How Bible Engagement Project Connects Believers in Multiethnic Churches
By Renée Griffith | Posted In Personal Stories
Charisma Life Church of Pomona, CA, is a Filipino-American church with a growing multiethnic population, increasing even faster due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Newly appointed lead pastor Alan Dionson knows firsthand the struggle to connect people when church has moved entirely online—and even more so when many are tuning in from all over the world. In looking for curriculum that can seamlessly unite internationals living oceans apart, he turned to Bible Engagement Project.
“I first heard about Bible Engagement Project when I attended a Filipino-American fellowship Zoom meeting with our Assistant General Superintendent Rick DuBose. I thought that Bible Engagement Project would be a great way to reunite the congregations within our church that have been split apart since the pandemic,” Pastor Alan shares.
Thirty-five percent of Charisma Life Church attendees are not Filipino, and they represent nearly thirty other ethnicities. Charisma Life Church held five different in-person language services: Tagalog (an official languages of the Philippines), Spanish, Indonesian, Thai, and English—until the strike of the COVID-19 pandemic. “All our services have been disrupted because of the pandemic,” said Pastor Alan, “and we’ve moved everything online.”
“We have seen our global outreach expand as people watch our services from several European countries and Australia. In addition, Chinese, Filipino, and Indian workers can be very migrant,” Pastor Alan explains, “and their family members back home may tune in to watch church with them. So while our leadership team is in Pomona, the bulk of our weekly attendance is truly from all over the world.”
Pastor Alan’s leadership team is divided into seven geographical districts, each overseen by five to seven life groups of ten to fifteen people each. Online life groups have been the lifeline of Charisma Life Church during the pandemic, with nearly 60 percent of the church (about 380 people) connected in this way.
Weekly, Pastor Alan gathers these district pastors into “prototypes”—a small group of their own in which they pray over and go through the curriculum that will be implemented in the coming weeks. “This is our life group, and we work through sessions together so that the district pastors can teach the material to their teams who will teach the rest of the people,” explains Pastor Alan. “We can’t really lead if we haven’t been transformed by what we’re learning in the Word of God.”
The prototype groups have begun making their way through Listen, the first forty weeks of the Bible Engagement Project curriculum. On the last Sunday in September, they kicked off a four-week promotional campaign introducing their church to Bible Engagement Project.
“Bible Engagement Project is a blessing to this diverse church because, in a sense, it’s plug-and-play: it comes with graphics, promotional material, small-group leader training, and all materials in-app, so I don’t have to go print anything for all my small group leaders. I just send them a link to download the app, and they have what they need.” (While Adult and Youth curriculum is contained exclusively in the app, Kids and Preschool curriculum requires downloading and printing some materials for kids.)
As the prototypes progress through Listen sessions, Pastor Alan is hopeful about the prospects of whole-church discipleship that Bible Engagement Project presents. A product of discipleship himself (discipled through Chi Alpha, a student Christian fellowship on college and university campuses), he believes firmly in the power of teaching others the Word of God by example.
[Part 2 of this article will be published after Charisma Life Church implements Bible Engagement Project in their geographical districts.]