Reading for Reconciliation

Today’s guest post is written by Bobby Valentine. Bobby is a minister currently serving God in Arizona. He is also a scholar who has co-authored several books in the field of church history and practice. Bobby writes a popular Bible study blog that I encourage you to check out: http://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/

Unlike previous reading lists posted on this blog Bobby’s list isn’t directly related to church ministry. However, I believe this list serves as a great example of how dialogue and inquest lead to transformation.


 

I grew up in north Alabama. My family’s roots come thru Florida and New York though.  My family was and is open to many things on a “personal” level regarding race.  But I did not know anything. I still do not but I am learning.  It was during my ministry in New Orleans that I came face to face with the matter of race as something beyond my imagination to comprehend.  This was a rather difficult discovery and one that I resented to be honest. But some folks actually helped open my eyes in a gentle but firm way.  This was 1995ish when I was challenged by a fellow by the name of Robert Birt to read Before the Mayflower … it was the beginning of a long journey.  Talking about race, I have learned, is an explosive issue for many.  It is a subject filled with defensiveness at the mere mention of it. But there is in fact a “history” and that history … like the history of our family of origin … has profound and not so subtle influence on every aspect of our lives in America.

As a Christian, I am certain that we have an obligation to move beyond our own personal experience and be God’s leaven in our world.  This redemptive MISSIONAL task is not easy.  The church has an obligation to deal with this and preachers and elders have one as well.  With that in mind I share the following list of books and movies that have helped me move out of my comfort zone.  Preachers often avoid the subject like the plague.  It is so much easier and safer to preach about something as profoundly relevant as instrumental music (!) … Yes I am being sarcastic but I cannot help myself.

Remember I am a White Italian Boy from Alabama. I make no pretense to being a scholar in this area.  These are just resources that have helped me in my own ministry as I try to live the Gospel of Reconciliation.  There is nothing on this list I have not read.  I began keeping this list in 1996 and have updated it on my pc thru the years.  I share it with you my friends and lovers of God’s shalom and grace …

Books

Lerone Bennett Jr, Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America (in many editions).  Bennett’s book is a classic and it was the beginning point for me.  It was the first book I read as noted above.  It immediately let me know there is way more to American history than I ever figured.  Bennett eloquently chronicles and interprets the African American experience in the USA. His book can help us get a grasp on the proud moments and the valleys of blacks in America.  This is a great book to begin your own journey of thinking and learning.

Edward J. Blume & Paul Harvey, The Color Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America.  What color was Jesus? It has mattered to many people through the years.  And how we have conceived him has impacted Christian practice and social ethics. We travel from slave huts to Hollywood in this excellent and compelling book.  Jesus has been hijacked for many an agenda in the racial sage of America.

Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63; Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65; At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68.   These three volumes by Branch are the most extensive material on the struggles that wracked America in that long decade or so from Rosa Parks to the death of Martin Luther King Jr.  How American changed in those years!  My own question was after reading these breathtaking volumes was … Lord have mercy on your church and so how can we move forward.  These are great books.  They are not small but they are easy to read.  Branch is a great writer. Branch won Pulitzers for his work.

James Cone, Black Theology & Black Power.  This was my introduction to Cone. Cone makes me squirm.  He is in your face and he rubbed me raw I confess.  I cannot tell you how many times I threw that book down.  He made me mad and I think he wanted to! However I am glad I read it and I am better for it.  He helped me understand something of anger and that I should be angry about how some things have been and remain.  Do we use the Gospel and religion as a cloak to hide our complicity in racism?

James Cone, Martin & Malcolm & America: Dream or Nightmare. Cone’s style in this work is considerably different than in BT&BP. He is not dispassionate (not sure he is capable of that) but not as fiery.  But was America in the experience of these premier black leaders? How far apart are their visions of what we are and what we are to be.  This is a good book.

Tony Evans, Getting to Know One Another.  It is always good to see an Evangelical write about the subject of racial reconciliation.  Evans has great respect for the Bible and he walks a fine line of not trying to radically offend white folks he is writing too.  This is a good books to give to the highly sensitive but he will actually convict us if we let him.  The Bible is not silent on this matter.

Michael Casey, Saddlebags, City Streets & CyberSpace: A History of Preaching in Churches of Christ.  This book is not on race relations per se.  But Casey includes an insightful chapter on African American preaching among “us” as represented by Marshall Keeble especially.  How did Keeble address the issue and did he at all?  Casey suggests that Keeble used “coded” language that said something to Whites and another thing to Blacks.  It reminds me of the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” when Wesley Snipes says to Woody Harrelson’s character “YOU CAN’T HEAR JIMI!!”  Its true … sometimes we do not have ears to hear.  Good material on G. P. Bowser and R. N. Hogan too.

Tom Dent, Southern Journey: A Return to the Civil Rights Movement.  This is probably one of the better introductions to this turbulent period for a White Italian Alabama boy.  It was a good read.  It is filled with human interest stories.  Reading this book originally in 1998 I recall saying to myself, “ive been there! and I didn’t know that!”  This along with Bennett is a good “entre” into the waters.

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  I have long championed the agenda of recognizing FD as one of the Founding Fathers of America.  This book is small, heroic and disturbing.  Some folks have idealized visions of slavery and nothing is worse than perpetuating these images than Gone with the Wind (a book I have come to despise).  The defining moment in FD’s life was when he was 19 or 20 he refused to submit to a beating and he fought back.  It was his declaration of independence. His fiery passion for liberty and justice fill his narrative. This book should be required reading in high school.

Eric Foner, Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation & Reconstruction.  Foner is one of the foremost scholars on the Reconstruction period.  This lively work draws from newspapers, sermons, corporate advertisements, art, even the circus! It scattered among it brief “Visual Essays” because seeing a pictures are worth a thousand words and these are worth millions.  The story that we share is the tragedy of willfully selling out for the sake of filthy lucre a race of people that brought Reconstruction to an end.  And there are PLENTY of MYTHS about reconstruction that need to be burst.  Great book.

David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Garrow won a Pulitzer for this magnificent work.  It is marked by great prose, depth of understanding, and showing the continuing relevance of King and his legacy.

Fred D. Gray, Bus Ride to Justice: Autobiography of Fred Gray.  I first read Gray’s book in the late 1990s and a revised edition has since come out.  Gray is the quite “giant slayer” of the Civil Rights Movement.  Born and raised in Jim Crow Montgomery, he pursued a silent promise to “destroy all things segregated!” He defended Rosa Parks, orchestrated the Bus Protest of 1956, was MLK Jr’s attorney, he desegregated Alabama’s schools, the 1965 Selma march, the landmark Gomillion v. Lightfoot Supreme Court case and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study attorney.  Gray is a testimony of a man’s CHRISTIAN commitment to the Gospel of reconciliation and how one poor man defeated the system.  He is deeply committed to Christian education and a preacher of the Gospel.  He was one of Marshall Keeble’s “boys” … and preacher for the Tuskegee Church of Christ.

Martin Luther King, Jr, Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. King is as powerful to read as he is to listen to. His passion for both peace and justice is contagious.  The importance of reading King is self evident in my opinion.  Nothing else needs to be said.

Malcolm X (with Alex Haley), The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  Reading Malcolm reminded me – yet again – how different some people’s experiences have been from mine.  What I got out of Malcolm is not only a sense of the deep seated nearly subliminal anger that exists in many quarters of the USA.  Malcolm helps me understand “why this is so.”  The second thing I get from Malcolm is how dangerous racism, and the inevitable injustice that comes with it, is to Christian faith and its witness.  Racism leads folks to declare Christianity a white man’s religion and this is why Malcolm embraces Islam.  Must read book.

Deirdre Mullane, editor, Crossing the Danger Water: Three Hundred Years of African-American Writing. This is an outstanding resource that I came across in the late 1990s.  It contains selections from slaves and freedman.  It has speeches by Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, W.E.B. DuBois.  It contains government documents that will shock you. It has poetry and prose.  Truly a wide ranging and good resource.

Thomas Oden, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind.  It is one of the biggest mistakes of the American mind – both white and black – to imagine Christianity as a EUROPEAN religion.  This is not the case.  Oden argues with deft command of the primary sources that in the first 1000 years of Christian history that the religion of Jesus was African and not European.  Many of the first commentaries and schools were established and written in Africa not Europe.  The rise of monasticism that played such a huge role in Christianity rose in Africa not Europe.  Some of the first decisions regarding the canon of Scripture were made in Africa not Europe.  This is a vastly important work for both white Christians and black Christians.  Get it and devour it.  Oden btw is one of the worlds leading Patristic scholars.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  I recall hearing the derogatory term “Uncle Tom” thrown around growing up.  I had no understanding of what it meant though.  I have read UTC at least three times since 1995 and each time it has been a different book.  I was stunned first of all how compelling the work actually is. I learned the book is about far more than Uncle Tom and I learned that Uncle Tom is radically different than the stereotype I had encountered.  Tom is actually a powerful character in the book and far from a weakling. But there are slaves that would choose death willingly over slavery in the book.  There is discussion of biblical interpretation in the book.  It is no small wonder the book was burned on the campus of the University of Virgina when it was published and that it was banned in all the states that would become part of the Confederacy.  This is the book that saved the dying abolitionist movement and it was the most widely read book in America (after the Bible) in the 19th century.  It has a much going for it being the quintessential American novel as Tom Sawyer.  You should read it.

Sojourner Truth, Narrative of Sojourner Truth.  Truth does for women what Frederick Douglass did for the men.  Douglass was legendary for his eloquence but Truth has nearly prophetic gifts for speech.  She speaks not simply about racial justice but gender too.  Am I not a woman she asked once!? I was impoverished as a White Italian Alabama Boy before having her in my life.

Richard Wright, Native Son.  Wright is a great novelist but I just did not like his book.  The first time I read Native Son I actually hated it. It was so depressing.  It had communists in it.  I did not understand it.  I had no way of actually understanding what was going on in the book. The book released way back in 1940 reflects the inner hell of a black man of the time.  Something of this appear again in the Autobiography of Malcolm X. But as I have grown and matured and have gone thru some pretty interesting life experiences Native Son has a different feel to it.  Wright forces his readers to deal with the demons living inside at least one victim of Jim Crow.

Richard Wright, The Ethics of Living Jim Crow.  This small book was actually published earlier than Native Son but I did not read it until 2000.  I was interested in Wright because I was living in Mississippi and the work is set in MS.  It is an introduction to a world that I, as a white boy, was totally clueless to.  Reading this helps me see that there really have been two Americas … if not more.  Read this book if you dare.

Maryanne Vollars, The Ghosts of Mississippi: The Murder of Medgar Evars, the Trials of Byron De La Beckwith and the Haunting of the New South.  I read this book in 1996.  It won the National Book Award and was turned into a movie that I invited several folks at the church i was preaching at to go see.  It is set in the same area I lived.  It is a riveting account of the struggles for liberty and justice and righteousness in Mississippi. The White Citizens Council, the Sovereignty Commission, the “reign of terror” in the lives of people. This is a compelling book and a window into our common story.

Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery.  This is a classic from the man from Tuskegee.  His struggle for freedom, dignity, the struggle for education.  It is good to read BTW and W.E.B. DuBois because it shows us that “black people” are no more monolithic than “white people.”  We have these stereo types that just because a person is “black” that they think so and so when there has been as much diversity of thought among “them” as there has been among “us.”   That is confirmation that we are all just … PEOPLE!!

Films

There are numerous films/movies that have helped me move from an intellectual engagement with this issue to an emotional one.  Movies are powerful media that can be used to effect change within us if we are open to them.  I am not commenting on these movies as a movie critic, historian or any thing else.  I am commenting on them as a White Italian Alabama boy and the effect they had upon me.  Not all had the same impact upon me.  But each has opened my eyes and my heart to something of our shared story here in America.  I will simply list the title and who made it or starred in it.  I have never forgotten any of these films … some folks are so fixed on their like or dislike of certain actor they can not open their minds to the film … dont be like that …

  • Mississippi Burning (Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman)
  • The Ghosts of Mississippi (Alec Baldwin & Whoopi Goldberg)
  • White Man’s Burden (John Travolta & Harry Bellafonte) movie engages in brilliant “role reversal” to powerful effect
  • A Time to Kill (Samuel L. Jackson)
  • Roots (adaptation of Alex Haley’s epic)
  • Rosewood (true story of the massacre of a black community in Florida)
  • Amistad (a Stephen Spielberg film)
  • Buffalo Soldiers (Danny Glover)
  • Tuskegee Airmen (story of Benjamin O. Davis Jr)
  • The Color Purple (Oprah Winfrey)
  • When We Were Colored
  • Planet of the Apes (a brilliant parable about race relationship in America without people even knowing it (see http://www.movieprop.com/tvandmovie/PlanetoftheApes/racial2.htm )
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (classic based on Harper Lee’s novel)
  • Spike Lee routinely deals with the black experience in America.  Films such as “Four Little Girls” and “Malcolm X.”
  • The Butler (Forest Whitaker)

This list does not even attempt to be comprehensive of either books or films.  Rather these are materials that since the mid 1990s have had an impact on me.  They have made me more sensitive to things than before.  They have changed my preaching and hopefully my living.  Part of learning to love is learning about your neighbor.   I am not nearly as defensive as I used to be on this matter … now I just pray and pray for God’s new creation to be a reality in his church.


 

Do you have some suggested reading that you’ve found helpful as you navigate different cultures that you can add to this list?

 

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Mandela: Reconciliation & Forgiveness

Rod Cullingworth is a white South African. After studying for ministry in the US he and his family returned to Cape Town, South Africa where they have planted several house churches. He shares here his impressions of the recently deceased Nelson Mandela. Thank-you Rod for sharing your experiences. [The name Madiba is Mandela’s African clan name.]

Living in South Africa has provided useful close-up experience of the Madiba phenomenon, providing both the observational aspect and the ‘feel’ of the situation, gained only by proximity.

I was raised in an anti-nonwhite environment, but had enough contrary influences to provide an alternate view. Even my military duty experience exposed me to both sides of the prevalent prejudice: my studies exposed me to the official position on the banned organizations (such as Madiba’s ANC), their history, their goals, etc., while I experienced firsthand, because of my specific deployment, the conditions so many black South Africans live in. And in later years my ministry has taken me across many boundaries—economic, ethnic, educational, etc. Thus, still today, I hear and see and experience multiple aspects of life in South Africa. In other words, I have many years to draw on when expressing my opinion on this matter . . . I have not been totally sheltered from the realities of life in South Africa, which is, ironically, possible.

Anybody who has spent even a small amount of time considering prejudice is aware that it dies hard; it is propagated, sadly, very effectively. Generations pass on prejudice even when trying to prevent it—our prejudices just sorta ooze out. This is one reason it is so vital to be transformed; our transformed selves will then ooze something else: whatever we’ve been transformed into.

Jesus taught on this. Some special people over the millennia have modeled it. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was one such person.

Since actions speak louder than words, Madiba’s demonstration of forgiveness and reconciliation has done much more than any person’s rhetoric to improve race relations. South Africa—the world, for that matter—has a long way to go to improve race relations. It will take the dedicated commitment of successive generations teaching their following generations—in words, but more importantly, through behaviour—to ‘play nice’ with people not like themselves. This is so much more possible in South Africa than in other countries, in my opinion, because of Madiba’s example.

Those years in prison could have been used to nurture his hatred and resentment and desire for revenge. Or, as actually occurred, Madiba could choose to apply the principles of God: mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation . . . This is one clear example of God not being a respecter of persons—when someone applies God’s principles, whether such a person is saved or not, the results will come. This is stated slightly differently elsewhere, in the ‘sowing-and-reaping’ concept. Even farmers who do not believe God is in control of His creation reap if they apply sound agricultural principles.

Nelson Mandela’s behavior applied, for instance, the godly principle of overcoming evil with good instead of paying back evil with evil (as per Rom. 12), in his demonstration of a generally conciliatory attitude.

More than in a single event, this principle seems well captured in Madiba’s spoken and applied perspective not to seek retribution. This was, in my opinion, one of the telling influences preventing wide-spread acts of revenge on the white population once President Mandela was released, and especially after the elections of 1994 and the formation of the new government. While such acts took place, they were strongly denounced. The denouncements found widespread acceptance, it seems, because of Madiba’s speeches and actions upholding reconciliation.

An example of this mindset–and the effect on the people–can be seen in how the movie “Invictus” portrayed Madiba putting together the security detail of the previous president and the men selected by the ANC to protect Madiba. This security group was a microcosm of the country: the new leader making the previous factions “play nice”. Apart from that aspect, Madiba was risking his life by bringing the previous enemy right to his side . . . he put his money where his mouth was by demonstrating forgiveness rather than firing that white security detail.

For President Mandela to have chosen to respond as he did has given people across the spectrum the example, the motivation, the courage, the permission, to behave in a way that improves race relations in spite of whatever the specifics of their background are. They don’t even have to be God-followers.

Now that Madiba has passed on, his legacy will be tested. If people continue to copy his example, many will benefit and his example will prove to have been powerfully influential. If his influence decreases with his passing, his example and legacy are not diminished. On the contrary: if in the absence of his remarkable example others fail to apply it, his response to his situation, which led to such a dramatic season of hope for race relations, will prove to be that much more remarkable, being so rare.

Review: Many Colors

Mike Price is the minister at the Bogalusa Church of Christ in Louisiana. He introduces himself further below. This is his first contribution to Cultural Mosaic. You can browse more of his writing on his personal blog, http://drmikeprice.com/.

Sometimes you really find a treasure.  They are the unexpected events that exceed your expectations.   Like taking a stroll on the beach and finding an old coin.  A real surprise!  On top of that you find out the coin is valuable!

Just over four years ago my wife Nancy and I decided to go back into the mission work.  It is a stateside mission work in Bogalusa, Louisiana.   It is truly different from the foreign mission work we experienced in Kowloon, China for 3 years, where my daughter was born and we worked only with Chinese.  Bogalusa is a multicultural/multiethnic mission work, consisting of 51% black, 47% white and 2% Hispanic.  An interesting side note is that the demographics of Bogalusa are an identical match with the church I work with.

As a result of this setting I have read and researched a lot of material on multicultural/multiethnic congregational life.  I am familiar with mixed communities, because in my first twelve years of schooling I attended 12 different schools.  Sometimes I attended as many as three different schools in one year and I lived in more than one mixed neighborhood.  Our first preaching job while supporting myself in school was with and all black congregation and was a great experience indeed!  In my preaching life most of the gospel meetings I have conducted have been for black congregations.  This has not happened out of any design, it has just worked out that way.   God has blessed me, and continues to do so, with a variety of experiences and challenges in life.

Even with my past and present experience I need to make sure as a missionary and minister, that I am able to promote and encourage a culture in the congregation that is not dominated by any one culture or ethnic group.  We need a balanced culture from God’s prospective that reflects the multicultural/multiethnic reality of our congregation.  This is easier said than done, but it is taking place and continuing to improve.

We are establishing a single congregational culture and practice that honors all groups represented.  This goal has provided my motivation to research and gain God’s perspective for his church in a changing multicultural/ multiethinic congregation. Our nation is fast becoming a multicultural/multiethinic society, moving in a direction where there will not be one dominate culture or ethnic group.

Peter Horne introduced me to a list of books on the subject and I asked Lawrence Rodgers who is working in multicultural congregation, which book he would like to see a book report on and he picked “Many Colors.”  To my surprise “Many Colors” by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, was like finding a valuable coin while taking a stroll down the beach and being totally surprised.  It sums up so well and with clarity, what I have experienced and lived through. Rah also gives me more information to work with, which will allow me to become a better minister for Christ – increasing my cultural intelligence.   The book is written in a way that anyone who reads it can digest the information and intent of the book.

Soong-Chan Rah, points out that culture may operate on three levels which reinforces what and where we are culturally.

  1. Behaviors that are learned,
  2. Ideas that reinforce beliefs and values, and
  3. Products that reinforce beliefs.

He does and outstanding job of pointing out biblically God’s view of a multicultural and multiethnic reality that God wants for the church and how this is possible to achieve.  Since cultures are God’s intent, Rah points out they are, “not inherently evil, but rather are an expression by fallen humanity to live into the high calling of the Imago Dei (Imago Dei – Image of God)…Our goal in cultural intelligence therefore, is not to erase cultural differences, but rather to seek ways to honor the presence of God in different cultures. When we are dealing with cross-cultural and multicultural ministry, it is important to see God at work in all cultures, not just in one.”

I loved it when Dr. Rah quotes David Bosch in “Transforming Mission,”

“Mission is primarily and ultimately, the work of the Triune God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, for the sake of the world, a ministry in which the church is privileged to participate.”

I hope you will take the time to read “Many Colors,” it will bless your life!  Whether you are in a multicultural/ multiethnic congregation or not, “Many Colors” will open up avenues of success in your own personal evangelism and capacity to reach out to a truly multicultural/multiethinic nation that we are becoming, increasing your cultural intelligence.

Eight Great Quotes from Eight Books

Lawrence W. Rodgers is a Christ-follower, husband, father, friend, servant, minister, and blog author. His blog is SeekingFirst.org, were he writes about practical theology, faith, family living, Christian living, and other relevant matters from a Biblical perspective. Lawrence is a full time minister, and is dedicated to seeking first the Kingdom of God in all areas of life. I appreciate him sharing this blog post with Cultural Mosaic readers.

No other task I have ever attempted to take on in my ministry has been as taxing as the task of encouraging homogenous congregations to grow into heterogeneous congregations.  No other cause I have ever endured has produced as much pain as encouraging multiethnic, multiracial, or multicultural diversity in congregations.  I have never had my efforts called into question more for any other endeavor as this one.  In my efforts, I was once asked the disparaging question if I had an agenda, I sternly replied “No!”  But, I have rethought my answer, and the answer is yes!  I do have an agenda, and that is the Jesus agenda, and within in it is the call to help the church to grow into the prayer Jesus prayed in John 17, or to help in Jesus decree for it to be on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Heaven, according to Revelation 5:9, will be the most diverse place any of us have ever experienced, and we should all work towards it being on Earth as it is in Heaven. 

This calling has not been an easy one.  However, it is a needed one.  In this article, I will share eight great quotes on congregational diversity from eight great books I have read.  These books have helped me to find encouragement along this road, and I hope they will encourage you as well. Maybe, these quotes can challenge others, and help use rethink congregational diversity, and the importance of it.

 Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church

“The work of cross-cultural ministry is a difficult one. If the task of building a multiethnic church were an easy one, then every church in America could be experiencing the joys of successful multicultural ministry. Instead, most will recognize that planting, developing, and nurturing a multiethnic and multicultural church is extraordinarily hard work. In fact, if you are finding multicultural church ministry to be easy work, I would wonder if you are engaging in a multiethnic church but within a monocultural context. In other words, your congregants are adapting to one set of preferences, and they are not expressing the fullness of their own culture but instead acquiescing to the dominant culture. That type of church can be exciting and dynamic, but it would not require cultural intelligence. In fact, it would call for cultural oblivion.

The call to build a multiethnic, multicultural, racially reconciled church is an extremely high calling. There are numerous obstacles in society and in our human nature that could prevent us from living into God’s calling for our church. We must recognize, however, that this calling to be a diverse community that truly represents the kingdom of God requires great sacrifice. The deeply seated demonic power of racism cannot be overthrown without great cost.” [1]

Missiology: An Introduction to the Foundations, History, and Strategies of World Missions

“How can the concept of multiculturalism be applied to the church scene? Simply having persons from different ethnic, racial, or national groups does not necessarily make a multicultural church. This mixture of ethnic, racial, and national peoples might make up a multiracial church. The degree to which a church might be multicultural depends on the presence of certain clues or signs. These signs are not absolute but relative.

The signs might include leadership that represents the various ethnic/racial groups. Another visible sign would be the worship style. Does the worship style represent the methods and means of each of the groups within the congregation? The evidence of multiculturalism would be when the music, the preaching style, and the worship format might not be recognized as being easily connected to only one cultural expression.

The search for signs could go further by examining the leadership style and the church governance, both of which are culturally influenced. In a multicultural church, there would be appreciation and accommodation to the different styles of the cultures represented in the church’s membership.” [2]

The American Church in Crisis:Groundbreaking Research Based on a National Database of over 200,000 Churches

“The third key influence of multiethnicity is its challenge to power and privilege. In America these qualities have been the domain of Anglos. Jesus presented a countercultural view of these two traits when he challenged the Roman view of power and authority with the model of servanthood. Unfortunately, American Christians have often allowed the world to determine their view of power and privilege, rather than Scripture. This has created an Anglo Christianity that is increasingly affluent, suburban, and educated, yet functionally disconnected from non-Anglo populations. A multiethnic church will bring to American Christianity a new awareness of these issues from a biblical perspective so that the new people of God, the church, may truly reflect the diversity and equality inherent in the gospel.” [3]

Race and Reconciliation: Healing the Wounds, Winning the Harvest

“Jesus exhorts us to count the cost before we begin any endeavor (Luke 14:28). There is a definite cost to the development of multiethnic ministry. A large number of people who simply could not adjust to the changes in our congregation left the church. Some of those brothers and sisters were very close to my wife and me. I remember the Sunday that one of our church council members came to me asking, “Just who are we trying to get into this church anyway?”

I responded, “People who are hungry and who know they need the Lord.”

On the other hand, some of our black brethren have suffered criticism and racial slurs from their own people because they have chosen to attend a church pastored by a white man. We must realize that deep prejudices have been ingrained in people from childhood. Once we have a clear perception of this matter, we are enabled to respond in love, instead of reacting in anger.” [4]

Multicultural Ministry: Finding Your Church’s Unique Rhythm 

“For the disciples to obey the Great Commission, they had to face the inevitability of cross-cultural, multiethnic ministry. At the very start of the first-century church, Peter and the other apostles confronted racial and ethnic challenges head on. Remember the story of the first deacons? The Hellenistic, Greek-speaking Jews were murmuring that their poor widows were not receiving fair distribution from the wealthy. The Aramaic-speaking Jews, like the apostles themselves, had neglected this minority group. The apostles addressed the problem by appointing Greek-speaking deacons to serve the widows. The first church practiced the dance of cross-cultural ministry and multiethnic evangelism from the outset, because of the Great Multiethnic Commission.” [5]

The Lamb’s Agenda: Why Jesus Is Calling You to a Life of Righteousness and Justice

“THIS NEXT GREAT VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL righteousness and justice movement will not be a white, black, or brown movement, but rather a kingdom culture, multiethnic movement.

Notice how I did not say multicultural but multiethnic. The “culture” we all share—or can share—is God’s kingdom culture. We can share in it whether we are black, white, or brown, or whether we are Americans, Egyptians, or Greeks.” [6]

Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up 

“Why is it that only 5.5 percent of American evangelical churches could be considered multiethnic (where no single ethnicity makes up more than 80 percent of its congregants)?1 Why is that? Five and a half percent! And we’re supposed to be living in the melting pot, the place where hundreds of languages and colors often live within a few miles—or feet—of each other. What’s so sad about this is that many people outside the church are far less racially divided. Consider the military, our places of work, or athletics. Yet there are three places where racial division still persists: bars, prisons, and the American evangelical church.

We need to see the glaring contradiction in saying we believe in hell while making no effort to tear down the walls of racism and ethnic superiority. If we’re going to take Jesus’ words seriously, we have to make a more concerted effort to forge avenues of racial reconciliation and unity under the banner of the gospel of Christ. One day, Christ will come back and there will be an amazing worship celebration—with African bongos, Indian sitars, and an ensemble of Mariachi trumpets—where every tribe, tongue, nation, and color will bow the knee to their King and celebrate! If this sounds irritating, then go back and read Matthew 8. It’s written for you.” [7]

Gospel-centered Discipleship

“Interestingly, when the church embraces the second conversion to community, very often the third conversion to mission follows. A Jesus-centered community is an attractive community—a community that encourages, forgives, serves, loves, and invites non-Christians into its community. The gospel reconciles people to God and to one another, creating a single new community comprised of an array of cultures and languages to make one new humanity (Col. 2:15). This new humanity reconciles its differences (Col. 2:14–16) in the commonality of the gospel. It is both local and global. As the body grows, a redeemed, multiethnic, intergenerational, economically and culturally diverse humanity emerges. When we act as the church toward one another, we display the gracious, redemptive reign of Jesus to the world. As Jesus’s redemptive reign breaks into this world, the church grows into the full stature of Christ.” [8]
Thanks for Reading!
~Lawrence W. Rodgers


[1] Soong-Chan Rah, Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2010).

[2] John Mark Terry, Ebbie C. Smith, and Justice Anderson, Missiology: An Introduction to the Foundations, History, and Strategies of World Missions (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 578.

[3] David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis: Groundbreaking Research Based on a National Database of over 200,000 Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

[4] Jack W. Hayford, Greg Howse, and Michael Posey, Race and Reconciliation: Healing the Wounds, Winning the Harvest, Spirit-FilledLifeKingdom Dynamics Study Guides (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1996).

[5] David A. Anderson, Multicultural Ministry: Finding Your Church’s Unique Rhythm (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

[6] Samuel Rodriguez, The Lamb’s Agenda: Why Jesus Is Calling You to a Life of Righteousness and Justice (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013).

[7] Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle, Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2011).

[8] Jonathan K. Dodson, Gospel-centered Discipleship (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).