Beyond accomplishing “Multi-ethnic church”

10 11 2013

My point: It is not enough to accomplish a multi-ethnic church. We must mature toward intercultural community.

Diversity_Hands.250w.tnI am encouraged with the increasing discussion about the “multi-ethnic church.”  But what does it mean–not the phrase, but the importance. Is it merely the degree of diversity in participating nationalities (“We’re a multi-ethnic church; we have 70% of this, 20% of that, and 10% of the others”)? Is it taking recommended steps which succeed in increasing diversity, such as having ethnic diversity visible on the platform and leadership team, multi-lingual signs, and culturally-diverse worship styles?

Accomplishing a multi-ethnic church can be little more than “clanging symbols” which miss the real meaning: Love which builds bridges in the power of Christ where walls once divided. Whatever the nature of the walls, whether gender, class, nationality or age, the meaning of loving fellowship is that the Spirit of Jesus releases His grace among His people for God’s glory.

That is why I am compelled to write about maturing in this journey. It is not enough to accomplish a certain level of variety in ethnic diversity. This can be achieved in some locations without even trying. Love must increase if the deeper meaning of “multi-ethnic church” is to be realized. Every body of believers must progress in mutual understanding of each other, and recognition of mutual need for each other as complementary parts of the body.

The graces of the Lord Jesus are increasingly released as we journey deeper as “one body through the cross” (Eph. 2:16). I recently heard this kind of mutuality illustrated this way. You know the Spirit of God is at work when a 20-something says to the pastor, “We should have more organ music.” “Why,” asks the pastor, “Do you like organ music?” “No, but the older folks in our church do, and this is their body too.”  Or again, you know Jesus’ prayer for deep unity is being answered when the Anglo gal who prefers the choruses by Hillsong says, “We need some rap and hip-hop in our worship because the younger blacks in our body feel God’s presence through that kind of music.”

No one should ever claim that these truths do not apply to them just because they do not have ethnic diversity in their town. All separating walls which exist must be taken down with humility, mutual understanding, confession of offenses, and restoring of healthy fellowship. That includes divides between the religious rich and the economically poor, the powerful men and the under-resourced women, the historic landowners and the new arrivals. Love is always needed because pride is always lurking.

Its true that “birds of a feather flock together.” This principle is built into nature through creation. The “homogenous unity principle” exists, despite the accusation by some churchmen that it is nearly evil. Fact is, we are hard-wired with the yearning to seek out and stay with those like us. It helps us survive. But the Church universal, and local churches, are called to be more than a flock of birds. We are also a body with many parts. We must work to overcome flocking which prompts us to hive off with those like us (something we need, at regular times, to do). But such particularity (the valuable contribution and benefit of each part) must be balanced and ultimately outweighed by our mutuality. As one pastor said, a local church should be “islands of particularity in a sea of inclusion.” Love must overcome a multitude of divisions.

It is not enough to accomplish a multi-ethnic church. We must mature toward intercultural community.

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Good thing Isaiah didn’t have to raise support

29 10 2013

prophet1Conventional wisdom these days says if you want to get people to financially support your ministry you need a couple of things:

1. A vision that is compelling, one that meets a felt need

2. Activities that bring observable results, because people nowadays want to see that their money is making a difference.

I was reading Isaiah 6 again recently and all I can say is that Isaiah must have had another way of supporting himself other than “faith-based ministry.”

Oh, he had a mission statement alright, one that came straight from God. If God gives our ministry a calling like this, I don’t see a bright financial future. Because God told the prophet to tell the people (if I may paraphrase) to keep on attending church and listening to sermon podcasts but don’t perceive or understand a bit of it (Isa. 6:9).

The “observable results” of Isaiah’s career were to be dull hearts, heavy ears, and closed eyes. God’s goal was that the people not realize they should return and be healed (Isa. 6:10).

SMART goal-setting (i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) would have worsened the picture. Isaiah asked how long he was to pursue this depressing mission. God said: Till the cities were laid waste, the houses inhabited by widows and fatherless kids, and most regions abandoned (6:11,12). Only then would God preserve a tithe of people with whom He could start over.

How many mission committees would give an appointment to a candidate like Isaiah? How many Christians would give that kind of missionary a dime?

A Word or Two of Counsel

TO THOSE WHO GIVE SUPPORT.  Leave room for those of Isaiah’s type. There are missionaries called of God who do not make a great pitch, do not carry themselves well in front of a large group, and do not have a flashy tagline. But they are the genuine article. Some of the best missionaries I have known were much more effective with the people they went to reach than with the church committee back home.

TO THOSE WHO FEEL GOD HAS CALLED YOU.  Seek out God in solitude. Make sure (as possible) that the voice you are hearing is God’s. Circle around time after time to clarify the vision you feel He has given you (I have done this hundreds of times). Say ‘yes” to as much as you know, then wait for His next directives. Keep going, committed to obey, whether it preaches well or not, whether people support it financially or not. Be willing to obey the vision even if you have to wait years to start, even if you have to work two jobs and pursue His vision on the side. None of us will reach the finish line and wish we had been more polished. We will only be glad that we were faithful.





Walls to Preserve. Walls to Destroy.

12 10 2013

Walls to Preserve. Walls to Destroy.

 

There should be a wall

Which protects unborn life

From surgical vacuum and killing pill

Which shields a young boy or girl

from the fist of a father

or the lust of an uncle.

 

These broken walls bring shame on us

A human community called to be humane

 

There should be a wall

Which encourages a man to express his passion in holy ways

Not man with neighbor’s wife

Not man with other man

But man with his own wife

 

Walls such as these are Architecturally assigned

To preserve humanity through self-restraint

To protect society from self-destruction

 

Even animals know to respect such walls.

 

But bad walls have been wrongly built

Walls that weaken who we are

as those given life to share together

these walls should be destroyed

 

When a black man feels hatred for a white man

Or the white feels disdain for the black,

When native American longs to steal back what was stolen from him

Land, dignity, opportunity, culture

 

When those who own more call lazy those who own less

When skin of darker hue senses hubris in lighter tone

When the house of privilege moves further away

from the house without a yard

 

Bad walls are wrongly built

And weaken who we are

Walls are built on two sides

And two sides must bring them down.

 

When victim burns with hate

And victor gloats with pride

Only grace from Him can beat the wall

Only the cross offers a pathway through

 

He took down divisive walls

Brought together one new man

Walls are rebuilt on two sides

Both sides must bring them down again.

 

-Robert E Rasmussen, 2013





Love hearing from readers!

11 10 2013

Robert,

I passed out “The Amazing Potential of One surrendered Church,” to leaders in our network, and read your book through in the next couple of days. I have used quotes from it and found it to be very useful in my own ministry! As many times as I have read through the book of acts, and preached from it, I guess I just never noticed before how strikingly clear it is that God used some gentile laymen to start an intercultural church, that became perhaps the greatest missionary church of all time!

I’m getting excited about this Antioch church all over again as I write this!  I must tell you Bob, that as I travel about and visit the various Intercultural churches, I see a zeal for souls in many of them that seems to be lacking in many of our “mature” anglo churches.  Oh the the Holy Spirit would take some of these churches of the 21st century and duplicate or surpass what the church in Antioch did!

I guess I had always focused more on Barnabas and Paul!  I thank you for sharing this book with me and others!  You helped me see this church in a whole new light!

I did give out every copy that you gave me, and I sincerely hope that those that received it were as blessed as I was!

Thank you Robert, and many blessings to you!





Parable of the Ignored Relative

10 10 2013

Imagine your whole extended family gathers for a big family reunion. It is going to be a great time of fellowship and fun with all your beloved uncles and cousins. So you get all ready and arrive on time at the big house, and you can already hear the laughter and music inside. But you are surprised to find the door is shut and locked. You go around to other doors, also locked. You tap on windows. Relatives see you but turn away and continue their conversations. No one comes to the door, even though many have seen you and know you are outside wanting to come in! How do you feel?

Confused. Hurt. Rejected.old locked door

But there is someone whose feelings are way beyond hurt. The patriarch of the family, who conceived of the family and called the reunion is fuming mad. For someone in the family to be ignored and left out is, to him, unconscionable.

What I am describing? If, in this parable, the patriarch is our Father God, then the family is the church that is not intentionally including in its fellowship any and all members of the family of God but is instead content to maintain conversations with those who are already inside. As a result, it has become an exclusive, segregated clique. The people inside can see outsiders through the windows, but they can’t be inconvenienced to go and open the doors. Or, to give the benefit of the doubt, they are so busy focusing inward that they don’t notice the ostracized relatives outside.

God is bringing family members from different cultures and classes to your city. Some are not in the family yet, and that’s why He has brought them near, they they may come into the circle of His love.And that’s why, I believe, God is disappointed. We’re ingrown. Uncaring. Busy with our activities. And the longer we persist in our self concern the deeper we reinforce the lie that our God doesn’t care.

Some churches have begun to ask some key questions:

Do we care about those outside who are different?

What do the Scriptures say?

What is God saying to us?

Will we obey?