Preaching to Multiethnic Congregation

Positive Marginality as a Homiletical Paradigm

by Woosung Calvin Choi (Author)
©2015 Monographs VIII, 169 Pages
Series: American University Studies , Volume 349


The impact of globalization is widespread, affecting every sector of society, and the Church is not immune from such influence. Churches are awakening to diversifying pews and finding it difficult to insist on strict homogeneity. This shift in congregational composition has raised homiletical challenges for preachers who need to learn to effectively minister the Word in culturally diverse situations. This book offers multiethnic congregations a homiletical paradigm under the title «positive marginality». The paradigm includes the five principles of positive marginality: Embrace, Engage, Establish, Embody, and Exhibit. This paradigm is measured against seven preachers currently preaching in multiethnic churches in six different countries. These preachers offer valuable insights and suggest a positive correlation between the proposed paradigm and the homiletical practice of the preachers in multiethnic congregations. This book will serve well for pastors, preaching professors, seminary students, and seasoned preachers alike.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Research Questions
  • Definition of Key Terms
  • Chapter 1. The Emergence of Cross-cultural Preaching
  • An Historical Overview of Homiletics in the Twentieth Century
  • The First Half of the Twentieth Century
  • The Second Half of the Twentieth Century
  • The New Homiletic
  • The Transition into the Twenty-first Century
  • Multiethnic Ministry Movement
  • Cross-cultural Preaching
  • The Influence of the New Homiletic on Cross-cultural Preaching
  • A New Direction for Preaching in the Twenty-first Century
  • Chapter 2. An Intercultural Model for Use in Homiletics
  • Culture and Intercultural Communication
  • Yoshikawa’s Model Defining Positive Marginality
  • Buber’s Philosophy of Dialogue
  • The Concept of the Middle Way
  • Understanding the Double-swing Model
  • Issues concerning Intercultural Communication Model and Homiletics
  • Adopting Yoshikawa’s Double-swing Model for Use in Homiletics
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 3. The Concept of Positive Marginality
  • Rethink Marginality
  • Defining Positive Marginality
  • The Correlation between the Double-swing Model and the Concept of Positive Marginality
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 4. Positive Marginality as a Homiletical Paradigm
  • The Three Underlying Assumptions
  • Paradoxical Relationship
  • Dialogical Unity
  • The Preacher in Multiple Worlds
  • The Five Principles of Positive Marginality: Towards a Positive Marginal Preacher
  • Embrace
  • Engage
  • Establish
  • Embody
  • Exhibit
  • Summary
  • The Five Principles of Positive Marginality Paradigm: Sermon Design
  • Embrace
  • Engage
  • A Multiperspectival Approach
  • Three Stages of the Multiperspectival Approach
  • Establish
  • Embody
  • Exhibit
  • Summary
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 5. A Biblical Perspective on Positive Marginality
  • Biblical Foundation for Positive Marginality
  • The Great Commission
  • A Call to Holiness
  • Aliens and Strangers
  • Summary
  • Paul as a Positive Marginal Preacher
  • Philippians as an Example of the Positive Marginality Homiletical Paradigm
  • Embrace
  • Engage
  • Establish
  • Embody
  • Exhibit
  • Summary
  • Theological Implications of Positive Marginality
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 6. Research Design and Methods
  • Assumptions and Parameters
  • Selection of Multiethnic Churches: Questionnaire
  • Selection of Preachers: Sermon Assessment
  • Semi-Structured Qualitative Interviews with Preachers
  • Pastor A
  • Pastor B
  • Pastor C
  • Pastor D
  • Pastor E
  • Pastor F
  • Pastor G
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 7. How the Preachers Reflect Positive Marginality as a Homiletical Paradigm
  • Positive Marginality Homiletical Paradigm: The Preachers
  • Embrace
  • A Keen Awareness of Racial Barriers
  • A Celebration of Ethnic Diversity
  • Engage
  • An Attitude of Intentionality
  • A Teachable Spirit
  • Establish
  • Cultivating an Atmosphere of Trust
  • Embody
  • Adherence to the Word and the Gospel
  • Exhibit
  • Accountability and Influence
  • Summary
  • Positive Marginality Homiletical Paradigm: Sermon Design
  • Embrace
  • Corporate Affirmation of Vision Statement
  • Identification of a Cross-cultural Need
  • Engage
  • The Authority of Scripture
  • The Practice of Seeing through a Different Set of Eyes
  • Establish
  • The Use of a Variety of Cultural Stories
  • The Preaching of Drawing out the Positives
  • Embody
  • Exhibit
  • A Call to Communal Response
  • Summary
  • The Validity of the Positive Marginality Homiletical Paradigm
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 8. Conclusion
  • Learning from the Study
  • Methodological Critique
  • Areas for Further Research
  • Appendix: Examples of Positive Marginal People in the Old Testament
  • Abraham
  • Moses
  • Ruth
  • Daniel
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. The Emergence of Cross-cultural Preaching
  • Chapter 2. An Intercultural Model for Use in Homiletics
  • Chapter 3. The Concept of Positive Marginality
  • Chapter 4. Positive Marginality as a Homiletical Paradigm
  • Chapter 5. A Biblical Perspective on Positive Marginality
  • Chapter 6. Research Design and Methods
  • Chapter 7. How the Preachers Reflect Positive Marginality as a Homiletical Paradigm
  • Chapter 8. Conclusion
  • Appendix: Examples of Positive Marginal People in the Old Testament
  • Bibliography



This book is a revised Ph.D. dissertation completed at London School of Theology in the UK. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my advisors Dr. Scott Gibson and Dr. Keith Ferdinando for their tireless supervision and constructive feedback. And my sincere thanks to my internal and external examiner, Dr. Mark Beaumont and Dr. Geoffrey Stevenson.

Special thanks to the preaching faculty at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Dr. Haddon Robinson and Dr. Jeff Arthurs and the library staff at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and London School of Theology.

I especially wish to express my gratitude to all the people who participated in the study, especially the seven preachers who invested their time in the interviews. Without their knowledge and participation this book would not have been successful. My appreciation also extends to Watertown Evangelical Church of Watertown, Massachusetts, and many others for their generous support in allowing me to complete this endeavor.

Last, and most important, I am grateful to my parents, Pyoung Hwa Choi and Yeun Hee Yoon, who over the years have given me more than they will ever know and certainly much more than I can thank them for in return. I am truly grateful for their prayer and support of my calling. I express my gratitude to my sister and brother, Helen and James, my in-laws, Dr. and Mrs. Jo for their ← vii | viii → constant encouragement, prayer and moral support. My endless thanks to my lovely wife, Yoonjin, and my precious girls, Elisha and Isabel, for their patience, sacrifice and love throughout the journey.

Praise the Lord for all these people, for all the wisdom, strength, and inspiration I have received, and for the noble calling He has laid in my heart to proclaim Christ, to whom I give all the glory and honor. ← viii | 1 →



With the expansion of cultural pluralism and multicultural interactions, people are learning how to move beyond their individual and parochial mindset in order to engage in global realities. The impact of globalization is widespread, affecting every sector of society including the Christian community. Churches are awakening to diversifying pews. This shift in congregational composition has raised homiletical challenges for preachers who need to learn to minister effectively in culturally diverse situations. According to Eunjoo M. Kim, “Today’s changing world challenges Christian churches and preachers to extend their understanding of context for preaching and to reconsider the nature and methods of contextual preaching to connect the local with the global.”1 “Preaching,” Kim adds, “must take a new direction in its theological perspective and homiletical strategies as it encounters the impact of globalization.”2 If Kim’s observation is true, then preaching in a multiethnic context ought to generate serious theological and homiletical reflection.

The increasing diversity in the pews3 and the lack of homiletical emphasis on contextual homiletics calls for a homiletical paradigm that will be constructive and effective within multiethnic congregations. Ethnicity and race are elastic terms and they often overlap. At the outset, ethnicity often refers to cultural traits (common ancestry, history and symbols of peoplehood) whereas race refers to ← 1 | 2 → people’s physical traits/characteristics.4 Given this distinction, my interest in race is largely, (but not exclusively), in seeing races as ethnic groups and observing how their perceptions, relationships, and actions interact and influence the homiletical task of the preacher. For this reason I use the term multiethnic.

Preaching to multiethnic congregations is an important consideration not only because of the increasing diversity in the pews, but also because many older homiletical paradigms have little or no consideration of multiethnic situations.5 As recently as fifty years ago, most people remained within their cultural boundaries. However, the ease of travel, internet communication and other modern innovations significantly impacted the proliferation of immigration and cultural diversity. Despite the increasing pluralistic culture, the church has not focused much on contextual homiletics. Current research shows there are books on cross-cultural studies but there are few on cross-cultural preaching.6 Most books espouse congregational analysis from a sociological and cultural standpoint. Further, contemporary homiletical works on cross-cultural preaching and multiethnic contextual issues are rather arid. Contextual homiletician Leonora Tisdale concurs that few voices have expressed concern for the cultural context of preaching. So far, relatively few have embarked on this homiletical quest.7

The purpose of this book is to propose a homiletical paradigm for preaching in a multiethnic context, titled “positive marginality”—the term that I am suggesting for this homiletical paradigm—and to measure its effectiveness among preachers who are in multiethnic congregations. First, I design a homiletical paradigm by incorporating an intercultural communication model and the concept of positive marginality. Second, I measure the validity and consistency of the paradigm against preachers in multiethnic congregations to see the extent to which they reflect the paradigm. The first part lays out the theoretical grounding of the paradigm while the second part presents the methodological framework for assessing the paradigm.

Research Questions

The central issue that I intend to examine in this book is how positive marginality as a homiletical paradigm might increase effectiveness within multiethnic congregations. The examination is aided by three questions: (1) What homiletical strategies are preachers using to prepare their sermons for multiethnic congregations? (2) How are preachers in multiethnic congregations reflecting the proposed homiletical paradigm? (3) What can the suggested paradigm contribute to the field of contextual preaching? ← 2 | 3 →

Definition of Key Terms

The book employs several terms that are germane to the subject of preaching to the multiethnic congregation and the concept of positive marginality. It would be helpful to provide brief definitions of select terms as they will be understood in this book:

  1. Multiethnic congregation: A congregation in which two or more ethnic groups exist where each group consists of 20 percent or more of the people.8
  2. Cross-cultural or multicultural preaching: Broadly defined, the term refers to someone of culture X interacting with someone of culture Y.9 While this understanding is valid, cross-cultural or multicultural preaching in this book refers to a preacher of a particular ethnic/cultural group preaching to/interacting with an audience of diverse ethnic groups.
  3. Ethnic/cultural identity: An identity shaped by a person’s social and cultural background and experience which involves “knowledge of his [or her] membership in a social group (or groups) together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership.”10
  4. Ethnic/cultural group: In this book, I use “ethnic” or “cultural” group interchangeably to refer to “a group of people whose members identify with each other through a common heritage, language and culture.”11
  5. Positive marginality: The ability to embrace two or more ethnic and/or cultural groups, engage in an intentional cross-cultural dialogue and establish relationships with others by fully utilizing the assets and strengths of those groups, and thereby, embody a communal identity and exhibit a renewed vision for society.12
  6. Positive marginal formation: The ability to adopt the five principles of positive marginality (Embrace, Engage, Establish, Embody, Exhibit) by focusing intentionally on one’s perception, attitude and interactions with others in a multiethnic context. ← 3 | 4 →


← 4 | 5 →


VIII, 169
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (March)
Positive Marginality Embrace Engage Globalized religion Embody
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. VIII, 169 pp.

Biographical notes

Woosung Calvin Choi (Author)

Having grown up in different parts of the world, Woosung Calvin Choi has acquired a unique cultural background and is fluent in English, Korean, Persian, and Turkish. A graduate of Woodstock School in Mussoorie, India, Choi completed his undergraduate degree in engineering at Boston University. After working as an engineer, he sensed a call to ministry and entered Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia where he received an MDiv. He holds a ThM from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a PhD in homiletics from London School of Theology, United Kingdom. He currently serves as the Senior Pastor of Watertown Evangelical Church in Watertown, Massachusetts.


Title: Preaching to Multiethnic Congregation
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