Archive for the ‘Intentionality’ Category


December 19, 2008 ~ Interracial Churches | Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This video is about Wilcrest Baptist Church and City of Refuge Church in particular and ethnically diverse churches specifically was posted on’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. Lucky Severson is the narrator.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “December 19, 2008 ~ Interracial Churc…“, posted with vodpod

What is the Biblical Concept of Unity?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What is the biblical concept of unity? This the second of a series of questions asked by David Hall, Escondido, CA


The pursuit of unity is not limited to the multi-ethnic church.  Every local body of believers, because of sin, is susceptible to attitudes and behaviors that can lead to conflicts, divisions, and the exclusion of people groups in their ministries.

That is why we are to strive for unity. The following is a brief outline of the biblical teaching on Unity.

·       Unity is the desire of Christ for his disciples, “I pray…that all of them may be one” (Jn. 17:20-21).

·       Unity is based on Word of God, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

·       Unity is lived out among believers, “those who will believe in me” (Jn. 17:20).

·       Unity is a testimony to the world of Christ’s coming, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:21); “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn. 17:23).

·       Unity must be earnestly and sincerely pursued, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

·       Unity is achieved with love, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:34, 35), “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sin” (1 Pet. 4:8),”Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1Jn. 3:18).

·       Unity is contingent upon certain character traits that are the result of spiritual growth: humility, gentleness, patience (Eph. 4:2), unselfishness (Phil. 2:3,4), kindness, goodness, meekness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23), respect (Rom. 12:10; 1Pet. 2:17), and peace (Heb. 12:14; Js. 3:18).

·       Unity is lived out as we intentionally practice the “one another’s” of scripture; love (1Jn. 4:7), devotion (Rom. 12:10), honor (Rom. 12:10), live in harmony (1Pet. 3:8), accept (Rom. 15:17), instruct (Rom. 15:14), admonish (Col. 3:16), greet (Rom. 16:16), agree (1Cor. 1:10), serve (Gal. 5:13), bear (Eph. 4:2), forgive (Eph. 4:32), speak (Eph. 5:19), submit (Eph. 5:21), encourage (1Thess. 5:11; He. 3:13), spur (Heb. 10:24), offer hospitality (1Pet. 4:9), be humble (1Pet. 5:5), have fellowship (1Jn 1:7).

Unity is to be pursued by every member of the body of Christ regardless of the degree of ethnic, socio-economic, or gender diversity in the church. It is best measured by the character and practices of the individual believers toward one another, than by the number of diverse groups, the greater our commitment to character and practice, the broader the diversity of our ministry and its potential for unity.

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.


Worship in A Multi-ethnic Church Part 2: How To Develop A Multi-ethnic Worship Team

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In our previous blog, Worship In A Multi-ethnic Church: The Heart of Worship, I stated that Worship must be a lifestyle that draw us into the presence of God. The Worship Leader is faced with the challenge of somehow blending the ethnic and generational preferences in the  style of worship music. My conclusion was that it is impossible to satisfy everyone’s preferences. I offered three options to address this issue.
In this blog I want to address the matter of how to develop a multi-ethnic worship team. I interviewed Pastor Gregory Hooper, Director of Worship Arts at Sunrise Church for his insights on this topic.

ART:  When you joined the staff of Sunrise Church what was Pastor Jay’s charge to you as the Director of Worship Arts?
GREGORY: First of all he wanted me to be sensitive to the multi-ethnic ministry of Sunrise.
ART: Did he give you any idea on how that sensitivity was to be expressed?
GREGORY: Oh yes, he said that because we all have cultural bias I needed to think outside of my own cultural bias and be intentional in incorporating diversity in two key areas; musical styles and the people on the platform.
ART: How does a worship leader overcome cultural bias?
GREGORY: As a worship leader you may not think you have a cultural bias. I certainly didn’t.  Yet I had to learn to challenge myself when it came to selecting music.  I may say, “I just like this.”   “It makes me feel good.”  But then I ask myself,  “Wait a minute how is this going to affect the worship and how is this going to support our vision for a multi-ethnic ministry?”
ART: That would be a challenge because we all have a tendency to lean not only toward our strengths, giftedness and skill sets but also toward our preferences in music style(s).
GREGORY: Yes, exactly and our preferences are influenced by how we were raised and what we were exposed to.
ART: What was your church background growing up?
GREGORY: My parents and grandparents attended Black churches and that is what I was exposed to.  Later as an adult, I chose to attend churches that were more White, like Grace Community Church in Panorama City where Dr. John MacArthur is the pastor. That’s where my wife grew up.  It seems like my church affiliation was either all Black or all White. When I was exposed to the great ethnic diversity of Times Square Church I knew that was the kind of ministry where I wanted to be.
ART:  Artistically and musically, what are some of the challenges that you face as the Director of Worship Arts of a multi-ethnic church?
GREGORY: People come to church with their own preferences. They want to hear a certain kind of music and songs.  That’s a challenge every worship leader faces and it is no different here.  The issue that makes it hard here is that we are trying to bring many different kinds of people together. We strategically try to break up the different styles of music and do different things within the context of the worship service and music. That helps me to put together the worship service because we have a strategic goal.
ART: What is the goal.
GREGORY: Our mission statement for the Worship Arts Ministry is “to create an atmosphere that invites people of all ethnicities to worship the living God, to cultivate spiritual growth and development in all of our members and to celebrate Jesus’ life transforming power through creative arts.” I keep those goals in mind as I am choosing music, so that whoever visits our church, with a certain cultural bias will find something in our services that will draw them to the Lord.
ART: This may sound silly but do you have some kind of a formula where you include so many riffs of Latin beats, rock, or gospel? You keep using the term strategic. So what are the components that you consciously include in the creation of a worship service?
GREGORY:  In a good worship service, I try to reflect the musical preferences of the main ethnic groups in our church.  It’s quite possible that you may have a Black person who loves rock music or a White who loves gospel music, so you can’t stereotype.  But again people come from different backgrounds so I try to incorporate the various styles rock, gospel, and something that has a Latin beat or Spanish lyrics in it.
ART:  It seems like a lot of work.  Why do you go to so much effort?
GREGORY: One thing I have learned from Pastor Jay is that reflecting the different styles of music communicates respect to the various ethnic groups in our congregation. In essence, we are showing them that their culture is worthy of being a part of God’s worship. So that’s what I try to do.
ART: Do you have any other criteria in the selection of songs for your worship services?
GREGORY: I try to keep a biblical focus.  When I choose a song it’s not just the style, but what the lyrics say. Do they reflect solid biblical theology and do they exalt Christ?
ART: The percentage growth among African-Americans and Hispanics in the four years that you have been here has been dramatic. I can’t help but think that your persona, stage presence, energy and music even your own delivery in song had a lot to do in attracting a number of African-Americans and Hispanics.
GREGORY: Pastor Jay told me when I first started that he wanted to create a balance between himself the White pastor who would speak for fifty minutes and someone else from a different ethnicity leading the worship that could attract the growing African American and Hispanics in Rialto. I think we have done that in some ways.
ART: Let’s get to the technical side.  Obviously, to do certain styles of music, you have to have musicians that can play that style of music.  How then can a church that wants to make the transition from a mono-cultural (one musical style) to a multi-cultural worship service (diverse musical styles) pull it off?
GREGORY: Your musicians need to understand the basics. An “A chord” is an “A chord” a “C chord” is a “C chord” and that transcends style. I look for people who have some basic knowledge of music. Beyond that, you must have people who are open to growing. By that I mean they are open to learning to play new styles of music. To me a good musician is someone who is open to playing different styles. Every musician has a musical preference, but at Sunrise, we don’t have the luxury of saying, “this is my style and this is all I play.”
ART: I imagine the same principle applies to vocalist and the choir.
GREGORY:  Absolutely I’ve had people that don’t want to try new styles. They feel it is too intimidating and that they can’t do it.  But the vocalist who have stuck feel that they have grown and their lives are more enriched because they have been open to trying new things. It’s been a blessing for our ministry.
ART: How does this learning curve impact the interpretation of the various musical styles?
GREGORY: It does affect the authenticity of the style. Sometimes it’s just “not White enough or Black enough”.  If it’s not the music of their heart (cultural preference) they struggle pulling it off.  What we are trying to create is a Kingdom sound.  So when someone comes to our service there might be a little piece, something that draws them into worshipping God.
ART:  How do you deal with the bias of some who feel that their musical preference is the most suitable style for worship?
GREGORY: My first priority is to keep things biblical. In the worship of God, everybody thinks that their style is more holy. There are certain things that transcend styles. There are instructions that God gives us in the Psalms.  I love the fact that in the Scriptures the music did not get passed down. I heard this said once that there is no such thing as Christian music only Christian words. In the multi-ethnic church, there is no one style that is more Godly. It’s all a matter of preference. At Sunrise, we want to exalt Christ in whatever we do and incorporate these various styles to communicate respect and attract people from all of these different backgrounds to see that we are incorporating their culture into what we do.  In the end, I want the believers that come to our church to grow in their capacity to worship God and their understanding of worship.
ART: What do people like about the worship arts.
GREGORY: People appreciate our attempt to incorporate different styles and our commitment to quality.  That’s another thing that Pastor Jay told me,  “People will be more accepting of something that is a little different if it is done well.”  If you do something from another culture and it is done poorly you will have a harder time with people. Secondly, people love the enthusiasm and the energy that we bring. They say it inspires them to worship. That’s an important component of any worship. I mean who wants dead worship?
ART:  Lets take the Flip side, what are some of the most common criticisms?
GREGORY: The most common criticism we get is that the music is too loud. I believe that sometimes that speaks to a style issue. In a musical style where the drums are playing more and you hear the base more, it vibrates a frequency that people aren’t used to feeling. They verbalize it as being too loud. And sometimes it is just too loud.
ART:  What recommendations can you give to a worship leader who is wanting to transition to a more multi-ethnic worship style?
GREGORY: Check your own heart.  Make sure you have the right understanding of worship.  Be a worshipper first. In terms of practical steps if you are not there don’t do it all at once. Take baby steps. Don’t try to change everything and everyone. Getting people excited about worshipping God is the first priority, regardless of the style. If people are excited about worshiping God they may be more open to other styles of music and incorporating other cultures because it’s all about God isn’t it?
ART:  When you talk about incorporating other styles, it does not have to be a complete song. I remember when you were singing a song you came to a pause, and Charles the pianist, pounded out this Black gospel progression of chords.  It made me lift my head up, and say “Wooowww what was that?” I wanted more but that little riff was all I got. It was like a teaser.  It was enough to grab your attention. Whether it’s a Latin rhythm or a rock beat, that’s all you got.
Anything else?  You have mentioned; Take it slow, Check your heart, and Be a worshipper
GREGORY: Yes. Be the best musician you can be.  By doing that you will open yourself up to different styles of music.  Be a student for the rest of your life.
ART:  How does one do that?
GREGORY: The first thing is listening. What are you listening to?  Are you only listening to one style of music? You need to open up because you’re only as good as what you listen to and what you put in.  That’s my philosophy as a musician. What happens as you listen to different musical styles and they get into you is that it starts becoming a part of who you are and it starts coming out in your music. If you just listen to one style, that is all you are going to play.  It starts with listening. Then of course there are the mechanics.  If you need to get lessons, get lessons.  If you want to know more about a particular style and you know someone or you can find someone that plays that style jam with them and try to glean what you can.

That’s our opinion, I welcome yours.


The Ideal Model for An Ethnically Diverse Church

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Michael Wilson from Australia asked, “Is there one right or ideal church model? If so, what is the biblical and theological basis for this?  


         I have yet to meet a pastor of a multi-ethnic or a homogeneous church for that matter, who doesn’t feel that his approach to ministry is the right-if not best-approach. We can gather them all in one room and discover that they are for the most part basing their ministry on the same biblical principles and mandates.  What differs is the methodology, the manner in which they carry out the ministry of the church.  This personal guideline for ministry is called a Philosophy of Ministry. For instance, there are some pastors of English speaking congregations in the United States who see the need for providing homogeneous immigrant services in the language and cultural context of the ethnic group they desire to reach, while others refuse to provide such services insisting that immigrants must learn English and attend the English speaking services.

         The Bible clearly instructs the church what it is that she must do, but falls short of explicitly telling us how to do it.  The how is mostly based upon one’s philosophy of ministry.  For a guide on how to develop a biblical philosophy of ministry click here.  

         The ideal model, from my perspective, is a church that will, in the case of the United States, reach out to the English and non-English speaking members of her ethnically diverse community. I don’t see where the Great Commission restricts the proclamation of the Gospel only to those who speak our heart language. On the contrary in Acts 1:8 the church is to proclaim the Gospel across cultures.  Doesn’t this mandate hold true if those cultures come to our neighborhoods? That is why I believe that the local church in an ethnically diverse community is to minister to the native and foreign born 1.0, 1.5, and naturalized generations of ethnics in her community.  With that in mind lets consider a few models. Please keep in mind that this is by no means an inclusive list. But for the sake of our discussion I will address four.

         The Renter/Rentee Model.  This church rents its facilities to an ethnic congregation. The Pros, it provides the host church with additional income, an opportunity to indirectly reach an ethnic community it is unable (or unwilling) to reach and it gives the immigrant church a facility in which to meet. The Cons are that the churches continue to be segregated and there is little opportunity for the 1.5 and 2.0 extended family members of the immigrant church to be reached by the renter church.

         The Mission Church Model. This church sponsors an ethnic mission church plant of its denomination. Providing its resources, usually facilities and utilities, until the mission church is self-sufficient.  The Pros, it provides the host church with a mission outreach opportunity and it provides the ethnic church plant with resources that lowers their initial expenses while working toward self-sufficiency. The Cons are that the churches are still segregated and there is little initiative for the sponsor church to reached the 1.5 and 2.0 extended family members of the immigrant church.

         The Multi-ethnic Church Model.  This is a church that intentionally transitions from the original homogeneous congregation to a multi-ethnic one that reflects the diversity of its community. The Pros, integration is in process among all ethnic groups that have proficiency in the dominant language group. Members are learning to worship together, serve together, and love one another. The Con is that the immigrant community is still unreached.

         The Hehogeneous Church Model.  Don’t bother to Google “hehogeneous” I coined the term. This church is heterogeneous (multi-ethnic) in the dominant language service and homogeneous (multi-cultural) in the various immigrant services conducted in their respective language and cultural context. The Pros, integration is in process among all ethnic groups that have proficiency in the dominant language group. Members are learning to worship together, serve together, love one another, and all levels of assimilation among ethnic groups are reachable. The Cons? I don’t see any but then again I am biased.

         The local church should strive to reach not only the diversity of ethnic groups within her community but all levels of assimilation among them as well.

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.


For further reading on models for multi-ethnic churches and immigrant outreach see:

Eldin Villafañe, “Seek the Peace of the City: Reflections on Urban Ministry,” Eerdmanns, 1995

Manuel Ortiz, The Hispanic Challenge: Opportunities Confronting the Church,” Inter Varsity Press, 1993 and “One New People: Models for Developing A Multi-ethnic Church”, Inter Varsity Press, 1996


What Programs Are Necessary to Become Ethnically-Diverse?

Friday, September 19, 2008

I had the privilege of participating on a panel discussion at the Ethnic America Network Conference in St. Louis.  One of the questions asked of us was, “Share a brief story how your church intentionally reached out to ethnic minorities and included them in your fellowship.”

 Sunrise Church, Rialto, CA 2000

          Like so many first time visitors I was awed by the ethnic diversity of Sunrise Church in Rialto, CA. My first question to our Senior Pastor Dr. Jay Pankratz was “What programs have you initiated to become so ethnically diverse?”  His answer was, “None”.  The obvious follow up question was, “How then did you accomplish this degree of diversity?” I will never forget his response. He said it so matter-of-fact, “by being relentlessly Biblical.”  He went on to say, “I had no vision for ethnic diversity; but, when I began to study God’s Word, the Lord’s mandates, and I looked at the ethnic diversity of our community I came to the conclusion that we could not be anything less. The key text in the vision of Sunrise Church is Luke 10:25-37.  A man asked Jesus, ‘What do I have to do to have eternal life?’  He responds, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.’  

          There were no books or networks to provide guidance on how to transition a church.  Pastor Jay and other pioneers like him across the country learned by trial and error.  It began by embracing the demographical change of their communities. As the White population of Rialto continued to decrease while the ethnically diverse population increased, Rialto Community Baptist Church had one choice continue to reach a declining population that would result in a declining church congregation or reach out to the entire demographic of the community and increase the potential for the church to grow.

          What began with a vision took six years to become a reality.  Here is what Pastor Jay has said about the process.

I have learned three things about multi-cultural ministry

· It’s Biblical   · It Works    · It’s Hard

  • My first year, we drafted a church vision statement which said, “We will seek to reach all ethnic groups without distinction or separation.”
  • In the next few years, we were surprised to see some from other ethnicities coming and joining our church.
  • As the numbers from other ethnicities increased and some moved into leadership, the criticism increased from all sides.
  • After six years of difficult struggles and limited success, I nearly left the church.
  • We turned the corner during my seventh year when our people began to accept the multi-cultural mix, criticism began to diminish somewhat and the number of minorities grew significantly.
  • During my ninth year, we started being more intentional about including more minorities in all levels of leadership and utilizing more multi-cultural music and promotion.
  • By my eleventh year, half of our Elder Board were minorities.
  • In my twelfth year, we reached a point where we had no ethnic majority in our church or on our pastoral staff.
  • We continue to work on new ways to touch the hurts of our community that we might teach their hearts about the love of Jesus.

         It’s Purpose not Programs that guide a church through the discomfort and criticism leaders face when transitioning their church. It’s a commitment to carrying out the mandates of Christ in an ethnically diverse community. In the words of Pastor Jay Pankratz its being, “relentlessly biblical.”

That’s my opinion, I welcome yours.

Art Lucero




To Reach A Changing Community the Church Must Change

Friday, September 12, 2008

This post is in response to a question raised by John based on “Diversity is Not Just About Intentionality”

If the point of the article is that every congregation must focus more on the needs of others than on the needs of its own members, then shouldn’t “the church down the street” (presumably a Spanish-speaking church with Hispanic worship styles, Hispanic music, etc.) ALSO be urged to *change* in such a way that “people like John” would be made to feel “comfortable” there? What about the English-speaking church out in the suburbs that is totally devoted to new, “contemporary” worship? Must they *change*, too, in order to be able to reach the “traditionalist” folks? Or are the “traditionalist” folks the only ones who must do all the changing? If so, is that because they’ve had their turn, and now it’s time for them to move over so other people can have one? If that’s the case, then don’t THEY become the downtrodden “minority” group in whose needs no one takes any interest? In that case, wouldn’t it become everyone’s responsibility to *change* in order to accommodate them?

If “diversity” means that ALL viewpoints are welcomed, what happens if all the viewpoints EXCEPT JOHN’s are welcomed? Does that negate the commitment to diversity, or does it mean that John is just a “bad” person who needs to repent of his sinful desire to have his viewpoint counted (in a world in which everyone else’s desire to have their viewpoint counted is NOT sinful)?

Truett Cathy the founder of Chik-fil-A Restaurants and inventor of the boneless breast of chicken sandwich was asked why he was expanding his menu when it was his chicken sandwich that made his restaurants famous.  His replied, “If external change is greater than internal change disaster is imminent.” Bottom line, organizations that fail to change to meet the changing needs of their communities will become obsolete.  Chick-fil-A has annual sales of over 2 billion dollars I believe that by expanding his menu he was reaching a clientele  and generating sales he could not have done had he only relied upon his chicken sandwich.

A local church that fails to initiate the necessary changes to reach a new generation with the Gospel will eventually die.  People don’t like change even when death is staring them in the face and they are not happy with change agents. President Woodrow Wilson, said, “If you want to make enemies change something.”

People don’t like it when their pastors make changes in the church to attract their changing community, be it relaxing the traditional dress and grooming codes, shifting from traditional to contemporary music, dropping the denominational label in a name change, allowing more expressiveness in worship, changing the form of government or seeking to reach ethnics.

People have very strong feelings and attachments to their traditions. Just like John.  Is it sin if they don’t want to change? You decide.   A local church can continue to do business as usual while ignoring the demographical changes in their communities. But in doing so they put the preservation of their preferences over the mandates of Christ, essentially putting an end to their outreach and ensuring the death of their church.

You ask, “shouldn’t the church down the street presumably a Spanish speaking church with Hispanic worship styles ALSO be urged to change in such a way that people like John would be made to feel comfortable there?”

First of all people like John wouldn’t attend any church that doesn’t meet their standards much less an immigrant church.  However, I believe that every church red, brown, yellow, black and white whether American-Born or Foreign-Born has the same mandate, “make disciples of all nations.”

Realistically, not all churches will.  Those who attempt it will loose members who won’t handle the change.  The question every Pastor and church leader must ask themselves is “Do I base me decisions on the preferences of church members or the absolute mandates of Christ?”

That’s my opinion I welcome yours.



Diversity Is Not Just About Intentionality

Monday, September 1, 2008

I had just finished speaking at a church that was looking into the possibility of starting a Spanish-speaking ministry.  Excitement filled the air as church members visited among themselves and with a few members of the Spanish-speaking community that would be the core group of this new ministry.  As I finished speaking to one individual I noticed a gentleman waiting patiently for me.

“Art, may I speak with you in private?”

“Certainly,” I said as we stepped off to one side of the auditorium away from others.

“How can I help you?”

“Art, I want you to know that I resent your coming. Personally, I don’t want these people here.  I think they should go to the church down the street where they belong.”

“Tell me John, what is your concern?”

“I’ll tell you what my concern is, I don’t want to see my church changed.  I have been coming here for years.  I like my church just the way it is and I don’t want to make any changes just to make them feel comfortable.”

The pastor of this congregation had taken a number of intentional steps in preparing his church for diversity.  My speaking to his congregation was one of those steps. Unfortunately as our title states, diversity is not just about intentionality. It really isn’t!

Diversity refers to a broadness of range. In reference to a local congregation it encompasses age, gender, socio-economic status, educational achievement, employment, ethnic and cultural breadth.

Intentionality provides the building blocks that move a church toward diversity. Some of these building blocks are organizational structure, methodologies, models, developing an ethnically diverse staff and leadership, and including diverse musical genres in our worship services to name just a few. As critical as these building blocks are for us to move toward diversity, there is yet a more foundational factor upon which intentionality itself must be built.

That foundation is “mindset” the attitudes that reflect our preferences, biases, and prejudices.  In Philippians 2:1-8 Paul writes about the fundamental attitude all God’s children should possess and that is to be “other-centered,” to place the needs of others above our own.  He uses the attitude of Christ as the model for us to strive toward. Regrettably, John, a former pastor, was more concerned about satisfying his own needs than seeing to the needs of others.

The primary purpose of the church is not to be diverse, but to honor God, obey his Word, and make disciples.  As we focus on fulfilling the mandates of Christ, in an ethnically diverse community, our churches will naturally become diverse. It is the task of the pastor to lay a solid foundation of the mindset of Christ. Once that foundation has been laid intentional diversity can begin.

That’s my opinion.  I welcome yours.