This post is Part 2 of the Community Transformation sereis. Read Part 1 here.
In developing the spiritual leg of the community transformation “stool,” Mosaic wrestled with a defining question:
Can a church really hope to transform a community if in fact it does not reflect the community, particularly in terms of ethnic and economic diversity?
According to the latest research, 92.5 percent of churches today are racially segregated, having less than 20 percent diversity within their attending bodies. In addition, they are 10 times more segregated than the neighborhoods in which they reside, and 20 times more segregated than nearby public schools.This in spite of America’s continuing evolution into a multicultural nation in which no single race or ethnicity represents a numeric majority.
The segregation of the church unintentionally undermines the very Gospel we proclaim in an increasingly diverse and cynical society.
Why is the church so segregated if it proclaims God’s love for everyone?
Why are there no people of color in positions of leadership or authority?
Why does the church seem more interested in other countries than in our community?
A healthy multiethnic and economically diverse church is not driven to be politically correct, but biblically correct for the sake of the gospel. It’s focused on reconciling men and women to God through faith in Jesus Christ; and likewise, on reconciling the church to the principles and practices of New Testament congregations of faith. In these churches, men and women of diverse ethnic and economic background walked, worked and worshipped together as one so the world would know God’s love and believe.
Spiritual transformation, then, advances along critical principles:
Be the community.
For many churches, the defining metaphor for outreach is a bridge. We believe such a perspective fosters a mentality of separation: “us” (the church) and “them” (the community). The metaphor also suggests the church gives and the community receives. But do we, the church, not have much to gain and to learn from the community? A bridge also implies returning across the divide. Mosaic seeks to be the community. Engagement is not built on programs, but on an identity. We are the community.
Pastor the community.
Pastors in churches that reflect the community see themselves as pastors of the community, and not merely of the congregation. When they do, people in the community see them this way, too.
Count on influence, not numbers.
There’s something interesting I’ve come to realize when comparing a homogeneous church to a multiethnic church in terms of potential influence. Five thousand people from a megachurch often return to neighborhoods that look the same. But when the 500-600 diverse people leave church, they spread out to permeate every nook and cranny of the city—the streets, the hood, the barrios, the suburbs and elsewhere in between.
The heart of a community is transformed not by education or by legislation, but through the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:14,15; 18-20). Through our unity and diversity we advance the ministry of reconciliation—Man to God, and Man to Man—in and through the local church. As we do, we present a credible and compelling witness to others: “Come, be reconciled to God with us.”
Mark DeYmaz is the founding pastor of Mosaic Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and a co-founder of the Mosaix Global Network.