All People blog

I don’t even need to mention the many things going on nationally that seem to consume our attention. Thanksgiving is a day to come away. It is not on the religious calendar, but Thanksgiving is my favorite of all holidays. It is one of the last holidays, at least the holiday itself, not coopted by commercialism. In fact, in San Antonio even the grocery stores close for the day.

This morning, in my devotional time, I read Daniel 9 and was blown away. In verse 21, Daniel was praying “at the time of the evening offering.” When the book of Daniel was written, the Jews were living in captivity in Babylon. The Jews were not only living under general subjugation, but Daniel was being personally oppressed because he was praying.

Observations:  Continue Reading…

Ferguson in Dialogue

Alvin Sanders – November 26, 2014 1 Comment

Monday night, I was literally done, pretty much racially fatigued.

I was tired of incident after incident of unarmed black folk being killed by police. I was tired of having to convince my socially engaged, Christ-loving daughters not to throw all whites under the bus. And I was especially tired of going on Facebook and seeing white Christians more concerned about justifying the killing, and the protection of private property, than they were about another young black life being snuffed out.

With this verdict, I now fully understand what the Apostle Paul meant in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good…” because frankly I’m there. You should know that this isn’t my first rodeo. I’m a guy who in 2001 planted a church in the middle of a Ferguson type situation in Cincinnati. But then it started to happen – hope.

A particular white Christian, who is on the opposite end of the spectrum from me concerning Ferguson, sent this:

Let me buy you lunch. I just want to listen to you tell me why this is happening. I don’t want to challenge anything you say or start any debate. I don’t want to tell you what I think either. Rather, I just want to understand the frustration. I have not walked in your shoes, but I am easily educated. I would even like to bring a friend or two if that’s OK.

A colleague from work sent me this:

My heart is breaking as I watch from an ignorant distance. I will not pretend to understand and, therefore, I am seeking out you, my brother, for wisdom. I know that you are likely addressing this issue and involving yourself on many levels and in a wide variety of contexts, so I don’t presume to be a priority for you today. But you are my “first line” of understanding and I need your input for my heart and any conversation or influence, and even to inform my prayers.

But maybe the note that gave me the most hope was this one:

I just spent a few minutes praying for you. There is no way I can connect with how you’re feeling about Ferguson, but I’ve been up late thinking and praying since the grand jury results came out.

I have your book. We met when you spoke at the CPLF last November. I’ve wanted to reach out to you a number of times and just haven’t. Feel free to respond to this or disregard. I realize we don’t have a personal relationship. If you do respond, please feel liberty to directly correct any misstatements, inappropriate references or inaccurate portrayals.

I haven’t addressed diversity in the church with respect to black and white, not publicly at all, except for passing generic statements that could be endorsed by any followers of Christ. Here’s why I’m writing.

• I feel guilty that I’m not better versed in how black Christians experience life here in the U.S.

• I feel guilty that I haven’t pushed and sought out understanding sooner.

• I want to have open conversations, but I’m afraid of accidentally asking an offensive question.

• I’m afraid to address race issues because I’ve seen guys get devoured for it.

• I have a deep love for people and don’t want to hurt them.

• I also think deeply – and I’m not sure how to determine the extent that I’m wrecked by my own racism and I’m afraid if I start trying to get to know people better, such darkness may arise.

• I’m intimidated by some of the anger I see coming from African Americans. I don’t want to unintentionally push a button to cause the anger.

• I don’t want to be the recipient of the anger.

• I don’t understand the anger.

• I feel like, as a white guy, if I ask the wrong question, I’m gonna lose big time. As if I stand to lose more in influence than I could potentially gain in understanding.

• At the CPLF, one person asked you a question that turned up your temperature a bit. I don’t recall the topic, but I’m very afraid of asking the wrong question and losing influence with people.

• In my own mind, I’ve lied to myself to some extent. – I grew up in a horrible family in working class poverty. We should have been removed by the state. I also received a college scholarship for minorities because of the sliver of Native American blood I have. – So I’ve told myself that I understand struggle due to my background. But I realize that it’s not the same. I’ve overcome a good bit, why can’t others.

This has been deeply on my heart for a number of years. Then, meeting you, hearing you speak, reading your book – I have wanted to reach out, but I’ve been hesitant due to some of the above mentioned fears. I’m open to any words you might have for me. I’m also open to you not responding if you’re too busy. Blessings to you dear brother. I’m so thankful for your work and ministry.

Paul, in Galatians 6:9, tells us to not become weary in doing good works because there is a payoff. The second half of that verse says “…for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” As I stated, I am racially fatigued. But my faith must be my basis for healing, and I must remember that the power of the multiethnic church is its potential to reverse racial division.

There are people out there who want to talk about Ferguson. Not debate, not rage, not assassinate black identity – but talk. I have an imperative to engage. The nation might be splintered, but the Church can’t afford to be because the gospel message is at stake. We can’t give up.

Three Thoughts On How to Preach About Race

Alvin Sanders – November 25, 2014 1 Comment

All People blog

A pastoral colleague of mine preached on the topic of race recently. Before he did, he asked me for some pointers. What I shared with him I’ll share with you:

  1. Be Candid – Don’t  do the colorblind thing. “I don’t see a black man, I just see a man,” type of mentality is not helpful, especially to majority of those who are people of color in your audience. Acknowledge that race has played a huge role in the shaping of the country, both good and bad.
  2. Be Biblical – There are obvious texts that lend themselves to addressing this. My go-to text is Matthew 22:37-40.
  3. Be Personal – Do you have any stories, good or bad, that involve race? Tell them. And/or find obvious stories of racism or people crossing racial barriers, which I call stories of hope.

Now, I know there are more than three.

If you have (or desire) to preach on race, what tips would you give?

Giving Hope to Immigrants

Alvin Sanders – November 21, 2014 1 Comment

Last night, President Obama announced he would create executive orders to give millions the opportunity to apply for temporary legal status.

Many of you might be wondering what the EFCA’s response is to such action. For the answer, I invite you to view the following video which describes our Immigrant Hope ministry. The mission of Immigrant Hope is to equip churches to provide immigrants with the hope of the gospel, help finding a pathway to legal residency, and a home in a church that cares for their needs.

Truth and Lies about Diversity Training

Alvin Sanders – November 20, 2014 2 Comments

All People blog

For many years, I have worked with Christian organizations pursuing ethnic diversity, and have always told them one somewhat controversial thing – diversity training does not work. Researchers Frank Dobbin (Harvard University), Alexandra Kalev (University of Arizona, Tucson) and Erin Kelly (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities) studied 829 companies over 31 years to determine the impact of diversity management on corporate America. They concluded that attitudes and the diversity of their organizations remained the same. In fact, in places where the training was mandatory, it actually had a negative effect.

So why do I always run into Christian organizations that take a secular diversity training, sprinkle it with some Scriptures, and wonder why they aren’t seeing results? We live in a diverse world. We need to do something. If not diversity training, what should we do? As the body of Christ, we must figure out a way to both proclaim and demonstrate the gospel to people of all backgrounds.  Continue Reading…

Four Marks of Multiethnic Effectiveness

Alvin Sanders – November 18, 2014 Leave a comment

In a lot of ways, leading a multiethnic transition is unlike anything you have attempted to lead. The leadership required is highly situational and contingent. I think we can learn a lot from the model in Acts 6:1-7.

In this text, Grecian Jewish converts were not native to Palestine. They had relocated to Jerusalem because it was considered honorable to spend your last days in Jerusalem and to be buried there upon death.

Because of this belief, Jews of many different ethnicities, from all over the Roman Empire, moved to Jerusalem toward the end of their lives. This created a large population of widows. The Jewish faith took the responsibility of caring for widows as a serious task. Because of the significant amount of nonnative widows located in Jerusalem, it created a social problem. There were not enough foreign Jewish synagogues to keep up with the demands of care.  Continue Reading…

All People – Austin, Texas

Alvin Sanders – November 13, 2014 Leave a comment

The EFCA is one of the top denominations when it comes to diversity and Christian organizations. Twenty-two percent of our churches can be identified as either ethnic or multiethnic.

Watch how Omar Argumedo and Nueva Vida Hispanic Ministry, at First Evangelical Free Church (now named Austin Oaks Church) in Austin, Texas, are meeting the needs of their community. To join ReachNational‘s efforts to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people, contact reachnational@efca.org.

All People – Austin, Texas

All People – Austin, TX from EFCA on Vimeo.

Church on the Prairie

Alvin Sanders – November 11, 2014 Leave a comment

All People blog

When it comes to multiethnic ministry leadership, you often wonder out loud whether anybody out there is listening. You may also wonder, in the vast sea of racialization and polarization, if the work you do makes a difference.

I joke that most leaders who attempt to cross racial lines are either idealistic or jaded, with few in-between. In fact, that may just describe your day, but then you meet someone who gives you fuel to go on.

Pastor Don leads the Evangelical Free Church of Willmar in Willmar, Minn. It’s a small town of about 20,000 people, but God is bringing the world to Willmar. Pastor Don estimates that about 25 percent of the population is non-white, due to a local factory that’s importing workers. The town is literally being repopulated. Willmar is not alone. God is repopulating small Midwestern towns throughout the United States. This isn’t your grandfather’s rural ministry context.  Continue Reading…

My first full-time pastoral position was in a large Korean American church in the suburbs of Washington D.C., in Vienna, Virginia. I took the position as Associate Pastor of English Ministry, (EM Pastor). During the years I was there, we saw our ministry blossom from a small young adult community, with a few married couples, to a growing, vibrant congregation of 280 with college, young adults, young married couples and families. This English speaking congregation was the fulfillment of my dreams as a young pastor. I had the opportunity to lead with vision, preach God’s word weekly and disciple people into a growing community of faith. As a young Asian American pastor, this was a dream come true.

However, one day, I awoke from the dream when I realized something was missing in this model of church within a church. While the model itself was not the problem, there were some inherent challenges working in an immigrant culture. One such challenge was the limitation in outreach because of an ethnic culture.

As our young adult ministry was growing, I approached one of our young adult members. She had been working in Washington D.C., in a government position. As we were talking about reaching out to our friends and co-workers, I mentioned to her that she should bring some of her friends to church. She looked at me as if I had something wrong with me. With her eyebrow raised and her eyes wide open, she said, “Pastor Ray, there is no way we can invite my friends to our church.”

I assumed, like  every almost every pastor, that we had a growing vibrant ministry. We had an open door approach to our ministry. The welcome mat was clearly marked, “All Welcome.” We wanted to be a church for all people.  Also, we were seeing people who were growing in their faith. This was a gospel-teaching church. So I asked her, “Why can’t you invite your friend?”

Her response was simple and concise, “I’m sorry Pastor Ray, but this is a Korean American church. My friend won’t feel comfortable here.”  Continue Reading…

Empowering Across Ethnicities

Ray Chang – November 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Racial and cultural differences must not keep us from empowering our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have had the opportunity to serve the Lord in a number of capacities over the course of my life. I am a Korean-American evangelical Christian pastor that has been empowered significantly by the majority culture of the American evangelical church. It’s been a blessing throughout my time as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

While I realize that not every Asian American has experiences like mine, I think we can all agree that the Body of Christ would be better if we were willing to invest in each other. Each of us is a byproduct of the people that have invested in us. As I think about how we can move forward together in a multicultural society, I want to suggest four things to remember as we work together for the kingdom:  Continue Reading…