(Photo: Mosaix2013/Randy Baranosky)
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Kicking off the first plenary session at the Mosaix 2013 Multi-Ethnic Church Conference on Tuesday, Pastors Mark DeYmaz, Derwin Gray and Eugene Cho, and theology professor Paul Louis Metzger shared their belief in this movement that aims to reflect God's love for all people and the diversity of the kingdom of heaven by planting and growing economically and ethnically-diverse churches.
DeYmaz, who planted Mosaic Church in Little Rock, Ark., where he's the directional leader, noted that among all of the churches in the United States, 86.3 percent fail to have at least 20 percent diversity in their congregations, adding that churches are 10 times more segregated than the communities in which they sit and 20 times more segregated than nearby public schools.
"Surely it breaks the heart of God that so many churches throughout this country are segregated ethnically and economically from one another," DeYmaz commented, "and little has changed in more than 100 years since it was first heard that Sunday morning is the most-segregated hour of the week."
He added that among the issues addressed at this year's conference is that segregated churches are unintentionally undermining the Gospel, and citied statistics which show that from 1990 to 2009, the U.S. population grew by 56 million, but among those, only 446,500 became active in a local church, "that's less than one percent."
According to DeYmaz, author of the new book, Leading a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Seven Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them, pastors and church planters are supporting the movement to transform segregated congregations into ones that are economically and ethnically diverse, not because it's a trending fad, but because it's biblical, and because the increasingly diverse society no longer finds credible the message of God's love for all people inside segregated churches.
DeYmaz emphasized that the first century church was made up of diverse people – Jews and Gentiles – who worshiped God as one, and used the good news of Gentile inclusion in Romans 1:16, and God's righteousness that's given to all who believe in Jesus Christ in Romans 3:22-23, as examples that modern-day churches should emulate to build multi-ethnic congregations.
Derwin Gray, lead pastor at Transformation Church in Indian Land, S.C., a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church that was recognized in 2012 as one of the top 100 fastest-growing churches in the U.S., said he believes the homogeneous megachurch is going to go the way of the Blackberry, and that the world is longing for diverse churches that worship together as one.
The multi-ethnic church movement, he said, creates a "beautiful tapestry where the power of the cross is digging deep into people's hearts and exposing their biases and filling that space with God's grace," Gray described.
Paul Louis Metzger, a professor of Christian theology and theology of culture at Multnomah University in Portland, Ore., whose talk, titled "we shall overcome," homed in on issues pertaining to social justice, described the racial divisions in society and the church during the 1960s, but also reflected on the healing that comes from reconciliation through the solidarity of the church.
"In the book of Revelations, we find this theme of 'we will overcome' in the person of Jesus, just as He has overcome," Metzger explained, adding that the church is called to overcome a "consumer-preference market-driven church growth principle," that exists in a "consumer-driven culture that gives people what they want when they want it," and instead, "we need to be consumed by Jesus…a community centered in God, in Christ."
Eugene Cho, founder and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, Wash., and founder of One-Day's Wages, a nonprofit organization focused on global poverty, emphasized that church planters and leaders must not lose their focus on the Gospel, even as they strive to attain their multi-ethnic vision by increasing membership and diversity among their congregations, because "even a good thing can become bad," when the focus is taken off of Jesus Christ.
Speaking to the issue of leadership, Cho noted that St. Francis of Assisi said, "It's no use walking anywhere to preach, unless our walking is our preaching."
Click here to watch a live stream of Wednesday's plenary sessions online.
To learn more about Mosaix, visit mosaix2013.com. Apple has also released an app for Mosaix2013, called Mosaix. Online viewers can also participate and follow the conference on Twitter at #Mosaix2013.