Calling All People

September 23, 2014 Leave a comment

All People blogWelcome to the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) All People Initiative blog! We are excited to launch this blog in conjunction with the 2014 Christian Community Development Association national conference. We have a long history of partnership with the CCDA.

The All People Initiative is a national coalition of multiethnic and multicultural leaders committed to discplemaking, gospel impact and community transformation. The EFCA desires to reverse division, multiply kingdom growth and develop transformational churches among all people.

Did you know that the first CCDA conference was held at an EFCA ministry? It took place at Circle Urban Ministries, which is located on the west side of Chicago. We are proud to be partners for nearly three decades.

Right now, there are some amazing things happening in our movement, as we are one of the most ethnically diverse denominations in the United States. We are looking for transformational leaders. Visit www.efca.org/allpeople and see stories of how our leaders are transforming communities.

Stop by our booth at CCDA and chat with one of our representatives and also pick up a free copy of Bridging the Diversity Gap. Contact us at reachnational@efca.org to learn more.

 

Christian leaders often struggle personally with how to take their good intentions of racial reconciliation and translate it to the realm of their faith and leadership.  Here are 6 principles to follow:

1. Be Bible-Based and Spirit Empowered. Issues of race were different during biblical times, but that does not mean we can’t use Scripture to address what we face today. Second Corinthians 5:14-21 is clear that we have been given the gift of reconciliation and we are to be ambassadors of it. Live out the first and second greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) in order to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). This is our foundation.

2. Practice Humility. It’s possible for someone to perform racist actions but not be a racist. I work hard on giving people the benefit of the doubt, marking them innocent until proven guilty. Real humility is to decline the temptation to put ourselves in God’s place and judge people harshly.

3. Become a Truth-Teller. A big reason people don’t discuss race is because it can quickly become emotional. It is okay to be emotional, but not in a destructive, all-consuming way. This requires that we work hard on keeping our emotions in check. When we’re with people we truly care about, we’re honest about what matters, regardless of how potentially offensive the situation may seem. Take the risk.

4. Develop Patience. Keep your zeal in check. When it comes to racial issues it takes time to understand the significance of racialization. I’ve actually seen very sincere people that were very willing to make progress back off because mentors wanted them to get it immediately. Don’t beat up people; instead, build knowledge together.

5. Be Positive. Too much time is spent on the negative side of racial dynamics. At some point, the focus has to shift toward solutions. Dialogue needs to revolve around proposed solutions. We need to be careful that we do not build an atmosphere filled with a constant diatribe on what is wrong that short-changes us spending time on what is right. Find the bright spots and study why they are bright! We have to learn to encourage one another in the Lord instead of always assigning blame or imagining slights.

6. Show Respect. All racial groups need to be treated with dignity. One killer of reconciliation efforts is paternalism—the intrusion of one group on another against its will. The intrusion is justified by a claim that the group intruded upon will be “better off.” What results is a one-sided relationship.

I am blessed in the fact that I get to spend a lot of time with many different groups of people.  If you have heard me speak you know I am loud, blunt, and real. This style doesn’t agree with some folk, but one group who seems to love me is the 20somethings.  Especially the ones with crazy hair or tattoos!

So I get to have great discussions with them. Since I consider myself a student of culture, I always have some sort of informal sociological study going on in my head. So one of the things I often discuss with this group is “why aren’t more of your friends here?”

I am a firm believer that we learn the most from our harshest critics. Here are the common thoughts I usually get expressed to me:

  • They think church folk aren’t very smart – They don’t mean dumb. They mean we make the world too simple. They seem to be ok with not having all the answers for life.
  • Church people are too mean – “All they know is what we stand against,” one young man told me. “They don’t know what we stand for”
  • You have to be perfect to go to church – There is a sense that you have to have your life in order before a church will accept you.
  • Church people are (fill in the blank) ist – racist, classist, homophobic, etc.
  • Church is boring – I always follow up when I hear this. What do you mean? One young lady said “I read the Bible and there is all this awesome stuff happening. Here all we get is a light show. I woulddrag my friends here if the Acts stuff was happening!”

I also ask them why they come. “Your friends aren’t here but you are,” I say. “Why?” They give a variety of answers but there is really only one theme – somebody in the church was there for them. “There for them” meant different things to different people, but the point was that person (or people) showed care through the good times and the bad. And because of that they decided to overlook everything else. Basically, relationships.

Sometimes things just ain’t that hard.

One of the ways we move forward in the development of multi-ethnic congregations is through peer learning. The following is a great example.  It’s an email from one pastor to another on how to navigate multi-ethnic worship issues while transitioning a white church into a multi-ethnic one. 

When it comes to diversity in our worship, our song selection probably looks like most of yours as it typically comes from the CCL types of play lists.

However, there are a 3-4 times a year where we add some songs that will be sung in both English and Spanish. We will sing the song first in English, then tag it in Spanish, alternating between the languages. This lets people know what they are singing and keeps them engaged so they don’t drop out and just watch.

Several years we have had a full Mariachi Band, in traditional costume, leading us in worship. We’ve had some great God stories to go with it as we got started when I had the privilege of leading one lead singer to the Lord. He then led his 3 band mates to the Lord. We had a fun baptism where all four shared their stories. He has now completed Bible School and is in full-time ministry in our city.

Every other year we will have an African led service. We have missionary partnerships in several African countries so one year we will have the Mwangaza children’s choir of Uganda. And another year we might have the drum line from Rwanda. It really raised the level of anticipation as you came into the parking lot and saw a group of guys in African dress, beating the drums. No one slept through that service!

The short answer is that we have found a little sprinkling through the year allows everyone to grow a heart for diversity, while still allowing our folks to worship in a style that is most familiar to them. Another way to bring a multi-cultural element, and let others know that you are trying, is to add another language into your welcome. It could be as simple as saying, “Welcome, bienvenidos, we’re glad you’re here to worship with us…”

In your sermon you can give a nod to other cultures by using more than just white type of names. Instead of just saying, Tom and Betty; you could say Jose y Maria… Now be careful not to come across as condescending or wooden. And as a side note, if you don’t know what Menudo (not the band) and Barbacoa are, don’t say you like it, or you may end up with a sweet Abuela (Grandmother), saying Mijo (my son), I made you some!

The EFCA is a movement committed to multiplying transformational churches among all people. An example is  Open Table Community Church in Atlanta. Check out this video below to learn more about them.

All People – Atlanta from EFCA on Vimeo.

We want more Open Tables! Stop by our booth at CCDA and chat with one of our representatives and also pick up a free copy of Bridging the Diversity Gap. Contact us at reachnational@efca.org to learn more.