Greetings from the 2013 Mosaix Multi-Ethnic Church Conference!  Close to 1,000 people are expected to hear from 50 or so thought leading pioneers on doing church in the midst of America’s ever increasing racial diversity.

The EFCA is a movement committed to multiplying transformational churches among all people. An example is  Open Table Community Church in Atlanta,. Check out this video below to learn more about them.

We want more Open Tables! If you are a denominational unaffiliated church planter or pastor of an independent, Bible believing church come by our booth and learn about the EFCA.

diversity training

One of the ways we move forward in the development of multi-ethnic congregations is through peer learning. The following is a great example.  It’s an email from one pastor to another on how to navigate multi-ethnic worship issues while transitioning a white church into a multi-ethnic one. 

When it comes to diversity in our worship, our song selection probably looks like most of yours as it typically comes from the CCL types of play lists.

However, there are a 3-4 times a year where we add some songs that will be sung in both English and Spanish. We will sing the song first in English, then tag it in Spanish, alternating between the languages. This lets people know what they are singing and keeps them engaged so they don’t drop out and just watch.

Several years we have had a full Mariachi Band, in traditional costume, leading us in worship. We’ve had some great God stories to go with it as we got started when I had the privilege of leading one lead singer to the Lord. He then led his 3 band mates to the Lord. We had a fun baptism where all four shared their stories. He has now completed Bible School and is in full-time ministry in our city.

Every other year we will have an African led service. We have missionary partnerships in several African countries so one year we will have the Mwangaza children’s choir of Uganda. And another year we might have the drum line from Rwanda. It really raised the level of anticipation as you came into the parking lot and saw a group of guys in African dress, beating the drums. No one slept through that service!

The short answer is that we have found a little sprinkling through the year allows everyone to grow a heart for diversity, while still allowing our folks to worship in a style that is most familiar to them. Another way to bring a multi-cultural element, and let others know that you are trying, is to add another language into your welcome. It could be as simple as saying, “Welcome, bienvenidos, we’re glad you’re here to worship with us…”

In your sermon you can give a nod to other cultures by using more than just white type of names. Instead of just saying, Tom and Betty; you could say Jose y Maria… Now be careful not to come across as condescending or wooden. And as a side note, if you don’t know what Menudo (not the band) and Barbacoa are, don’t say you like it, or you may end up with a sweet Abuela (Grandmother), saying Mijo (my son), I made you some!


Oftentimes when it comes to multi-ethnic ministry leadership you wonder out loud whether anybody out there is listening. You may also wonder if in the vast sea of racialization and polarization, is the work that you do make a difference? I joke that most leaders who attempt to cross racial lines are either idealistic or jaded with few in-between. In fact that may just describe your morning! Well today color me an idealist.

I just got off the phone with Pastor Don who leads the Evangelical Free Church of Willmar in Willmar, MN. It’s a small town of about 20,000 people but God is bringing the world there. Pastor Don estimates that about 25% of the population is non-white due to a local factory that’s importing workers. The town is literally being repopulated.  Willmar is not alone.  God is repopulating small midwestern towns all throughout the United States.  This isn’t your grandfather’s rural ministry context.

Pastor Don and his church have responded biblically. He and his leadership are in process of preparing for the harvest. They are strategizing how to reach the new groups of Hispanic, African, and Asian immigrants. The first step was years ago they started a “church within a church,” hiring a leader to minister to the first generation Hispanic immigrants that have settled there. They are now trying to figure out how to go to the next level.

Here is where my idealism kicks in. He told me that my book helped them get to where they are at. People write books for all kinds of reasons, but I can honestly say I wrote mine for one – to help the Pastor Don’s out there who want to lead their ministries to reach their communities regardless of ethnicity. It is always a humbling experience to know that God used me to play a small role in his cosmic plan for Kingdom expansion.


Christian leaders often struggle personally with how to take their good intentions of racial reconciliation and translate it to the realm of their faith and leadership.  Here are 6 principles to follow:

1. Be Bible-Based and Spirit Empowered. Issues of race were different during biblical times, but that does not mean we can’t use Scripture to address what we face today. Second Corinthians 5:14-21 is clear that we have been given the gift of reconciliation and we are to be ambassadors of it. Live out the first and second greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) in order to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). This is our foundation.

2. Practice Humility. It’s possible for someone to perform racist actions but not be a racist. I work hard on giving people the benefit of the doubt, marking them innocent until proven guilty. Real humility is to decline the temptation to put ourselves in God’s place and judge people harshly.

3. Become a Truth-Teller. A big reason people don’t discuss race is because it can quickly become emotional. It is okay to be emotional, but not in a destructive, all-consuming way. This requires that we work hard on keeping our emotions in check. When we’re with people we truly care about, we’re honest about what matters, regardless of how potentially offensive the situation may seem. Take the risk.

4. Develop Patience. Keep your zeal in check. When it comes to racial issues it takes time to understand the significance of racialization. I’ve actually seen very sincere people that were very willing to make progress back off because mentors wanted them to get it immediately. Don’t beat up people; instead, build knowledge together.

5. Be Positive. Too much time is spent on the negative side of racial dynamics. At some point, the focus has to shift toward solutions. Dialogue needs to revolve around proposed solutions. We need to be careful that we do not build an atmosphere filled with a constant diatribe on what is wrong that short-changes us spending time on what is right. Find the bright spots and study why they are bright! We have to learn to encourage one another in the Lord instead of always assigning blame or imagining slights.

6. Show Respect. All racial groups need to be treated with dignity. One killer of reconciliation efforts is paternalism—the intrusion of one group on another against its will. The intrusion is justified by a claim that the group intruded upon will be “better off.” What results is a one-sided relationship.

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As the 2013 CCDA Conference begins check out this video of Ruth Arnold who serves as Executive Director of 2nd Mile Ministries in Jacksonville, FL.  She is one of our top EFCA/CCDA practitioners.

The conference is also highlighting EFCA member Castle Rock Community Church/Urban Impact Ministries through a “Go and See” workshop on Friday the 13th from Noon-5pm.

If you are interested in doing community development under the banner of the EFCA contact me here. Make sure to note that you desire to speak with Alvin Sanders! If you are reading this and at the conference be sure to stop by our booth and express your interest.

cultivateOne of my favorite things to do is speak at the annual Christian Community Development Association National Conference, which is this week, Sept. 11-14, at the Hyatt Hotel in New Orleans. The theme is “Cultivate.”  The CCDA national conference aims to cultivate hope and change in communities and proclaim the gospel to the poor and disadvantaged.

I will host a contemporary social issue workshop Sept. 12 at 1:30 p.m. titled Bridging the Diversity Gap, focusing on my recently released book by the same name.

My colleague Alex Mandes will be presenting the Immigration Conundrum is Opportunity for the Church as a pre-conference class Sept. 11 from 1-5:00 p.m. He will also lead a workshop on A Kingdom Response to the Immigration Challenge: Providing Affordable, Authorized Immigration Legal Services, on Sept. 13.

Learn more about the workshops offered here and pre-conference sessions here. If you are attending make sure to stop by the EFCA booth, and if you are part of the EFCA join us for our President’s Reception in Strand 11B right after tomorrow’s plenary session.


If you follow this blog at all you know I am no advocate of colorblindness. Often people ask for concrete examples of how churches can see color. Today I received an email that provides a good example. Weeks ago the Trayvon Martin verdict came out. Here is how one church responded:

By the way, our church will be hosting a forum for facilitating dialog. A week after the Zimmerman trial I offered a “Christian Response to the Zimmerman Trial” (at the request of the Senior Pastor).  After the service we entered into a spontaneous prayer service (which never happens at our church) where many repented, some thought more deeply and yes, some even scorned a little.

Risky! But look at the payoff – a move of the Holy Spirit. I’ll take that trade off anytime.

Neal at the church picnic

Neal at the church picnic

Hey all a quick update on Neal. If you recall he was the man who came into my church pretty drunk last Sunday. I challenged him to come back the next Sunday (yesterday) sober. Well he showed up – kind of. He didn’t make the service but he did make our church picnic. Here’s a summary of the conversation:

Me: Neal!  Good to see you. Are you sober?

Neal: Halfway

Me: Neal that’s like being a little pregnant.

Neal: Well I didn’t drink Thursday or Friday but I did a little last night (Sat.)

Chris who pastors River of Life told me that’s the most coherent he has ever seen him. Progress! Keep praying for him.

This weekend is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. There are several events of the weekend to commemorate it.  This weekend take 20 minutes to view  this video of one of the greatest speeches ever given.. Stop and pray that King’s dream would become reality.


We are called to do justice and love mercy. We are given the example of the Good Samaritan serving a victim in need no matter the stigmas attached. But how are we to do this amidst the complexities of the justice system?

Gospel Justice Initiative calls churches across the nation to transform lives by serving both the spiritual and legal needs of the poor. Check out for more information.


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