This week, Exponential begins its blog tour featuring several of the leaders speaking at the upcoming Exponential West conference (Oct. 7-10)—where they’ll be talking about the vital need for planting and growing multi-ethnic churches that can make disciples who reach an ever-changing multicultural world. Today, my friend Mark DeYmaz visits us to kick off the tour. Mark planted and leads the Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, a community of people from 25 different nations. He’s also the co-founder of the Mosaix Global Network and is the author of several books, including Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church and Leading a Healthy Mutli-Ethnic Church. Mark is one of the leading voices in the emerging multi-ethnic movement and in this guest blog he talks about his breakthrough moment in ministry (it’s a great story) and why he’s so passionate about planting and growing multi-ethnic churches.
By Mark DeYmaz
For as long as I can remember, Precious Williams has cut my hair. As an African American woman who grew up in Little Rock, Ark., she is a valued friend who over the years has taught me much about life and ministry. And in fall 2000, God used this hairstylist to change my life.
I was at one of my regular appointments getting a cut when she and I began talking about racism, in particular, the systemic segregation of the local Church. I asked Precious if churches in Little Rock had always been divided along ethnic and economic lines. Had this affected her spiritually? Had it shaped her view of Christians, of the Church, of God?
I really don’t remember all that she said in response, but I do recall what I asked her next:
“Precious, do you think that Little Rock needs a diverse church, one where individuals of varying backgrounds can worship God together as one?”
Her answer came as no surprise.
“Oh, yes, Mark,” she said quietly but hopefully.
I closed my eyes and pondered her words. What she said next shook me to the core.
“Mark, do you think it could ever happen here?”
Even though she asked, “Do you think it could happen here?” in my spirit I heard, “Mark, would you consider doing it here?” It was a breakthrough moment in my life. God was calling me to plant a multi-ethnic church for the sake of the Gospel.
Some 12 years later the church my wife, Linda, and I planted, in response to that call is an established work of God’s grace, where individuals from more than 25 nations now walk, work and worship God together. Thankfully, we’re not alone.
In 1998, a national study of American congregations found that just 5% of Protestant churches were racially diverse (where no one racial group is 80% or more of the congregation). No differences existed between large churches (with 1,000 or more attending the weekly services) and other churches. However, when this same study was conducted again in 2007, a major change revealed that Protestant churches were three times more likely to be multi-ethnic just 10 years later. And large evangelical congregations were five times more likely to be so. In the foreword to my book, Leading a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, sociologist and author Michael Emerson noted, “This is seismic change in a short time! Since large churches typically are the bellwether of change to come throughout Christendom, more change is coming. Yes, an old system is crumbling, and a new one—the multi-ethnic congregation—is emerging.”
Exponential recognizes the growing need for pastors and church planters to understand why we should and how we can build healthy multi-ethnic churches in the 21st century for the sake of the Gospel. I think about what Chris Rice, co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School, writes in his book, More Than Equals (with Spencer Perkins): “I believe God is not very interested in the Church healing the race problem; I believe it is more true that God is using race to heal the Church.”
In 2004, he co-founded the Mosaix Global Network (www.mosaix.info) with Dr. George Yancey and today serves as its President, and the convenor of the National Multi-ethnic Church Conference (www.mosaix2013.com). In addition, Mark has written four books on the including, Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church (Jossey-Bass, 2007), which was chosen as a finalist for a Christianity Today Book of the Year Award (2008) and for a Resource of the Year Award (2008) sponsored by Outreach Magazine. His other books include, Leading a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church (formerly Ethnic Blends, Zondervan, 2010, 2013); Should Pastors Accept or Reject the Homogeneous Unit Principle? (Mosaix Global Network, 2011); and Real Community Transformation: Beyond Rhetoric to Results for the Glory of God (Leadership Network, 2012).
In 2009, he founded Vine and Village (www.vineandvillage.org), a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on spiritual, social, and economic redemption in 72204, Little Rock’s emerging University District. Mark is an online editor for Outreach Magazine, and a contributing editor for Leadership Journal. In addition, he is an Adjunct Professor at Gordon-Conwell, and teaches D. Min. courses on the multi-ethnic church at seminaries across the country including TEDS, Western, and Talbot.