All People Blog

Have you noticed Muslims living in your neighborhood? Attending your children’s school? Shopping at the local WalMart or grocery store? Muslims continue to immigrate to the United States as the wars in the Middle East roar. Some are fleeing for their lives, with literally the clothes on their backs. Others are here as students in local colleges and universities. Many have been in the U.S. for a long time and are citizens. And some are looking for a new faith. They are disillusioned by current events in their home countries and they are seeking God. Will you help them find Him?

How to begin

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Nicholas Bose, a youth leader at Second EFC in Brooklyn, talks with some students during a VBS (Photo by Norman Tu).

Nicholas Bose, a youth leader at Second EFC in Brooklyn, talks with some students during a VBS (Photo by Norman Tu).

I was the new pastor, and while everyone welcomed me warmly, I frequently found myself lamenting to my wife, I don’t seem to be connecting with the people. Second EFC was then, and still is now, a wonderfully multicultural church in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. But I kept falling into miscommunication and missteps that left me confused.

One experience stood out: Our trustees had called a meeting to decide whether to transfer our banking services from one institution to another. We began by discussing the pros and cons of each. Eventually, wanting to move things along and reach consensus, I went around the group and asked each member if they were in agreement with the decision to change. Each person replied in the affirmative. Wonderful. I closed the meeting with prayer and left the room.

I didn’t get five steps from the door when one of the committee members tapped me on the shoulder and said, “We cannot go ahead with this change.”

“Didn’t we just go around the table and everyone said ‘yes’?” I asked, confused.

“Yes, but the way they said ‘yes’ really meant ‘no.’”

What had happened in that meeting was an example of a cultural dynamic referred to as “high and low context.” Some culture groups (primarily Eastern) accentuate the context within which interactions occur—for example, who is sitting where, who is or is not speaking, and the way things are said (“high context”). Other groups, like my Western culture, are more focused on just getting things done (“low context”). My failure to pick up on the highly charged context prevented me from understanding what the people were actually relaying.

This dynamic is common when engaging in multicultural ministry. Cultural differences also show up in arenas such as:

  • authority and the response to it
  • individualism vs. collectivistic mindsets
  • long- or short-term decision making
  • male-female role differentiation
  • the degree of comfort with risk-taking

The more cultures you mix in one setting, the more potential for conflict.  Continue Reading…

All People Blog

I was saved by the ministry of the Navigators while in high school in 1973. They birthed in me a passion for being and making disciples. When I transitioned into college, I chose a social work major because I wanted to help people. So I went to the best school in the land, of Texas, and graduated with post graduate degrees in social work and community development from the University of Texas in Austin. After a couple years of working as a social worker, I went to Dallas Theological Seminary and received two advanced degrees from Dallas Seminary, recognized as one of the most conservative seminaries in the nation. It’s like the convergence of the warm waters of the Rio Grand River and the cold waters of the Red River in North Dakota.

So, here’s a question for which I wish I received a dollar each time I heard it: “How can someone go to such a liberal school and get such a liberal degree like social work and then attend Dallas Theological Seminary and not go crazy?”

Same as all of life; eat the fish and spit out the bones. Continue Reading…

Equip Your Church to Reach Muslims

Darla Oksnevad – January 22, 2016 Leave a comment

All People BlogPerhaps you are aware of Muslims in your neighborhood or at work. You have been building relationships with them and sharing Christ. But it’s difficult to reach Muslims by yourself. Others in your church or fellowship group may not be interested in reaching Muslims or they don’t have time. So what can you do to motivate other Christians to reach out to Muslims around them, or to build a team? Continue Reading…

A New Start For The Hannants

Barry Hannant – December 11, 2015 Leave a comment

All People Blog

Karla and I believe in going where God is already moving and joining Him in His work. We can testify that God was working through the national church in Mexico, so that’s where we went for eight years. Today, we see a gospel movement and an immigration gap in the United States. So, we decided to come back and work for the Immigrant Mission of the EFCA. The journey was not without a few bumps, but we know the powerful work of God.

Our background

First, let’s tackle a few details. Karla and I married 40 years ago and we have two sons, Tarver and Justin, a daughter-in-law, Justin’s wife Ashley, and three grandsons, Xander, Kinsey and Andrew. Our background is in entrepreneurship, starting in the Rocky Mountain and Midwest Districts of the EFCA.

In 1982, we joined Rimrock EFC, in Rapid City, South Dakota, and served in various capacities. We led a youth group at church, several short-term mission trips, building construction projects, chalk art and puppet ministry, and served on church and missions boards. Karla served in Christian education and women’s ministry, and I served as a trustee and elder.

In 2004, we joined EFCA ReachGlobal and began raising support. We worked day jobs and used weekends for networking. We sold our construction business and I worked as a superintendent for a church-building company, overseeing several projects. Those experiences trained us for mission work while we served at Sidney EFC in Sidney, Nebraska, and helped the community, through building and investing in the lives of others.  Continue Reading…

Take Heart Through Theological Training

Dave Martin – December 8, 2015 Leave a comment

All People Blog

Peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33b).

For all the talk of millennials becoming nones and younger people turning their backs on the church, if not the Lord, I found myself questioning whether we were raising up a strong, new breed of leaders better than ourselves. I wondered whether the church, facing increasing cultural headwinds, would find committed leaders ready to fulfill a mission in midst of the spiritual, theological and cultural struggles ahead. Could we find those who believed the gospel deeply enough to take it to the entire world, beginning with their peers?

Then, I began to engage with young Christians, mostly through my ministry with the EFCA GATEWAY Theological Institute. My heart was moved. I was encouraged. I was blessed by what I saw, the papers I read, the discussions we had, the passion for Christ, the longing to love and serve him, the questions they asked and good answers they gave one another. Students wanted to learn, to grow, to understand, to defend, to share what they found out. One young man, who finished our year-long study of the Statement of Faith (Phase One), asked, “When are you going to open a new Phase Two? I want to continue my studies. I want to start now.”  Continue Reading…

Conforming our reactions

Ben Johnson – November 20, 2015 2 Comments

All People Blog

Being a disciple of Christ means training our emotions and reactions to conform to His (Rom. 12:2). This weekend, two tragedies tested our ability to react as messengers of the kingdom. In Paris, terrorists connected with ISIS killed more than 100 people, apparently in retaliation for France’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. They promised to bring the fight to Washington, DC next. Closer to home, police shot and killed Jamar Clark 20 minutes from the EFCA national office in Minneapolis. Jamar was unarmed, and witnesses say he was handcuffed on the ground when he was shot, though a preliminary police report refuted that claim. The black community in North Minneapolis has long been crying out against mistreatment. An NAACP leader said in July that Minneapolis is one incident away from becoming Ferguson. He says this shooting is that incident, and protesters shut down the police precinct headquarters.

You don’t need to look far to see the natural, human, totally understandable, and arguably pragmatic response to these events. France promised merciless retribution and began bombing raids in Syria. Seven U.S. states began turning away Syrian refugees, though governors and state officials do not have the capability to prevent a refugee who is here and admitted lawfully to the U.S. from residing in their state. Everyone is trying to keep those people as far away as possible, where they can kill one another and not infect our communities. Meanwhile in the Twin Cities, the Black Lives Matter movement had already faced criticism and clashed with city officials for disrupting normal life. Few people in positions of power are interested in messy, painful explorations of history, privilege, and unintended consequences for the sake of a few poor people in a walled-off neighborhood. If history is any indicator, the city is hunkering down for a protracted and bitter fight that will spawn more resentment, violence and chaos than restoration. Continue Reading…

Unwanted Immigrants

Bruce Strom – November 19, 2015 5 Comments

All People Blog

Much happened during the last week to raise the discussion of immigration and terrorism, including the 5th Circuit decision on President Barack Obama’s executive action, presidential debates and the attacks in Paris. Unfortunately, the theme was consistent – immigrants are not wanted.

The 135-page court opinion issued last week is a bit laborious in its analysis of standing, technicalities of the Administrative Procedure Act, and Take Care Clause of the Constitution. Behind the legal maneuvering of the opinion was the clear belief that immigrants are not wanted. Two unelected judges stopped the actions of an elected president because of their feelings toward “illegal immigrants.” While acknowledging unlawful presence is a civil matter, these judges made a point to use the term “illegal alien.” As they wrote, other words like “undocumented” or “unlawful presence” are “needless euphemisms, and should be avoided as near gobbledygook” (Op. p. 5.).

“Gobbledygook” is a nicer word than governors and presidential candidates used this week as it became evident that one of the Paris bombers entered through Greece along with Syrian refugees. “We cannot take Syrian refugees.” We aren’t going to open our borders to Syrian terrorists, never mind that no terrorist has ever entered the country as a refugee. Like in France, it would be more likely to indoctrinate U.S. Citizens. The other bombers were French or Belgian. We have a year-long vetting process which is capable of distinguishing orphans and terrorists. In addition we are only accepting 10,000 refugees out of millions – a very difficult lottery for a terrorist to win.  Continue Reading…

The Impact of One Life

Alex Mandes – November 12, 2015 1 Comment

All People Blog

The common life lived for Jesus trumps lots of talking.

Matthew 28:19-20 calls us to make disciples throughout life. That’s not some arbitrary call on a made-up life, it’s whatever life God calls you to live. Sometimes I wonder if the reason we become less effective comes from making the call of God much more difficult than its intention. We focus more on Bible, theology and skill in evangelism and discipleship.

Acquiring skills is needed for Christian leaders, but we are called to make disciples, including other leaders. The simple parts of living our life for Christ in community can have impact on people unmatched by any amount of skill. Often we can’t tell what will have long-term kingdom impact, which is why we need to always live on for Jesus even in the little things.

I love this passage in Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, 6:

1 Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. 2 Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land…6 Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

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All People Blog

An increasing number of churches are singing the heavenly chorus: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10; ESV). Not only do they sing this song, they also commit to praying and working toward its eschatological realization in the present time. Churches in a local community ought to reflect the make-up of those singing this song around the throne, at least as much as it is possible in one’s own community.

As one ponders this, what does it mean for a people predominately represented, as they attempt to reflect more accurately the future eschatological reality in the present? In other words, what does it mean to represent the majority culture while committed to reflecting the throne of heaven in a local church? Often, those in the majority will not fully realize or sense the implications of that question as it impacts those in the minority. In actuality, it is the one in the minority that will feel this most acutely. Both make concessions without absolute compromise, but they do so differently with different kinds of costs.

Up to this point, I identified majority and minority culture and said nothing about race. Race, however, is one of the major markers of this discussion. As one considers this historically, which has become more evident in the past couple of years, race is an important matter for the Church to discuss and address. Specifically, although not limited to, this focuses on the relationship between African-American and white.  Continue Reading…