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Multiethnic Church Stories

Monday, April 26, 2010

Unity in Christ Magazine released it’s second issue today.Here are a few of the articles. to view all articles click here.

The Noon Service Start Up. What if you could reach your multi-ethnic community without changing your established worship traditions, how would you do it? Pastor Larry Dove, shares the strategy of Emmanuel Reformed Church to add a third service at the noon hour specifically designed for its ethnically diverse neighbors.

From Life Support to Support Life.  Life threatening cancers require radical surgery to rid patient of the disease and restore his health. Dr. Rodney Woo, Pastor of Wilcrest Baptist Church, shares how he avoided putting the church on spiritual life support by taking some dramatic life saving measures.

Making Two Into one: Creating Multiracial Churches from Single Race Congregations. Aging congregations are likely to die unless they bring in younger generations.  But what if that younger generation is of a different ethnicity? Derek Chin identifies four key lessons learned in the process of bringing single race churches together to form a new, multiracial community.

The Best of Both Worlds.  What do you get when you blend the most important ingredients from the suburban white church and the urban black Church?  According to Pastor Dan Backens of New Life Providence Church of Virgin Beach, Virginia “you get the best of both worlds”.

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Unity in Christ Magazine

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Monday, January 25 Multi Cultural Ministry will launch a new e-zine called Unity in Christ Magazine.

The purpose of this e-zine is to equip, inform, and educate our readers on how to serve a multi-ethnic society in a multi-cultural world. It will feature ministries that are reflecting the love of Christ in their multi-ethnic multi-cultural communities.

Go to “7 Days to Unity” to watch video testimonies of lives impacted by attending a multi-ethnic church, written testimonies in support of Unity in Christ Magazine, and descriptions of articles in the first issue.

To view the inaugural issue on Monday, January 25, 2010 go to www.unityinchristmagazine.com.

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Favoritism is Sin

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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Faith Shows No Favoritism.mov

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dr. Jay Pankratz teaches on How Faith Works in Relationships.

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Seven Fatal Errors in Multi-cultural Ministry: #5 Finances

Saturday, October 10, 2009

“Pastor Lucero, I have people in my office that need help now!  If they don’t pay their rent they will be out on the street.  This family can’t wait for all of the red tape and a weeks turnaround time for the church to cut a check. They need funds now!

In the Hispanic Community the pastor is the one his flock goes to for counsel on immigration assistance, legal matters, job placement, housing, and financial assistance.  In many Hispanic churches the pastor has access to the church checking account and provides funds to assist his people with groceries, utility bills, gas, and a late rent payment.

Because of the great temptation to misappropriate  funds it is in the best interest of pastors and members of their congregation if the pastor does not have access to church funds.   This is why many churches install procedures for the collection, banking, and oversight of the expenditures and benevolence in which many Pastors don’t play a role. Its intended to preserve his integrity and that of the church.

When working with immigrant pastors who are accustomed to distributing funds at their discretion our North American practice comes across as being insensitive and apathetic to the needs of the people. We can be accused of caring more for procedure than people

Here are some recommendations to deal with this issue.

  1. Create a policy and a process for the handling of church funds, especially as it pertains to benevolence assistance.
  2. Inform the immigrant pastor and his leadership of the church policies and procedures on the handling of benevolence funds.
  3. Encourage the pastor to educate their people on the importance of not waiting until the last minute to request assistance.
  4. Provide the necessary paperwork to gather the necessary information for a benevolence request.
  5. Appoint as soon as possible a leader in the immigrant church who will conduct the interview with the people who need assistance.
  6. Prepare a list of Community Service Organizations that can assist with emergency housing, food and other services to share with those in need.

How has your ministry dealt with this issue?

That’s my opinion, I welcome yours.

Art

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Seven Fatal Errors in Multi-cultural Ministry: Error #4 Organizational Structure

Monday, August 17, 2009

I received a phone call late one afternoon.  “Pastor Art, our church has voted to ask the Spanish ministry to vacate the building.  They refuse to leave.  Can you help us?”

I visited the church the following Sunday, attended the Spanish speaking service and met with the Spanish Ministry pastor over lunch.

“Pastor Garcia, what is happening here?”

“Pastor Lucero, my wife and I were invited by this church to reach the Spanish speaking people in this community.  I was told that we would be one church with one membership. But when this ministry outgrew the English speaking ministry, I was given the membership applications of our people and told to leave.”

The issue here is will you be one church with one membership or multiple independent churches sharing the same facility. Failure to make this determination before you launch an immigrant ministry will lead to frustration and hard feelings.

From my perspective I prefer the one church with one membership model.  Here are the benefits to this model.

Benefits to the host church.

  • It expands its outreach to the immigrant community in their language and cultural context.
  • It allows for the increase of ethnic diversity as it ministers to the English-speaking extended family members of the immigrant congregation.
  • It allows for the breakdown of racial barriers as members are encouraged to love one another as Christ loved us.

Benefits to the immigrant church.

  • It provides facilities suitable for local church ministry.
  • It provides ministries for it’s children, youth and other extended family members that are predominately English speaking.
  • It provides a full time salaried position for its pastor much sooner than if they were independent.
  • It allows for the breakdown of racial barriers as members are encouraged to love one another as Christ loved us.
  • It benefits from the services that are provided by the host church, ministries for English speaking family members, payroll, benefits, facility maintenance, basic administration, and equipment repair and replacement.

Some denominations prefer to use the independent church model.  The strategy is to ask a local church to allow the use of their facilities either for a specified period of time or until the immigrant church is self-sustaining and able to rent or build its own facilities.

Benefit to the Host Church

  • It feels good that it is assisting a mission church plant.

Disadvantage to the Host Church

  • It doesn’t allow for the increase of its ethnic diversity.
  • It doesn’t allow for the breakdown of racial barriers.
  • It increases the frustration of members who endure the sharing of facilities until the mission church is asked to leave.

Benefit to the Mission Church

  • It provides facilities suitable for local church ministry.

Disadvantage to the Mission Church

  • It must create programs for its English speaking youth.
  • It doesn’t allow for the breakdown of racial barriers.
  • Church planters must work outside of the church to support their family.
  • As the ministry grows the mission pastor finds it difficult to work with the host church as he senses that his welcome has been worn out.  Conflicts tend to ensue over facility use.
  • Conflicts can result in the mission church being asked to leave prematurely.

The organizational model you select greatly impacts the relationship between host and immigrant ministries.  Determine what it is you want to accomplish by launching an immigrant ministry and then decide on the model that will best help you attain your objectives.

That’s my opinion, I welcome yours.

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Redeeming a ‘Teachable Moment’

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ed Gilbreath of urbanfaith.com asked me to contribute to an article about lessons learned from the Henry Louis Gates controversy and how the church should respond.  Here are my thoughts for the full article click here.

I think one of the main lessons from the Gates incident is that frustrating circumstances can be a seedbed for misunderstandings and unfortunate consequences. Proverbs says, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.” And it later says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

The Civil Rights Act protects all Americans from discrimination. But it does not change the heart of man. The only real answer to matters of race and class is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Government legislation may impact our actions, but the Word of God transforms our lives. It teaches us to love one another as Christ loved us (John 13:34-35), to put the interests of others above our own (Phil. 2:3-4), and to forgive (Eph. 4:32b). Although the Word of God is clear in its teachings on this matter, some preachers of the Word are not.

The role of the church is to bring people to maturity in Christ (Eph. 4:12-13). Paul goes on to describe how we are to reflect that maturity, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

As long as people of all ethnicities perpetuate the injustices of the past and their grievances toward other ethnicities, the wound will never heal. The only biblical solution is for pastors to teach their flocks to forgive those who hurt us (Eph. 4:32b), love our enemies, and to pray and do good to those who hate us (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27).

That’s my opinion, I welcome yours.

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Seven Fatal Errors in Multi-cultural Ministry: Error #3 Incompatible Doctrinal Views

Friday, April 10, 2009

“All in favor say ‘Aye’, opposed? Motion carried.  I’ll speak to pastor Hernandez about our decision” said Ralph Baker – Board Chairman

 “Ralph if you don’t mind I’d like to go along with you” stated Pastor Johnson.  “This is an exciting time in the life of our church and I don’t want to miss it.”

Pastor Johnson and Ralph Baker met with Pastor Hernandez in his home.

“Pastor Hernandez” said Ralph Baker, “when you came to us three years ago requesting the use of our facility to start a Spanish speaking church, well quite honestly, we were very suspicious.”

“Yes, but since then” said pastor Johnson, “we have seen the Lord bless your work. And the Board has unanimously agreed to invite you to join our church and denomination.”

Pastor Hernandez could sense the joy and hopeful expectation in the voice of his guests.  This made it more difficult for him to express his concerns.

“I am honored by your invitation, but I cannot accept it.”

Taken completely off guard, Pastor Johnson asked, “Why not?”

“Because some of our beliefs are not the same.  In fact I have been meaning to speak to you about our youth. We are grateful that you allow them to participate in your youth ministry.  But our leadership has decided to begin our own youth ministry.  It seems that your teaching on assurance of salvation has our young people confused and their parents are upset.”

Regardless of what many may think about the divisiveness of denominational lines to the unity of the body of Christ, the fact remains that people have been brought up to believe certain theological teachings we call doctrine.

Some local churches recognizing the need for an immigrant church in their community and wanting to launch such a ministry, will, out of expediency, accept the first immigrant pastor that seeks the use of their facilities without ever discussing the subject of doctrine or minimizing the doctrinal differences.

As long as there is no cross over in ministry between these two independent congregations, such as the youth of the immigrant church participating in the youth ministry or Sunday school of the English speaking church, doctrinal differences will be minimal.  But once the cross over begins, whether planned or spontaneous, doctrinal difference can be the source of major contention.

To avoid this pitfall carefully screen ethnic pastors regarding their doctrinal beliefs.  Where language is an issue consider:

  • Having a member of your congregation that is bi-lingual translate for you as you screen candidates.
  • Contacting an immigrant pastor with your doctrinal beliefs to help you screen prospective candidates.
  • Contacting the Director of Church Planting for your fellowship or denomination to provide you with an ethnic pastor or to help you screen prospective candidates.

In the case of a multi-ethnic English speaking church, as with any homogenous church, some families with different doctrinal views will attend and maybe even join the church.  This situation is different from that mentioned above.  In this case families have willingly, knowing the doctrinal differences, joined the church for a personal or family benefit or blessing that they were not receiving in the church they left.

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.

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Reaching the Nations Among Us: Part 3 The Seven Fatal Errors of Ethnic Ministry: Error #2: Ethnocentrism

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ethnocentrism is defined by the Random House Dictionary as, “The belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own group and culture, accompanied by a feeling of contempt for other groups and cultures.”

Unlike racism which blatantly spews hatred toward other groups, ethnocentrism is much more subtle and its practices are more acceptable in the church. Whether red, brown, yellow, black, or white, ethno-centric churches resist transitioning to a multi-ethnic multi-cultural church for three basic reasons.

The Heritage of the Church.  The national origin of main line denominations in America originated in Europe and served a particular national group (see, Is Multi-ethnic Ministry Biblically Prescriptive or Descriptive) Immigrants brought these denominations to America and they worshipped God in their language and cultural context. Over time with the decline of foreign-born members in their congregations and the increase of American-born these non-English speak Churches were forced to conducted their services in English. Immigrant Churches from Latin American and Pacific Rim nations are encountering the same issue today.

The Culture of the Church. We all have a church culture that is reflected in what we believe to be acceptable grooming, attire, genre of worship music, expression of worship, pastors delivery style, the theological credentials of our staff, and even the language in which we want our services conducted. The increase in age diversity through birth and marriage increases the generational tension over the culture of the church (see Understanding the Differences Between 1st & 2nd Generation Immigrants).  Churches that are unwilling to change will fall into decline as older members die and younger members move on to churches that offer a church culture that is more in line with their preferences without compromising their theological beliefs.

The Prejudices of the Church. Every ethnic group has some prejudices. Let’s be honest we all have at least one reason for feeling some sense of superiority to others at best or verbally expressing our disapproval at worst.  If we listen carefully we will hear derogatory terms used by church members of other ethnicities, socio—economic or educational levels.  If we watch closely we can see the facial expressions and body language that reflects this disapproval.  It is this ethnocentric socialization, when left unchallenged that perpetuates segregation and these unloving attitudes.

Is it any wonder that homogenous ethnocentric churches are not interested in multi-ethnic multi-cultural ministry?  The Homogeneous Unit Principle is used by these churches as an excuse whether they realize it or not to preserve their isolation from those who are not like them.  The HUP was never intended to preserve Christian biases but to evangelize unbelievers.

Becoming a multi-ethnic multi-cultural church is a process. Everyone regardless of ethnicity or socio-economic status must work to overcome his or her personal biases and church culture preferences.  Like Paul we must become all things to all men to save some. Here are some things you can do to help you break down some prejudices you might have against other ethnic groups.  If you know of other resources please send those in.

Movies

Amazing Grace

Flower Drum Song

Books

Strangers Among Us by Roberto Suro

Pursuing the Pearl by Ken Fong

Letters Across the Divide by David Anderson and Brent Zuercher

Friends

This is your greatest resource of all. Spend time with your ethnic friends and ask them questions about their culture, church liturgy, family, church leadership, and attitudes toward Americans.  Ask them about anything you want to know. If you don’t have any its time to make some.

 

Ethnocentrism is perpetuated by ignorance, believing what we have been told about others and observing them through our cultural grid. To overcome ethnocentrism we must seek to understand other cultures while befriending them.

That’s my opinion. I welcome yours.

 

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Reaching the Nations Among Us: Part 3 The Seven Fatal Errors of Ethnic Ministry: Error #1 – Lack of Unity

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Many conflicts between a host and immigrant church are the result of unfulfilled expectations. Unfulfilled because they were not expressed and written down prior to launching the immigrant ministry.

Here is a three step process I use to create a spirit of unity.  It takes me an average of eight months to walk a church through the first two steps.

1.  SOW the Vision. Helping people take ownership of a vision cannot be done in one 45-minute presentation. People need time to process the vision. 

·      The Pastor. The pastor is the key person. Nothing will be accomplished without the pastor’s full support.

·      The Leadership.  The leadership needs to work through the issues and ask all of the questions necessary before moving ahead. Only then can they confidently respond to questions from the congregation.

·      The Congregation. The congregation should receive the same information that the pastor and the leadership received. They are the ones that will have to give up exclusive use of facilities, worship styles, and leadership positions to reach all levels of assimilation within an immigrant group.

2.  SURVEY the Body.

·      Determine your acceptable losses. The leadership should determine the number of families or individuals they are willing to loose in order to implement an ethnic ministry. Whether you change your style of worship music, name, or drop Sunday school for small groups, there are always some who will leave the church.  It’s no different with starting an immigrant ministry.

·      Conduct an informal survey.  Following the Vision Casting to the congregation (I recommend a series of messages) divide the families of the church among the leadership and ask them what they think about the possibility of starting an ethnic ministry.  This casual survey will help you get some idea if you are within the range of acceptable losses.  If not, go back to casting the vision.  Consider some of the negative feedback received from the casual survey.  Address these concerns from a biblical perspective. Remember we are not asking for permission, we are preparing the hearts of our people for transition.

·      Conduct a formal survey.  Proceed with this step if the informal survey is positive. The purpose is to solicit the opinions, concerns and fears of the people so they can be addressed at an announced congregational meeting for this purpose. 

3.  SECURE a Covenant.

 A covenant outlines the commitments the church is wiling to make to launch an immigrant ministry.

·      Facility Use. The usage of rooms, days, and times for regular services and a process for requesting usage for special events and activities.  Rooms are no longer for the exclusive use of any one person or ministry.

·      Equipment Use.  The usage of audio/visual equipment for regular services and a process for requesting usage for special events and activities.

·      Chain of Command.

                   o     Ministry Leaders: Children’s, Youth, Audio-Video, Greeters, Ushers, etc… should provide training for counter parts in the immigrant church for continuity across language ministries regarding church policies, practices, and care of facilities and equipment.

                   o     The Immigrant Pastor and congregation must be aware of the church’s process and protocol for dealing with issues.

·      Finances. Since the immigrant ministry is part of the local church then all offerings go into the church treasury.  The church should create a line item(s) to cover the expenses of the immigrant ministry.  This should include, as soon as possible, the immigrant pastor’s compensation package.

That’s my opinion.  I welcome yours.