Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Black History Month | City Notes 23 | Letters to a Birmingham Jail Part 3 of 3

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Acts 29 Soma 3DM Transcultural Kingdom Christian Reformed Church Multiethnic Network of Missional Communities

City Notes 23: Books in 30 minutes or less

City Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

And for February, the City Notes for Letters to a Birmingham Jail help bring focus to Black History Month


Letters to a Birmingham Jail Edited by Bryan Loritts Review of Quotes | City Notes 22: Part 3 of 3


Why Traditional Suburban Churches Can't Wait

Sandy Willson: Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church

 

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA

Dear Dr. King, I am the pastor of a predominantly white church located in a fairly wealthy, old neighborhood in my city. Over the years it would not have been natural or intuitive for our church to create an intentional, intimate, multiethnic environment. During the time our nation was reeling from racial injustices, our church reached a particularly low moment. In fact, at that point in time, we would've been one of the churches over whom you expressed your disappointment. Over the years, against the backdrop of that low moment, our church has been listening and learning and changing in dramatic ways, and I have seen the hand of God at work, even recently, as one of our college students, deeply convicted by the monoethnicity of her college sorority, took a stand that resulted in significant change on her campus. As the leaders of my church and I have intentionally taken steps to unite with our African American brothers and sisters, we have been actively meeting the needs of our community and planting multiethnic churches. We've come a long way from that day at the bus station. Yet my elders and I are convinced we still have a long way to go. We're trusting God for continued grace to proclaim and faithfully exemplify the gospel of Christi, as we seek to advance His kingdom among a diverse people, committed to growing together as one family. Thank you for the trails you blazed toward this end. Gratefully yours, Pastor Sandy Willson

"I was a teenager when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, but I have recently read and reread a number of Dr. King's writings and sermons, which I find to be suffused with a radiance and power that can only be described as prophetic. We know there were several influences in his life, Mohandes K. Gandhi being one of them. But, without a doubt, the dominant and controlling influence in his life was the Christian Scriptures and the life of Jesus Christ."  pg. 133

"It was the church who refused the admittance of black Christians to their worship services in the 1950s and 60s. The lack of thoughtful engagement by the church with the injustices of our own day, although perhaps more subtle, must also be acknowledged. ... This "racialization" is increasingly covert, deeply imbedded in our institutions, and virtually invisible to most white people. For example:

  • There are two unemployed blacks for every one unemployed white (rather constant since 1950); 
  • Black median income is 62% of whites (59% in 1967); 
  •  One in three blacks lives below the poverty line vs. one in eleven whites; Median net worth of blacks is 8% of whites; 
  • In a nationwide study of Medicare patients, white Americans are three times as likely to receive needed coronary bypass surgery over black patients; 
  • African American babies die two times as often as white babies; 
  • Four times as many African American mothers (compared to white mothers) die in childbirth;  
  • Six times as many African American males are murdered as whites.

"Consider Michael Emerson's thesis in Divided by Faith: 'A strong Christian faith among whites has actually made them less effective in solving the problems of racialization because 1) they tend to focus on individual piety rather than institutional information; and 2) their churches, eager to grow numerically, tend to cater to the specific felt needs of one particular homogenous sector of society rather than on calling people of various cultures to love and serve each other in a multicultural community."  pgs. 134-135

"Professor James Cone says that the big conundrum that black theology seeks to solve is how an oppressed people can worship the same God as the God of their oppressors. Genesis 45 reveals the answer: God broke Joseph's heart by showing him that he could have Benjamin without also having the rest of the family. Joseph sobbed so loudly that all the Egyptians heard it. I think he wept because, for the first time, he realized the grand scale of God's grace in giving him all of his family back to him as family  not just people to tolerate, or people to help, but people to love in family fellowship. Joseph's grace was not gracious enough. Man's love is not God's love; and we, the people of God, must learn to experience and express the full extent of God's love. This is the grand gospel vision that Christian leaders must recapture in order for us to lead the gospel mission. In our particular setting in east Memphis, where 65 percent of our church members come from eight zip codes, and those eight zip codes are 30 percent African American, it only seems reasonable that we would envision those same demographics for our congregation. As we do, so often we find that God will begin to move our congregations toward the vision He has given us."  pg. 139

"Any student of Paul's letters knows how often he taught on matters of multiethnicity and multiculturalism. In Galatians, Ephesians, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Philippians, to name the most obvious examples, Paul boldly taught how we must treat each other as family. If the inclusion of all ethnic groups into the local church is as big an issue as we think it is, our churches need to hear solid biblical truth on this topic with practical advice about what to do. The practical teaching needs to include both historic and current practices of the church that violate the biblical standards so that every generation understands precisely what we mean by biblical racial justice; for without racial justice, there will be no racial inclusion. Caucasians need to understand, for example, that because of historic racial injustices, white skin in this country is literally worth about one million dollars over a normal life span. Because of this, if white people do nothing to reverse it, they are benefiting from and collaborating with evil. Churches that do not teach these truths probably will not be able to help very much in the advancement of multiethnic ministry. But a word of warning: many who teach on this matter in dominantly Caucasian churches have found that this teaching is not always highly popular with every one of our members. ... In the spring of 2013 I was preaching through Ephesians. When I came to Ephesians 2:11-22, where Paul speaks of the new humanity being one in Christ, I asked the question: If we were to have applied this truth radically to ourselves during the protests of 1964, what should we have done? How should Christians respond when some of their family members  brothers and sisters in Christ  are unjustly denied their rights? After admitting that if I had been here, we would not have done as well as we did under our senior minister at that time, I also articulated a radical solution: the entire congregation, led by the senior minister, should have worshiped on the front lawn of the church in solidarity with the protestors who were denied entrance by our elders. Several of our members told me they had been helped by the sermon, but I also got serious push back from about a half dozen of our longtime members. My words hurt them and angered them. To criticize our forbears seemed to some of them to be arrogant and unnecessarily provocative. Since I love our people so much, it hurt me, too, but I explained to each one of them why it is necessary that every Christian generation assess the behaviors and words of the previous generation. It is essential that we teach the next generation how to think and act, even if it humbles us. pgs. 141-142

"Over the past years, by God's grace, our leaders have been united in intentionally calling African American pastors and other ministry people to our staff. We have, with our partners, initiated leadership development programs and academic programs for African American adults in the community. We have actively participated in the Mid-South Minority Business Council. We have ordained African American officers and led hundreds of African American students to Christ. We have increased our African American membership, and have planted two multiethnic churches in Memphis. And our elders believe we still have a very long way to go. If folks feel that this kind of 'affirmative action' equals 'reverse discrimination,' we can gently lead them to the apostolic solution to the racial controversy in Acts 6:1-7, where the men appointed to resolve a serious ethnic crisis all appear to be from the minority Hellenistic population! It's called Christian wisdom. Within our churches we must endeavor to cast a biblically based vision, faithfully teach in season and out of season, and unite our leaders around a plan of action."  pgs. 144-145

"We eventually adopted Berclair Elementary School, 90 percent of whose students are on the government free lunch program. Three hundred of our members picked up glass from the school playground, planted grass for a front lawn, cooked barbecue for the parents' meetings (attendance quadrupled), painted classrooms, and read to students, 40 percent of whom were Hispanic. Our Sunday school classes each adopted a Berclair classroom for prayer and ministry. The school had been seriously considered for closure for its poor performance, but over the years, the standardized test scores began to rise. When local principals called Berclair principal, Dr. Sam Shaw, to ask how the transformation happened, he told them, 'I'm not really sure, but I think it has something to do with Jesus.' Following our efforts in the school, we began ESL classes, after-school Bible studies, and a soccer team, eventually leading to the incorporation of a Community Development Corporation. We later planted Esperanza Church in the Berclair community. We all learned something very important: the gospel of cross-cultural love really works. pgs. 146-147

"The question still remains as to how a traditional, still dominantly Caucasian, largely professional church can advance multiethnic church planting and underresourced church planting. The answer begins with a candid, biblically based assessment of our community's needs. Here's our bottom line conclusion: Memphis needs Shalom, the peace of God; and in order for Memphis to have Shalom, her 127 neighborhoods have to have shalom; and in order for each of those neighborhoods to have shalom, those neighborhoods must have their basic human needs met; and in order that their basic needs be met, every neighborhood must have healthy, holistic, Bible-believing, gospel-centered, neighborhood-based local churches. pg. 147

"These efforts require prayer and people and money and time. Established churches have an important role to play. We must freely send our members into these works. We must help new church planters connect with leaders in our city, and we must resource them with finances, information, training, and prayer. We then must join with them to strategize and collaborate in planting or revitalizing other churches. As a giddy grandfather, I can report great joy in observing and participating in my children's and grandchildren's growth in the Lord. Established churches and their leaders, just like doting grandfathers, must aid and abet those who plant gospel-centered, multiethnic churches; and then, of course, just as with our children, these new churches become our greatest teachers."  pgs. 149-150

"(We know) that in (our) struggle for justice (we have) cosmic companionship. This belief that God is on the side of truth and justice comes down to us from the long tradition of our Christian faith. There is something at the very center of our faith which reminds us that Good Friday may reign for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the Easter drums. Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but one day that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. So in Montgomery we can walk and never get weary, because we know that there will be a great camp meeting in the promised land of freedom and justice. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pg. 150

The Multicultural Church Begins in Your Living Room

Albert Tate: Pastor of Fellowship Monrovia



Dear Dr. King, As I read your letter and, more specifically, your comments about the early church  "it was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the more of society"  and early Christians  the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were 'a colony of heaven' called to obey God rather than man'  I think of today's church. We have come a long way, but I fear that if we are not careful, some may run the risk of becoming like those critical clergymen of your day, avoiding rocking the boat and remaining silent. ... You said the 11 a.m. hour is the most segregated hour of the week. In many ways that's still true. My dream is that, in dealing with injustice and indifference, we will mend the tear that rips through the soul of the church at this hour each week and become the most diverse reflection of God's glory on earth, all because we decided to 'obey God rather than man.' Gratefully yours, Pastor Albert Tate 

"As Christians, our indebtedness becomes broader than the pursuit of social justice; it is part of a much larger story. The sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, permanently alters our relationships with those who have gone before us. The hope of the civil rights movement must be more than the simple matching of names with dates and the memorization of speeches in school. We are called to recognize that the dream Dr. King proclaimed from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was inherited from a King and Savior who not only sacrificed to come to earth in human likeness, but ultimately sacrificed His very life in pursuit of reconciliation. The stage was set two thousand years in advance for Dr. King's reconciliatory quest. This truth inextricably links the past, present, and future in our pursuit of freedom. We cry out to God, 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.' It is not enough to fight, however passionately, for an arbitrary and cultural idea of freedom today, if that fight is not in pursuit of God's kingdom coming to earth. As Christians we are emboldened by the legacy of Dr. King and of the men and women who fought bravely toward the fulfillment of the reconciliatory quest of the gospel, toward the ultimate goal of perpetuating the legacy of Jesus Christ Himself, the ultimate hero of reconciliation. We are promised that one day the Lord will reconcile all things and all people to Himself, and I am convinced that his hope for the future must change the way we live in the present. Revelation 7:9 reveals to us that every nation, tribe, people, and tongue will gather before the throne of Christ and proclaim him King and Ruler. There will be no segregation in this heavenly throng. There will be no white section, black section, Asian section, or Latino section (although we know if there were a black section, the music would be off the chain). Instead, there will be one holy and united people gathered for one singular purpose: to glorify the Almighty One. Gentiles and Jews, blacks and whites, former rivals in the world, will come together in response to Jesus and His unifying sacrifice. pgs. 154-155

"John 4:4 tells us that Jesus 'had to' go through Samaria. His mission gave Him no choice but to face the tension head-on, and a miraculous interaction ensues between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. The mission of the church, the pursuit of the legacy of Christ, cannot simply be about business and culture as usual. If we allow it to be so simple, we will soon find ourselves in the trap the disciples are caught in as they begin to walk around Samaria out of habit, only to notice that Jesus is going a different way. How often this conflict arises when we attempt to follow Jesus! We set out with the best of intentions, and soon find ourselves not following Him but expecting Him to follow us. The sin in us longs to travel only the road that offers comfort and familiarity. Yet Jesus unapologetically walks the more challenging road, inviting us to witness what He will do if we choose to follow. When we allow Jesus to free us from the trappings of comfort and normalcy, there are kingdom opportunities that await us. So we march into those uncomfortable places. We press forward into the vulnerable spaces that our culture has deemed inappropriate, following the example of our King who calls us to break down the barriers of race and class, to engage in kingdom work. There is no middle ground. We cannot witness the miracle of being moved by Christ if we refuse to be moved. We cannot fulfill our kingdom purpose when we are consumed with the desire to be relaxed. We cannot call Jesus 'Rabbi, Teacher' if we refuse to be taught. So we cling tightly to the One who calls us to follow, trusting Him to deliver us from the affliction of complacency in exchange for the gospel message of reconciliation."  pgs. 156-157

"The bottom line is that our churches will never look differently if we allow our homes to remain unchanged. Is your living room monochromatic? I am not talking about your decor but rather about the people who routinely gather around your coffee table. Then take notice of how consistently the people you end up with at church look just like the people you spend your Saturday evenings with. I am not suggesting that you forsake your current social relationships in an effort to exploit your dinner table as a ministerial device to reach a more diverse demographic! But our goal cannot simply be that we want to see more color in our sanctuary on Sunday. Laypeople and pastors alike are convicted by the monochromatic reality of their congregations on Sunday mornings. However, they are too often paralyzed by the complexities of a diverse community to make changes that would threaten the comfort of the regulars. So we relegate our efforts to Sunday morning's stage or staffing where we are safe, and maintain the expectation of familiarity in our own living rooms. Our sights need to be set on the Saturday night hour as the time when we fundamentally change the roster of people we do life with. At best, the world will look on and turn a puzzled head to the side. At worst, the world will insist that oil and water have no business mixing in the same bowl. But for better or worse, that is our call as followers of a radical and reconciliatory Savior. Jesus was the perfect example of this. We see Him time and time again in the Gospels sharing meals, embracing, and interacting with people whom the leaders thought He had no business with. ... We are called to live likewise. We are called to break through these barriers, inviting people to share life with us who do not look like us, talk like us, think like us, or even vote like us. If we target our living rooms as the primary places that are in need of the transforming power of Christ, we will inevitably see our sanctuaries transformed. pgs. 159-160

"I will never forget the sermon series entitled 'God's Unexpected Family' where we sought to express how God brings different people together for His kingdom cause (based largely on the book of Ephesians). ... As I preached I introduced all the different people who would be gathered around that table: the varieties of language, social class, immigration status, political affiliation, etc. Then I began to point out some of the tensions that would arise from the vase differences these people embodied. What happens when you gather at a table with illegal immigrants who are your brothers and sisters in Christ? What happens when you gather with someone who is suffering from a perplexing condition and cannot afford health insurance? I drew attention to political parties that Sunday, insisting that we would no longer carry the party line of Republican or Democrat but that we would instead bring with us the party line of the kingdom of God. It shapes all that we are and it shapes the table around which His family is gathered. ... I had also brought up some very divisive questions as to how we wrestle with that truth. My intent through the sermon was to point out that issues get messy when we sit at the table together; tensions become high and we are challenged to change. The point was not to create anger but to create an awareness that life necessarily becomes messy when we sit at the table with people who do not look like us, think like us, or vote like us."  pgs. 164-165

"Often when Jesus is referred to as Rabbi, or 'teacher,' it is almost as if He takes it upon Himself to drop some unexpected knowledge in response. True to form, Jesus responded by saying, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about.' In saying this, Jesus revealed that the crosscultural, challenging, uncomfortable, and inappropriate interaction He had in Samaria had filled Him up with supernatural nourishment that far surpassed the nutritional value of the food the disciples were offering. The ability to satisfy one's soul comes only from the reckless pursuit of a Savior whose love knows no cultural bounds. This is the true meaning of Soul Food – it gives life where there was barrenness and isolation. What would it look like to pursue this Soul Food for our families, for our churches? What would it look like if we gave up the pursuit of comfort and sameness in exchange for an opportunity to witness the miraculous reconciliation that occurs only when we follow the example of Christ? Are we doing life only with people who look like us, talk like us, think like us, and vote like us? Or are we willing to walk through Samaria as we journey with Christ? If we are truly following Him, we cannot help but be led down paths of reconciliation, for that is the vision for which He died. This was the vision that set the stage for Dr. King and so many others who would fight for this kingdom way of living. We eagerly anticipate the day when the reality of Revelation 7:9 will be fully ours. Until then, we have a task before us: to cultivate kingdom communities in our midst. This begins not with Sunday morning programming but rather with your Saturday evening social calendar. Let us not forget that the transformation of our churches begins in our living rooms. In the same way in which we value and seek diversity around the staff table, we must also recognize the unequivocal importance of diversity around the dinner table. You cannot expect a change to take shape on Sunday morning that has not begun in your home. ... 'Guess who's coming to church'? Ultimately the answer lies in how you respond to this question, 'Guess who's coming to dinner?' pgs. 166-167, 169

Why We Can't Wait for Christ-Exalting Diversity

Charlie Dates: Pastor of Progressive Baptist Church



Dear Dr. King, As I consider your work and where we are today, I believe our problem is not so much the white moderate as much as it is the Christian moderate of any race. Over fifty years later the church is still slow to commit to the hard work of racial harmony. This problem rests on the shoulders of Christian leadership and those who believe the imperatives of unity, harmony, and diversity seem better suited for the socially conscious rather than their fellowship. This problem rests on the shoulders of those who believe this part of the gospel is optional. Every Sunday I have the privilege as the senior pastor of Chicago's historic Progressive Baptist Church to preach from the very pulpit behind which you stood nearly fifty years ago. I also have the benefit of being held accountable by great men in our leadership who experienced some of the struggles of your time. They remember and remind me of the great sacrifices made by you and ultimately, by Christ. They remind me of the privilege and responsibility I have to step up and be more courageous than cautious in the work of the kingdom. These men encourage me to move forward to calling our Christian brothers and sisters out of waiting and away from being a 'weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound' toward an extreme idea ... Christ-exalting diversity. Thank you, Dr. King, for being a model and a mentor from afar and through the years. I am grateful. Pastor Charlie Dates


"Only Christ-exalting diversity respects and reclaims the image of God in mankind. It affirms every race and ethnicity, every woman and man regardless of social location. We cannot wait for Christ-exalting diversity for four reasons. First  and perhaps most importantly  Christ-exalting diversity is God's idea. Secondly, Christ-exalting diversity is the church's primary mission. Thirdly, Christ-exalting diversity most clearly illustrates and demonstrates the gospel of Jesus Christ. This kind of diversity is the boldest proclamation of the person and work of Jesus Christ available to the church in America today. And finally, Christ-exalting diversity is not trendy. It's prophetic. pg. 173

We should not wait to bring about Christ-exalting diversity because the idea is thoroughly biblical. Dr. King considered his highest purpose to be a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The underpinnings of both the civil rights movement and his letter from Birmingham were biblical ideas. In his Birmingham jail letter, Dr. King likens his response to help in Birmingham to Paul's vision to go help the Macedonians in Acts 16:9. He presents his case for civil disobedience by illustrating the refusal of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar. When defending the appropriateness of their actions, King refers to Jesus' unique God-consciousness. Quoting Paul at 1 Corinthians 13, King describes his standing in the middle of two opposing Negro community forces, as the more excellent way of love. Finally, he contends that the prophets and even our Lord Jesus Christ were extremists. The letter is laced with contextual use of Scripture. It was King who highlighted before an international audience the relationship between the yearning for freedom and the will of God for humankind. To him, if the mission for ethnic diversity is wrong, then God Almighty is wrong. From what biblical soil could he extract such an extreme idea? King developed his ideas from the Gospels, Paul, and the prophets. The Pauline epistles to the Ephesians and Corinthians grant to us the most persuasive case for the eradication of enmity between God and humankind, men and men, and the hope for reconciliation for humanity in Christ Jesus."  pg. 174

"Paul's short epistle to the very literate and cosmopolitan city of Ephesus is perhaps the most compelling and convincing biblical case for Christ-exalting diversity. It is the story of the gospel in miniature. There is debate among scholars as to the primary purpose of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Nonetheless, there is wide agreement that the dominant theme of the letter is the unity of the church. Paul's argument is this: God's redemptive work in humankind was never to be limited to the small, provincial confines of one ethnicity. In fact, the expression of His love for all mankind was the ground from which the Gentile mission flowered. In one swift statement, Paul declares that Christ Himself is our peace. Christ's death destroyed the hostility between humankind and created one new person by reconciling the Jew and Gentile factions. Now fallen and extinct are the barriers that divided the Jewish community from the Gentiles. The church is, therefore, comprised of people from various ethnic backgrounds. Because of Christ's reconciling death, the temple no longer needed a wall to separate Jews from Gentiles. Christ's efficacious work on the cross made possible a new kind of church, the genuine fellowship between opposing ethnicities. A basic misunderstanding of the gospel contributes to the unnecessary divisions among ethnic groups. In Ephesus Jewish and Gentile believers had to be told of their equality, their oneness in Christ, and of their unique singular mission. This oneness is established in the grace of God's reconciliation with fallen humanity. ... Paul's argument through his letters is consistent. His second letter to the church at Corinth adds a dimension to our understanding of reconciliation. Not only is God the initiator of reconciliation; He is the agent through which the reconciliation came. Paul tells us that it was God through Christ who reconciled the world to Himself. Simply put, God is the supply of His own demand. He himself has provided the means by which the very oneness that he desires for His church can be accomplished. It took God to reconcile God and mankind. And it takes God to reconcile men with men. But it gets better. God is not only the initiator and agent of reconciliation; He is also the goal of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is 'to Himself' that the world is being reconciled. We can safely say that genuine reconciliation is all about God. ... On one hand Paul describes what the church is. On the other he describes the church's role in redemptive history. The church has the responsibility of both being and doing. pgs. 174-176

"Only the miracle of the incarnation guarantees success in our approach toward one another across ethnic bounds. Only Christ makes us one body. Christ is the hope of our calling. Christ is the one Lord. Could it be that this kind of harmony was on the mind of God the Father in the mission of Christ the Son? I think so. God always intended for His church to be made up of people of every kind of ethnic origin. ... I am strongly suggesting that every Christian entity ought to strive to be diverse in view of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Our being should determine. Since the church universal is comprised of every nation, tongue, and tribe, the local fellowship of believers must give itself to the representation of that diversity. ... We cannot wait for Christ-exalting diversity because it is our mission.  pgs. 176-177


"The church has participated in American racism. It continues to leave its assumptions of race unchecked and the effects of segregation unquestioned. It is slow to challenge the old, antiquated, soft-minded distinctions of what is social and what is spiritual. Dr. King was right to call for a more tough-minded and tender-hearted church. This is the kind of church that possesses the mental fortitude to critically question its relationship with the world around it, and yet possesses the tenderness to care enough to act. ... We should call the lack of diversity in our Christian culture by its name: sin. Our sin is our insistence to enjoy the comforts of the status quo at the expense of a relevant testimony for Jesus Christ. Too often, the comfort of societal sin has contributed to the growth and success of segments of the church. Large, affluent, homogenous Christian organizations must wrestle with how the fallenness of America's race-based culture has contributed to their prosperity. Then we must have the tenderheartedness to do something with the conclusions of our wrestling. ... when the church sees the unique relationship between the social problems and spiritual solutions, it must move toward Christ-exalting diversity now. pgs. 180-181

"Acts 13: Here is one church in one city, Antioch, comprised of leaders of multiple ethnicities. What must it have been like to be part of a church whose prophets and teachers were Barnabas, Simeon, who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene? The church at its birth demonstrated the power of the gospel to bridge racial, cultural chasms. ... Our coming together, despite our ethnic differences, preaches a sermon by itself. Our doing life together demonstrates that Jesus Christ is the only person who can make brothers of enemies. Our coming together says that there is something universal about Christian brotherhood without regard to ethnicity. It preaches the power of Jesus. pgs. 183-184

"We have to admit that the prophetic message is not only one of urgency but also one of extremity. None of the Old Testament prophets was welcomed as a hometown hero. Jeremiah walked around in shameful rags. Elijah lived under the constant threat of death with a hit out on his life issued by the king's wife. Hosea had a public relationship with a less-than-faithful wife. Nahum was anything but comfort to Nineveh. Each of their lives were burdened with a sense of urgency and extremity. Their messages, though unpopular, were direct from the throne room of heaven. They testify to us that God's activity in the world is packaged in urgency and extremity. Christ-exalting diversity is an extreme idea. Like the prophetic message, it will not always be embraced with enthusiasm. Very often, it will be abandoned for an easier agenda. Whether or not the church intentionally moves toward this diversity may be the telling sign for the future of the church in America. pgs. 184-185 

The Time is Now for Multiethnic Churches and Movements

Matt Chandler: Pastor of The Village Church; President of Acts 29



Dear Dr. King, When I read your letter I wept, my resolve growing stronger as I came to the end. Whatever God had for me in the future, I would learn from those of different ethnicities and have as many deep and diverse friendships as possible, while guarding against the ignorance birthed in homogeny. As a white man born to white parents, living under the privilege of the dominant culture, staying this path hasn't been easy. Whenever I have hit bumps in the road as the pastor of a large church, I find myself drawn back to your passion, vision, and sacrifice for the cause of multiethnic harmony and the type of diversity that brings glory to God and sanctifies men. Diversity that is not simply an assembly of multiraced but assimilated people can only be done through God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what my heart is hungry for. I am grateful for the course you charted, in your service to Christ. I am praying the Spirit of God would guide our steps today as we seek to better display His love for all men. And I seek to continue learning from my brothers of other ethnicities. For your passion and vision for diversity and humility, thank you, Dr. King. Faithfully devoted to Christ in the journey. Your brother, Pastor Matt Chandler

"We've been waiting hundreds of years for the Western church to become more diverse and mirror our brother and sisters in the first century, where the Christian church stood out as a beacon of beautiful bright light illuminating the distinct value and worth of every human being created in the image of God. The hope that the next generation will usher in the gathering of people from different cultures, socioeconomic situations, and colors under one roof to worship has been just that: a hope for the future, consistently punted down the field of history. But we can no longer push diversity on the next generation, asking our children to be obedient in an area we are not. We can no longer wait for our churches to magically become more ethnically diverse and continue to punt this issue down the field of history. The world is ripe to see and marvel at the gospel's power to break down walls of hostility and heal historic mistrust, misunderstanding, and anger. In the growing heat of marginalization, let us be refined from the many to the one. We need men and women of courage to lead us into humility and help navigate us through the difficulties of this pursuit. It will not be quick or easy; but it is necessary. This pursuit will require vision that isn't built upon shortsighted while guilt on paternalistic rescue. It will need to be much more than blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, and Indians being in the same room together. It must be the new community of faith that God has designed His people to walk in pgs. 187-188

"Most of us don't recognize the homogeny we are walking in because every area of our lives, neighborhoods, and schools is predominately one color and one culture. When this takes place, the way we see the world becomes dangerously narrow and puts us at odds with God's redemptive design for all peoples. For all the church's current weaknesses, homogenization proves most visible, affects us most negatively, and shapes so many of our other weaknesses that it screams to be addressed in our day. ... The hope for an ethnically diverse church comes in the power of the gospel, but the root of diversity exists in the triune nature of God."  pg. 189

"Relationships fail, typically, not because of a lack of appreciating similarities but a disregard for important, God-given differences. People are diverse in every way, and that diversity enriches relationships, humbles hearts, and lines us up with God's creative design. When we are transfixed on similarities, we make others a mirror of ourselves. Other people are simply a part of our own worlds, objects of our own experiences. It is when a person is encountered as a subject  a real person  that differences become obvious and ultimately a blessing. What can save us then from our desire of self-seeking and self-worshiping into the freedom that God has for us?  pg. 191

"A church with a theology of diversity but no philosophy or practice of diversity will never see the fruit of what they believe. So what does a philosophy of diversity look like? If our doctrine says that all men and women are created in the image of God and that differences are good and will shape and mold us into the image of Christ, one key aspect of the philosophy is the intrinsic value of learning from those of different backgrounds and cultures. Thus, we should dive headfirst into seeking to understand our cultural and ethnic differences. Whether it is musical style, dress, language, or the way preaching is handled, we should seek to understand these differences. The key is looking into these differences with a desire to learn and grow from what we find and not from a posture of personal preference or a perceived position of superiority. There is no longer  for the believer  a 'predominant culture.' We must fight against this notion and work at discovering and practicing the 'new man' (i.e. kainos) culture that our heavenly Father purchased for us by the blood of His Son. We must seek out and learn from our brothers and sisters, regardless of background or ethnicity. The Anglo who likes a more 'Anglo' style of worship will have to seek to understand the more celebratory worship of African Americans and Latinos and likewise. One way isn't better than the other; and we must always be willing to try and understand, seek clarity charitably, and defer often for the good of the community of faith and the glory of God. Regardless of where your ministry plays out with all its contextual nuances, this aspect will have to be a philosophy of your ministry. Seek understanding and shared learning. pg. 197

"Multiethnic ministry will require us to frequently fight against the pull back to what is 'easier' and what lines up more with our personal preferences. ...  a church can have a great doctrinal statement in place and philosophical thinkers sitting around discussing intellectually how ministry should be performed without ever actually doing it. 'We have sought out, empowered, and equipped different ethnicities at the highest levels of our organization.' We agree with our brother John Piper that it is a good thing to consider race when hiring. To his critics he responded: 'To the degree that one of the aims of an organization is to experience and display racial diversity, to that degree the intentional consideration of race in hiring is warranted. ... if a stated aim of an organization is to experience and display the beauty of ethnic harmony in diversity, it is reasonable and warranted to consider race as a part of the qualifications in hiring. An obvious example would be hiring actors for a dramatic production that includes African American, Asian, Latino, and Anglo roles. The producer or director would consider race essential in the actors hired for each role. That individual would not say that competency in acting is the only thing that matters and then use makeup to create the impression of race. Hence, it is reasonable and warranted to take ethnicity into account when hiring actors.'"  pgs. 198-199

"Nowhere have I learned more than when I am with men of a different ethnicity who share the same doctrinal understandings that I do. When I have had a meal or a cup of coffee with Eric Mason in Philadelphia, Doug Logan in Camden, Bryan Loritts in Memphis, Bryan Carter in Dallas, Leonce Crump in Atlanta, or Lorenzo Elizondo in Oak Cliff, I find the Spirit of God churning my heart to see more of His glory in and through a bold ethnic harmony that reveals God's glory and the power of the gospel in a visual and captivating way. ... This is what my heart is hungry for. I'm praying the Spirit of God would guide our steps as we seek to better display His love for all man. We can't wait any longer. The time is now!"  pgs. 200-201

A More Biblical Sunday Morning

Dr. Soong-Chan Rah: Professor at North Park Seminary



Dear Dr. King, As a child growing up in a Korean American church, I was blessed to encounter Christians from the majority culture, many of whom contributed to my spiritual formation. As a college and seminary student, and as a young church planter, I was blessed to be mentored by African American, Latino/a, and Native American Christians who spoke truth into my life. Micah 4 raises the promise of a racially reconciled multiethnic community. As I reflect on your letter through the lens of Micah 4, I am reminded that, in Christ, I no longer have to live under an oppressive system of segregation separating me from my brothers and sisters. Instead, I have the privilege of engaging across the dividing walls of hostility and finding a spiritual vibrancy in a restored Christian community. This vision of the unified church, promised in Micah 4 and birthed in Acts 2, will culminate in Revelation 7:9 with "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne and before the Lamb." The challenge before our church today, as in your time, is how to fully live into the promise of Micah 4. While we continue to experience the blessings and challenges of diversity in our nation. As we consider building more multiethnic churches, the work of confronting racial injustices by pursuing racial reconciliation and biblical justice becomes all the more important. It's a hard and sacrificial work as you well know. May the church seize this moment to respond to your challenge and fulfill the biblical call to a true multiethnic community of worship. Your brother in the pursuit, Soong-Chan Rah

"By the close of the twentieth century, the majority of Christians in the world no longer resided on the continents of North America and Europe. The two continents that have dominated global Christianity for centuries were now fading in light of the spectacular growth of the church in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. One estimate asserts that by 2025 an overwhelming percentage (75 percent) of Christians in the world will reside outside of Europe and North America. Philip Jenkins offers a colorful illustration by claiming that 'soon, the phrase 'a White Christian' may sound like a curious oxymoron, as mildly surprising as 'a Swedish Buddhist.'"  pg. 203

"Sociologist R. Stephen Warner notes that 'we should recognize that the extent of the new religious and racial diversity in the United States is unprecedented but also not forget that most of the new immigrants are Christian.' Many of the immigrants are indeed bringing a deep faith to the shores of the United States but it happens to be a deep Christian faith. ... Warner recognizes, therefore, that the 'new immigrants represent not the de-Christianization of American society but the de-Europeanization of American Christianity.' This new form of American Christianity is exemplified by the increasing presence of Asian Americans in evangelical denominations by Latinos, the replacing of aging, white churches with immigrant churches, and increased participation in white churches by African Americans."  pgs. 206-207

"The persistence of segregation in the US church can be traced in part to the broad influence of the Church Growth Movement (CGM) among American evangelicals in the latter part of the twentieth century. ... One of the key tenets of CGM is the Homogenous Unit Principle (HUP), which claimed that it is easier to convert individuals and grow churches with demographically (i.e. racially) similar people. The HUP arises from the sociological concept of homophily. The homophily principle states that 'contact between similar people occurs at a higher rate than among dissimilar people.' CGM advances the numerical growth as a high priority for the church. Growth occurs most easily, therefore, when you reach out to people who are in your current network of relationships that tend to fall along homogenous clusters. Relationships form the basis of evangelism and church growth and if our relationships are homogenous, our churches will be as well. Racial segregation, therefore, becomes normalized. ... The rise of the HUP as a common ecclesial practice occurred when most neighborhoods (and many of the institutions) in the United States remain segregated. The HUP reflected the social reality of staunch segregation in our society. ... In contrast to the HUP, God's intention for the church was for a multiethnic, racially diverse, and racially reconciled community. The Scriptures testify to this intention. As the church, we need to engage this biblical vision that embraces the diversity in the church rather than operate from a pragmatism that reinforces a dysfunctional reality. pgs. 208-209

"In Micah 4, we are introduced to a vision of God's kingdom that encompasses the diversity of humanity. Micah 4:1-2 says: In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.' The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Micah 4 presents the biblical promise of an ethnically diverse community that offers united worship to God. ... The image in Micah 4 is the reversal of the image in Genesis 11 at the Tower of Babel. In contrast to dispersion from the human construction of the tower, Micah 4 reveals that people stream to the mountain of the LORD, many nations long to go to the mountain of the LORD. Where once people were separated and divided, now people are united and gathered before God. Instead of a tower built as a monument to humanity that leads to separation, the mountain of YHWH established by the Lord provides the restoration of human community. Micah 4 promises the reverse of the curse of Babel."  pgs. 209-210   

"Micah 4 raises the promise of a racially reconciled multiethnic community and also offers how this community comes to pass. Micah 4:3 presents a picture of peace in a community comprised of formerly hostile people with the promise that they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Warfare and conflict between the peoples comes to an end and peace is introduced. The dividing walls of hostility will fail and there will be no more need for battle. If we long to enter into this time of cessation of hostility, is there a willingness to put down the sword that is held aloft over the other? Is there a willingness to enter into a state of powerlessness and defenselessness that will result when agrarian tools replace weapons of power? Will the majority culture be willing to yield the sword that determines theological rightness of minority cultures? Will the majority culture be willing to yield the sword that determines ecclesial appropriateness for other cultures? Will the dominant culture be willing to place themselves in a position of learning rather than a position of teaching? Almost every person of color in evangelical circles has had a white mentor, supervisor, pastor, professor, or other person of authority over them. In contrast, white evangelicals can advance through a successful ministry career without a single nonwhite person of influence over their lives. Part of laying down the sword implies the willingness to receive correction, rebuke, and guidance from those who are not of the same ethnicity and race. The willingness to submit to the authority of the other reveals the willingness to lay down the sword. The laying down of the sword implies a willingness to lay down power for the sake of unity among God's people. pgs. 211-212

"Micah 4 presents an image of a safe place for God's people: Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken. This sense of security is offered to all members of the community, not merely to those who hold power and privilege. It is not a place of paternalism and not a place of being a stranger to one another. Instead, it is a place where you do not fear that you will be told that you do not belong, you do not fit in, and that you will always be an outsider. Micah 4 not only calls us to the high calling of a racially reconciled, multiethnic community, but it also calls us to lay down our swords of power and hostility to create a community where the historically marginalized find a safe haven."  pg. 213

"A fivefold test to gauge progress toward ethnic diversity includes five categories: 1) Population, 2) Participation, 3) Power, 4) Pacesetting, and 5) Purposeful Narrative."  pg. 215


"Current expressions of the church often seek easy answers. We jump to multiethnic ministry without the prerequisite work of racial reconciliation and racial justice. Minority voices have been silenced by the church. The hard work of racial justice may necessitate the elevation of minority voices in our expression of multiethnic ministry. These voices have been silenced in an act of injustice. That injustice must be addressed. A color blind approach reflects moderation efforts that may curtail works of justice. Multiethnic churches require justice, not moderation. The work of the multiethnic church does not shy away from places of tension. Dr. King speaks of a creative tension that leads to a necessary confrontation with the issue of injustice. King states: 'I am not afraid of the word 'tension.'' Racial justice required for the work of multiethnic ministry can lead to tension and discomfort. The necessary tension of multiethnic ministry may cause a disruption in the status quo. King recognizes that those who currently hold the power and possess privilege will be 'dedicated to the task of maintaining the status quo. ... it is so often the arch supporter of the status quo.' King notes that 'privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.' The cost of an authentic and biblical multiethnic ministry requires the sacrifice of the dominant culture. Dr. King confronts the dominant culture, particularly moderate whites who are unwilling to yield power for the sake of others. ... The biblical call for multiethnic ministry requires the hard work of justice pursuit. It requires the laying down of power that has previously been distributed in an unjust manner. This call requires the radical effort to deal with historical injustice, even if it costs those who have benefited from the existing system of power and privilege. In light of demographic changes in US society, will the church in America heed the words of Scripture and lay down power and privilege for the sake of others? The church that God seeks to raise above all other high places has this moment in history to fulfill the challenge of Dr. King and the challenge of Micah 4 to live into the high calling of being a truly reconciled church."  pgs. 217-219


Here are links to previous City Notes books:



Some additional Multi-Ethnic Church and Transcultural Kingdom resources and reflections:


| 1  Recommended Books:

  

1. NIV God's Justice Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil 
2. The Mission of God's People: A Biblical Theology of the Church's Mission by Christopher J.H. Wright 
3. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah 
4. Where the Cross Meets the Street: What Happens to the Neighborhood When God is at the Center by Noel Castellanos 
5. Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield  
+ City (Cliff) Notes Part 1 of 32 of 3and 3 of 3 for Assimilate or Go Home 
6. Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Brenda Salter McNeil 
7. Is the Bible Good for Women?: Seeking Clarity and Confidence Through a Jesus-Centered Understanding of Scripture by Wendy Alsup 
8. Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. by Bryan Loritts  
+ City (Cliff) Notes Part 1 of 32 of 3and 3 of 3 for Letters to a Birmingham Jail  
9. Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission by Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl 
10. Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation by Mark Deymaz  
+ City (Cliff) Notes Part 1 of 3, 2 of 3, and 3 of 3 of Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church 
11. The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance by Bethany Hanke Hoang and and Kristen Deede Johnson  
+ Introduction Part 1 of 2 and 2 of 2
12. Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community by Charles Marsh and John M. Perkins 

| 2  Recommended Conferences Blog Posts Notes


| 3  A Sample of Initial Practices for Emmaus City Church

1. We regularly pray for other churches in Worcester during Emmaus City services of worship, including churches led by ethnic minority pastors who are friends like Christian Community Church (Pastor Jose Encarnacion), Belmont A.M.E. Zion (Pastor Clyde Talley), The Bridge Church (Pastor Ritchie Gonzalez), and more. 
2.  We intentionally recognize and honor the pastors above as seasoned mentors we can learn from in how they declare and demonstrate the Gospel in Worcester. 
3. We intentionally quote ethnic minority pastors and theologians from throughout history in sermons as key leaders who provide us with insight we need to hear and consider about the great Gospel of Jesus for people from every tribe, tongue, nation. 
4. We are intentional in prayerfully and financially partnering with ethnic minority-led church plants in urban settings like Restoration Community Church (Pastor Rich Rivera, South Bronx), Epiphany Fellowship Camden (Pastor Ernie Grant, Camden), Epiphany Baltimore (Pastor Charlie Mitchell and Pastor Trevor Chin, Baltimore), Cruciform Church (Pastor David Rosa Jr., Miami), Epiphany Church Wilmington (Pastor Derrick Parks), and more. 
5. We have the pastors who live closest above come, preach for us, and have their families stay with us in our homes (Pastor Rich Rivera preached for us in May 2017, Pastor Ernie Grant preached for us in November 2017). 
6. We commit to going to and highly recommending ethnic minority-led conferences like Thriving's Frequency Conference in Philadelphia (2017 will be the 5th year straight). 
7. We are intentional in learning and singing songs in our services that are not majority culture songs and/or focus on God's righteousness and justice like Que Seas El Autor by Urban Doxology, Awesome by Charles Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago, Break Every Chain and Fill Me Up by Tasha Cobb, Heal Us by Indelible Grace and Blessing Offor, Most High God by Kofi Thompson and Crown of Glory, I'll Say Yes by Shirley Caesar, Let Justice Roll by Sojourn, The Worship Medley by Tye Tribbett, and more. 
8. We set up residencies to invite ethnic-minority leaders to help inform us, serve our city, and grow with us. 
9. We continue to read books and learn from articles that focus on a more robust history of the Church than is often taught in white-led and captive seminaries (ex. The Faith of Our Fathers: Reclaiming the (North AfricanChurch Fathers" by Jason O. Evans; How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity by Thomas C. Oden; Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Bryan Loritts; The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytmsa; Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community (Resources for Reconciliation) by Dr. Charles Marsh and Dr. John Perkins; Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil; "Freeing the Captive Church" by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah; "A Life of Conversations" with Richard Twiss; "Are You Starting an Urban Church Plant or Plantation?" by Dr. Christena Cleveland; "How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently" by Kate Shellnutt, etc.). 
10. We continue to pray and cry out to God to bring His righteousness and justice to Worcester, and to give us the privilege to be a church that is not only for Worcester, but in and of Worcester, as He continues to shape us to be more like Jesus in the city.


Christ is all,

+ Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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