21 Culturally Diverse Churches

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Ministry Today launched in 2014 a special way to honor churches and ministries for their significant work. In last year's May-June issue, we highlighted and honored 21 churches and ministries for the ways in which they were influencing the 21st-century church. For 2015, however, we are taking a different approach to "Ministry Today 21," honoring congregations that are "culturally diverse on purpose."

Bayside of South Sacramento
Christian Family Church, Tampa
Concord Church, Dallas
Cornerstone Church of San Diego
Covenant Church of Pittsburgh
Disciple Central Community Church
Fellowship Memphis
First Baptist, Orlando
Guts Church, Tulsa
Hope Community Church, Detroit
International Church of Las Vegas
King's Park International Church
Lake Mary Church
Metro Community Church
Mosaic Arkansas
Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas
People's Church, Oklahoma City
Queens Alliance Church
Real Life Church, Sacramento
Trinity Church, Miami
U-City Family Church, St. Louis

Bayside of South Sacramento    BOSSONLINE.ORG

BOSS Aims to Be a 'Meaningful Bridge' in a Diverse City

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Bayside of South Sacramento (BOSS) is one of the fastest-growing cross-cultural, cross-class churches in America.

BOSS' vision is "to be a healthy, radically inclusive church community that exists to make and multiply Christ followers in the Sacramento region and across the world." To fulfill that vision, the church aims to bring "hope and compassion to the community by following our mission statement: Bayside of South Sacramento is a diverse church committed to life change by reaching the lost, teaching believers and releasing leaders to serve."

"Our leadership, staff and congregation are involved in cultural diversity by being intentional in anything we do, making sure cultural diversity is represented," says Pamela Douglas, community care liaison for BOSS.

Via PROJECT 89, a mission focused on reaching those who don't attend church, the church is showing its members want to reach the whole community, which is also diverse with a significant minority population of Asians and African-Americans.

"We reach people with the love and grace of God in Jesus," says Pamela Douglas, Community Care Liaison for BOSS. "Every person and every ministry plays a role in fulfilling our mission to reach the 89 percent of people in the Sacramento region who don't attend church. We want to embrace and develop relationships with people, meet their immediate needs, and build a creative and meaningful bridge to engage them in a worshipful environment and spiritual experience at BOSS."

In a concerted effort to maintain the ministry of its beloved late pastor, Bishop Sherwood C. Carthen, BOSS focuses intently on ministry beyond the walls of the church through partnerships to bring hope and compassion to the community, including Loaves and Fishes, Mary House, Safe Haven, Prison Ministries/Youth Detention, Sacramento Steps Forward, St. John's Shelter, Cops and Clergy, Mack Road Partnership and Season of Service. As BOSS searches for a permanent pastor, transitional pastor Stanley Long works to provide pastoral care, leadership and stability to the BOSS family.  —Kathleen Samuelson

Christian Family Church, Tampa    CFCTAMPA.ORG

Practicing the 'Age-Old Heart of God'

Christian Family Church co-pastors Rob and Jennifer Mallan want to see the city of Tampa transformed. They founded Christian Family Church (CFC) five years ago with fewer than 20 friends. Today, the church has outgrown three locations and sees about 600 attend Sunday services. The congregation is almost equal parts Caucasian, African-American and Hispanic, with other races and ethnicities also in the mix.

"If the pastor is not culturally diverse, the church is not going to be," says Pastor Rob Mallan, whose family includes two African-American adopted sons and their biological children.

CFC stresses the "family" part of its name, keeping members connected to each other continuously through Facebook, email and pastoral recorded phone-call reminders of events and services. The church offers charismatic services that blend contemporary worship music with Spanish and black gospel flavor, with sets combining Hillsong and Israel Houghton music, and songs in English and Spanish. While the lead pastors are Caucasian, the staff and leadership reflect the diverse makeup of the members.

"We honor culture and celebrate cultural diversity too," Mallan says. "On Dr. Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate. We honor Hispanic celebrations. We want to honor the cultures inside our church and reflect that in our leadership."

The church offers headsets with Spanish translation and sign language.

CFC builds up its members with programs on Christian Growth Seminars in English and Spanish, marriage and parenting classes and a Bible college through its affiliation with Christian Family Church International in Johannesburg, South Africa. The church has expanded to Ouanaminthe, Haiti, where services are being held and a building is in the works.

"God created diversity," Jennifer Mallan says. "Why would we in the 21st century think any of that has changed? We're just practicing the age-old heart of God. When you just love people no matter what color wrapping paper they were wrapped in or culture they were born into or heritage God chose for them, when you just love them and see their destiny, that's what God attracts to the body."

Regarding the church, "it's a battle we all have to contend with for unity in the body," Rob says. "My wife and I always say prejudice is a sin issue, not a color issue."  —Natalie Gillespie

Concord Church, Dallas    CONCORDDALLAS.ORG

Dallas Church Aims to Be Proactive in Building Bridges

Concord Church Senior Pastor Bryan Carter is excited about what's happening with pastors in Dallas. Through the international Movement Day, he and Dr. Jeff Warren were asked to bring other pastors together to collaborate on ways to help their community. Warren is white; Carter is black. The two realized they were only connecting with pastors of their own race, so they decided to sit their two groups down together.

"Then Ferguson happened, and we realized we all needed to have some conversations about how to preach about it, how we viewed it differently and what our responses should be if something like that happened in our city," Carter says.

Carter said his vision for his 5,500 congregants is to be proactive in building bridges and becoming more diverse. His staff includes black, white and Hispanic members, and he is partnered with Warren's primarily white Park Cities Baptist Church to "switch" pulpits and choirs at least one Sunday a year.

"We are even looking at trying to develop some curriculum or small group curriculum around racial reconciliation that could be used in churches all over Dallas," Carter said. "I'm pretty active in my city, and what I keep discovering is that people who need us could care less what color the church is. They just want the church to respond."

Carter said the church works well together in big crises, but it's harder to build continuing relationships.

"We're a small group now of 15 to 20 pastors, but our hope is to enlarge it even more," Carter said. "I don't think you ever get to the point where you think, 'We've done this. It's accomplished.' It's an ongoing work."  —Natalie Gillespie

Cornerstone Church of San Diego    TURNINGTHEHEARTS.COM

Challenging the Church to Build a Kingdom Culture

Though Cornerstone Church of San Diego has been shaped by Hispanic leaders, Pastor Sergio De La Mora and other church leaders are intentional about making sure that it is not viewed as a Hispanic church or even a multicultural church but as a congregation shaped by and grounded in "kingdom culture."

"We adhere to the culture of God's kingdom, and we're determined not to allow decisions [that could be mired in cultural perspectives] to separate us," says Leticia Ventura, chief innovation officer.

For example, in Hispanic culture, Ventura observes that many churches follow their culture's emphasis on the importance of a small, close-knit family and, therefore, prefer that the church remain small too.

"Instead, we encourage the people to go out to the highways and byways and bring people in, as Christ taught in Luke 14:23," she says.

Ventura has seen the congregation get behind various initiatives across the church's five campuses that would otherwise be foreign to their culture.

"People understand that something impacts them simply because they are a part of the kingdom, not because they necessarily personally are a part of that program," she says.

When De La Mora and his wife, Georgina, founded Cornerstone in 1998, they focused on turning the hearts of people back to God and their families, building strong families and helping people see their God-given potential. Guiding people to see that they are part of a spiritual family in the kingdom of God—which matters just as much as the one they were born into—is a message that shapes the church's mission.

Getting beyond polite conversation happens in family life groups. Here, the focus is on doing life together as God's family. De La Mora emphasizes that, as it says in Ephesians 3, it is the "manifold wisdom of God that puts us together."

Yet, Ventura admits, "It's a delicate dance." The church seeks to honor the cultures represented within its body, but also to raise up leaders relationally who grasp not only the beauty of the culture they were born into, but that which they've been born into a second time through Christ.  —Deonne Lindsey

Covenant Church of Pittsburgh    CCOP.ORG

Cultural Discussions Cultivate Greater Understanding

During a season of exponential growth in the late 1980s, Covenant Church of Pittsburgh realized that the congregation led by Bishop Joseph Garlington needed to do more to create better understanding among the members of its diverse body.

"We knew that we had to develop better relationships," says Pastor Robert Menges.

Thus began a tradition that has continued ever since. Leadership of the Western Pennsylvania church gathered a core group of 100-150 people from the congregation representing a variety of cultures to spend a half-day discussing differences in backgrounds and cultures and sharing perspectives over a meal.

"We found there were a lot of things people had an expectation of that were not necessarily realistic or true," Menges says. "For example, it seemed like people were thought to be unwelcoming or unfriendly if they didn't say 'Hi' every time you saw them or if they didn't greet you immediately."

In reality, however, such simple things had more to do with personality than culture.

Other differences, Menges notes, were small but were just as enlightening.
"We would eat together and realize that we eat different kinds of foods in some ways, but many of the same kinds of foods," Menges says. "A lot of the cooking that people tended to associate with African-American culture was really more southern than anything. People started to see that even among people from the same culture, there were differences and that a lot of what we grew up preferring simply had to do with what was common in our families."

These core group meetings have done much to eliminate assumptions and erroneous perspectives and guide the church toward understanding each other's differences with a new perspective.

"For us," Menges says, "it's been an amazing way to engage people and take relationships to a whole different level."  —Deonne Lindsey

Disciple Central Community Church    DC3ONLINE.ORG

DC3 Grows While Using 'Tools to Diversify'

Pastor Marcus King started "DC3," Disciple Central Community Church in 2008 and has watched God grow the church to around 3,200 attendees at three services. Located in the predominantly African-American town of DeSoto in southern Dallas County, the church's ethnic makeup is roughly 90 percent African-American with the remaining 10 percent being Hispanic and Caucasian.

"We have a growing Hispanic and Caucasian population in the area and in our church," says Pastor Marcus King. "One of our missions is to express Christ through culture, so we have a lot of partnerships with multicultural organizations."

DC3 has created J.A.I.L. Community (Justice Agencies Incarcerated Legal) to offer legal aid and visits to those who are incarcerated. It participates in Great Days of Service, a week in which churches get together to beautify the city of DeSoto. The church offers a job fair, employment-readiness training, a clothes closet and a food pantry. It hosts workout classes, Bible studies and counseling services, and participates in events like the Walk to End Lupus. The church has even partnered with the local police to offer help on domestic dispute calls.

"It's crazy to not try to go out and meet your community," says King. "When you are intentional about the Great Commission, different cultures will certainly gravitate toward the church."

The church plans to hire a bilingual staff member to help reach the area's Hispanic population. Many Hispanics visit the church during its free immunization program, and DC3 would like to add a Spanish worship service in the future.

"We have the tools to diversify and now we're doing it," King says. "We really want to be intentional about whom we reach. When I started the church back in 2008, God gave me a vision that it would be a multicultural church."  —Ann Byle

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