At the Stewardship Summit 2017 at Phoenix Seminary back in January, Ms. Barbara Shantz and I shared a top-ten list of challenges that nationals face associated with promoting biblical stewardship and Christian generosity in their respective countries. In this post, I’d like to elaborate on the challenge that I reported linked to the USA and how we are learning to address it at ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability).
Too Little Ethnic Diversity
The phrase “too little ethnic diversity” summarizes the biggest challenge I see with regard to stewardship and generosity efforts in the USA. Don’t read this as a negative assessment. It’s an observation. There are many great resources but most of them only serve a particular segment within “the melting pot” of the USA.
Our country became known as “the melting pot” after a famous play with the same name coined the expression back in 1908. More recently our cultural mosaic has been labeled as a “salad bowl” because the various ethnic groups in the USA tend to mix together while simultaneously retaining much of their cultural distinctiveness—just like a variety of components in a salad come together but retain their uniqueness. If we look at most of the stewardship and generosity efforts in the USA, most are written in English and serve Caucasians, also known as “white” people, who largely come from European descent. That may be part of the reason that the membership across the ECFA is, for the most part, ethnically homogenous.
Within the proverbial salad bowl of the USA, there are many large ethnic sub-groups that have been underserved in the stewardship and generosity arena, such as Korean-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Latin-Americans, and African-Americans, to name a few of the larger groups. In my role as ECFA International Liaison, I have learned that the best way to open doors for service among many of these minority groups within our borders is to work with culture brokers from the same ethnic groups around the world.
Collaborate with Culture Brokers, a.k.a. “People of Peace”
In Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus sent the disciples out two by two into new territory, He instructed them to enter a town and look for a “person of peace” (cf. Luke 10:5-7). If a peaceful local welcomed them, they were to stay with that person. If not, they were to move on. At ECFA, as we think about engaging underserved ethnic populations here in the USA, we pray for God to help us identify a “people of peace” or “culture brokers” to help bridge the gap between cultures. Through collaboration with such a person, God opens doors with those groups more effectively.
For an example of this, consider our collaborative efforts with Rev. Dr. Sung Wook Chung. He’s a Korean-born theologian who teaches at an American seminary during the academic year and returns to his home country each Summer. While stateside, he has seen the value of ECFA resources for enhancing trust in Christ-centered churches and ministries, and so he aided us in helping form a partner organization there, CCFK (Christian Council for Financial Transparency, Korea). Rev. Dr. Chung has explored many of the resources ECFA has to offer and helps us discern which ones to translate into Korean. We are finding that pieces that are broadly based on biblical principles appear to cross cultural boundaries well.
Partnership with Mutual Benefit
Most encouraging for us has been the receptivity of our Korean brothers and sisters to having a partnership with mutual benefit. In other words, working together so that everyone wins! When our Korean brothers and sisters desired to form a peer accountability group for Christ-centered churches and ministries, we at ECFA shared freely all our guiding documents, policies, and procedure manuals. In American terms, we gave them everything but the kitchen sink. They were profoundly grateful.
When they inquired about ways they could help us, we asked how connected they were with Korean-American churches and ministries. They shared that they had many long-time relationships with pastors and ministry administrators on both the East Coast and West Coast, so we have hosted information sessions in both of those regions. The events were well attended thanks to their networking on our behalf.
At those sessions, we asked many questions and learned a lot. They expressed the need for Korean translation of church and ministry administration resources which contain counsel on compliance with American laws linked to the handling of finances. This motivated ECFA to work on translating many of our ebooks into Korean. We are also excited because a number of Korean-American churches and ministries are interested in applying for ECFA accreditation.
At ECFA, we never imagined that in responding to inquiries around the world with open hands and servants’ hearts that, as a result, internationals would lead us to deeper engagement with the underserved ethnic groups in the USA. Though we still have “too little ethnic diversity” we are making progress. Global collaboration positions us to better serve multi-ethnic America for God’s glory. With the aid of “people of peace” we are building relationships, learning much, and improving our services to sub-groups in the USA.
As of today, we have worked with nationals to help catalyze or launch four partner peer accountability groups around the world: CCFK (South Korea – www.ccfk.or.kr), CCTA (Philippines – www.cctaspace.com), CMASC (Australia – www.cmasc.net.au), and AfCAA (Kenya – www.afcaa.org). If you know “people of peace” in these or other countries that would benefit from resources linked to resource development, financial administration, and/or ministry governance, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you.