Outreach Magazine Articles (2010-2012; 2015-Present)

Why Diversity Requires Maturity

Mark DeYmaz - Sunday, September 11, 2016

Recently I visited with a young, African-American pastor who, together with his wife, is planting a multiethnic church in the heart of Louisiana. Having launched the work in January 2016, they had come to our church seeking personal encouragement, relational connection and practical resources for the road ahead. 

Among other things, he spoke well of his denomination in terms of its support to date, and of the need to help his people develop cross-cultural relationships. He asked how he might help his worship pastor overcome some of the most basic challenges of bringing diverse people together as one body before the throne of God. I was impressed by his intentionality and the initial diversity he has been able to attract, both to his core team and his membership.

On this point, however, something he mentioned caught my attention.

“Today, some pastors throw around the term ‘multiethnic’ in describing their churches, like spackle on a wall, hoping it sticks,” he said. “But then you visit their churches. Maybe there’s some diversity in the pews, but not in the pulpit or other responsible positions of authority. The structure remains unchanged: predominantly white or black, one way or another.”

There’s no question that he’s right: There are churches like this that exist and remain seemingly content with the status quo; and, likewise, pastors who are all-too-quick to claim their congregation is multiethnic for the sake of expediency.

For other churches, however, this is only a reflection of where they are in the moment and not at all where they intend to be in the future. Thus, some can be too quick to judge or criticize—even with the best of intentions—without taking into account how far a particular church may have come, or otherwise unaware of whether it has specific plans to soon diversify its senior leadership in order to effect structural change.

In any case, we should recognize that no church has arrived in this regard. Rather, like individuals, a local church, collectively, should be pursuing sanctification.

Think about it.

When pastors and theologians speak of sanctification they typically have the individual in mind. Rarely is the concept of sanctification, however, applied to the collective body. This is a mistake. For as with individuals, the Bible clearly reveals when and where the church will be perfected:

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Rev. 7:9-10).

In other words, if unity and diversity are perfected in the eternal church, we should be ever pursuing its perfection in the local church, as well. This involves more than mere diversity in the pews. It has to do with senior leadership and structural change, as well. Therefore, churches claiming to be “multiethnic” or “multicultural” should recognize that the faces of leadership speak louder than the terms used on a church website. Indeed, wherever diverse leaders are not empowered, the terms don’t stick.

Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect that any local church is now or will ever be perfected in this life where unity and diversity are concerned. Rather, at any given moment, each falls somewhere along the line of a continuum. On one end of the continuum, there are immature churches filled with people and leaders who want nothing to do with anyone that’s not like them. On the other end is like heaven, where diverse believers walk, work and worship God together as one body, as the eternal bride of Christ.

In its understanding, embrace and pursuit of corporate sanctification, where is your church at the moment?

As pastors, we not only have a responsibility to lead individuals toward sanctification, but entire churches in that direction, as well. Toward that end, consider the following four questions as you plan to move the church forward:

  1. What do we believe biblically about becoming a church for all people?
  2. What do we understand philosophically about how to go about it?
  3. What can we do practically to become a church that better reflects the community?
  4. What next steps will we take in pursuit of the dream, and when?

 

3 Examples of Effective Multi-ethnic Church Plants

Mark DeYmaz - Monday, August 01, 2016

In the world of homogeneous church planting, growth and development “effectiveness” is typically measured by numbers, dollars and buildings. These may be valid considerations, but they are not the only way—and not necessarily the best way—to measure the effectiveness of a new church plant. Consider these examples of effective multiethnic church planters today.

Noemi Chavez
Seventh Street Church, Long Beach, California, established August 2007

Noemi has led Seventh Street Church to build a relationship with the city whereby it is seen as a beautiful reflection of God’s love for the community, not isolated from it. In the early days, her husband, Joshua, went to the chief of police to ask how the church could be a blessing. The chief invited Joshua and Noemi to “father the fatherless in the city,” citing high rates of girls between the ages of 12 and 18 who are incarcerated, on probation, in foster care and/or without fathers in the home.

In time, this led the people of Seventh Street to form a partnership with local government and community organizations, through which they host regular events that promote love, hope and relief. Hundreds of girls have been involved through the years, and more recently, 15 to 20 people from Seventh Street have gone through training to gain the responsibility of picking up the girls from their foster homes and bringing them to church on Sunday mornings. In April, two high-level probation officials (both nonbelievers) attended services at the church, and told the people there, “We have never seen a church as generous as yours! Thank you for providing so much love to these girls.”

Matt McGue
One Church, Jackson, Mississippi, established March 2014

In central Mississippi, a disproportionate amount of violence against Hispanics has become problematic. At the time of this writing (April 2016), 15 Latinos have been murdered over the past 30 days in the region, including two Latino men while cooking in their front yard. Having made intentional inroads into the Hispanic community, Matt was invited to a meeting of the Latin American Business Association to discuss solutions. He was the only pastor in the room. The group determined to hold a press conference to raise awareness and asked Matt to help both lead it and to write the press release. Subsequently, the wives of the two murdered men have attended One Church.

Trey Grant
The Well Church, Keller, Texas, established September 2015

Just a few months after launching The Well Church, Trey and his leadership team asked, “How can we influence our city for the sake of the gospel?” Contacting the mayor of Keller, Trey learned the city had never officially commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He suggested the city invite citizens to watch King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of city hall the following January. The mayor embraced the idea and soon the city promoted it as their own. Some 200 attended in January of this year, including the chief of police, the Chamber of Commerce, three motorcycle clubs, a self-described atheist and others. The mayor opened the ceremony and Trey closed, encouraging the diverse crowd to begin inviting one another to the dinner table as a first step toward building greater unity in the city. Since then, Trey and the atheist have been meeting often for coffee.


Setting a Course for Intentional Multiethnic Ministry

Mark DeYmaz - Monday, May 30, 2016

From its inception, the Wesleyan Church was an unwavering opponent of slavery and actively promoted the integration of blacks and whites in society. By the late 19th century, however, the movement shifted focus from social justice to personal holiness. In the coming decades it remained largely silent and indifferent toward the ongoing plight of African-Americans for equality and justice. This extended to any notion of the local church as a proponent of racial reconciliation, as well.

Reflecting on its history, the Wesleyan Church’s Church and Culture handbook says, in part: “While our denomination was born in an antislavery movement, we have sometimes ignored our own heritage and been guilty of both personal and collective racism and prejudice. For this sin, we have collectively repented and asked for God’s forgiveness, and we intend to strive for complete racial reconciliation, for we know that this is the will of God.”

Reflection, lament and repentance are the first places for any denomination or local church to start taking seriously the prayer of Jesus Christ to be one unified church for the sake of the gospel (John 17:20-23). Yet it takes more than mere words and sentiment to bring about systemic change.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and under the leadership of Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church, the denomination has wholeheartedly embraced a vision to plant, grow and develop churches that reflect the love of God for all people on Earth, as it is in heaven.

Among other things, the Wesleyan Church has adopted a formal position statement on racial reconciliation—one that addresses historic disparities between whites and African-Americans. In part, the statement outlines a threefold strategy “to usher in a new movement of unity and integration among whites and African-Americans in the Wesleyan Church.” In practice, the denomination has pursued this strategy with other people groups as well, including Native Americans, Hispanics and Asians.

A Wesleyan View of Racial Reconciliation
What Should We Do?

As individuals, we must begin by engaging in more serious reflection on race relations in order to better understand the complexities of the issue.

As pastors, we must recognize a larger mandate to lead the process of reconciliation, particularly among whites and African-Americans, and are responsible for better integrating churches toward this end.

At the district and denominational level, there should be a targeted effort to plant integrated churches in urban centers, and we must lead the way as a movement when it comes to diversifying the leadership of our churches, districts and denominational offices.

In 2014, backing up their words with action, the Wesleyan Church created a new national position, hiring Santes Beatty as its first director of multiethnic ministries. In this role, Beatty is now advancing cross-cultural church planting, growth and development throughout the denomination by organizing, resourcing and developing leaders. The ultimate aim is to “create a denomination-wide culture of multiethnicity that is reflected in leadership at every level, in churches across every district and in outreach to every people group.” Strategically, this includes:

Celebrating, sharing and building on multiethnic realities that currently exist within our denominational family.

Coordinating commitment on-ramps for leaders and pastors to make decisions that reflect their belief in the sound theology and ecclesiology of multiethnic ministry.

Creating an ongoing network partnership and communication strategy to keep the movement on mission and sustainable.

Networks, denominations and organizations looking to better reflect the love of God for all people on earth as it is in heaven, as well as pastors and ministry leaders desiring to bring systemic change to their own local churches, would do well to consider the intentionality of the Wesleyan Church in this regard. Indeed, leaders like Santes Beatty are well worth learning from and getting to know.


 

Collaborating for Diversity

Mark DeYmaz - Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Increasingly, local church pastors are recognizing the need to establish churches that reflect their communities for the sake of the gospel. This is not only a biblical expectation (see Ephes. 2:11-4:6), it’s a pragmatic one for churches seeking not only to survive but to thrive in a diverse society.

To encourage and equip pastors who are chasing this vision, the Mosaix Network—together with leaders from denominations including the Assemblies of God, the Wesleyan Church and the United Methodist Church, to name a few—is working to provide competent coaching, national conferencing and small group curriculum. This partnership has led to the establishment of two pastoral city cohorts: one in Cincinnati, Ohio, and another in Cleveland, Ohio. These cohorts are bringing ethnically and denominationally diverse pastors together once a month for relational connection, peer learning and synergistic discussion about the expansion of healthy multiethnic churches in their respective cities.

At the center of this effort is Oneya Okuwobi, the director of cross-cultural education at Peoples Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and co-author of the Multi-Ethnic Christian Life Primer—the first-ever devotional and small group study on multiethnic church life designed for people in the pews. Formerly a group finance manager for Proctor & Gamble, Oneya knows something about bringing diverse people together to achieve a common vision.

Having helped launch both cohorts and also serving as a facilitator, Oneya lists seven benefits to pastors committed to being involved. The cohorts provide:

1. A safe space to share openly and honestly about the complexities of race in the United States, and just as importantly, to listen and learn from the experiences of others.

2. A welcoming environment where each pastor and church is accepted, no matter what stage of personal understanding or corporate development they currently find themselves.

3. A learning lab in which pastors can both share and discover promising practices for working smart, avoiding unnecessary mistakes and making measurable progress much sooner than they could otherwise make on their own.

4. A working center where pastors can help each other strategically advance a local multiethnic church planting movement or the transition of an existing monoethnic congregation.

5. A collaborative atmosphere for developing cross-cultural relationships and pursuing cross-cultural competence, both of which are critical for leaders hoping to engage their community effectively in and through the local church.

6. A credible witness of the unity of the church that goes beyond mere theology.

7. A transferrable model for other pastors, churches and cities to explore and replicate.

Several years ago, three pastors in Cincinnati began meeting regularly over lunch to discuss issues related to the multiethnic church, and Mosaix Cincy was born. Two years ago, Oneya got involved and introduced the Primer as a tool for study. That year, a total of 75 pastors participated at least once, while more than 30 of them completed the entire Primer over a nine-month period by discussing one chapter at each gathering. More recently this cohort has been having a deep and ongoing conversation about the need to increase minority leadership of multiethnic churches.

Mosaix CLE (in Cleveland) launched in November 2015. Not long after the first meeting, an Ohio grand jury declined to indict a police officer involved in the shooting death of Tamir Rice. This shooting occurred in Cleveland on Nov. 22, 2014. At the cohort’s first meeting in January 2016, some 50 pastoral leaders representing 19 churches gathered to discuss how to engage their own congregations as well as civic leaders in light of increased racial tensions resulting from the grand jury’s decision. By walking, working and worshipping together as one, these pastors hope to represent Christ as a peacemaking force in their city.

In partnership with leaders from the North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention) and Evangelical Covenant Church, Oneya is hoping to launch cohorts this year in Chicago, Illinois, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Many more pastors and churches in the future could benefit from working with her to establish cohorts in their own cities, as well.

3 Principles for Leading Through Times of Waiting

Mark DeYmaz - Monday, December 28, 2015

It took the nation of Israel some 40 years to complete a journey many suggest should not have taken more than 11 days. Similarly, it’s taken Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas nearly 10 years to move three blocks down the street—that is, to transition from renting an abandoned Wal-Mart to owning and occupying a newly renovated former Kmart.

Like the Israelites of old, throughout these long years we faced internal and external challenges. We experienced opposition and dealt with sin in the camp and in ourselves as leaders. We saw God miraculously provide when we weren’t sure if or how we could continue. We grew tired and weary, but we did not quit.

And so, on Jan. 3, we cross our own Jordan River—Colonel Glenn Road—to take possession of a Promised Land of sorts: a 100,000-square-foot building on 10 acres in the heart of Little Rock’s emerging University District.

The prayer, patience and persistence of our people through these years of waiting can be a model for church planters and pastors seeking to move congregations from survival to stability, and ultimately to sustainability, in a culture accustomed to overnight delivery, fast food service and high-speed Internet. Indeed, how can we keep people motivated and moving forward when dreams, desires and determination alone are not sufficient to overcome such challenges as finding a suitable space and the funds to acquire it, while simultaneously growing a congregation?

Here, from our own experience, are three things to keep in mind as you pursue big dreams over a long period of time.

God’s Timing Is Perfect

On April 20, 2006, God made it clear that we would someday own the former Kmart. Yet it took six-and-a-half years for us to make the purchase.

During that time, an Arkansas based fitness company launched and grew to become the most successful of its kind in the state. In 2012, as we were getting ready to purchase the former Kmart, the owner of the fitness company offered us $3 million to open his ninth and largest store in 50,000 square feet of our new building. This helped us secure funding for our own renovations, and raised the value of the property from $1.5 million to $3.9 million in just over two years.

Maturity Is the Goal

Some wines, but not all wines, mature with age. So, too, it is with congregations. While you’re waiting for God to open a door, press on to maturity by pursuing qualitative growth over quantitative growth.

In our case, we strengthened relational connections through small groups, improved financial management and accountability, and added essential staff and lay leaders. In short, we addressed present needs with the future in mind and became a more mature congregation in the process. We were faithful to do what we could, and now, God has positioned us to do even more.

Mission Can Still Advance

On my first short-term mission trip, in December 1980, I found myself on the dirt streets of Roatán, Honduras, with nothing more than a ball. Kicking it back and forth with a couple of kids, I soon attracted more. Within 30 minutes, hundreds of children were pressing in on me, cheering and screaming in delight, as I led them down the street to a schoolyard big enough to handle the crowd.

Because I organized this spontaneous soccer tournament, I later had the opportunity to preach the gospel. It was on those streets I learned this principle: If you can’t do it with a ball, you can’t do it with a building.

I have heard pastors suggest that if they only had more money, a better facility or additional staff, they could do more. What I’ve found, however, is that those who don’t learn to advance the mission of their church now, with their current resources, would likely struggle to advance the mission even if they had everything they wanted.

Pursuing a dream over a long period of time gives us an opportunity to walk by faith and not by sight; to stay the course and prove ourselves faithful to our calling; to recognize and value what really matters to God; and best of all, to be there when he comes through—in his way, in his time and for his glory.

Such is the confidence and hope that keeps a congregation motivated and moving forward during long years of waiting.

How to Transition to Living Color

Mark DeYmaz - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Through the years, Garfield Memorial had become a well-established United Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. By 2001, however, membership, attendance on Sunday mornings and children’s ministry participation were in decline, and the future of the church was in jeopardy. At the time, according to Pastor Chip Freed, the congregation was 99 percent white, and most attendees lived in affluent neighborhoods. He knew then that turnaround would depend on systemic change and, more specifically, transitioning his church to living color.

By the end of 2004, Pastor Freed had led the church to embrace culture shift along three fronts by:

* Renewing its commitment to the Great Commission
* Determining to become outwardly focused
* Embracing the vision of becoming multiethnic and economically diverse

To effect transition, Pastor Freed implemented systemic change with the following strategies:

Developing a New Statement of Purpose

To reposition itself in the community, and to clarify new vision and values, the church adopted this statement:

“Garfield Memorial is a safe place to search and grow in faith in a very authentic way amid a diverse community of all people groups. We are not a perfect church, therefore we will be a community of the nonoffensive and unoffended, and offer and practice forgiveness wherever it is required.”

Promoting a Spirit of Inclusion in Worship

The church enlisted a variety of competent worship leaders to deliver a high quality, varied musical experience on Sunday mornings. In so doing, the music and vibe began to appeal to a more demographically diverse and unchurched audience and made it easier for first-time visitors to connect.

Empowering a Diverse Leadership Team

The church began to hire and otherwise empower diverse leaders to reflect and represent the changing demographics of its community.

As a result, Garfield Memorial began again to flourish and has continued to grow over the last 10 years. In 2004, there were approximately 450 active members, with 200 regularly attending Sunday morning worship and only 15 participating in children’s ministry. Today the church has some 1,100 active members, with over 600 people attending worship each week and 150 children participating on two campuses. More than this, Garfield Memorial is now known as one of the most multiethnic and economically diverse churches in Ohio, in which the largest single ethnic group comprises no more than 52 percent of the congregation. Because of its ethnically and economically diverse witness it is having a significant impact in the city of Cleveland.

Within its denomination, too, Garfield Memorial is helping to change attitudes and understanding. According to Pastor Freed, most of the multiethnic and economically diverse churches that do exist in the United Methodist Church are located in downtown or urban settings. In these churches, members from the suburbs typically drive into the city in order to live on mission with the poor. Garfield Memorial, however, is located in a highly affluent suburban area of Cleveland and it’s the urban poor who are commuting in order to be part of this unique community of faith. This has not only caught the attention of denominational leaders, but shows that suburban churches can effectively transition to living color.

Like the Apostle Paul, Pastor Freed and the people of Garfield Memorial have determined to become all things to all men so that by all means they might win some from every kind of people group (I Cor. 9:19-23). Through structural change, strategic marketing, community engagement, random acts of kindness and intentional mission, the church has become as diverse as the community it seeks to reach with a message of God’s love for all people. Like fishermen in the New Testament, it has thrown out its net on the east side of Cleveland looking not only for one kind of fish, but to catch the diverse array of fish living within a 15- to 20-mile radius of its facility. In order to present a credible witness of God’s love for all people in a rapidly changing society, many more pastors with the heart and vision of Pastor Freed are needed.

7 Guidelines for Controversial Facebook Comments

Mark DeYmaz - Sunday, July 26, 2015

On Nov. 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced a decision to take executive action affecting millions of undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. Then, just four days later, a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., released its decision exonerating officer Darren Wilson of any culpability in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Not surprisingly, in both instances, social media erupted in a firestorm of polarized opinion, pain and outrage. And into these waters jumped Christians, everywhere: pastors, professors and parishioners, bloggers, authors, journalists, community organizers and activists, alike.

As the pastor of a multiethnic and economically diverse church, I, too, felt compelled to speak, hoping to help mitigate extremes and promote peaceful dialogue. On November 24, 2014, I posted the following to Facebook:

For the pastors and people of multiethnic churches a convo on race does not start tonight; it remains ongoing, as does our love for one another, beyond the distinctions of this world that so often and otherwise divide.

As seemingly benign as this statement was, however, a few people left my church in the weeks following, in one way or another “sick and tired of talking about race.” Many other pastors I know experienced the same thing.

Pastors and ministry leaders are increasingly confronted with and expected to comment on racial, socioeconomic and political tensions affecting our country, our churches and even our doctrine. Yet in acknowledging pain, providing perspective and promoting peace from the pulpit or via social media, we are often misinterpreted, misrepresented and misunderstood by some within our own congregations, by our closest friends, even by our own families.

So, how should pastors and ministry leaders respond to such issues and situations when they arise?

1. Offer a fair and balanced perspective.

Remind people to not merely look out for their own personal interests, but also the interests of others (Phil. 2:4). That said, do not feel as if you must speak to every issue or situation that arises.

2. Take time to measure your words.

This helps avoid misunderstanding. In other words, do not assume your heart and motives will be perceived by readers. In cases where there is a greater risk or potential for misstep, first run your thoughts by a spouse or trusted colleague before making them public.

3. Avoid endorsing politicians, political parties or platforms.

Similarly avoid endorsing the extreme opinions or positions of others, one way or another. More often than not extreme positions are driven by personality, personal preferences, past pain or experiences that can keep people from a more balanced, productive discussion.

4. Lead others to pray for “kings and all those in authority.”

Just as Paul instructed Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:2.

5. Be a peacemaker (Matt. 5:9).

Interestingly this is the only beatitude in which the reward is identification with the Son of God; and the only one followed by three verses of explanation, expecting persecution (Matt. 5:10-12). Stated another way, do all you can to avoid fanning the flames of division.

6. Make substantive or systemic change when and wherever necessary.

Mere words or pithy statements apart from such change will likely ring hollow, hypocritical or disingenuous. As in politics, remember that all crises are local. In other words, while it’s easy to opine from a distance, the people you lead will be more interested to know what national concerns mean for them personally, locally and for their church.

7. Pursue and build healthy multiethnic and economically diverse congregations.

Work to build congregations reflect the increasing diversity of our communities and our country to advance a credible witness of God’s love for all people, the gospel of Jesus Christ and, consequently, as an answer to the problem of race in America.

In the midst of tension, turmoil or tragedy connected to race, class or gender, let us strive to lead others—where there is injury, to extend pardon; where despair, to advance hope; where darkness, to bring the light; wherever hatred, to sow love—as did Francis of Assisi, as did Teresa of Calcutta, as does our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Not Too Small to Plant

Mark DeYmaz - Sunday, July 12, 2015

For nearly 50 years, the American church has measured success by numbers, dollars and buildings. Like it or not, pastors know this to be true. Questions that begin with the words, “How many?” and “How big?” are ones we commonly face, must answer or otherwise discuss on a daily basis. Younger, less established or new-to-ministry pastors are the ones most likely to feel a pressure to perform in this regard. Similarly, pastors of smaller churches bear the burden of subtle prompts that often—though unintentionally—suggest their ministries are not as significant, noteworthy or instructive as ministries of those leading larger churches; that is, pastors who are most likely to be invited onto the main stage, to write a book or to address their denomination at the annual meeting.

But think about it: If large numbers are truly the measure of success, Jesus was a horrible failure. Sure, he did a few big events; but on a good day, he had, what? about 70 folks in attendance?

I learned a long time ago, numbers say something—they don’t say everything. In fact, for all the talk of launching big and growing even faster, I’ve come to realize that explosive growth more often than not leads to internal focus. This is why the very ones who Jesus looked in the eye and said, “Go … ” never went. That’s right. Peter, James and John, along with the rest of the apostles, stayed in Jerusalem. Why? Look, if 3,000 people came to Christ and joined my church tomorrow, our staff would be freaking out, “We don’t have enough parking! We don’t have enough nursery space! We need more bathrooms!”

As a pastor, your value to the kingdom and community is not tied to the size of Sunday morning attendance. Nor is Sunday morning attendance the definitive size of your church. For instance, when answering the question of size, can I count the additional 1,400 people each month (350 a week) that attend our church on Tuesdays to receive three to four full days of meals a month? In other words, it’s not homogenous size on Sunday but breadth of community impact in a diverse community and kingdom influence throughout the rest of the week that is, in my view, a more significant measure of a local church’s success.

My friend, Scott Venable, is the founding pastor of New City Church, a small multiethnic and economically diverse church in Chicago. Just four years old, and averaging 60 people on Sundays, New City has already planted eight churches.

Here’s what Scott told me recently in discussing size versus significance:

Scott Venable’s Perspective …

“Jesus called the local church to advance his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Pursuit of this calling is not dependent on size or resources. We started New City with just two people, but we didn’t wait to engage our community or to plant other churches; we got on it right away. In the kingdom, what determines impact is not the size of a church but its determination to multiply.

“Early on, then, we adopted a neighborhood school to serve. We also began taking trips to the Middle East. By doing this, we established a concern for our city and a heart for the world at the core of our DNA.

“Through our involvement with the school, we started a Friday night program to help keep inner-city youth off of the streets. Soon, 60 to 70 young people, almost 100 percent African-American, were attending this program before we ever launched a Sunday gathering. When we did start on Sundays, the church was also predominantly African-American. I couldn’t have planned this: a white man moving from Texas into a gentrifying neighborhood in Chicago, planting and now pastoring a predominantly black church.

“Engage your community and God will establish a church that reflects his kingdom. Since his kingdom is multiethnic, so is our church.

“Also, from day one we developed a leadership training and releasing program. We prayed for God to raise church planters up so that we could send them out. In four years, we’ve planted churches in Chicago, Texas, New York, Ohio and India.

“When we get to heaven, I don’t think Jesus will ask, “How big was your church?” Instead, he will show us how big, broad and beautiful his kingdom is. This is why, though small in number, we engage our diverse community. This is why we expand the breadth of our influence through church planting. This is why I believe that every church, no matter its size, has been called and can advance his kingdom.”

 

The Power of Diverse Leadership

Mark DeYmaz - Thursday, May 28, 2015

In the spring of 2006, I received a call from the local NBC affiliate in Little Rock, Arkansas. The station wanted to feature Mosaic in a weekly segment designed to highlight institutions of faith making a difference in the lives of Arkansans. When I inquired further as to the producer’s interest in Mosaic, she summed it up by saying, “I want others to know that your church is not just diverse on the outside, but diverse on the inside as well.” In other words, what had caught her attention was the diversity of our leadership, not simply the diversity of our congregation. More than anything else, the diversity of our leadership established the credibility of our work in her eyes.

Empowering Diverse Leaders

Evangelist Luis Palau once said, “The choices we make determine the shape and color of our lives.” Likewise, the choices we make in terms of leadership determine the shape and color of our churches. To build a healthy multiethnic church, then, you mustempower diverse leaders. Indeed, this is a “put your money where your mouth is” principle that cannot be ignored.

As the producer recognized, credibility begins and ends in what is modeled from the top. If diverse leaders cannot walk, work and worship God together as one, there is little hope that a diverse congregation will be able to do so either.

Along this line, Chris Williamson, senior pastor ofStrong Tower Bible Church in Franklin, Tenn., once shared with me: “When trying to identify an authentic multiethnic church, I look at the composition of its leaders. If the leadership team (especially the paid staff) is not ethnically diverse, the stated desire of that church to be multiethnic can be called into question. In this regard, the old cliché is true: ‘Actions speak louder than words.’”

Intentionality vs. Wishful Thinking

When it comes to empowering diverse leaders, however, it’s important to recognize that intentionality is the middle ground between quota and wishful thinking.

In other words, you should not force the issue by predetermining just who or how many diverse leaders you will involve at any given time. On the other hand, you cannot sit in your office all day and pray that well-qualified candidates of diverse ethnic origin will somehow appear at you door. Seek diverse leaders, and you will find them when doing so becomes for you a priority.

In addition, avoid hiring diversity for diversity’s sake. Be intentional, yes, but be discerning too, allowing the Spirit of God to confirm in your heart those He would have serve alongside you in ministry. And remember, leaders must all walk in integrity, share theological convictions and embrace the vision, no matter what the color of their skin.

Oneness in Leadership

Finally, be careful not to presume you have empowered diverse leaders simply because diverse individuals are involved. There are perceptions that must also be considered and overcome in time.

With this in mind, an African-American pastor once told me, “Mark, if you hire or otherwise empower minorities only to lead your church in worship, you may inadvertently suggest to people, ‘We will embrace them as entertainers’ … or to work with your children as if to say, ‘We accept them to nanny our kids’ … or as janitors, as if to say, ‘We expect them to clean up after us.’ It is only when you allow us to share your pulpit, to serve with you on the elder board, or alongside you in apportioning the money that we will be truly one with you in the church.”

I have never forgotten his words.

Cost-Effective Ways to Raise Your Visibility

Mark DeYmaz - Sunday, April 19, 2015

In the summer of 2001 a church plant coach suggested our emerging church plant would need to spend $30,000 on initial branding, or as he said “ … to get your name out there.” But we didn’t have $30,000; and even if we did our core team agreed that’s not how we’d want to spend it. We wondered, Is there a better way?

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). I’ve learned this is not only a cost-effective strategy for raising a church’s visibility, but a sustainable one that God honors. Indeed, the innovative good works of a church that reflects its community will be noticed and, more importantly, appreciated by diverse others beyond its walls.

In my own church and those I coach, we apply this strategy and it makes a difference. Consider these examples:

A Sign of Humility

In 2013, in an effort to revitalize her congregation, Pastor In-Yong Lee began to champion a multiethnic vision at St. Paul’s UMC in Asheville, N.C. Not long after, on its sign out front, the church asked the community the same question it was asking itself: If the kingdom of God is not segregated, why on earth is the church? Overnight, though, vandals repositioned the sign’s words to read: The kingdom of racists. So how did the church respond?

First, by covering the words with a red sheet to convey a message of lament. Then, the next day, by posting a prayer on the sign: Lord, help us to become a church that truly reflects heaven. In so doing, In-Yong responded in humility. “Thank you for interacting with us,” she was suggesting. “You see Christians as racists. Forgive us. We are trying to change. Come try with us.”

A Truckload of Hope

Pastor Matt McGue planted ONE church in Jackson, Miss., in 2014. Just prior to launch he purchased and repurposed a used ice cream truck. Branded the HOPE Truck, it’s helped the multiethnic church establish relationships with at-risk children in apartment communities where the greatest needs exist. When the children hear its music and see the truck they come running to receive free ice cream, fresh fruit, school supplies, bicycle helmets, Bibles and invitations to church. Before they leave, volunteers spend time playing with them, sharing God’s love and praying for families.

Through this good work the church gained instant favor and established credibility throughout the city. The HOPE Truck has become a fixture at fundraisers, community events, local schools and city functions, with businesses like Fresh Market, Subway and Walmart among its sponsors. For his efforts, Matt has been given a seat at the table alongside senators, the state superintendent of schools, the mayor and other faith-based leaders, in spite of the church’s young age and size.

A Building Redeemed

After borrowing $1.1 million to purchase an abandoned Kmart in 2012, Mosaic Church recently rented one half of the 100,000-square-foot building to 10Fitness for $1.15 million over 10 years, essentially eliminating the mortgage. With 24-hour access during the week, 10Fitness offers the latest in fitness technology and a fully staffed workout center for area residents—30 percent of whom live at or below the poverty line—for only $10 per month.

The project has created 30 jobs, generated new tax revenue for the city and reduced the potential for crime in the urban center. In a recent press release the University of Arkansas at Little Rock praised Mosaic saying, “The church’s effort has drawn more people into the area and improved markets for new or redeveloped properties.”

A church that reflects its community is uniquely positioned to impact its community. Through innovative good works and breadth of influence it can become a bright light in the public square for the glory of God.


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