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

Encouraging Signs: POC Leadership

Mark DeYmaz - Saturday, September 15, 2018

Consider this widespread generalization: White Christians will not follow pastors of color, particularly African-Americans.

Sadly, I believe in the past this statement was true. Though, thankfully, it is not as much the case today, it remains the experience of far too many pastors of color.

In part, this generalization stems from the fact that only a handful of pastors of color rise to some level of national prominence or have widespread name recognition. Statements such as “I just want to know when white people are going to follow black pastors” and “I know of only a couple examples of pastors of color having a multiethnic congregation,” are understandable, but tend to reinforce misperceptions. Such statements reflect a limited perspective of the broader landscape of local churches throughout the country. The truth is, pastors of color are leading healthy multiethnic churches—and white Christians are part of their leadership teams and members of their congregations.

THE CHALLENGES

Pastors of color seeking to plant or lead diverse congregations do face a unique set of challenges and must overcome certain obstacles not otherwise faced by their white counterparts. For these pastors, an extra measure of faith, courage and sacrifice is required to love, lead and serve people in their churches who may harbor biases, lack cross-cultural competence and espouse preferences rooted in privilege.

• Inhibiting Stereotypes: When considering the challenges pastors of color face, sociologist Oneya Okuwobi says, “One such challenge involves organizational barriers and inhibiting stereotypes that limit their ability to execute a vision for the church. Previous studies have shown that the prototypical leader is viewed as white. As a result, congregants and boards may invest less trust in leaders of color. This constraint can manifest itself by way of informal or formal alterations to the senior pastor’s role, leaving the leader of color with insufficient latitude to truly direct the organization.”

• Limited Funding: “A second challenge,” according to Okuwobi, “can be lack of funding to sustain the organization. Racial gaps in wealth can create shortfalls for pastors of color who need to establish a strong financial base for their church,” he says.

• The Prestige Gap: “Pastors of color do not receive the same level of prestige for talking about issues of race, class and culture as do their white counterparts,” Okuwobi says. “This can make it difficult for them to have the honest and open conversations necessary to move their diverse congregations forward.”

• White Reticence: “Finally, it is important to note that despite the change in leaders’ complexions, we are not yet seeing a significant number of whites opt-in to majority minority congregations. This lack of reciprocity, too, reinforces the idea held by some that whites won’t follow leaders of color.”

COURAGE TO CONTINUE

Okuwobi concludes, “These challenges notwithstanding, it is encouraging to see the number of pastors of color increasing. This change should give us courage to continue to improve so that issues of race, class and culture do not prevent anyone otherwise able from leading effectively.”

This situation hopefully will become one in which we’ll see a biblical maturing of attitudes, expectations and practices in the years ahead born from personal relationships, deeper theological and cultural reflection and authentic reconciliation.

My optimism is fueled by a belief that the vast majority of Christians in this country genuinely love the Lord and want to do what’s right. I’m also encouraged by the many wonderful pastors of color with whom I interact week to week who are planting or leading healthy multiethnic churches, such as Armando Arellano, Wesley Bolden, Sadell and Sherman Bradley, Edgar Brady, Ricardo Brown, Dawan Buie and Veronne Carter.

These are just a few pastors of color who have planted or are leading healthy multiethnic churches throughout the United States today. Some of these people you might not yet know but should—and perhaps soon—will.

"Healthy" Multiethnic Churches

Mark DeYmaz - Saturday, September 15, 2018

A recent article in The New York Times by Campbell Robertson was widely circulated and cited on social media. In “A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshipers Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches,” the author chronicles widespread and legitimate frustration among African-Americans who have attended churches appearing or claiming to be racially integrated when, in fact, these churches are systemically reflective of white culture. Disappointment and pain has been aggravated in recent years, Robertson explains, due in part to the failure of pastoral leadership in such churches “to address police shootings of African-Americans,” while otherwise quick to encourage “prayers for Paris, Brussels and law enforcement.”

“Then came the 2016 election,” she writes, and—as the title of her article suggests—for black worshipers in these settings, enough is enough. As one African-American leader put it, “We were willing to give up our preferred worship style for the chance to really try to live this vision of beloved community with a diverse group of people. That didn’t work.”

Even Dr. Michael Emerson, co-author of Divided by Faith and long-time proponent of churches that reflect the love of God for all people, seems to agree. In spite of what Robertson notes as “signs, however modest, that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning might cease to be the most segregated hour in America,” Emerson says, “everything we tried is not working. The election itself was the single most harmful event to the whole movement of reconciliation in at least the past 30 years. It’s about to completely break apart.”

Without question, the presidential election has tarnished efforts to advance reconciliation and racial justice within the evangelical church. The road to trust and transparency is again filled with potholes of suspicion and skepticism. And make no mistake—this is not on brothers and sisters of color. Collectively, white evangelicalism has been undermined not only by actions but perhaps, more significantly, by inaction.

But is everything we’ve tried really not working? Is the movement about to break apart? I don’t think so. Rather, corrective adjustment where needed can make this our finest hour.

In response to The New York Times article, sociologist Oneya Okuwobi, co-author of Multiethnic Conversations, states, “Correction is not cause for giving up. We can do this, church! Learn to give voice to people of color and their issues. Invest in becoming an antiracist institution.” Moreover, she writes, “The multiethnic church should have never been about blacks worshiping at white churches.” And she’s right. In every healthy multiethnic church the goal is accommodation not assimilation.

Furthermore, just because a pastor suggests or otherwise claims their church is multiethnic does not make it so. Indeed, white pastors should understand that reaching 20 percent diversity in attending membership does not, in and of itself, make a church authentically multiethnic. If anything, 20 percent diversity is only a starting point on the road to building a healthy multiethnic church.

Sadly, when pastors prematurely, arbitrarily or erroneously declare their churches to be multiethnic based on mere percentages or as a marketing technique, they misrepresent the heart of the movement. and, as Emerson suggests, set it back. In so doing, they undermine the credible work of so many other pastors and ministry leaders today striving to build healthy multiethnic churches that view racial reconciliation, social justice and structural equality not as peripheral, but intrinsic to the gospel. Growing numbers of them are out there, laboring daily in difficult trenches, off the grid and out of the limelight, men and women who should not be denounced and are not commonly referenced in articles such as Robertson’s. I wish this article had included their collective voice, as well.

The painful encounters, collective frustration and systemic inequities all-too-commonly experienced by African-American believers and, more broadly, believers of color seeking to walk, work and worship God together with diverse others in churches such as the article describes are real, not imagined. As such, their concerns cannot be ignored and must no longer be dismissed by majority-culture leaders in positions of ecclesiastical authority. To do so violates New Testament mandates and expectations for the local church; that is, what the apostle Paul wrote about that extends to all people groups: “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

I agree, then, with my good friend Santes Beatty, director of multiethnic ministries for the Wesleyan Church, who writes, “It’s no longer an issue of diversity; it’s an issue of discipleship.”

95 Theses for Today's Church

Mark DeYmaz - Saturday, September 15, 2018

On Oct. 31, 1517, the 33-year-old German priest and scholar Martin Luther posted his 95 theses for consideration at All Saints’ Church (also known as Castle Church) in Wittenberg, Germany. Legend suggests that he nailed the document to the church door—although this cannot be proven, it was not uncommon to post announcements and discussion topics to the church door. However he presented his arguments, Luther aimed to bring about reformation in the church by addressing the widespread abuses of his day.

His emphasis on justification by faith was never intended to abandon consideration of faithful witness, but just the opposite. As Luther writes in The Freedom of a Christian, union with Christ by faith involves caring for our neighbor in love. Caring for our neighbors—those very different than us as defined by Christ in Luke 10:25–37 and thus fulfilling the whole law beyond mere love for God (Matt. 22:40; Gal. 5:14)—requires proximity (Eph. 4:1–13). If we distance ourselves from those who should be our neighbors, how can we lovingly care for them?

We have to move from the mind of Moses to the heart of Abraham—from creating churches
to reach our own people to standing in the gap for all people.

On Oct. 31, 2017, 500 years after Luther, 95 pastors and ministry leaders from around the world posted 95 theses of their own, calling for reformation in otherwise systemically segregated, homogeneous churches. Fundamentally, the project challenges pastors to create environments wherein people of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds would be encouraged and equipped to walk, work and worship together as one in local churches, beyond the distinctions of this world that so often and otherwise divide.

Contributors hope the project will be used in private reflection as well as in discussion with staff and lay leadership teams who might then take action, as the Spirit leads, in bringing such reform to the local church wherever it is needed.

Here’s a sampling of the statements. The entire document, including a preamble and a call to reformation, is available at Mosaix.Info/reformation/95-theses.

“In the spirit of reformation, we must move from efforts and ideals to sacrifice and service for diversity to become reality in the church.”
—Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesús

“The discomfort of diversity—the fear, selfishness and pride we must surrender—is part of God’s sanctification curriculum.”
—Elizabeth Childs Drury

“We have to move from the mind of Moses to the heart of Abraham: from creating churches to reach our own people to standing in the gap for all people.”
—Naeem Fazal

“As a sign, instrument and foretaste of the age to come, the church should be the most integrated, diverse, just and loving community on the face of the earth.”
—Michael Frost

“Multiethnic churches are a critical way to do racial reconciliation.”
—Kevin Haah

“We can no longer justify or settle for anything less than unity and diversity in the local church.”
—Alejandro Mandes

“There is a danger that churches (misapplying) the HU (homogeneous unit principle) will become exclusive, arrogant and racist. That danger must be resolutely combatted.”
—Donald McGavran

“As Christians, our credibility to address the issue of reconciliation has been called into question; therefore, we must directly respond.”
—Brenda Salter McNeil

“The New Testament is clear on the value and priority of oneness within the church. Why aren’t we?”
—Andrew and Kevin Palau

“Our gospel has holes in it. Our gospel accommodates bigotry. We do homogeneous church plants; we make sure that they’re racially divided. Oh man, what are you talking about?”
—Dr. John M. Perkins

“As followers of Jesus Christ, our gospel mandate is to prophetically oppose systems of oppression, not perpetuate them.”
—Albert Tate

“God is in the work of putting those on the margins into the center of his story. It is the job of the local church to join him in this work.”
—Jenny Yang

From Rhetoric to Reality

Mark DeYmaz - Saturday, September 15, 2018

When I entered full-time ministry fresh out of college in January 1984, my vision was simple: Share the Gospel, lead people to Christ, make disciples, change the world. Yet despite my best efforts for nearly 30 years, the world remains largely unchanged. Generally, it is, at best, cool in its openness to Christianity (“one of many religions”), unimpressed by its perception of Christians (self-serving, agenda-driven), and often disappointed in its experience with the church (judgmental, unforgiving). If anything, the collective cynicism of those without Christ is getting worse.

Perhaps you also set out with similar aims for your life and ministry: Win the world, change the world. And how many times have you heard someone say, “We’re going to take this city, change this country, for Christ!” But have you ever seen this happen?

Perhaps such rhetoric fails to become reality because we’ve been overly simplistic or naïve in our approach, too one dimensional in our strategy. How?

We Limit the Gospel

For one thing, our understanding and proclamation of the Gospel (in the West) is more concerned with heaven than with earth; with individual salvation, not collective redemption; with personal sanctification apart from sanctification of the church or community in which it sits. The Gospel of Christ is not merely eternal in its intent; it is temporal too. It is at once personal and corporate in nature. The good news we’ve been called to proclaim concerns eternal life, yes (John 17:2-3), but abundant life too—the advance of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9-13; 25:31-46; 28:19-20; John 10:10).

We Evoke a “Miracle Motif”

In addition, it’s unrealistic to think that just because people get saved, life will be good—a belief some call a “miracle motif.” A miracle motif can keep us from honest assessment of more earthly problems and practical solutions. In other words, given the redeemed still struggle in this life with the flesh (Rom. 7, 8), the salvation of individuals (even the world, for that matter) will not alone bring an end to injustice, eradicate racism, guarantee access to quality education and health care, ensure equitable pay for work regardless of gender, prevent teens from getting pregnant outside of marriage, or provide a forever family for children waiting to be adopted.

We Speak in Vague Generalities

Finally, “change the world” rhetoric is unrealistic and vague. The fact is, only Jesus Christ can change the world. And while I’m not encouraging a lack of faith or otherwise limiting what God is able to do through your church, I am encouraging us to focus on a more specifically defined community of need. In other words, while you may not be able to take your city for Christ, you just might be able to bring real community transformation to a ZIP code, a neighborhood, or apartment complex when your vision is more precise. Couple this with humility and a willingness to labor in obscurity, and God will exalt your efforts beyond what you might otherwise ask or think possible (1 Pet. 5:6; Eph. 3:20-21).

To be clear, I’m not suggesting we should proclaim a social gospel as opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; nor am I preaching salvation by works.

Nevertheless we should recognize that simply sharing the Gospel, or for that matter, planting and developing churches filled with people just like you (whoever “you” are) will not likely bring about real community transformation. Indeed, ask yourself:

Can a church really hope to redeem a community if it does not reflect the community, particularly in terms of ethnic and economic diversity?

 

Steps Toward Reconciliation

Mark DeYmaz - Saturday, September 15, 2018

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, shortly after a so-called White Nationalist rally sparked racial unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, Sheryl Gay Stolber and Brian M. Rosenthal reported in The New York Times, “The city of Charlottesville was engulfed by violence on Saturday as white nationalists and counterprotesters clashed in one of the bloodiest fights to date over the removal of Confederate monuments across the South. … The rally quickly exploded into racial taunting, shoving and outright brawling, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency and the National Guard to join the police in clearing the area.”

As the article suggests, this was not the first rally of its kind and purpose. In fact, in the small resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, a group that seeks to preserve Southern heritage has been responsible for 29 such rallies since July 4, 2015. These rallies are held each month in the city’s center, near a statue of a Confederate soldier placed there by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1934.

Exactly one week following the tragic events in Charlottesville, I happened to be in Hot Springs eating pizza with my family at a popular spot. One of the TVs directly in front of our table was tuned to the 10 o’clock news. The lead story was about the 29th rally of its kind that had taken place in the city earlier that day.

Turning to my right, I noticed a table at which sat an African-American man and his family of four. Silently, discreetly, I observed him watching the news report. The man’s eyes were fixed in a solemn stare at the monitor, as signs, symbols and shots of marchers scrolled across the screen.

In his eyes, I detected no hint of hate, anger or defiance. Rather, I saw deep-seated sadness, pain and resignation. He wasn’t shocked; he was numb.

On the one hand in the moment, I wanted to do something—perhaps speak out right there in the restaurant or, go meet with him privately to extend compassion and hope. My mind raced with possibilities.

In one way or another, I wanted him to know that I did not agree with the words and actions of a few. On the other hand, I worried that any otherwise well-intended gesture on my part may be seen as intrusive and self-serving and would only make his burden heavier. I wondered, What realistically can I do to right such a systemic wrong? What difference can I make, just one person to another, to someone I don’t even know?

So, I did nothing.

Sometime later, the man and his family finished their meal and got up to leave. Having gone on with my own evening, I had set aside earlier concerns until I noticed him again in that moment. This time, I promptly moved toward him before analysis paralysis got the best of me.

Extending my hand and shaking hands with him, I said, “Excuse me, sir, my name is Mark DeYmaz. I saw you watching the news report earlier in the evening.”

“Yeah?” the man said, caught off guard and leaning back.

Quickly, I continued: “I just want you to know how wrong it is and how sorry I am you had to sit here tonight and watch that with your family. I am so sorry that we could not otherwise share an evening out—the same meal, in the same place, in the same town—as neighbors, without having to deal with racism. I am ashamed. I apologize. Please forgive me, and know they do not represent me.”

To my thankful surprise, the muscles in the man’s face eased, his eyes warmed, a small but evident smile appeared. Turning to leave and rejoin his family, he looked me in the eye. Somewhat tentatively, but in all sincerity, he said, “Thank you. Yeah. OK. Thank you. [Bigger smile] This is good.”

To be clear, this is not a story about me.

It’s a story about him and his family, about African-Americans in the American South, and more broadly about the sincere concerns of people of color in this country. Indeed, for all that’s otherwise good about the United States, the causes and effects of certain inequities and systemic racism still plague us to this day.

It’s a story, then, about our need as white men and women of Christ to pursue and listen to our biblical neighbors (Luke 10:25-37). We cannot and should not dismiss their angst, ignore their pain, accept resignation or turn a blind eye as if what’s been, and what is, will always be so.

As the apostle Paul makes clear, we are to have the same attitude for others as Christ had for us (Phil. 2:5). We are “not merely to look out for our own personal interests but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

In this way, by humbling ourselves as Christ did (Phil. 2:6-8) and by taking small and big steps alike, individually and collectively we can make a difference. We can and should do something.

For the sake of the gospel, I pray we will.

 

Movement Growing Across Europe

Mark DeYmaz - Saturday, September 15, 2018

In 2004, Dr. George Yancey and I launched the Mosaix Global Network. At the time, it wasn’t even a network—let alone a global one. Nevertheless, we added “global” to the name believing that if God were leading diverse people to walk, work and worship together as one in local churches throughout the United States, surely he would be doing so around the world, as well.

Throughout the years, I have been blessed to network and to partner with leaders of other multiethnic church movements around the globe: Mathew Kuruvilla, senior pastor at Parkside Church in Sydney, Australia; Terry Hoggard, founder of Fellowship of European International Churches; and Theo Visser, director of Intercultural Church Plants (ICP) in Europe.

Recently, I asked Theo to provide an update on his team’s work in Europe. Here’s what he had to say.

In Europe, we have seen an amazing work of God’s Spirit ever since the start of the new millennium. In many places, new movements are arising in which people from specific countries are setting up their own intercultural church-planting networks. And because of these efforts, a broader European network of intercultural churches is taking shape. This, in turn, is attracting attention and increasing interest of other pastors.

In the Netherlands, for example, more than 30 intercultural churches have joined ICP. These churches have reflected on a variety of subjects, including the implications of intercultural discipleship counseling. They have given much thought to coaching other intercultural church planters, developing a solid support system in the process.

In Germany, too, God is blessing in and through all kinds of new “mono-multicultural churches,” as they call them. The term implies that German nationals in local churches are intentionally becoming one with people from other countries in order to effectively reach the many cultures that today comprise the nation. Over the past few years, since Germany has been flooded with refugees, this work is significant and relevant. Already in Frankfurt, 11 new churches of this kind have been planted.

The German network is called MissionMosaik. The plan is to build similar networks in 10 European countries. Through these networks, leaders will take responsibility for their own countries and for the exchange of collective experience to help others grow in the knowledge and skills necessary to plant and lead intercultural churches in the future.

To help, a tool is being developed to train intercultural church planters and their teams in their own countries and contexts. This training will provide them with the opportunity to reproduce and start new training for others, on their own, at a later time. Through these “learning communities,” ICP is continually looking for ways to reproduce disciples and build communities through intercultural churches and networks, in order to become a movement of God’s Spirit where Jesus is exalted among the nations on Earth as in heaven (Rev. 7:9).

Through all such efforts, culturally diverse people in Europe today are finding their way to Jesus and to one another. In the process, they are becoming a “multicolored church,” one in which the manifold wisdom of God is being displayed to the world (Eph. 3:10). We are forging opportunities to stimulate and encourage one another across borders and to see this beautiful, new movement of God’s Spirit grow and develop.

Thus, the God of the nations is writing his story. In this time and age, he is sending all kinds of people to all kinds of places. And in this way—by reaching the nations and helping them become disciples in and through intercultural churches—he is ushering in a whole new chapter whereby the kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To learn more about partnering with emerging, intercultural church-planting networks in Europe, contact [email protected]

 

Diversify or Die

Mark DeYmaz - Saturday, September 15, 2018

For 15 years, Harry Li and I have been friends and colleagues, sharing responsibilities as pastors of the Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas. In fact, we often say that, together, we make one fine pastor.

As a former tenured professor at the University of Idaho and an accomplished researcher with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, Harry has a rare combination of gifting: a pastor’s heart and keen analytical skills. He is also co-author with me of Leading a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church. Recently, I asked him to assess the current state of the American church given our increasingly diverse society. Here’s what he had to say.

Having been at Mosaic since 2002, I’ve consulted with dozens of businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and churches. The common struggle I see with organizations that are predominantly white or otherwise homogeneous is that their leadership is managing decline as it relates to finding new employees, constituents, students or congregants. If these organizations do not soon take intentional steps to promote a spirit of inclusion, they will become irrelevant or, worse yet, will likely soon die.

Of course, many issues affect decline in church attendance or organizational health as it pertains to congregations today. Nevertheless, one undeniable fact many evangelicals are either unaware of or choose to ignore is that the population of non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. is currently stagnant, and within the next 10 years will begin a serious decline. Projected to decrease by 16 million people over the next 45 years, from 62 to 43 percent of the total population, this group is getting smaller. Thus, churches maintaining all-white uniformity are vying for ever-larger pieces of a shrinking pie, especially when considering that many church-planting strategies focus on geographical areas composed of largely white affluence.

Think about it: Much of the growth or decline of mainly white churches today mirrors the population shifts of whites around the country. In economic and gaming theory, it is called a zero-sum game—one church increases while another decreases by the same amount. In this way, reported church growth is commonly based on white transfers from one church to another in the same way that much of white population growth (and decline) is now observable from city to city. We can try denying or downplaying this trend, but at the end of the day, this is largely true.

Meanwhile, ethnic populations continue to expand. Little Rock, Arkansas, for example, became majority-minority in 2010, one in which the non-Hispanic white population decreased by 6 percent from the previous census period and became less than 50 percent of the city’s total population. Yet ethnic populations were marked by high, double-digit and in some cases triple-digit growth over the same 10 years.

Famed demographer William Frey says that America “is on the cusp of becoming a country with no racial majority, and new minorities are poised to exert a profound impact on U.S. society, the economy and politics.” In case you haven’t noticed, ethnic minorities are already exerting a profound impact on the U.S. church. Over the next 10 to 20 years, the most effective local church leaders will have learned how to bring diverse people together and lead others that don’t share similar ethnic, economic, cultural or political backgrounds.

I believe the coming age will provide the local church with its greatest opportunity for true, new growth and leadership development in our lifetime. Therefore, as you consider the trajectory of your ministerial career, are you willing to lean in to the future?

If not, I suggest you should get used to managing decline.

 

5 Ways to Redeem Your Community

Mark DeYmaz - Saturday, September 15, 2018

After serving as an assistant pastor for 11 years in a suburban church, Jason Janz’ faith was dry. He recognized a need for change: to do something different, something that would demand a life of dependence, something that would require God to show up.

So in 2008, Jason planted Providence Bible Church with a team of like-minded people in an urban neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. Today, Providence is a multiethnic and economically diverse congregation of 300 people who gather on Sundays and in missional communities throughout the week. In addition, the church has started two nonprofits: Upstream Impact (secular) and CrossPurpose (faith-based), each with a mission to abolish poverty in the neighborhood.

Recently, I asked Jason to describe his decision to leave the more comfortable trajectory of suburban life and ministry in favor of multiethnic urban church planting and community development. Here, in part, is what he shared.

The move disrupted my life. For the first time I became a minority in my surroundings; I needed to wear a headset while attending meetings at the local school so a translation could be provided to me in English.

In those days, a quote by Tim Keller helped disrupt and refine my thinking about the church. He said, “Christians should seek to live in the city, not to use the city to build great churches, but to use the church’s resources to seek a great, flourishing city.”

Those words, an echo of Jeremiah 29:7, represented a new paradigm for me and resonated deeply. Before, it was just about getting people into the building on Sunday morning to sing songs and hear a sermon. Our neighborhood, however, barely knew we existed.

I wondered what it would look like for the church to play a central role in its neighborhood: to live and work among its people, to reweave the fabric of a frayed society. What if the gospel saved lives not just for eternity but here on Earth, as well? What if the church could have such an impact in its community that crime and poverty were measurably reduced, education and employment responsibly increased?

The apostle Peter called us to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).

The American church has proved it can fill the seats, but it has yet to prove that the gospel can transform entire communities. I want to be part of that kind of church, and to have that kind of impact.

If the local church is to redeem its community, pastoral leaders should embrace the following principles and practices.

1. Put to rest the erroneous belief that effectiveness is measured and defined by how many people attend your church on Sunday morning.

While many pastors say it’s not about size, in reality, many focus on growing larger. At Providence, we chose to put our money where our mouth is in this regard. For every $1 we spend on facilities, we invest $27 dollars in the community. In addition, our nonprofit budget is four times the size of the church’s general budget.

2. Focus more on having a mega-influence than on becoming a megachurch.

Only 6 percent of Protestant churches in the U.S. have an attendance of more than 500 people; 59 percent have less than 100. I believe smaller churches that reflect and focus on a specifically defined community can have a much more systemic impact in their cities than larger, homogeneous churches driven by a Sunday-centric, attractional model of ministry.

3. Pastor the neighborhood, not simply the church.

At Providence, we focus exclusively on nine neighborhoods with 21,000 homes and 60,000 residents. We know the police, the business owners, the pastors and faith leaders, the community activists, the school principals and our political leaders. We are members of community organizations, school boards, online communities, nonprofit boards and neighborhood associations. In such instances, we are the only pastors in the room.

4. Recognize that Sunday sermons are necessary but not sufficient.

Sunday sermons are a small but necessary part of spiritual formation. The sermons with the greatest impact are those made evident in the way you live your life and the good works of the church, collectively, that benefit the community (Matt. 5:9).

5. Reclaim the values of longevity in terms of place and relationships.

According to LifeWay research, the average pastoral tenure is 3.6 years, while the tenure of so-called effective leaders is 11.2 to 21.6 years. We cannot advance measurable community transformation without staying put and going deep.

This article is adapted from Disruption: Repurposing the Church to Redeem the Community (Thomas Nelson, 2017) by Mark DeYmaz.

Divided Nation = Big Opportunity

Mark DeYmaz - Saturday, September 15, 2018

Never in my lifetime have the people of this country been so at odds with one another. Sure, there’ve been challenges, obstacles and disagreements in the past; but they were usually limited to one or two issues at a time. Today, however, no matter where you turn, people are ready to fight, choosing sides and vilifying those who disagree with them on matters of race, class, culture, gender, religion, politics—and even on whether to stand, sit or kneel during the national anthem. Thanks to social media, the battles are not only ongoing, but also fueled daily by new videos, hashtags or memes in support of one opinion or another.

Could it be for such a time as this that God has brought us here …

• to a place of passion and understanding?
• to disrupt the status quo?
• to repurpose the church to redeem the community?

Indeed, this should be our finest hour.

This was the theme we explored in November at Mosaix’ 3rd National Multiethnic Church Conference in Keller, Texas. More than 1,200 ministry leaders, including 80 speakers representing a wide variety of networks and denominations, gathered for the historic event. Together, they affirmed that by establishing healthy multiethnic and economically diverse communities of Christ-centered faith, we can both learn from and lead others to navigate the rough seas of division.

By walking, working and worshipping God together as one, we can get beyond the distinctions of this world that so often divide. We can “bring to light for everyone what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold [in Greek, polypoikilos—marked with a great variety of colors] wisdom of God might now be made known through the church” (Eph. 3:10-11). In so doing, we can shape the future of things to come.

To help overcome present divisions and shape the future of things to come, however, diverse believers must first develop cross-cultural relationships and gain cross-cultural competence in the local church. Toward that end, Wesleyan Publishing House released a brand-new curriculum at the conference titled Multiethnic Conversations: An Eight-Week Journey Toward Unity in Your Church.

Unlike many previous works written exclusively for leaders, Multiethnic Conversations is also designed for people in the pews. The eight-week daily devotional doubles as a small-group study to facilitate open, honest and at times difficult dialogue among believers of varying ethnic and economic backgrounds. And in just a short time, pastors are already finding Multiethnic Conversations to be a Christ-centered, biblically rooted and useful tool for starting discussions, creating safe spaces, promoting understanding and forging common ground among their people (see Phil. 2:2).

Yes, by building healthy multiethnic and economically diverse churches, we can collectively get beyond rhetoric and into results for the glory of God. By taking intentional steps, empowering diverse leaders, developing cross-cultural relationships and competence, and promoting a spirit of inclusion, the local church gains credibility. By appealing to more than a single demographic, unity and diversity give us broad influence in the community. In this way, our light shines and Christ is lifted up so as to draw all men and women to him (see Matt. 5:9; John 12:32).

Given historic divisions, lingering pain and the widespread polarization of people in the U.S. today, we have an unprecedented opportunity to advance faith, peace, hope and love in and through the local church—a credible witness of God’s love for all people. That said, let us not promote or pursue such a message because it’s politically correct, but because it is biblically correct; not because it is increasingly popular, but because it is right; not because of changing demographics, but for the sake of the gospel.

Yes, this should be our finest hour. Let’s determine to make it so.

Holy Disconnect to Holy Diversity

Mark DeYmaz - Saturday, September 15, 2018

Today, entire denominations are taking intentional steps to plant, grow or develop healthy multiethnic churches. In the process, they are empowering committed leaders at the highest levels. The Wesleyan Church is one such denomination that should be considered a model for others looking to make systemic shifts in repositioning for the future—a future in which organizational intelligence, credibility and sustainability will be directly tied to cross-cultural competency and diversity.

In June 2016, Dr. Wayne Schmidt was elected general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church. Throughout his career, Schmidt has committed himself to building healthy multiethnic communities of faith. As the co-founder and senior pastor of Kentwood Community Church (KCC) in greater Grand Rapids, Michigan, he led the congregation from 2 percent to 12 percent diversity. Along the way, he also empowered diverse leaders and created systemic equity. In fact, Schmidt installed Kyle Ray, an African-American, as lead pastor upon departing KCC. Under Ray’s leadership, KCC has grown to a church of 30 percent diversity.

Following KCC, Schmidt served as chief administrative officer for Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University and led the school from infancy to a campus of more than 500 students from 34 states and 11 countries with a nearly 40 percent ethnic minority population. Training at the seminary is now offered in English and Spanish.

Here Schmidt shares what led him to pursue such paths and ends so many years ago.

In August 2005 I sat in the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit as Bill Hybels challenged us to identify our “holy discontent.” In that moment, God broke through with a penetrating question: “Wayne, is KCC called to permeate the whole community with the good news of Jesus Christ, or just those in the community who look like you?”

When we launched KCC, the community was 97 percent white, and KCC remained that way even while our community changed to 30 percent ethnic minority. Fifty different nations were represented in local schools. We no longer reflected our community—or heaven (Rev. 7:9).

Because I grew up in a setting without ethnic diversity, I was slow to perceive how God was calling the church to change. Therefore, when that holy discontent was birthed within me, I felt the need to spend years learning before I started leading KCC through transition. However, God had been trying to get through to me repeatedly over the years, and too much time had already been lost to spend extended time only learning.

The challenge? I had to learn and lead simultaneously.

I read everything I could get my hands on and participated in church-based seminars and experiences such as the Institute for Healing Racism. Most of all, I approached people of color whom I trusted and asked them to be the “safe people” for me to ask my dumb questions. They sensed my sincerity and I experienced their grace.

Soon, my holy discontent permeated our staff, board of elders and congregation. We started by taking small steps, but were committed not to “despise the day of small things” (Zech. 4:10). As we did, God began to draw people and resources to our church to propel us forward.

It is true that learning and leading can simultaneously result in some rookie mistakes that at times hurt people or hinder your progress. But I’ve also been blessed to experience and learn some wonderful realities along the way.

1. The people you lead love to learn with you, to join you in the journey. Your mistakes, when readily admitted, keep them from being paralyzed by attempted perfectionism. You’re not an expert instructing them but a fellow journeyer discovering along with them.

2. When people sense sincerity in your heart, it prompts a “love [that] covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). I have been amazed at how forgiving people have been of my leadership lapses when they see progress brought about through humility and intentionality.

3. When you have so much to learn, it causes you to listen more, and one of the greatest gifts we can give to those we lead is to be a good listener.

* Adapted from Leading a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church by Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li (Zondervan).


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