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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Job

Monday, February 9, 2009

With todays massive lay offs here is a twist on the local day labor center. The Job, was created by Screaming Frog Productions. Written & Directed by Jonathan Browning. for more information on this award winning short go to http://www.screamingfrog.com

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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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