Gifts from Worshipping in a Multiethnic Urban Church – Part 2 of 2

*This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

Most churches I’ve been to are designed for someone just like me.

As much as I enjoy the Caribbean flavor of our worship, it is a constant reminder that our service and programs are not designed to reach me—they are designed to speak the heart language and meet the needs of other people in our community.

That’s how it should be, of course. But it strikes me that for all of my life I’ve been part of churches that were actively accommodating to people just like me—people my age and my race and my socioeconomic status. And I never thought of our worship and programs as “how we do church.” I thought of those things as “how people ought to do church.”

The implications of this lesson don’t stop with my past church experience. It’s become clearer to me in recent months that the vast majority of ministry resources, even Christian resources more broadly, are produced with “me” in mind. I’ve enjoyed a privileged status for a long time and never really realized it. I feel it as soon as something isn’t tailored to my tastes.

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The gift that comes from worshipping in a service that isn’t designed for me is that it reveals the depth of my consumeristic relationship with church. This is not a fun lesson, but it’s an important one.

Diversity doesn’t just “happen.”

We thought moving to one of the most diverse cities in America would mean that we would find comfortable diversity everywhere. Boy were we mistaken. The longer I live in New York City the more striking it is to me how segregated the city is. Neighborhoods and even blocks divide along ethnic designations. Schools can be monocultural even in diverse neighborhoods. It’s harder than I realized to find churches in the city that are committed to radical diversity.

All our social and civic systems work against ethnic and socioeconomic integration. It’s possible I knew that intellectually before now. But living where we live and worshipping where we worship has driven the point home: diversity doesn’t just “happen.” It takes deliberate and uncomfortable intentionality. It takes a group of people who are happy to hear all the church announcements twice—once in English and then again in Spanish—happy to sing all the songs in two languages. It takes a group of people who are willing to sacrifice their preferences so someone who sits near them can hear God speak to them the way they need to hear him.

I suppose the real gift of worshipping in a diverse urban church has been the tangible hospitality. While our service is not designed to appeal to my tastes, I am frequently moved by how accommodating people are to make sure my family feels welcome. We have been the recipients of great grace and kindness. That grace and kindness has made this vast new city feel small and familiar.

This article was originally published at: City to City.

Gifts from Worshipping in a Multiethnic Urban Church – Part 1 of 2

By Brandon O’Brien

When we moved from Arkansas to New York City, we settled in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan. Our decision to live in Washington Heights was determined primarily by economics. I just could not imagine paying so much rent for so little space somewhere like the Upper West Side.

So, completely naively, we moved into the Heights and immediately became ethnic minorities.

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In addition to being white in a predominately Dominican neighborhood, my wife and I also have two adopted children. Both of them are ethnically different from us and from each other. We are quite a sight. And we’ve received our fair share of stares in the last several months—not just in the Heights. But the one place we feel totally normal is at church.

We worship in a new church called Christian Community Church of the Heights. Our service is bilingual—with music and announcements in both Spanish and English and a sermon delivered in English and translated live for Spanish speakers. The congregation is majority Latino but very diverse. In fact, the congregation reflects the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood (60-something percent Latino and 40 percent “other”). There are as many or more trans-racial couples as same-race couples.

Being surrounded by diverse families is a gift in itself, for a family like ours. We’ve received several other gifts by worshipping in a multiethnic urban church. Here are a few, presented as lessons learned. I’ve learned, for example:

Hips can be used in worship.

I’ve raised my hands in worship. I’ve bent my knees in worship. Doggone it, I’ve even clapped and swayed. But never before have my hips been tempted to involve themselves in worship. And it shows: they are very bad at it.

There’s a serious point in here somewhere. Style of worship is more than a matter of taste. Different musical forms open different possibilities, even theological possibilities. For example, I’ve sung the song “Blessed Be Your Name” in many churches in the last fifteen years. In all of them, the tone of that song has varied from reflective, even repentant, to triumphant. But when I sing it over a Caribbean bass line and rhythm section, a new possibility opens up. The song becomes positively celebratory.

In this case, musical style is a reflection of deep values and cultural personality. Our Dominican brothers and sisters know how to party, and they know how to bring that party to church. I never thought I could sing, “You give and take away” with a smile on my face. The fact that I can do it now is a gift from my diverse congregation.

*This article will continue in the next post.

Reflecting on Passion After the World Cup

By Scott Armstrong

Many readers of this site know that my family and I were able to attend the World Cup in Russia this past month.  It was a remarkable time and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Perhaps the thing I remember most is the passion that so many people had for their countries and for football/soccer.

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I saw it in the literally tens of thousands of Mexicans and Colombians that traveled, dressed up, and chanted for their teams at all times of the day or night. I saw it when the host team, Russia, unexpectedly beat Spain in the Round of 16, and the Moscow streets erupted in joy.

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But perhaps I did not personally experience the many levels of passion at the World Cup more so than in the two games we were able to go to.  Before the first game, June 26, we were caught up in the fervor of the Danish fans who filled the Metro stations and the streets chanting and singing for their team and country.  Sadly, the passion they and their French counterparts showed before and during the game was not shared by their national teams.  France v. Denmark has been widely recognized as the worst game of the tournament.

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We knew something was wrong when the lineups came out and hardly any of the stars were starting.  No Pogba or Mbappe?!  Not even Lloris or Umtiti?! Well, at least the subs will play their hearts out, right? Nope.  Both teams knew that they just needed a tie to go through to the next round.  So, they played like it was a scrimmage.  No urgency.  No one trying too much.  All of the neutral fans grew restless and even angry throughout the two hours.  We paid money for this? We came all this way to watch this charade?!

Did you know that the word “passion” originates from the Latin word “passio” which is closely related to the Greek root “path” meaning “to suffer”? By the time the game ended 0-0, the entire stadium was raining down boos on the teams for such a disgraceful performance. It is truly hard to explain how disappointed we all were.  I actually started to cry because I was so sad our family had chosen to go to THAT of all games.  Bleck.

But all was not lost.  The final game we attended was July 3 in Moscow.  Round of 16 – Colombia v. England.  I kid you not: I gathered my family together before we headed to the stadium and prayed that God would give us a great game.  I did not care what the outcome was: I just wanted it to be memorable.

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And boy was it!   Controversy was constant with a penalty being awarded and both teams pushing and jockeying for position at every free kick.  Yerri Mina, a Colombian defender, tied the game up 1-1 in stoppage time at the end of the second half while the stadium full of mostly Colombian supporters went wild.  Then, it went to penalties, where England has a history of crashing and burning.  But not today, folks! Nearly three hours after the first kick, England buried their final penalty and proceeded to the next round while both fans and the team exuberantly rejoiced.  It was a phenomenal game and the most energy I have ever experienced at a soccer game by far (and I’ve been to dozens in many different countries!).

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I should add that, as we got ready for penalties and the supporters of each team were cheering and hugging and even praying, I started to cry again.  But this time it was out of unbridled happiness that we had gotten to be a part of an event like that.

What was the difference between the two games? Essentially one thing: passion.

I know the circumstances dictate that there is less to play for at certain times in the tournament.  But this is the World Cup.  If you are going to step on the field, you should give it your all.

This is a belief that propels me in my daily life and guides me in my spiritual walk. If it is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.  Live passionately, and especially let the source of that passion be more than football or food or movies or your job or even your family.

The only wellspring of passion that will never run dry or disappoint is Jesus Christ. He offers abundant life (Jn. 10:10) and glorious salvation (Jn. 3:16).  In my case, he has put a calling on my life to preach – and do so cross-culturally – so that I cannot hold it in; like Jeremiah, it is a fire in my bones (Jer. 20:9).

Anyone who has met me knows that I am passionate about futbol.  But I pray that everyone knows I am even more passionate about Christ and his mission.  He, after all, gave himself for us on the cross in what has become known as – you guessed it – the Passion.

If you have not yet experienced that compelling, driving force in your life, allow the one, true Source of passion to instill his fire in you. You – and all those around you – will truly never be the same!

10 Great Relationship Principles I’ve Learned from John Maxwell – Part 2 of 2

*This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

6) Admit wrongs and forgive quickly.

Taking responsibility for your actions is core to healthy and productive relationships.

If you make a mistake, own it. If you treat someone poorly, ask forgiveness. Getting defensive or bowing up never makes a relationship better. You might be right, but if you need to win, you’ll lose in the long run.

When you are wronged, forgive quickly. You’ll live with less stress and enjoy life more fully.

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7) Always give more than you take.

There may be a few people in your life that you think it’s impossible to out give them. I understand that. John would be one of those people in my life. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t purpose to be generous anyway.

And with the majority of people, you will ever know, you can set your sights to give more than you take. However, this is not about a scorecard. If you keep track, you’ve missed the point. It’s a heart level thing. It’s a way of living, and when your motives are pure, it will bring you great joy.

8) Add value to people.

You can add value to people in simple ways and big ways. Adding value is no more complex than the idea of how you contribute to their life, so their life is better.

It can be as simple as a kind and encouraging word, and it can be as involved as a lifetime of mentoring. Sometimes it involves enough love and courage to have a tough and honest conversation.

The greatest value you can add to anyone is the message of Jesus Christ. The gift of eternal life is the greatest and highest value you can bring to someone.

9) You can never encourage anyone too much.

We both know the answer, but let me ask anyway. Have you ever been encouraged too much by someone? Of course not.

Encouragement is the emotional fuel that enables people to hold longer, reach farther and dig deeper than previously believed possible.

Whether it’s your kids, an employee, volunteers at the church, a co-worker or your neighbor, take the time to give frequent and sincere encouragement. Your leadership will rise because of it.

10) Trust is the lifeblood of all relationships.

When it comes to a relationship, trust is like a promise. And you should never break a promise.

In fact, that’s the essence of trust. People are counting on you to keep your promises. This reflects your character and ultimately who you are.

No reasonable person expects perfection, but they do expect honesty, kindness and doing what you say you’ll do.

This article was originally published at: Danreiland.com

10 Great Relationship Principles I’ve Learned from John Maxwell – Part 1 of 2

By Dan Reiland

If you don’t invest in friendships, you may end up traveling through life alone. The encouraging truth is that great relationships are not that difficult. They require time, love and the willingness not always to get your way.

John Maxwell has been a great friend and mentor for over 35 years. I’m so grateful for his love, belief, and investment in me.

He has taught me so much about relationships over the years; I could fill a book. But for now, I’ll share just ten of my favorite principles with you.

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10 Great Relationship Principles:

1) We see people through our own lens.

Your self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-perception establish the foundation of all your relationships. The way you view yourself and the way you see life shapes how you see and relate to others.

Whether you see the cup as half full or half empty will transfer every time.

When you invest in yourself, your personal growth and maturity, your relationships will always improve.

2) People don’t care how much you know, till they know how much you care.

Caring about people isn’t automatic. Not everyone cares. I’m sure you’ve run into people along the way that it’s clear that they just don’t care.

You can’t learn to care, it’s not a skill, but you can decide to care. You can ask God to help you become more caring.

If you want to lead for the long-haul, it isn’t enough to be great at what you do. If you don’t sincerely care about people and live in such a way that you demonstrate it, your leadership will suffer.

People don’t care how much you know, till they know how much you care.

3) Listening from the heart changes things.

One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is to truly listen.

We are often in a hurry, there is so much to do, right? So, when you slow down for a minute or an hour and truly listen, you communicate that you value that person. It can be life-changing for them.

Listening from the heart requires the ability to make a soul level connection. You communicate empathy, interest and a desire to be helpful far more by listening than merely by your words.

4) Believing the best in people usually brings out the best of people.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Sorry, but I love that corny line because it’s true! What you look for you will find.

I was surprised one day when asked why pastors and people only say the good things about someone at their funeral. Why would you want to emphasize someone’s shortcomings?

We are all flawed and imperfect, but when someone calls out the best in us, we often rise to that higher standard.

5) People who are hurting hurt other people.

When the response to a situation is greater than the issue at hand, the real issue is always about something else. The wise leader learns how to get to the real issue.

People who are hurting don’t necessarily want to hurt people, but it’s like a lion with a thorn in his paw, he can’t help it. If we can help people take the thorn out, we can help them live better. In turn, if you are in a relationship with them, your life becomes better too.

*This article will continue in the next post.

Fire

By Frederick Buechner

FIRE HAS NO SHAPE OR SUBSTANCE. You can’t taste it or smell it or hear it. You can’t touch it except at great risk. You can’t weigh it or measure it or examine it with instruments. You can never grasp it in its fullness because it never stands still. Yet there is no mistaking its extraordinary power.

The fire that sweeps through miles of forest like a terrible wind and the flickering candle that lights the old woman’s way to bed. The burning logs on the subzero night that save the pipes from freezing and give summer dreams to the tabby dozing on the hearth. Even from millions of miles away, the conflagration of the sun that can turn green earth into desert and strike blind any who fail to lower their gaze before it. The power of fire to devastate and consume utterly. The power of fire to purify by leaving nothing in its wake but a scattering of ash that the wind blows away like mist.

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A pillar of fire was what led the children of Israel through the wilderness, and it was from a burning bush that God first spoke to Moses. There were tongues of fire leaping up from the disciples on the day of Pentecost. In John’s apocalypse it is a lake of fire that the damned are cast into, and Faithful and True himself, he says, has eyes of fire as he sits astride his white horse.

In the pages of Scripture, fire is holiness, and perhaps never more hauntingly than in the little charcoal fire that Jesus of Nazareth, newly risen from the dead, kindles for cooking his friends’ breakfast on the beach at daybreak.

This article was originally published at: Beyond Words

Coffee and Wine

“Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” (1 Cor. 8:13)

When my father was pastoring several years ago, there was a woman who wanted to become a member in the church.  However, she disagreed with the fact that our denomination encouraged abstinence from alcohol.  “Why can’t I have a little sip of wine every now and then? Lots of Christians drink coffee, and that has caffeine in it.  What’s the difference?”

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My father thoughtfully replied.  “Alcohol has caused so much more societal damage than caffeine.  But so you know how important I believe this to be, I will never knowingly drink anything with caffeine again, if you will decide to never drink alcohol again.”

Although the woman has not lived up to her end of the bargain, my dad has only drunk decaffeinated coffee since that conversation.

It’s been 13 years.

Do you care so much about your testimony that you would be willing to give up something you love if it would help someone else in their Christian walk?

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.