Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sully Notes 9 | Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation Part 1 of 3

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 Transcultural Multiethnic

Sully Notes 9: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully 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. 

Here are links to the previous Sully Notes books:

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Sully Notes 9 Transcultural Multiethnic Soma Acts 29 Mosaix Global NetworkThis week's Notes begin with Part 1 of Mark Deymaz's Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation. For whatever God has stirred inside me for this time and place, I've been hungry for this book for a long time. And Mark Deymaz provided a seven-course meal. The story of what God has done through his church floored me. I was completely humbled by it. And sadly, despite my burning desires, tears and prayers, sometimes I feel like the power, humility, sacrifice, and commitment necessary to see what Mark proposes (and has lived in pastoring his church) is nearly impossible for God to do in Worcester. And yet, how small do I think Almighty God is? And how strong do I consider Him to be to not let His church remain in our petty comfort zones of narrow tastes in music, language, preaching style, and musical preference for far too long? Just how beautiful is the good news that Jesus saves for Himself a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation and that He is glorified by the expressions of Himself in every tribe, tongue and nation? Do we pray to see His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven in relation to how He reconciles people from every ethnic background, not only to Himself, but also for each other?

Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church | Sully Notes 9: Part 1 of 3


(from George Yancey) If our God is not big enough to provide us the spiritual strength to overcome racial barriers in our society, then how can we ask a hurting world to trust such a feeble diety. … We are going to have to go outside our comfort zones and be with people from other races and cultures. We will have to make a biblical commitment to minister to and with them in ways that may seem foreign to us. … We do serve a God that is big enough to overcome the racial barriers in our society. The problem is we lack the faith to fully live out the power he offers to us.” – pgs. xiii-xiv

“(from William Shedd) A ship in a safe harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is built for.” – xix

I was no longer content to ‘build a bridge to the community.’ Increasingly, I wanted to be a part of a church that was the community. – pg. xxiii

“ … God was speaking – calling us to walk by faith beyond our own understanding, experience, or abilities … we committed ourselves and our family to a journey of faith, courage, and sacrifice that would lead to the establishment of a multi-ethnic and economically diverse church … a church founded in response to the prayer of Jesus Christ for unity and patterned after the New Testament church in Antioch (Acts 11:19ff.)…” – pg. xxvi

 … our church was founded for two primary reasons: to know God and to make him known. For us, the pursuit of unity is merely the means for accomplishing these ends … our church is focused on two primary works of reconciliation: first, on reconciling men and women to God through faith in Jesus Christ (evangelism) and second, on reconciling a local body of believers with the principles and practices of the New Testament local church. Some may be surprised that ‘racial reconciliation’ is not our primary focus. Rather, it is for us a most wonderful and supernatural by-product of these two a priori works of reconciliation. ... We must find our inspiration in none other than Christ himself, who calls us to be one so that the world would know God’s love and believe (John 17:23).” – pg. xxvi-xxviii

Part One: The Biblical Mandate Chapter 1: The Prayer of Christ

“ … (7.5 percent of churches) can be described as multiracial – churches in which there are a non-majority, collective population of at least 20 percent. By this definition, approximately 12 percent of Catholic churches, just less than 5 percent of Evangelical churches, and about 2.5 percent of mainline Protestant churches can be described as multiracial.” – pg. 4

Chapter 2 The Pattern at Antioch 

“(from Henri Nouwen) Community is not a common ideology, but a response to a common call.” – pg. 13

… 'the comfort zone.’ It’s not an easy place for most of us to leave or to even acknowledge that we are living in at all. Yet from Adam and Eve’s flight from the garden to Abram’s wanderings in a land far from his home; from Joseph to Ruth, to Esther to Isaiah, and from Christ himself to the apostle Paul, it is hard to find anyone of significant stature in the Bible who was not first called to leave someone, something, or someplace behind in order to become all the God intended them to be or to do all that God intended them to do. In order to build a healthy multi-ethnic church then, we must be willing to do the same. Indeed, we must be willing to leave the comfort and familiarity of homogeneity in order to, ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’ And this we can do right here in our own backyard, that is, by embracing all people in and through the local church. – pg. 15

… the evangelists and church planters mentioned in Acts 11:20 were men of diverse cultural background: Cyprus was (is) an island in the Mediterranean Sea, and Cyrene is a city on the North African coast, today located in modern-day Libya. It is this regional diversity that Luke refers to in describing these men. In addition, what makes this passage so remarkable is that it screams intentionality. Notice that these men chose not to return to their own land, that is, to environments in which they were most comfortable. Nor did they determine to speak only to the Jews, that is, to those most like themselves. Rather, they turned from a more
natural course to embrace a supernatural one instead. And in so doing, they entered the third-largest city in the Roman Empire with a passion to see both Jews and Gentiles become one in Christ. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that ‘the hand of the Lord was with them’ (Acts 11:21).” – pg. 20

… only a Prince of Peace can bring peace to historically estranged people groups; only a Messiah can unite the world as one by sowing love into the hearts of those who for so long had been filled with hate. Indeed, only a god, that is, the one true God, Jesus Christ, can turn Jews and Gentiles – people of every nation, tribe, and tongue – into Christians.– pg. 22

“ … it was the congregation at Antioch that first took up a collection for those in need, namely, the ‘brethren living in Judea’ (Acts 11:28-30). More significantly, it was the church at Antioch that first mobilized in response to the Great Commission to send missionaries to the world (Acts 13:2-3). In fact, not one but three missionary journeys (the only ones recorded in the book of Acts) were launched from Antioch; consequently, the Gospel spread throughout all of Asia Minor and into Europe as well.” – pg. 22

So why did the church at Antioch care about the world? Because the church at Antioch reflected the world! They were a multi-ethnic people who considered it essential to send their money, their men, and the message of hope abroad to family, friends, and countrymen in obedience to Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). For them, missionary endeavor was not simply programmatic or merely a line item in the annual budget; rather, it was, more authentically, something that flowed from who they were.– pg. 23
According to Acts 13:1, ‘there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers; Barnabus, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul … Surely it is more than coincidental that two of these men were from Africa, one was from the Mediterranean, one was from the Middle East, and one was from Asia Minor!” – pg. 24

Chapter 3 | The Pauline Mystery

Men and women naturally gravitate to what is most comfortable. But again, Isn’t the Christian life to be lived in the supernatural?” – pg. 34

Part Two: The Seven Core Commitments of a Multi-Ethnic Church Chapter 4: (1 of 7) Embrace Dependence

“'Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who (attempt) to build it’ (Psalm 127:1) … those who would pursue the multi-ethnic church must actively embrace dependence if they expect to see their dreams become reality. Indeed, George Mueller said it well: God’s plan is that there shall be none of self and all of Christ. The very people who are doing the most for God in saving souls, in mission work, in the care of orphans, are those who are working on short supplies of strength, of money, of talents, of advantages and are kept in a position of living by faith and taking from God, day by day, both physical and spiritual supplies. This is the way God succeeds and gains conquest over His own people, and over the unbelief of those who look on His providences.” – pgs. 43-44

… the same genuine, almost na├»ve expectation that says to God, ‘I can’t wait to see how you pull this off,’ daily informs my prayers, demands my patience, and inspires my persistence. … Only men and women of great faith – individuals who fully abandon themselves to the will of God – can build it by trusting God from day to day. In other words, human effort is not enough. Indeed, any independent attempt of men to build a multi-ethnic church is bound to fail, no matter how much money, expertise, or influence they have. There are no simple solutions, then, no shortcuts or strategies for success they can otherwise accomplish what only God can do in this regard. The multi-ethnic church is a work of the Holy Spirit and of faith that cannot otherwise be attained through human means or methods. … we are admonished in the pages of Scripture to trust God, to wait upon him, and to seek him in recognition that he alone is both sovereign and sufficient. According to God’s Word, then, we are absolutely not in control of our lives or destiny, no matter how detached we are from this reality at any given moment. – pgs. 46-47

“The only way to build a healthy multi-ethnic church then is to embrace dependence. This means taking to heart the direction to ‘be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication … let (your) request be made known to God’ (Philippians 4:6). In this regard, it is the job of planters and reformers to prayerfully discern the will of heaven, faithfully pursue it on earth and, finally, to obey the call from day to day. At that point, it is up to the Holy Spirit to make the dream come true. And by abiding in the vine, we should expect to bear fruit one day that only God can produce.” – pg. 48

“(from Henri Nouwen) Community is not made but given.” – pg. 53

Chapter 5 | (2 of 7) Take Intentional Steps

“(from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it; every arrow that flies feels the attraction of earth.” – pg. 55

… we should view dependence … and intentionality as two sides of the same coin, for while it is true that the Vine (Christ) alone produces the fruit, it is the task of the branches (us) to bear it (John 15:4-8), and this we will do when we abide in him. Specifically, this means that we must keep his commandments (John 15:10). In other words, God expects us to do more than just pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.’ Indeed, he expects to partner with him toward that end. Therefore, he commands us to ‘go’ (Matthew 28:19), to ‘be My witnesses’ (Acts 1:8), to ‘serve the living God’ (Hebrews 9:14), to ‘shepherd the flock’ (I Peter 5:1-3) and in, ‘Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men’ (Colossians 3:23).– pgs. 56-57

“(from George Mueller) Seek to depend entirely on God for everything … Put yourself and your work into His hands. When thinking of any new undertaking, ask ‘Is this agreeable to the mind of God?’ Is it for His glory? If it is not for His glory, it is not for your good, and you must have nothing to do with it. Mind that! Having settled that a certain course is for the glory of God, begin it in His name and continue in it to the end. Undertake it in prayer and never give up!” – pg. 57

… most local church leaders (and members too for that matter) are glad for diverse individuals to get involved ‘as long as they like our music, our preaching style, and our environment. But they should not expect us to change for them.’ Therefore, the message being sent, whether directly or indirectly, is that ‘you might feel more comfortable in another church down the street.’ The fact is, we are all too set in our ways! So perhaps we should ask a few questions to determine our true desire and intent in the matter. … In pursuit of the multi-ethnic church, we must keep this truth in mind: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord’ (Isaiah 55:8) … multi-ethnic church planters and reformers must not only ‘look out for (their) own interests, but also the interests of others’ – and not only for the interests of those in the ethnic majority but for those in the minority as well. Yes, we will have to align ourselves with God’s agenda and abandon our own if we are to see every nation, tribe, people, and tongue worship God together as one in and through the local church, on earth as it is in heaven.” – pg. 59

In order to build a healthy multi-ethnic church then, we must own up to our fears, insecurities, and concerns. For instance, the question, ‘What will people think?’ should not be allowed to inform the direction God would have us take as leaders. In addition, we cannot allow our past experiences, personal preferences, or personalities, or those things with which we are most comfortable or that we can more easily control, to dictate what we do and how we do it. For if we acquiesce, we will surely build a church filled with others just like us. Rather, we should take intentional steps to draw others in, and not only to accept or assimilate them into our local fellowships but to go one step further. We must learn to accommodate them (‘to adjust actions in response to somebody’s needs;’ ‘to give consideration to: allow for;’ ‘to adapt oneself’) … it is not so much our task to reach out and embrace other cultures as it is to look within our own hearts and churches in order to prepare to receive others who are somehow different from us. In so doing, we should not expect others to abandon their own cultural identity to become one with us any more than we should abandon our own to become one with them. Rather, we are all to recognize and celebrate who we are in Christ; as from the One, many – a ‘harmonious mixture of different colored ingredients.’ E Pluribus Unum!” – pgs. 59-60

… we describe ourselves as multi-ethnic and economically diverse in order to convey both sides of the coin. In addition, we do not describe ourselves as multicultural; we want to avoid any confusion with the tenets of multiculturalism on the college campus. Nor do we describe ourselves as multiracial, because we believe there is only one race (the human race) that comprises many different ethnicities (Greek ethnos, as used in Acts 17:26, for example, where we are told God ‘made from one man every nation (ethnos) of mankind’) … we are a church for all people.” – pg. 60

“ … planters and reformers must determine to tear down the earthly walls of segregation in order to build a local church that reflects heaven on earth. And this we can do in partnership with Christ and by taking intentional steps to change the attitudes and actions of others concerning the very nature of the church, that is, by helping them to understand for whom it exists and why. In so doing, we should remain confident in the supernatural power of God to accomplish in us that which he has already completed (Ephesians 2:14-16), that which he alone can do (Ephesians 3:20-21) … we continue to wrestle with the juxtaposition of dependence and intentionality, seeking every day to be led by God, to lead others according to his will, and to learn lessons ourselves in the process.” – pgs. 63-64

“ … I am learning to embrace the tension and more fully abandon myself to this principle: Sometimes intentionally, I must wait upon the Lord. To wait patiently on God to reveal his will, his way, and his time runs contrary to my very personality and to all that the world says will lead me to success. But in and through this ministry, and more so than in any other place I have been, I have seen God work in ways that cannot be otherwise attributed to the ingenuity of man. At such times, I feel his power and his pleasure. At such times, I know that he is really the One building a healthy multi-ethnic church!” – pg. 68

Next post: Sully Notes 9 | Building a Healthy Multiethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation Part 2 of 3

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