A s founder and senior pastor of one of the nation's leading multicultural churches, it's fitting that David A. Anderson offers an antidote to prejudice and injustice in his latest book, Gracism: The Art of Inclusion.
The pastor and author draws from his experience in leading Bridgeway Community Church, located in Columbia, Md., while advocating the principle of "gracism," which he describes as the radical inclusion of the marginalized and excluded. He calls for the church to extend God's grace to people of all backgrounds, and he suggests offering gracism as a sacred alternative to the secular models of affirmative action or colorblindness.
We recently caught up with Anderson to talk about the hot-button issues of color, class and culture that he addresses head-on in his book.
MINISTRY TODAY: Can you discuss the difference between gracism and racism in principle, and how this difference is practiced in the real world?
DAVID A. ANDERSON: Gracism is the positive extension of favor to others based on or in spite of their color, class or culture. Racism, on the other hand, is speaking, acting or even thinking negatively about others solely based on their color, class or culture. The two are diametrically opposed.
Favor extended beyond what others deserve, can earn or repay is the way God relates to all of us human beings. I propose that we relate to others in our world the same way. In the real world this means that I show extra favor to the outcast, the hurting, the minority, the person who doesn't fit in, the one who lacks resources or simply the persons who tend to be the punch lines of jokes.
Gracism reaches out to the vulnerable or to the person who lacks honor. In one's church this could mean the silent servants who don't possess the public platform gifts but work really hard behind the scenes.
Another example of gracism for those who lack honor are the homeless who live an embarrassingly open life as they ask for money. A gracist draws near to them instead of ignoring their existence. God is the biggest gracist of us all!
MINISTRY TODAY: How does gracism differ from affirmative action or colorblindness as an alternative to institutional racism, and can it work outside church?
ANDERSON: Affirmative action forces the powers that be to ask questions that gracists naturally ask. Gracism is committing to actions that are affirmative of all people and seeks inclusion over exclusion. Gracism can work outside the church if those in power in government or around the boardroom table raise a voice for those who don't have one. Advocating for those who are the minority or who are powerless or who don't have representation is a very practical way to live as a gracist. For example, if women are under-represented at a boardroom meeting, a gracist male in the room will ask the question, "What will this decision mean for the women in our company?"
MINISTRY TODAY: Of the four ways you mention to extend grace toward others—service, speech, stewardship and sitting—how is sitting exercised as a grace?
ANDERSON: When we sit with others in their environment, we are saying to them that we are sharing our time and our love with them in their worlds and not only on our playing field. Gracists don't simply say, "Come to me, everyone is welcome." Gracists go to others and sit with them in their environment to affirm their value and give dignity to them in their homes, neighborhoods and surroundings. Isn't it interesting how Christ met the woman at the well in her environment by walking her way and giving dignity to her routine of life?
MINISTRY TODAY: While advocating that the majority stand with minorities, you acknowledge that minorities also can be racist. With this in mind, how is reconciliation activated?
ANDERSON: Reconciliation is activated by forgiveness. Forgiveness only takes one person. Reconciliation, on the other hand, takes two. It takes two people to come into agreement. Reconciliation is based on agreement. Before we can get to reconciliation, someone has to move toward the other in forgiveness. This is what Christ did for us. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," the Bible says. He said on the cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
The stronger have a responsibility to the weaker. The parent takes on the bigger burden for the child. The rich have a responsibility to the poor. The majority has a responsibility to protect the minority. Why? Because God says, "What you have done for the least of these you have done for Me."
MINISTRY TODAY: You distinguish between favor and favoritism as means of extending grace toward others. How might people share the former without showing the latter?
ANDERSON: Favor can be shown by extending God's grace to all people and not just showing favoritism to friends, family and secret club members. Favor extended to those who don't have the special perks is what gracism is all about. We do this by bringing people with us to our private clubs when they don't have memberships. We do this by ensuring that our friend who is purchasing a car or who is attempting to get a bank loan can lean on our knowledge and networks to get the best deals.
We would have no chance of getting into the gated community of heaven if we didn't have permission to use Jesus' access card stained with his blood. He paid, we enjoy. If that isn't a picture of gracism, nothing is. I've got a mansion built for me in eternity that I didn't even earn, yet the mortgage note has already been paid. Now that is favor!
PREVENTING MINISTRY FAILURE
Authors: Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffman
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
File Under: Pastoral Ministry
Drawing upon years of experience in counseling pastoral leaders, Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffman offer their insights to those facing challenges in ministry. As founders of ShepherdCare, a counseling service for ministry professionals, Wilson and Hoffman have devoted themselves to treating those wounded in Christ's service.
Preventing Ministry Failure is a workbook for Christian leaders providing practical advice to pastors who are experiencing trials—or simply hoping to avoid them. The authors focus on seven "foundation stones" vital to a successful ministry. As they discuss topics ranging from intimacy and stress management to establishing proper boundaries and dealing with transitions, scarcely any aspect of ministry is left unmentioned. Each section is filled with helpful questions for reflection.
With so much material, however, much of it can be dealt with only in a cursory fashion. Wisdom gained at enormous personal expense is distilled to the point of abstraction. For example, though it may be diagnostically useful, there's something almost perverse about assigning a value of "100" to the death of a spouse on the "Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale."
Preventing Ministry Failure is certainly a valuable resource, but it's intended as an aid—not a substitute for the accountability of a wise and godly mentor.
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on these criteria: Practicality (4); Insight (3); Theological Depth (2); Readability (5).
REVIEWER: David Rogers
UNCHRISTIAN: WHAT A NEW GENERATION REALLY THINKS ABOUT
CHRISTIANITY ... AND WHY IT MATTERS
Authors: David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
Publisher: Baker Books
File Under: Culture
UnChristian is the result of extensive research conducted by David Kinnaman, president of research firm The Barna Group, and commissioned by Gabe Lyons, founder of the creative cooperative Fermi Project. Based on the feedback of 16- to 29-year-olds, the authors suggest that the church has become known more for what it is against than who it is for. The overall message for the church: We must become Christ-like again.
According to the research, today's young people tend to hold negative perceptions of Christianity, including such descriptions of the church as hypocritical, insincere, anti-homosexual, sheltered, judgmental and too political. The very age group polled is also the generation noted for the shallowness of its faith, so perhaps one lesson to be drawn from the study is the overwhelming need for intentional discipleship.
Incorporated at the close of the chapters under the heading "Changing the Perceptions" are several insightful comments from some innovative church leaders. They are meant to challenge readers' thinking about issues and their attitudes toward what the authors call "outsiders." While acknowledging that perception is reality, UnChristian doesn't call for a public relations makeover but instead challenges readers to cultivate a personal relationship with Christ and concentrate more on walking the walk than talking the talk.
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on these criteria: Practicality (5); Insight (4); Theological Depth (4); Readability (4).
Reviewer: Sean Fowlds
COUNTDOWN TO SUNDAY: A DAILY GUIDE FOR THOSE WHO DARE TO PREACH
Author: Chris Erdman
Publisher: Brazos Press
Countdown to Sunday is chock-full of practical lessons gleaned from author Chris Erdman's more than 20 years of preaching experience as a full-time pastor and seminary homiletics teacher. The author, who currently serves as senior pastor of University Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif., organizes the lessons into brief chapters that run from Monday through Sunday and address the daily issues faced by practicing preachers, including sermon preparation, special events and time management.
Drawing inspiration from the likes of U2 frontman Bono as well as the lectionary and Scripture, Erdman finds sermon helps in both the secular and the sacred. One of the more valuable lessons he shares is how his preaching started ministering mightily to his church after he quit trying to master the text and instead allowed the text to master him. "The apostles, by and large, were not skilled orators; they dropped their masks, opened a vein, and bled for God," he writes.
Given his background as a reformed minister, readers may take exception with some of Erdman's more liberal theological stances; but, overall, his attempt to offer training and tools to preaching practitioners achieves its aim. When all is said and done, Countdown to Sunday reminds readers of the holy call to communicate and shows them how to become more proficient at it.
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on these criteria: Practicality (4); Insight (3); Theological Depth (3); Readability (4).
REVIEWER: Sean Fowlds
THE FIVE SMOOTH STONES
Author: Roberston McQuilkin
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
File Under: Ministry
Ministry methodologies, like fads, come and go. What then are the enduring principles of successful ministry? Drawing from more than 50 years of service in the church and academia, Robertson McQuilkin hones in on five core standards he calls the "five smooth stones": the Bible (it is our ultimate authority); the Congregation (we must align with God's purposes); the Spirit (we must be led by His power); the Plan of Redemption (proclaiming it is every follower's mission); and the Lord Jesus Christ (we must follow His example of servant leadership).
The title, of course, references one of the most beloved stories from the Old Testament: David, armed with his sling and five smooth stones, facing Goliath, the young man's towering nemesis. Unfortunately, this battle metaphor remains inconsistent and incongruous throughout the book because its overall tone is not polemical.
McQuilkin writes simply yet never simplistically, and he enhances his contents with lists, charts and graphics. Within the first few chapters it becomes obvious that The Five Smooth Stones is the distillation of his lifelong journey to grasp the foundation of successful and fruitful ministry. To that degree, he balances deep theology with practical application, as evidenced by his inclusion of a flow chart and a series of diagnostic questions for evaluating the biblical authority for either a doctrine or activity.
Rate the book from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on these criteria: Practicality (4); Insight (4); Theological Depth (5); Readability (4).
REVIEWER: C. Brian Smith