Archive for August, 2009

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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.