Archive for the ‘Multi-ethnic Church’ Category


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


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.


Amazing Grace

Flower Drum Song


Strangers Among Us by Roberto Suro

Pursuing the Pearl by Ken Fong

Letters Across the Divide by David Anderson and Brent Zuercher


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.



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.


Reaching the Nations Among Us: Part 2 Understanding the Difference Between 1st & 2nd Generation Immigrants.

Friday, February 27, 2009

“Beto, ven aqui.” (Bobby, come here.) Grandma and Grandpa Lucero had just arrived from Ciudad Juarez and were eager to greet, hug, and kiss the family. My brother Bobby understood grandma was calling him, he just couldn’t understand what else she was saying as she bent over to shower him with hugs and kisses.

Like so many second-generation descendents of immigrants they have some knowledge of what I call ‘House Spanish.”  House Spanish refers to the simple commands and everyday terms used in the immigrant household and in their social networks among other 1.5 and 2.0 immigrants. But their primary language is English.

Among some Hispanics “Spanglish,” the intermingling of Spanish and English is the official language.  Ilan Stavans in his book, Spanglish, The making of a new American language, writes that ­Spanglish is often described as “the trap, la trampa Hispanics fall into on the road to assimilation…”  used predominately by the growing lower class, it hinders their ability for a better future.  He goes on to say, “English is the door to the American Dream.  Not until one masters el inglés are the fruits of that dream attainable.”

When grandma visited from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the most commonly used phrase in our home was “Que dice?” or  What did she say?” 

My brothers, unlike me, didn’t have the opportunity of spending their summers in Mexico.  Consequently, they never really learned Spanish. Although my parents would speak in Spanish to one another, they would speak in English to us. So, whenever my grandparents visited us from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico either my mom or I would have to translate my brother’s comments to grandma and her comments to them. Left unattended they would just smile, shrug their shoulders and walk away not knowing what had been said.

Here is my point; a single immigrant household can have family members at various levels of English language proficiency and cultural assimilation. This assimilation diversity in a single household presents a challenge to the immigrant church.  Some challenges that lead to 2.0’s either attending an English speaking church or dropping out of church all together are:

  • The Problem of Generations. The preservation of a cultural heritage is dependent on it being passed on from one generation to the next. This process is broken when the second generation due to assimilation prefers their newly adopted culture to that of their ethnic heritage. The second generation leaves the ethnic church for the very reasons their parents joined it, to preserve language, culture, traditions, and customs.
  • English language proficiency. As 2.0’s become more proficient in English the language of their cultural heritage goes by the wayside simply because they have not been educated in it.  The words, idioms, and illustrations used by their immigrant pastors do not connect with them the way they do in English.  2.0’s have their own heart language and it’s not the language of their immigrant parents.
  • Marriage. 2.0’s that marry someone of his or her ethnic background that does not understand the language of his/her cultural heritage finds it hard to stay in the immigrant church.
  • Inter-cultural marriage.  1.0’s, 1.5’s and 2.0’s who marry outside of their ethnic groups soon wrestle with being accepted as a couple in the immigrant or non-immigrant church for that matter.  Their spouse feels out of place for lack of knowledge of the immigrant language and culture.  Not to mention the lack of acceptance experienced by  some inter-cultural couples in homogenous churches.

What is needed is a church model that will minister to families at all levels of assimilation 1.0’s, 1.5’s, and 2.0’s.  Such a model will minister to 2.0’s in English while ministering to 1.0’s  and  1.5’s in their language and cultural context.  Homogenous, ethnic specific immigrant churches serve the first generation well but often times at the expense of the second generation. 

What is a ministry dilemma for immigrant churches becomes a ministry opportunity for English speaking churches. In our next installment of Reaching the Nations Among Us we will address the Seven Fatal Errors of Ethnic Ministry.

That’s my opinion.  I welcome yours.


Reaching the Nations Among Us: Part 1 A Nation of Immigrants

Monday, February 16, 2009

1952, East Los Angles, CA  – “Look Mijo”, she said to me in Spanish, “See that big building? That’s where your daddy is going to work!” I was four years old as I sat on my mother’s lap looking out the window into East Los Angeles. As the train slowed down through the community of Boyle Heights for its arrival into Union Station, I looked in awe at the massive building my mother pointed out – the Los Angeles County General Hospital.

My mother’s words expressed the hope of my stepfather, Roberto Serrano, affectionately referred to as “Bobby” by the doctors and medical staff at his retirement as a surgical technician from Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina. But in 1952, he was an immigrant from Mexico with a new wife, a son, little money, a sixth grade education, yet full of hope and a dream for a better life.

 The next decade my dad would work toward achieving his dream. During that time my mom’s brothers would cross the border one by one, housed by my parents until they got a job and were able to rent a place of their own.

 The story of my family is similar to that of many immigrants that have come to America in search of hope and the opportunity to achieve their dream. America is a nation comprised of immigrants and their descendents. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Remember, remember always, that all of us… are descended from immigrants…”

The present reality is that the majority of descendents of immigrants is shifting. Demographers tell us that by 2042: 

  • Whites will be less than 50% of the U.S. population.
  • Hispanics will be over one in four.
  • African-Americans will be 12%.
  • Asians and Pacific Islanders will more than double their 2006 population to 28.3 million.

A more staggering figure by the Pew Hispanic Center is that new immigrants arriving after 2005 and their descendents will account for 82% of the U.S. population growth between 2005 and 2050 as a result of natural increase (the excess of births over death).

Children under the age of 18 are expected to reach majority-minority status of just over 50% of the population by 2023 and 62% of all children by 2050, mostly due to the growth in immigrant children. 

The demographical changes in the next forty-nine years are shocking, but what is the demographic reality of today? According to a 2005 report by the U.S.Census Bureau, Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas are majority-minority state, along with the District of Columbia. States on their way to becoming majority-minority are Maryland, Mississippi, Georgia, New York and Arizona. 2007 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show that about 10% (302) of the country’s 3,141 counties are already majority minority counties. Another 218 counties are at the “tipping point” and in the next few years will become majority-minority counties.

So what is the pathological impact of these demographical changes on the local church?  It’s deadly. Dr. Peter Wager in his book Your Church Can Grow identifies the disease as “Ethnikitis.” The symptom is that the people in the pew no longer reflect the people in the community. The diagnosis is that the church will eventually die.  When we take into account the exodus of baby boomers from more densely populated to less densely populated areas when they retire, minorities will fill the housing vacancies but not necessarily the pews.

The churches in greatest danger of dying are homogenous churches that have predominately targeted a white middle class population. That is because their demographic is in decline. The options for survival are: (1) sell or give the facilities to a homogenous ethnic congregation and relocate to where your constituency has relocated. (2) Become a multi-cultural congregation ministering to multiple congregations in their language and cultural context. These multi-cultural congregations may be one church with multiple language departments, or multiple congregations sharing one facility. (3) Transition to a multi-ethnic congregation where the church has a diversity of English speaking ethnic groups. This list of options is by no means extensive. If you know of other options please submit those options in the comment box for the benefit of our readers.

If the homogenous church is to survive and thrive the people in the pews must reflect the people in the community.  The question now, is how? We will begin to address this question in our series, Reaching the Nations Among Us. 

That’s my opinion. I welcome yours.


Trust God to Bring Your Success

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pastor Jay confesses he never heard of Rialto, CA before accepting the call to pastor Rialto Community Baptist Church, nor did he have a vision for multi-ethnic ministry. When the vision came everyone told him it wouldn’t work.

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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.

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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.