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
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
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
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
Fellowship Memphis FELLOWSHIPMEMPHIS.ORG
Memphis Church Aims to Raise the 'Racial IQ' of Its Community
Dr. John Bryson had a dream to see more racial equality in the body of Christ. So he and about 30 family members and friends moved from Texas and other parts of the country to Memphis, Tennessee, to plant a church that would "raise the racial IQ" of its congregation and community.
Fellowship Memphis opened its doors in 2003 and now draws about 1,700 to its weekly services in downtown, East Memphis and Germantown. Bryson and about 60 percent of his congregation are white, 30-35 percent are African-American, and 5-10 percent are Asian and other ethnicities.
"We wanted to see the church make great strides—intergenerational, socio-economic, and with racial and cultural diversity," Bryson says. "We felt like if God can do that here in Memphis, a few miles from where Dr. King was assassinated, if we can rally around the gospel and be part of a movement to rechurch the South, then we can ultimately help press this issue into the whole country."
Fellowship Memphis makes race a focal point of its mission, reading books together on race and holding workshops, conferences and small group conversations around black-white issues, and ensuring its staff and elders represent the diversity in Memphis.
"It's a factor in every decision we make," Bryson says. "We believe everything changes when you are talking in proximity and in relationship. We recently had about 250 members, half Caucasian and half African-American, sit down for a discussion. I had an African-American mom share about raising African-American boys and how she has to teach them how to deal with the police. When that mom is part of your family, part of your church, someone you have relationship with, that changes things."
Bryson says Fellowship Memphis encourages members to become a part of each other's daily lives.
"Slowly, there has been some incredible progress," he says.
Since the church is known for being on the "offensive" on racial issues, Bryson said it has been able to hold forums on issues such as the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases. He says even with racial flare-ups around the country, his church has been able to continue the conversation about race in a way that is growing relationships.
"The frustration, at times, is when people hold onto their race and culture tighter than the body of Christ," Bryson says. "Dr. King said 60 years ago that 11:00 on Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America. We thought we could help change that. God created every combination of people, so I like to say if people don't like a diverse church, they're gonna hate heaven." —Natalie Gillespie
First Baptist, Orlando FIRSTORLANDO.COM
Saying Yes to 'a Church for Everybody'
First Baptist Church of Orlando never set out to be a culturally diverse church, though roughly 45 percent of attendees at the 19,000-member church is part of an ethnic minority group.
"The mission was not to integrate," says Senior Pastor David Uth. "The mission was not to create a diverse church. The mission was to reach this city. It just happens that [the] city was diverse."
Indeed, in the last 15 years, the Central Florida city has seen a growing number of residents from Haiti, Brazil and Puerto Rico. As a result, First Baptist now translates its English services into Spanish and Portuguese, has small groups for specific languages, including Russian and Mandarin, and hosts worship services in Creole and Portuguese, with tentative plans for Spanish and Arabic services.
But church leaders say they didn't necessarily pursue those ministry opportunities. In some cases, an individual offered to translate worship services into a particular language. In other cases, members asked for a language-specific small group. In every case, the church had a ready response.
"Our answer to everything is yes," says Danny de Armas, senior associate pastor. "We didn't create a model that says everything has to fit this way as much as we created a climate that says we want this to be a church for everybody."
De Armas, who is of Cuban descent, notes that sometimes hearing the gospel in one's "heart language" can make the message clearer. But church leaders are eager to build unity in the midst of their diversity, which is why language-specific events are never held at the same time as the church's main worship services.
"We want to connect with [people] in [their] heart language, but we don't want to segregate," de Armas says.
For First Baptist, building unity amid diversity also means being intentional about including the language ministries in every part of the church. The language ministry staff is part of the larger church staff, and they manage budgets, just like the church's other ministries do. Members of the language ministries serve as deacons and leaders in the church.
In the English worship services, choruses are sometimes sung in Spanish or Portuguese. Uth believes there is a beauty in seeing people from diverse cultures come together in worship because the church begins to look more like heaven. But he doesn't chide churches that are not densely diverse. Not every church exists in a community with as much diversity as Orlando, but he believes every church should reflect its community.
Although First Baptist is large, de Armas says a church's size doesn't have to determine its commitment to diversity. He says he's seen smaller churches that are doing even more to reach their diverse communities and larger churches that are doing very little.
Uth says pastors must first desire to become culturally diverse. Then they must lead by example and teach their way through change, emphasizing what the Bible says about diversity, such as the fact that God doesn't have favorites.
"Change for change is not good," Uth says. "Change because it reflects the Scripture, that's good."
While First Baptist is aggressive in its efforts to meet the needs of its changing community, de Armas says the church still has a lot to learn. He knows there are times when ethnic minorities visit the church and don't have the experience church leadership would like them to have.
"Our desire's there, and our congregation's desire is there to be the church that we feel God's called us to be," de Armas says. "But we still know that we have a lot of room to grow, a lot of ways that we can keep being welcoming to everybody, because all people matter to God, not just English-speaking American Christians." —Adrienne Gaines
Guts Church, Tulsa GUTSCHURCH.COM
Reaching People That No One Else Can
Guts Church started its mission in 1992 outside of the box, and continues to take that same approach to reach all kinds of people for Christ. Pioneered by Bill and Sandy Scheer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they "believed God for diversity because at that time, the church at large was not diverse."
Guts continues to celebrate diversity today in a number of ways.
"We don't see diversity just as ethnicity, but any way people could be seen as divided: rich or poor, young or old," Bill Scheer says. "Our motto early in the church was to be relatable, authentic and genuine."
"We reach people no one else can," he adds. "That is how we look at it. So we want to be good at reaching the unchurched. We want to affirm the unloved, those who would usually be uncomfortable in church. When the church started, we initially attracted the biker community and those that would be considered 'alternative.' "
Every June, Guts Church hosts a Motorcycle Rally that reaches two communities: the local biker community and a community of orphans on the island of La Gonave, Haiti. The proceeds are used to feed children and drill water wells in Haiti.
Pastor Bill has given his life to the local church, a place that has sometimes been difficult for people.
"People who didn't like the idea of church weren't people who hadn't experienced it, but people who had a bad experience with it."
So he continually encourages his staff to truly understand the congregation.
"We have to find people's pace, tempo and rhythm. I'm constantly preaching to our staff and leaders that we have to be ahead of the game, we need to be out front—with honor, value, dignity."
Those three words inform the way Bill pastors. Honor. Value. Dignity. He takes his message to men, challenging them to display those characteristics, asking them difficult, pointed questions.
These three words also color the way he views racism. Although racial tension does exist, he has made a choice not to feed the issue.
"We make it a non-issue. If we make it an issue, it then becomes an issue," he says. "Within our range of motion, it boils down to the simplicity of honor. If we honor people, they're going to line up to the door to get in."
And as they file in, they'll see a variety of people on the worship team.
"We are intentional in having a diverse worship team. People have to be able to connect with who is on stage."
"I want to offer the solution," he says. "The answer to racism is always Jesus."
But he cautions that Satan often wants to stir up strife and battles.
"The enemy is going to pick a fight with us. The war's already been won. We're not going back to France to fight the Germans because the war is over. That's what a lot of this is. The tension we see today is frustration."
He stressed that a right relationship with God helps people deal with their frustration because He provides the kind of hope that won't disappoint.
Pastor Bill believes great growth comes from helping youth.
"You want to get into the heart of a family you help their kids," he says.
They have developed an unconventional way to reach the kids in their community every October. It's called "Nightmare," and it reaches thousands in their community with message of Jesus. "Nightmare" is a re-enactment of the top killers of teenagers, and it also portrays the price Christ paid on their behalf.
Guts Church also reaches families through a weekly grocery giveaway, a monthly men's lunch and a weekly Hispanic church service.
"I believe that everything should flow from the church—it's covenant," he says. "We communicate that God loves you where you are, but He doesn't want you to stay that way."
With an emphasis on growth (with steady, consistent growth for 23 years), there is also a foundation of grace.
"It is hard for me to look at someone who is in sin and judge them because of what God saved me from," says Scheer. "The grace of God and His mercies have been so powerful in my life."
Guts Church has become a safe place for those who felt marginalized.
"Those that felt they were dirty or an outcast have found a place to connect." —Mary DeMuth
Hope Community Church, Detroit HOPEDETROIT.ORG
Crossing the 'Berlin Wall' of Race With Love
Kevin Butcher has a rich heritage of connecting across the so-called "racial divide" in America, but the Hope Community Church pastor didn't know that part of his family history until his seminary days.
Taking a course on Pentecostal history, Butcher kept seeing his grandfather's name, David Wesley Myland, come up in all of his textbooks. Myland—principal Bible teacher and mentor of J. Roswell Flower, who was prominent in early leadership of the Assemblies of God—married a gifted young woman named Lela who played piano for Aimee Semple McPherson at the historic Angelus Temple in Los Angeles.
"My Caucasian grandfather pastored an almost completely African-American church in Detroit in the 1930s, over 20 years before the end of Jim Crow [racial segregation laws]," says Butcher. "After his death, my grandmother carried on his legacy, so as a child, I was exposed to very diverse, storefront-type Pentecostal churches at least co-led by my grandmother, revival services and healing services where all different kinds of human beings worshipped together."
Butcher, who is writing Love Will Bring You Home, a NavPress book on how the love of God restores us, believes that the passion of his grandparents for a diverse church was birthed somewhere deep in his spirit. His congregation, Hope Community Church (HCC), is located in "a very tough, largely impoverished, crime-ridden, drug-infested area of Detroit's east side, a neighborhood that happens to be 95 percent African-American," says Butcher, who also pointed out that the church building sits about six blocks south of a gateway into an increasingly affluent and increasingly Caucasian group of suburban neighborhoods called the Grosse Pointes.
"But Alter Road, the dividing road between the city of Detroit and these suburbs, sometimes seems like the old Berlin Wall, separating human beings both racially and economically," he says. "We feel that our call, in Jesus' name, is to be ambassadors, a reconciling community, demonstrating to everyone in our communities on both sides of "the wall" that there really is a way for us to heal, come together and live in deep and true shalom with one another. In fact, we feel that if we do not live out the gospel in that way, we are literally spitting on the cross of our Jesus."
Hope Community Church is on mission "to reconcile all people to God and one another in Jesus Christ." With a church body consisting of about 55 percent Caucasian, 40 percent African-American and 5 percent Latino/Asian-American/other, HCC's worship attendance averages 220-275, while those who call the church "home" runs at about 400-450. The church's ministry staff also features significant variety in race and ethnicity, from African-American to Albanian to Native American and more.
"Multiethnic churches aren't supposed to be a cute option, but the very essence of what the body of Christ is as a healing community," says Butcher.
More than church programming and outreach strategies, the love of Christ is the driving force that is foundational to Butcher's ministry. Without that love, and the healing of wounds that comes with it, a congregation can get "stuck" in repeat mode.
"The body gets 'stuck' in unpacking ethnic and racial wounds—which absolutely need to be unpacked—but which cannot be unpacked without the foundation of the love of Jesus Christ bonding us together for the journey. Without that love, we get frustrated, feel misunderstood, unheard and disrespected—and bolt. With that love that bonds us together in a common identity—brothers and sisters in Jesus ('Christ is all and in all,' Col. 3:11)—we have the foundation we need to unpack 'the mess' and heal—for years and years, if that is what it takes."
Butcher believes the church is truly the church when the body has an "intentional, loving space created for all people," he says. "Not just, 'Hey, they can come and be with us if they want,' but rather, 'We must work in Jesus' name at creating space, so all will know they are equally loved and have a home here in our midst. In fact, we will not settle for anything less.' " —Christine D. Johnson
International Church of Las Vegas ICLV.COM
Celebrating a Multicultural Model That Works
The International Church of Las Vegas has developed a winning formula: Honor God and One Another.
Although Las Vegas is famous for a number of reasons, many do not know that it is home to the highest concentration of megachurches in America. Recently, MSNBC took a look at some of this city's burgeoning congregations (msnbc.com/msnbc/megachurches-the-shadow-sin-citys -strip), and among the most notable was the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV).
This unique assembly is certainly newsworthy for its size and location, but it is also known for its intentional approach to diversity. ICLV celebrates the blending of the many cultures and nationalities that make up its congregation, and the evidence of this is everywhere. At Summerlin, their main campus (one of four), the flags of more than 30 nations are suspended from the ceiling, representing the native countries of members of the church.
It wasn't this way when Pastors Paul and Denise Goulet arrived with their family in 2002. Then the congregation was mostly white. "I started preaching about not having prejudice, and saying that the church would be a multicultural, multilingual and multigenerational church," says Pastor Paul Goulet. "We would purposefully target people of different colors, backgrounds and experiences. We really made this a huge issue, and when it happened, we started celebrating."
Worship services and even small groups are provided in several languages, including French, Spanish and Greek. Sunday services are translated, and headphones and special listening equipment are provided. Those who livestream church services on the Internet have the option of choosing an English, French or Spanish language broadcast.
Each week, Goulet offers a simple greeting to Spanish- and French-speaking congregants in their own languages. On occasion, the church has welcomed guest speakers who will use someone to translate the message.
Creative Director Douglas Haines told Ministry Today that ICLV takes the mandate to "Go into all the world" literally. "A lot of the world is at our doorstep," he says. "We have an incredibly diverse community in the Las Vegas area, and we make specific efforts to be all things to all men."
One way this is done is by establishing congregations in different parts of the city. Along with the Summerlin location, Prayer Mountain and South Gate campuses are situated in mostly middle-class and upper middle-class residential communities. The church's Dream Center location targets the specific needs commonly associated with the inner city.
Nearly 10,000 members come together to worship at either one of the ICLV campuses, or by way of its online portal. Like the congregation, the church staff and the pastoral team reflect a wide range of nationalities and cultures—African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Greeks, Hawaiians, French Canadians and Ethiopians.
The church's worship music (traditional gospel songs and modern choruses) reflects the congregation's different cultural and ethnic styles and influences. As for ICLV's Web presence, Haines acknowledges that every component is "intentionally diverse to reflect the type of congregation we have—old, young and different ethnicities."
Pastor Goulet says it's the preaching of the Good News of Jesus that draws people. However, cultivating a cohesive spiritual family requires an added element.
"Honor is something that ICLV values above all else," he explains, "[honor] for God first, and then for each other, no matter who you are or what you look like."
He imagines heaven with people of different colors, languages and backgrounds, and he labors to make this a reality at ICLV. In the same way, he sees a different future emerging for his city than the one many are promoting.
"The whole world comes to Las Vegas," he says. "I believe that pretty soon, the reason they come here will be for the presence of God." —Brenda Davis
King's Park International Church KINGSPARK.ORG
College-Area Church Seeks to Tear Down Walls of Separation
Launched on the University of North Carolina (UNC) campus as a congregation of mostly white college students, today King's Park International Church reaches into the heart of inner-city Durham.
"We choose to embrace the city 'poor' and do what we can to tear down that wall of separation by underscoring the need to be together, work together and go to church together," says Senior Pastor Ron Lewis, who started the UNC ministry.
"Often the issue is not skin color, but the socio-economic barrier. Many in urban neighborhoods feel the alienation, which we try to tear down with our on-site presence and ministries."
Kings started crossing the cultural gap between the college campus and Durham's housing projects by establishing an inner-city learning center in the early 1980s. That eventually swelled its numbers, led to countless conversions, and prompted the building of a 2,200-seat sanctuary in the area.
Today the 1,250 people who attend each week are an ethnic stew of approximately 80 ethnicities. They largely divide into 40 percent white, 40 percent African-American, and 20 percent Asian or Hispanic.
"From the beginning we were called to build on the 'fault line' of ethnic tension and division," says Lewis, whose church has planted 65 others in 17 nations.
"All our campus ministries and church plants are similarly diverse. Although it's not always easy, building diverse congregations is certainly rewarding and we'd have it no other way."
In addition to the learning center, Lewis says the church sought to cross racial barriers by sponsoring listening sessions where Caucasian ministers could hear from people of color and minority groups.
Despite the passage of time, they learned that many in the African-American community still carried pain from the Civil Rights era. While many of the younger people lived in a new world, their parents and grandparents did not; Lewis says many hearts and minds changed as a result of these sessions.
After listening to residents' concerns, the church developed a multiethnic leadership team to help maintain a unity of vision and purpose. This reality is reflected from the platform during its worship services, with both singers and pastors coming from various backgrounds.
This multicultural shift included broadening worship styles. At King's, music specials can range from classical piano to urban Christian hip hop to Full Gospel. The unusual repertoire has featured African-American gospel singers performing in Italian and Chinese singers rapping.
The latter come from the Chinese Mandarin-speaking congregation that meets at the same time on Sunday morning, an hour before a Spanish-speaking service meets in another location.
This commitment to diversity extends to neighboring campuses—the church supports full-time pastors at Duke University and historically-black North Carolina Central University.
King's also purchased a facility to serve as a home base for the famed African Children's Choir during their national tours of the United States.
Its Life Center offers after-school activities for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The center also has a teen club to develop leaders and prevent juvenile crime. A parental enrichment program there includes a variety of educational seminars.
Each year the Durham church holds a special service connected to Martin Luther King Day or Black History Month. This year's late-February observance honored recently deceased gospel singer Andrae Crouch. Its annual Celebrate the Nations Sunday encourages all nationalities to participate by wearing native attire, with prayer offered for the nations in their native tongues.
Lewis calls the spirit of reconciliation the centerpiece of the church, stretching back to the 1990s and the book Beyond Roots: In Search of Blacks in the Bible by William Dwight McKissic Sr.
The pastor says moving beyond traditional boundaries should characterize the church, reflecting the way Jesus violated Jewish sensibilities by reaching out to the Samaritan woman at the well. Like Him, Lewis believes the church should stop avoiding uncomfortable issues.
"We need to deal with our prejudices, our pride, our festering wounds and the homogeneity we've made our comfort zones," Lewis says. "A reconciled people understand that it's going to take change in us before we can change the world."
In North Carolina and beyond, King's Park International Church is striving to do just that. —Ken Walker
Lake Mary Church LAKEMARYCHURCH.COM
Pastor Refocuses From Ethnic Ministry to Evangelizing All
Pastor Shaddy Soliman made it his mission to reach Central Florida's Arabic community for Christ, but after eight years, he felt God was redirecting him to all of the lost, not just to one people group.
"I was focusing on reaching the Arabs, but then I found out for every one in a thousand who speaks Arabic whom I'm trying to reach, I pass by 999 who all need Jesus just as much," Soliman says. "So we made it our business that we will welcome everyone and not just to say so, but literally that we welcome everyone and we do life together."
The cultural diversity that comprises Lake Mary Church (LMC) begins in the Soliman home.
"The diversity starts with me and Amy," says Soliman. "I'm from Egypt, my wife is from the [American] South. ... We believe the body of Christ should reflect the community, so whatever the community looks like, that's how the church service should be."
Although Pastor Soliman was careful to affirm other ministries if they take a different approach, he feels strongly that Lake Mary Church is to be a church for all peoples.
"We have a dying world around us, and this is not the time to spend our energy and effort in ministry to build a culture or to exalt an ethnic group," says Soliman. "This is a time to really win people for Jesus and truly make disciples. Our mission statement is to honor God and make disciples, and this is what we do."
The congregation wanted to intentionally break the pattern of Hispanics going to a Hispanic church, Arabs attending an Arabic church and so on—everyone worshipping with their own type—believing that that's not what the body of Christ is supposed to be.
Based in Lake Mary in the Orlando metro area, LMC finds itself in an ethnically diverse state, and the church is affiliated with Every Nation Churches, a worldwide movement of churches and campus ministries.
"Cultural diversity is our DNA with Every Nation, so we were determined to establish and achieve that in Lake Mary," Soliman says, observing that the city of Lake Mary is "very segregated in many different ways," which makes the task all the more difficult.
The church launched Easter Sunday five years ago in Lake Mary High School, and it still has a strong youth focus with the church's full-time youth director, Tom Breckwoldt, serving students at five area high school campuses.
Many of those who were in on LMC's launch were second-generation Arabs who had merged into American culture, but as of early 2013, 18 countries were represented in LMC, which now has three services, one with Spanish translation.
Diversity is valued among church leadership as well.
"Our leadership team is so diverse it's not even funny," Soliman says. "We have Hispanic, blacks, Arabs, Asians."
The congregation also does not offer different-language small groups.
"Discipleship is pretty much small-group driven, so if you separate ethnic groups, then you're not multiethnic," says Soliman. "You just brought them all under one umbrella. A true multiethnic is everybody putting their differences behind and uniting around something greater than them. ... We're all united around something greater than our background, that is to make disciples. Because we're all eager to make disciples, that causes us to seek whoever we can reach."
As for congregations that have foreign-language services within their church, Soliman believes they haven't truly united.
"None of these people left their ethnic background just turned away from that and went after one vision, everybody working together," he says. "That's what makes a huge difference. That's what you see in LMC, a bunch of people from all walks of life and literally from every background you could imagine all working together on the same team, worshipping together in the same service.
"America's a melting pot, so if some work together in the workplace and we could live in the same neighborhood, all from different backgrounds, why can't we worship Jesus together?" —Christine D. Johnson
Metro Community Church EMETRO.ORG
Metro Taps Into Creativity of New Jersey Congregation's Diverse Demographic
Metro Community Church in Englewood, New Jersey embraces the cultural diversity that is its hallmark. About 70 percent of attendees are Asian (primarily Korean Americans and Chinese), 15 percent are African-American, 10 percent Latino and five percent Caucasian. Metro's staff reflects that makeup as well.
Tending to this diverse church population and the surrounding community is best played out at Metro via its deep and varied arts programs. Staff and volunteers, led by Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots TV star Angela Robinson who has attended Metro for years, are dedicated to bringing the arts into the worship service, digital aspects of the church (graphics, print media) and into the community.
"Art is important because the church has surrendered the arts to the world," says Lead Pastor Peter Ahn. "God created the arts, and God has called us to call the arts back to Him. The arts are a powerful language in portraying the gospel."
Metro offers events like Open Studio, at which people can create their own art—painting, mosaic, fabric arts and more, which can then be sold to raise money for charitable organizations the church supports. A summer arts program reaches at-risk kids in the neighborhood.
"The kids love it because it's an opportunity for them to engage in the arts," Ahn says. "We have singing, dancing, painting among many other things."
Church services and special programs highlight Black, Asian, Spanish and Caribbean History Months. Classes provide opportunities to learn jewelry making, quilting, pottery and painting.
"A lot of people in our church had a creative side growing up, but their parents wanted them to learn skills that would get them a job," says Ahn. "We like to encourage people to embrace their creative side."
Metro Community Church is intentional about tapping into the creativity of its diverse population both inside and outside the church.
"The arts are a major vehicle in how we reach the community," Ahn says. —Ann Byle
Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas MOSAICCHURCH.NET
Being a 'Credible Witness of God's Love for All'
Founding Pastor of Mosaic Church (Little Rock, Arkansas) Mark DeYmaz has built a multiethnic, economically diverse church with men and women from more than 30 nations. Together, they seek to fulfill the Great Commission "through the intentional support and mobilization of believers involved in cross-cultural evangelism and multi-ethnic church planting."
"It's not so much that cultural diversity is a core value of the church," says DeYmaz. "Rather, we value reconciling diverse men and women to God through faith in Jesus Christ and, likewise, reconciling our local church to the principles and practices of New Testament churches, such as existed at Antioch, Ephesus and Rome, in which diverse men and women walked, worked and worshipped God together as one, in order that we might present a credible witness of God's love for all people in an increasingly diverse and cynical society."
DeYmaz has written two Leadership Network books on the multi-ethnic church: Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church (Jossey-Bass) and Leading a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mixing Diversity Into Your Local Church (Zondervan). His newest title on the subject is an iBook-format curriculum he created for church members.
"New members are immediately placed in an eight-week small group centered on our curriculum, The Multi-ethnic Christian Life Primer," DeYmaz continues. "We not only cast the vision consistently, we take intentional steps and make purposeful decisions regarding leadership placement, development, staffing and congregational life, to do more than dream, but turn vision to reality."
The multi-ethnic primer helps members understand "the biblical mandate for the multi-ethnic church" and gain "practical insight for doing life together with diverse others beyond the distinctions of this world that so often and otherwise divide."
That sense of purpose, combined with the curriculum, helps church members, staff and leadership put their vision into practice: "To be a healthy multi-ethnic and economically diverse church in order to present a credible witness of God's love for all people throughout Central Arkansas and beyond."
The vision statement comes to life through a variety of services for the local community. Using the Real Community Transformation (RCT) Model for their community outreach, Mosaic helps more than 18,500 people receive three to four days' worth of food each month that costs the church less than $1,000 a month and also provides free immigration legal services to 300 people. Among other projects, the church has renovated trailers for Habitat for Humanity to house women rescued from a life of drugs and prostitution—and has helped lower crime by 10 percent in a 1-square-mile radius of the church. —Kathleen Samuelson
Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas PCBC.ORG
Movement Day Joins White and Black Churches
When Dr. Jeff Warren became senior pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas a few years ago, the fact that his 11,000-member congregation was almost all wealthy and white didn't really faze him.
"In some ways, Dallas is like a tale of two cities, with the affluent white northern side and the southern side of the city that is very much black," Warren said. "The reality is that our paths never really cross."
Then Warren became involved in the Dallas chapter of Movement Day, an international effort to form leadership teams in the world's largest cities to foster collaborative partnerships and change those cities. Pastor Bryan Carter of Concord Church also joined the Dallas Movement Day team and soon became Warren's close friend.
"Bryan is black and pastors a primarily black megachurch on the opposite end of Dallas," Warren said. "A mutual friend told me I needed to meet Bryan. He said Bryan was a mirror image of me in black form."
Racial reconciliation wasn't a hot button at Park Cities before Warren met Carter. In fact, it wasn't even on the radar. But the pastors' friendship began to change that.
"Bryan and I always say the gospel moves at the speed of relationship," Warren said. "We decided to team up to introduce our congregations to each other by guest speaking in each other's pulpits, bringing our worship teams to each other's churches and speaking together about racial reconciliation on Movement Day panels."
The result? The church has a growing awareness, understanding and love for all the skin colors God created and the challenges and life experiences that come with different races, ethnicities and cultures.
"All people look at life through the lens of their race," Warren says. "But our identity is not found in our race. Our identity is found in Christ. The gospel is greater than our color. Until the watching world sees the church come together so the entire body of Christ is unified, they will not believe us." —Natalie Gillespie
People's Church, Oklahoma City PEOPLESCHURCH.TV
Church Entry Points Help Make All Visitors Feel Included
Sit in a worship service at any one of the three campuses of People's Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and you'll notice that like a photo taken at the water's edge, the people on the stage are a mirror image of those in the seats.
"Each campus is diverse," says Josh Brown, executive pastor. "But whatever the community looks like [in that location], that's what we reflect."
That approach is one People's Church also plans to use when it opens a location in Indianapolis, Indiana, this fall. It's a top-down approach, from leadership to teaching pastors to greeters.
While managing rotations and ratios within the volunteer schedules can be challenging to ensure that the faces that greet people on Sunday are diverse, Brown says it's something that the church is intentional about, as it is with considerations like song selection. Each of those choices is part of a big picture that provides an entry point for any visitor to feel included in the family of faith.
"Our philosophy is to focus on what we have in common, rather than on what race or background we each may come from," Brown says. "We focus on foundational truths—the majors—concepts such as there being one way to heaven and the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord.
For that reason, he says, events like baptisms are a major focus because they point toward a common culture.
These events also provide natural opportunities to encourage people to bring their families and focus on the next generation. As a family of believers, People's Church believes that looking forward to the next generation is perhaps the best way to reflect the forward momentum and unity within God's people. —Deonne Lindsey
Queens Alliance Church QCAC.ORG
Getting on the Same Multicultural Church Bus
Tennis fans know Flushing as the home of the famed U.S. Open. David Smith knows this part of the New York City borough of Queens as home to Queens Christian Alliance Church (QCAC).
"The identity and calling of QCAC is being multiethnic, multicongregational, multilanguage and multicultural," Smith says. "We have three congregations–English, Spanish, Mandarin."
Smith, who describes himself as a "white American pastor" is in the minority at his Christian & Missionary Alliance church. Typically, the church sees predominantly American-born Chinese and Filipinos in its English-language service; representation from various South American countries in its Spanish service; and young adults and college students from China and Taiwan in its Mandarin service.
QCAC is "one church with one budget under one senior pastor and one governing board," Smith says, noting he has one overriding goal: "to build unity in community with everybody on the bus moving forward in the same direction together."
QCAC also started what Smith calls a "church-wide, worship-based, God-encountering prayer gathering." Those who do not understand English can use translation equipment.
"Though we speak different languages," Smith says, "we share the common language of prayer!" —Christine D. Johnson
Real Life Church, Sacramento ENJOYREALLIFE.COM
Leading a Church That 'Looks Like Heaven'
Real Life Church marks its ninth anniversary this year, but for Lead Pastor Scott Hagan, the multicultural, multisite church is the continuation of a story that stretches back to 1990. That's when Hagan planted a different church just south of Sacramento, California. Located in an area once noted for Ku Klux Klan activity, Harvest Church today has a congregation of 2,000-plus and is 70 percent African-American.
"That's where the term 'The church that looks like heaven' began," says Hagan, who recently attended Harvest's 25th-anniversary service. "I travel all over the nation, and you'd be hard-pressed to find something as supernatural as what's happened at Harvest Church and Real Church."
The Assembly of God church planter led Harvest for 11 years before relocating across the country to serve an already-established church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There he transformed a largely white megachurch into a multiethnic congregation.
However, after five years the desire to plant a church led him to return to California. Along with his wife, Karen, and a core group of families, Hagan launched a new church plant in January 2006 at a Sacramento elementary school.
Today Real Life has grown to six sites, most in California but with the newest opening in March just north of Columbus, Ohio. Five of the sites are within 100 miles of the church's main campus in the northwest area of Sacramento.
About three-fourths of Real Life's total of 2,000 members attend its main Arena campus. Of all members, 40 percent come from non-Anglo backgrounds—primarily African-American, Hispanic or Filipino.
Half of Real Life's 20 full- and part-time staff members at its main campus are non-white, a blend reflected on its other campuses as well. Most are located in economically distressed areas, which Hagan attributes to following Psalm 68:6, which talks about God setting the solitary in families.
Like the Good Samaritan, he says churches need to be located where society's most abandoned souls live.
"We have located in tougher neighborhoods, not gated communities with high-earning incomes," Hagan says. "Our Artisan campus (about 6 miles south of Arena) is in 'the hood.' "
While some multisite churches use a closed-circuit hookup to broadcast the same Sunday message, Real Life is more of a network. Hagan covers a weekly theme and direction with his staff, but campus pastors preach their own sermons.
In addition to a weekly Skype conference, the lead pastor visits each site throughout the year for teaching and training. The churches also have six network-wide meetings or conferences annually.
Hagan says drawing and teaching a multicultural congregation starts with love, since people can easily detect it when their presence is tolerated rather than celebrated.
"Jesus loved without suspicion," Hagan says. "People can feel when you're hesitant toward them. I put it this way—it's about removing the distractions from the relationship."
Real Life teaches that legalism and racism are the two Goliaths that war against God's kingdom. In almost every story of restoration in the Bible, one or both of those elements caused the damage, he says.
Though Hagan has a sermon series called "The Cross of Many Colors" that he delivers periodically, he may go for several years without mentioning race from the pulpit.
"I preach a strong biblical theology of unity," Hagan says. "I try to guide people, not control them. But beyond the fundamentals, there is a genuine love for people where we're all learning and are appreciative of one another."
Real Life's diverse makeup can be seen the moment someone walks in the front door, but it extends beyond the worship platform. The week riots erupted last summer in racially divided Ferguson, Missouri, the church held a baptismal party by the Sacramento River that became a practical demonstration of diversity.
Since Hagan helps lead a city-wide worship experience the weekend of Martin Luther King's birthday, Real Life holds its annual "Night to Unite" the last weekend of January.
In addition to these elements, Hagan is optimistic about what he sees as an "exponential" growth in the numbers of Christians drawn to the message of diversity.
"There's such a hunger to understand the principles it's built on," the pastor says. "There's a tremendous receptivity in young leaders' hearts. I'm so energized. This can be the church's finest hour at demonstrating what politics cannot." —Ken Walker
Trinity Church, Miami TRINITYCHURCH.TV
From Marginalized to Recognized
When Pastors Rich and Robyn Wilkerson arrived at Trinity Church in Miami, Florida, with their four boys, they experienced culture shock. Moving from Tacoma, Washington, to serve a primarily black church membership of 500 who daily battled poverty, the Wilkersons quickly went through their savings.
"My mindset and mission was to this group," says Senior Pastor Rich Wilkerson. "They were my purpose, but it was down and dirty initially."
"My wife saw a proposal to bid for day-camp government contracts in the newspaper," Wilkerson says.
She landed the $175,000 contract. This enabled their first summer day camp that served 500 kids.
"That was 15 years ago," Wilkerson says. "We've received $27 million in government funding since then. We do food distribution and parent training."
In 2006, the church started helping children visit their incarcerated parents, which is now funded by the state.
Because of this kind of community outreach, Peacemakers Family Center (part of Trinity Church) was recognized in December 2014 by Florida Governor Rick Scott with the Champion of Service Award.
Currently 10,000-12,000 call Trinity Church their home. The congregation is composed of 80 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic and "5 percent anything else," Wilkerson says.
The congregation reaches young adults, too, at its Tuesday Night Rendezvous attended by 1,200. Wilkerson's son Rich Jr. serves as pastor of that group.
"These are all young professionals, studying to be doctors and lawyers. Eighty-five to 90 percent were raised in poverty, but now have stepped out of it. Nearly two-thirds of these young adults once attended our day camps. They turned into brilliant young adults [and] are now rocking their world," the pastor says.
Wilkerson calls Pastor Tommy Barnett his "big brother in the Lord," citing two key things Barnett said.
The first bit of advice Barnett offered was if you'll take the people that nobody wants, God will give the people that everybody wants. Trinity Church ministered to the marginalized, but ended up connecting with high-profile people too.
Wilkerson offers this example: "My son married Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. Most Christians reviled that, but we're after lost people."
Barnett's second word was if you work the disenfranchised with all your heart, your kids will not be lost to the devil or the world.
"The kids cannot deny their parents' faith because they see you down in the mud and the blood," Wilkerson says. "There's no money there. All there is is love." —Mary DeMuth
U-City Family Church, St. Louis UCITYFAMILYCHURCH.COM
Church Practices Listening in Racially Charged St. Louis
Six miles from the epicenter of America's racial tension (Ferguson, Missouri), U-City Family Church quietly and purposefully loves its community.
The church holds services in the historic Tivoli Theatre on Delmar Boulevard in University City in downtown St. Louis. The street represents the "Delmar Divide" that forms a stiff boundary between the white population to the south and predominantly black community to the north.
But U-City beautifully represents its demographic, 48 percent black, 48 percent white and 4 percent other. Pastor Brent Roam describes his approach: "We don't have any particular program or curriculum that discusses diversity (though it regularly comes up in sermons). Diversity is simply one of our core values."
In Ferguson's aftermath, Roam felt the weight of his pastoral responsibility.
"In a multiracial church like ours, it was a challenge to address those events," he says.
So he had purposeful conversations in small groups, seeking to understand people's perspectives.
"It's our duty to seek to understand the other person," Roam says. "If we don't agree, at least we can respect and honor the view of others."
With such a diverse congregation, he shifted them back to identity.
"Their primary identity has to be in Christ," he says.
A U-City member had an idea post-Ferguson. Since the school children had been out of school two weeks, why not welcome them when they went back to school? So 25-30 church volunteers went to every school bus stop on the first day back to classes, handing out muffins and juice boxes. —Mary DeMuth
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