BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Laying the Foundation of Diverse Leadership (part 2)

Ramon Mayo, brings us the second part of his series on the foundations of diverse leadership:

So what kind of foundation is needed for a diverse team leading the local body? Is it just something we came up with as a politically correct leftover from the civil rights era? Is it just a shrewd marketing strategy to attract different groups to the church? More than this it is a pattern established by King Jesus himself. A natural outgrowth of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom Foundation:  Diverse leadership is a mandate and reality of the Kingdom of God. This can be seen from an examination of New Testament examples in their sociocultural context. Here are three key passages that highlight God's intent in regards to ethnically diverse leadership:

Jesus and the disciples. Although not ethnically diverse Jesus draws a diverse group of Jewish men to be his apprentices. A tax collector, a revolutionary zealot, a group of fishermen, and a few of these good Hebrew boys had Greek names. Was it a preview of what was to come?


The deacons in Acts 6. In Acts chapter 6 the early church is faced with a dilemma: How do we take care of the needs of the Hellenistic Jewish widows? The solution: Appoint Hellenistic leaders to administrate the charity to Hellenistic widows. Not only were all these leaders Hellenistic Jews who had been influenced by Gentile culture but one of them was a Greek proselyte. Uh oh it's getting more diverse....

The apostolic team of Acts 13:1-3. Finally we have the group of prophets and teachers in Acts 13. These leaders hailed from a variety of places and were of different ethnic origin. One was from Cyrene. Another was called Niger which is a Latin loan word for dark complexioned. Still another added a component of socioeconomic diversity as Manaen was brought up in the household of the ruler Herod Antipas. The team that assembled at Antioch for fasting and prayer were a model for diverse leadership.

So the foundation for diverse leadership is the kingdom of God, and anything other than this foundation will ultimately prove to be unstable ground. Diverse leadership needs to be pursued not to make the church more marketable or to gain a good reputation in the wider political culture. Diverse leadership is mandated by the scripture. It is the way the Kingdom of God is supposed to function where:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28 ESV)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Laying the Foundation of Diverse Leadership (part 1)

Please welcome guest writer Ramon Mayo, a speaker, author, and former pastor of multiethnic church. Here, he shares his thoughts in a two-part series on the foundations of diverse leadership:

Many have advocated for churches to have diverse leadership and how this leadership must look like the community it serves. This is definitely a good idea but in order for the pursuit of ethnically diverse leadership to endure trials and bear good fruit there must be a strong foundation.

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)
In my experience there have been 3 main foundations and only one of them has proven to be strong and robust enough to be effective in handling the tests and trials that come with being an ethnically diverse leadership team and reflecting God's heart.

The Pragmatic Foundation: This foundation basically says "We need more diverse leadership in order to reach more people and make our church more diverse." The truth is diverse leadership will not necessarily make your church more diverse. Here are three reasons why:

1. Sometimes having different ethnicities on your leadership team may be viewed as tokenism. This is especially the case when the leader behaves and leads more in line with the majority culture. The message communicated to those of another ethnicity is "In order to be accepted here you must behave like us and the only thing valuable to us is your physical features which meet our quota."

2. Related to the above is the church's context. Even if you put a leader of a certain ethnicity up front if the church is geographically or culturally distant then people from that ethnic group will not feel connected to the church. No one wants to drive (or in many cases catch the bus) all the way to the suburbs to hear music and preaching that doesn't connect with their real life context.

3. Most non white ethnicities are communal. We do things in groups. To hire or raise up one leader isolates them from the group and they are looked at as a maverick doing their own thing and even looked at with suspicion. Instead of white culture's perception of them as a pioneer they are looked at primarily as a loner who thinks they are superior.

The Political Foundation: The next foundation is the political one. This foundation basically says "We must have a diverse leadership because everyone deserves an equal opportunity and we do not want to be seen as racist." The truth is, diverse leadership is not a matter of political correctness. There are three problems with this foundation:

1. It cannot be separated from the motivations of corporations or academia. There is nothing distinct about this foundation than why corporations and academic institutions hire non white employees and it screams Tokenism! (see above).

2. Political correctness is based on the majority. What is politically correct in the United States is based on what the majority of the culture thinks. What happens when the majority of the culture has different thoughts about diverse leadership or diversity in general?

3. Political correctness will not be able to take you through the rough patches. The motivation to be politically correct and treat everyone as an equal will not help with the difficulties of leading and being a part of a diverse leadership team. It is not a strong enough motivation to submit and learn from others who are different than you. It is not effective at reconciling those who have been hostile towards each other. It only serves as a thin veneer to mask our estrangement.

Continue to part 2 where we will discover the strong foundation for diverse leadership...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Fruit (07/27/12)

Abuse from border patrol
On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings.  
It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

See Also:
Slow down…put on your Biblical Lens
Carrying Your Brother

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Carrying Your Brother

Please welcome guest blogger, Jan Paron, one of the founders of the All Nations Leadership Institute, director of PerSpectives 12 Ministries, and assistant pastor at Lighthouse Church of All Nations. The following article is part of her 'Living in Brotherhood' series. 

Henri Nouwen’s words remind me of the importance of carrying your brother with compassion. The word compassion’s Latin derivatives mean to suffer with. Nouwen points out that “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears…” (1982, p. 3-4). I had to soul search whether I hold a deep compassion for others that would propel me to carry my brother.

Recently, I came across a Facebook video post of The Hollies performing He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. The song’s content strikes as relevant a chord today, as it did when Americans Bobby Scott and Bobby Russell wrote it in the sixties inspired by Boy’s Town and the film of that same name. It presents a powerful trajectory about brotherhood: carrying one another, bearing someone’s burdens and sharing another’s load. Perhaps most important, it highlights the feeling of sadness over the absence of love for one another.

The song hit the top twenty United Kingdom charts in 1969 and United States twice during the following year, covered by The Hollies and Neil Diamond. This was a tumultuous period in Unites States history characterized by clashes over racial integration, female equality, farm workers rights, emerging generation and Vietnam Conflict. I was seventeen when The Hollies released He Ain’t’ Heavy, He’s My Brother in 1969. 

Every day I watched current events showing the latest news across the world. I still recall vivid television photos and film showing wounded Vietnam soldiers and embattled civil rights workers from that era. – One important piece was missing from the humanity of these events. I lacked a connection between television images and real people

Despite seeing the med evacuation of a dying soldier, I never comprehended the loss of grieving family over their son or daughter. Even though people faced intense opposition to gain equal rights, I did not encounter closed doors having been born into privilege. That my parents vowed their children would never go through what they did during the Great Depression, I did not work long hours under duressful conditions.

Compassion, Jan Paron, 2012
The wounded, hurt, oppressed and poor. These were my brothers and sisters, my neighbors, yet I did not know them. Like many seventeen year olds, I focused on the now of daily social affairs. Although I was a Christian, the world revolved around my needs and desires. So, I only recollect the song’s soulful sound, rather its message of carrying another person.

Images from the Vietnam War still form a fresh picture. Etched in my memory, I see a soldier carrying a wounded soldier, a single child or even a Viet Cong fighter. The U.S. Army Soldier’s Creed makes purpose clear. It stresses a soldier’s mission, identity, commitment, perseverance and community and responsibility to others:

I am an American Soldier.
I am a warrior and member of a team. I served the people of the United States and live the Army values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade. (Army Soldier’s Creed)

Keep in mind that a creed is a statement of beliefs. Now, reframe as the Lord’s Army Soldier’s Creed:

I am a soldier of the army of the Lord.
I am a Christian warrior and member of the household of God. I serve Christ’s flock and live out Christian values with others.
I will always place God’s mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen brother or neighbor.

Do I consistently live out this creed for the cause of the Gospel? Moreover, do I have the compassion that allows me to say I will never leave a fallen brother or neighbor? These are questions I always must pose to myself.
“So on we go. His welfare is of my concern. No burden is he to bear. We’ll get there. For I know. He would not encumber me. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” (Scott & Russell).

To ponder: Do you carry your brother or neighbor?
See Also:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Slow down…put on your Biblical Lens

Please welcome guest author Peter Kihyun Park, co-laborer of the Multicultural Worship Leaders Network, who serves in Minneapolis, MN.

“Why” is more important than “how”
Whenever I have the opportunity to teach about multicultural worship I always try to caution, those attending, against focusing too much on the outward changes, whether you’re just starting out or been in it for a while. The reason is that, at least in my church experience, we quickly focus on “how” to do something versus “why” we’re doing something.

This may be the reason why we see so many different trends go through the church.

My Journey at Aldrich Presbyterian Church 
Back in 2010 I was searching for a worship leader position. I wasn’t bringing in an income at the time and I needed a job. Aldrich Presbyterian Church was the first church, at least that I’ve seen in Minnesota, that was specifically looking for a multicultural worship leader.

The interview process was fairly quick. I think I met with the search committee, lead worship one Sunday, and got a call back within a week and a half.  And it was in that interview process that I said I’d be coming to train the worship, not just lead songs that were “multicultural.” We needed to know why multicultural worship was resonating with this church, otherwise we’d soon be looking for another project to work on in a few years.

So, when I officially came on board the worship team started doing devotionals together. I remember studying Jonah and digging into the reasons why Jonah seemed so resistant to God’s direction, which in part was racial. I remember studying Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 where we see a specific call to sing in different styles…maybe even different languages, as we read about Jewish and Gentile believers worshiping together.

And I believe it’s because all the work we’ve spent studying Scripture that the congregation has responded so positively to what we’re doing. I can only give credit to God in this matter. Why?

Because when I first came to Aldrich I heard about specific people that were resistant to singing songs in different languages and people who wouldn’t raise their hands in worship unless they were told to.

But the exact opposite has happened. People in the congregation surprise me by dancing, lifting their hands, and giving me an encouraging word about the music on Sunday mornings.

And guess what? There’s a good possibility that the prayer team will be joining the worship team during our devotional time because they have a hunger to understand the Holy Spirit from a Biblical standpoint. Praise God.

My Advice
As you’re making outward changes to your worship and casting the vision for multicultural worship…be sure to slow down and put on your Biblical lens. Make sure your team and the people in the congregation know why multicultural worship is so important. Remind them that this is one of the benefits that we received when Christ paid for our sins, which is unity in a diverse Body.

I’ll leave you with some words from a good friend of mine who said, “Our worship flows from our understanding of who God is.” I can’t echo that enough.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Fruit (07/20/12)

On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings. 
It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

See Also:
Sharing our Stories: Living on the Southside
Break In

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sharing our Stories: Living on the Southside

The following is adapted from a BTSF article that originally appeared on the blog of IVCF's The Well.

Many of our colleagues and mentors wince when they learn where my husband and I live. They assume it was our only choice on grad students’ stipends.

We came to Columbus to pursue doctoral degrees, but moved into one of the city’s blighted neighborhoods to build relationships with sisters and brothers in Christ. We believe that to draw nearer to God’s grace requires falling in love with His children. And it’s hard to fall in love from arm’s length. In the process, we’ve learned just how abundant this life can really be.

We joined a neighborhood church that ministers to underprivileged folks in our area, building a community that desires radical fellowship across established lines of division. Together, we share meals, birthdays, burdens, and joys. The richness of the Kingdom is lived out in the beautiful mix of people learning to embrace one another.

My Sunday mornings are shared with many races, languages, and cultures; the very wealthy and the destitute, high school dropouts and tenured professors, mental illness and academic genius. We have found that as we draw near in friendship to those we might otherwise ignore, we enter into a more intimate relationship with the Body of Christ. We begin to understand His Kingdom more clearly, both as it is, and how it could be.

And yet such diversity is often hard to come by in the very institution that professes holy community and unity. The Church struggles to reflect the fully diverse image of Christ. In particular, racial and socioeconomic diversity is disproportionately low in our churches. We sometimes feel helpless to combat it, or are too unfamiliar with the injustices that contribute to it. Too often, outreach to marginalized populations becomes tokenized, treated as the “pet projects” of a few invested leaders.

If we become too entrenched in our own work and fail to pay forward our blessings, we all miss out on the opportunities God has for us. What insights into God’s creation are we missing because the best-suited person isn’t in the sanctuary to share it with us? We need engaged minds tackling humanity’s questions from a wide range of perspectives. When we are surrounded by homogeneity we stifle ourselves, both in our witness and our personal spiritual growth.

At the moment, my husband and I find ourselves in a very fortunate position. We have few responsibilities, no dependents, and the freedom to live where we choose. We are in a unique time of our lives: we enjoy many privileges, but also are not yet so financially advantaged as to become isolated from the rest of the world.

Ministry 'with', not just 'for' or 'to'
As we grow in our careers, hopefully one day gaining professional positions, children, and other responsibilities, we may not be so willing to live as we do now. The temptation to sequester ourselves will become stronger. We will be more inclined to engage in charity rather than to invest in relationships and mutual edification. My prayer is that we will remain intentional and intimately engaged with the pursuit of God’s Kingdom both within and apart from the university.

If you have a personal story or testimony about your journey with racial justice and reconciliation, share with us below, or as a BTSF submission!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Friday Fruit (07/13/12)

On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings. 
It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

See Also:
Reclaiming Patriotism
What is a post-9/11 American?
Immigration: Stranger in a Strange Land

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Whites Only"

Each year over the 4th of July holiday, Pastor William J. Collier and the Church of God's Chosen host a Christian conference and retreat--for white people only.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to declare how crazy and misguided they are, to denounce them as Christians. We want to brush them aside as an anomaly. But are they?

Much has been written about the obvious appalling nature of such an event being held in today's world. Clearly, none of us would make statements like this group has.

But what if they are simply saying with their lips what we say every day with our actions? "Whites only." Do the demographics of your church match those of your city? Why or why not might that be?

What kind of music is your church's worship?
What faces are represented on your website and powerpoint slides?
How does your church take up the offering?
How are the sermons structured?
What do your leaders look like?
How are your social gatherings conducted?
What are the topics of conversation after the service, and what issues get ignored?

These factors that make up a church's culture. That culture may be sending a message of "white only." Though we may intend to be welcoming, our awkward questions, ignorant statements, and sideways glances make the truth all too clear.

When our behavior 'otherizes' newcomers, we maintain an environment of segregation. Our intent may be different from that of the Church of God's Chosen, but the net effect is the same. If we say with our lips that the Church is open to all, but take no actions to make it true, we make liars of ourselves and of the Gospel.

To be clear, there is an important place for race- and ethnicity-specific worship and fellowship. Understanding one's own identity in Christ and in the context of one's ethnicity is a central part of the process of spiritual growth (including for those in the majority position). It can also be exhausting to maintain an attitude of worship when you feel you are sticking out from the crowd. So, when it comes to worshiping God, sometimes it is helpful to remove that burden when we can. Likewise, it is important for folks in the majority to explore their identity and what that means for the modern Church. But in either case, such moments should never promote exclusivity, isolation, or stratification of the Body of Christ.

When confronted about their 'whites only' conference, the folks at the Church of God's Chosen were quick to respond with a couple of tired arguments that are, unfortunately, all too common among more mainstream churches:

"We didn't mean to offend anyone"This statement is often the first line of defense for indignant offenders. But, though we don't always intend to sin against one another, the consequences are real all the same. Even if the cross-burning at Collier's conference were some 'sacred ritual,' Christians have an obligation to be knowledgeable and sensitive to the things that cause pain for our siblings in Christ. Singing about 'whiteness' in conjunction with 'goodness' and 'purity' might feel innocuous, but what message does it send? When we say ignorant comments in making conversation, when we "appreciate" someone's culture by caricaturing it, when we touch someone's hair because it's different from our own--we don't mean to be offensive, but sometimes simply being oblivious to the context and the potential for offense, is hurtful enough.

"It's our right to worship the way we want" It is true that the US Constitution grants freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but the Bible grants no such things--quite the opposite! We know that "if anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless" (James 1:26). Nor do we as Christians have the freedom to worship as we please. Worship is not about pleasing ourselves. It's it for God's glory. And how can a divided church be for God?

Don't just roll your eyes at Collier's conference. Don't just suck your teeth at his ignorance. This is the Christ that is getting the publicity. This is the stereotype that is being reinforced. This is our responsibly.

Folks like Collier offer us the opportunity to shake our heads and externalize bigotry, without fully examining our own exclusivity. However, Jesus told us that although murder is a sin, so is harboring anger. He said that adultery is a sin, but so is lust in one's mind. If a "whites only" conference is a sin, what does that say about a "whites only" heart?

See Also:
We are Gulnare Free Will Baptist 
I am George Zimmerman
Inclusivity in Campus Ministry

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Friday Fruit (07/05/12)

On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings. 
It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:
  • Christianity's Strange Fruit: Alabama 'Whites Only' Christian Conference
    • We may discuss this more in its own post this week. Thanks for the heads up, Dan. 

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

See Also:
Reclaiming Patriotism
What is a post-9/11 American?
Immigration: Stranger in a Strange Land

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Reclaiming Patriotism

What is patriotism? Who loves America?

Millions of patriots wave the flag and declare that they love USA. But which USA? Sometimes it seems we love a country that never existed, and despise the country we actually have. Do we really mean 'God bless America'? Or just God bless myself?

The reality is we do a poor job of loving most of America.  We love the declaration of independence, but continue to live as though much of it is a lie. We do not believe we are all "created equal," but instead that some of us are just plain lazy, stupid, ill-fit, and unworthy. We value 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' but deny it to the 49 million Americans living below the poverty line.

We rally around the Constitution but ignore its very first sentence, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility." Have we forgotten this founding mission, even as we make false idols of our founders?

The same revered document admonishes us to 'provide for the general Welfare,' yet we despise families that are in need of such support. 

We fight to keep the Pledge of Allegiance intact in our schools, but ignore the words "and justice for all"--we like to pretend that it just says "with liberty." We behave as though 'liberty' and 'justice' are opposing forces, forgetting that they have always been, and must remain, inextricable allies. We pride ourselves on our freedom, while maintaining the highest incarceration rate in the world (we hold ~25% of the world's prisoners in our cells).

We laud Independence Day 1776, knowing that millions did not gain freedom for another century, and that millions more remain in bondage today. We celebrate July 4th, knowing that in the creation of one nation, hundreds of others lost their sovereignty.
We wear t-shirts with the Statue of Liberty, but bare our teeth at the immigrants she was erected to welcome. We love her flame held high, but spit at the plaque at her base: "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." But given our history, you cannot be a patriot of this country and a bigot toward our immigrants at the same time.

We declare 'support our troops!'  But if you 'support our troops' that means you must support our young, our poor, our people of color-- the populations that are fighting our wars. But we cheer our troops while maintaining the systems of injustice that oppress the soldiers fighting on our behalf. 

If you 'support our troops,' it means you keep their streets at home just as safe as they have kept the streets abroad. It means you give them access to the homes and jobs that they have kept secure. It means you provide the healthcare that keeps their families healthy. It means if they are legal to fight, they are legal to attend school, and that you admit them into your colleges. 

We wage war against those that killed ~3000 on September 11th, but turn a blind eye to the 245,000 poverty-related deaths that occur every year. Is our reaction different because of the identity of the victims, or that of the aggressors?  

You say you are afraid of those that want to destroy our country. But so am I. I love the USA. So much so that I will not stand for the bigots, the oppressors, and the fear mongers who try to destroy it. We need to understand that our 'American values' are meaningless if they apply only to the privileged. We need to make clear everything that is anti-American about hate.

We need to reframe what it means to love America and who gets to be the patriots. It is patriotic to care for our neighbors. It is patriotic to educate our children, feed our hungry, and clothe our naked. We need to reclaim patriotism for the Americans.
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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