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
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