workers, their jobs are characterized by minimum job security, inadequate pay and worries about losing health insurance.

[xi] They represent 15% of the North American population and often go through cycles of part-time and full-time jobs. Many times they must work more than one job to provide for their needs.

[xii] For a chart depicting the different age ranges for each generation see Bob Whitesel Preparing the Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007), p 53.

[xiii] Gary McIntosh, One Church, Four Generations: Understanding and Reaching All Ages in Your Church [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2002] and Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000).

[xiv] This generation has been labeled various ways, for instance as the “silent generation” by William Strauss and Neil Howe in Generations: The History of American’s Future, 1954-2069 (New York: Quill, 1992).

[xv] They are labeled the “greatest generation” by Tom Brokaw in The Greatest Generation (New York: Random House, 2004).

[xvi] Robert Jenson, “White Privilege Shapes the U.S.,” White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism (New York: Worth Publishers, 2002), p. 103-106

[xvii] C. Peter Wagner, Frontiers in Missionary Strategy, (XXX) p. 96

[xviii] Regardless of the label, this practice often comes from veiled if not subconscious, desires to make over people to look like us. Jesus faced a similar creator complex where he jousted with the Pharisees and Sadducees who tried to make people over in their particular dress, social laws, etc. Jesus criticized them for their creator complex by saying:

  • “The legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” ( 23:2-4)
  • “You do away with God’s word in favor of the rules handed down to you, which you pass on to others” (Mark 7:13).
  • Jesus said, “How terrible for you legal experts too! You load people down with impossible burdens and you refuse to lift a single finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46)

[xix] Charles Kraft, Christianity in Culture: A Study of Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979), p. 113.

[xx] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, 120.

[xxi] Quoted by Kathleen Garces-Foley, Crossing the Ethnic Divide: The Multiethnic Church on a Mission (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 64.