diversity

Building A Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church

Building A Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments, and Practices of a Diverse Congregation

by Mark DeYmaz
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; San Francisco, 2007
206 pages | $24.95

During a recent visit to Little Rock, Arkansas to visit my daughter and help celebrate my granddaughter’s first birthday, I visited Mosaic Church and made contact with my former student and Western Seminary alumnus, Mark DeYmaz. Mark is on the pastoral staff at a multi-ethnic and economically diverse church which, through God’s call and by His grace, he and his wife Linda planted in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2001. After giving Mark a copy of my recent book, he said, “Well let me trade you, I have a book for you.” After going to his office, Mark returned with a copy of his book, Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church.

The next day I caught my return flight to Portland with Mark’s book in hand. This is one of those books that is truly hard to put down! It is the story of Mark and Linda’s call to Little Rock to serve at Fellowship Bible Church. While he enjoyed his ministry at Fellowship Bible, Mark began to notice that while Little Rock has a very multi-ethnic population, the church he served was predominately Caucasian (white).

Mark tells of a life changing conversation he had with his hairstylist eight years into his ministry at Little Rock which led him to envision the possibility of establishing a church patterned after the multi-ethnic church of Antioch (Acts 13:1). Mark makes it clear that he did not set out to found a multi-ethnic church for the purposes of reconciling races. His focus was on “reconciling men and women to Jesus Christ” (p. xxx). Racial reconciliation would be the by-product of the love and spiritual unity shared by believers of different ethnic, educational and economic backgrounds.

In the first three chapters of his book Mark presents the biblical arguments for a multi-ethnic local church. He begins with a careful exegesis and exposition of Jesus prayer in John 17:20-26. He goes on to illustrate the principle of unity with diversity in his chapter on the pattern of the church at Antioch. Chapter three focuses on the Pauline mystery of the Jews and Gentiles being united together in one body in Christ (Eph. 2:11-19; 3:1-6). Mark’s exegesis is impeccable and well documented. I was thinking as I read these chapters, “This is good stuff! I am proud to have Mark as a Western alumnus!”

In part two of Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church Mark presents seven core commitments of a multi-ethnic church. These include: (1) Embrace dependence, (2) Take intentional steps, (3) Empower diverse leadership, (4) Develop cross-cultural relationships, (5) Pursue cross-cultural competence, (6) Promote a spirit of inclusion, and (7) Mobilize for impact. Each one of these commitments is presented clearly and illustrated from Mark’s own ministry experience. I gleaned many insights from this section which I believe will help my own church be more attractive and welcoming to those of a different ethnic, economic or educational background.

In part three Mark applies the commitments introduced in part two to planting a multi-ethnic church. This is followed by a chapter by Rodney Woo on revitalizing a declining church and a chapter by Kim Greenwood on transforming a homogeneous church. Each chapter contains helpful guidance along with biblical principles that lend support to the concept of multi-ethnicity in the local body of Christ.

In addition to the helpful explanations, exposition and principles, each chapter finishes with a heart-warming testimony of someone whose life has been eternally changed through the ministry of Mosaic Church.

Mark concludes, “Yes, it is Christ’s will that we become one with believers different from ourselves so that the world would know God’s love and believe. As a by-product, society will be affected, “racial-reconciliation” will occur, and the church will be restored to a place of prominence in the minds and hearts of those outside its walls. Indeed, this is the power of unity. This is the Gospel of Christ” (p. 184).

For a world so desperate for reconciliation, Mark’s book offers Christian leaders both direction and hope. I closed the book with a new appreciation for the priority of unity in the body of Christ—a unity that reaches beyond my own comfort zone and embraces those who are different from me as a middle class Caucasian. I highly recommend this challenging and encouraging book.

 

 

About J. Carl Laney

J. Carl Laney teaches Biblical Literature at Western Seminary and is an instructor for Western's Israel Study Program. Carl has authored numerous books, including most recently, “Discipleship: Training from the Master Disciple Maker” (2018).

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