As the Mosaix Multi-Ethnic Conference began on November 5, 2013 in Long Beach, California, it was clear that it would not be like most conferences. At first glance you could tell that the crowd assembled included a great variety of ethnic backgrounds. The speakers were each allotted 17 minutes to speak, in TED talk fashion. Within only a few hours the conference had already heard from a half-dozen inspiring speakers on the subject of multi-ethnic ministry. Before the conference ended, 22 plenary speakers presented, including Derwin Gray, Paul Louis Metzger, Christena Cleveland, Scott Williams, Heather Larson, and Jim Wallis. The dozens of workshops featured 47 practitioners and thought-leaders including Kyle Ray, Elizabeth Drury, and Wayne Schmidt.
Johanna Rugh, a pastor at Elmonte Wesleyan Church and Equip Director of Wesleyan Immigrant Connect, reflected on her experience at Mosaix and said, “The presentations, testimonials, and teachings in this conference have confirmed my concept of Kingdom. While it will not be easy, the struggles, frustrations, problems that we face will soon prove that it was worth it!”
KEY MULTI-ETHNIC THEMES
Of the many themes emphasized in the conference one included loving those who are unlike us and to intentionally welcome more multi-ethnic participation and leadership in our churches. Speaker Noemi Chavez noted, “My upbringing in the church didn’t equip me to love people who weren’t just like me.” Mark Deymaz asked, “The kingdom of God is not segregated, so why is so much of the church?” Ed Stetzer also cautioned that in our multi-cultural communication we tend to think people hear what we are trying to communicate, but our cultural context impacts how we encode our message. He added, “Talking is not the same thing as being heard.”
At a crucial moment in the conference, John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, displayed deep emotion as he spoke to the crowd. As Perkins spoke, the participants got the sense he was seeing a long-held dream beginning to come true in the Church as he looked on the multi-ethnic crowd of Church leaders assembled. After saying that he “could die now,” Perkins then called the crowd to a selfless sacrificial vision of serving others, saying, “Most people don’t have a vision about God, they have a vision about themselves.”
In an evening rally, speaker Efrem Smith led a time at the altar for those needing a special touch from God in the midst of difficult multi-ethnic ministry. He encouraged the crowd saying, “The multi-ethnic church struggles too much with identity and legitimacy in contrast to ‘successful’ homogeneity.” Eugene Cho also reminded the conference that while multi-ethnic ministry is a good thing to value, even a good thing can become an idol if not submitted to Christ. His message brought the attention back to the way multi-ethnic ministry brings us closer to the cross of Christ. Soong-Chan Rah likewise emphasized that “Multi-ethnic ministry must not become a fad or a church-growth strategy, but instead, a response to the call of Scripture to unity.”
WESLEYANS and MULTI-ETHNIC MINISTRY
Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, said, “I am so grateful for the cadre of Wesleyan leaders attending and leading the Multi-ethnic conference. I am looking forward to the Spirit’s move through each person attending to transform entire communities for Jesus.” Dr. Wayne Schmidt, of Wesley Seminary, was able to address the conference from the main stage to greet everyone on behalf of Wesleyan and afterward he made note of the large representation of Wesleyans present: “The quantity of Wesleyans (5 times as many as the last Mosaix conference) and also the variety gathered showed that multiethnic ministry is gaining momentum in our movement… a bit of heaven on earth (Revelation 7:9).” Wesley Seminary was a sponsor of the conference again this year.
The Wesleyan Church was a significant sponsor of the Mosaix conference. Dr. Jim Dunn, Executive Director the Church Multiplication and Discipleship Division, emphasized the conference and encouraged many to come, as a part of a larger effort to focus on multi-ethnic ministry in our field of vision as Wesleyans. (Because of the tragic death of Dr. Dunn’s wife, Mindy, he was unable to lead the Wesleyan contingent at the conference as planned, but the Wesleyans present spent many times of prayer throughout the conference for their friend, Jim, and his family.)
One of the seven missional priorities of The Wesleyan Church is “Ethnic Diversity.” This was reflected in the surge of participation at this conference since nearly 10% of those present were Wesleyan, even though the conference itself had record attendance. Russ Gunsalus, Executive Director, Education and Clergy Development, highlighted this fact in saying: “It was exciting to be a part of a denomination that was so well represented in participation, leadership, and example in the crucial movement for the church to earth to reflect the kingdom of heaven.”
As the conference came to a close, Kyle Ray, of Kentwood Community Church, reflected on the impact of it saying, “The National Multiethnic Church Conference has been a time of great challenge as we have been reminded of the importance of reaching all people groups for the sake of the gospel. I am so glad that I was able to experience this with 86 other Wesleyans. This conference will be catalytic for the multiethnic movement in The Wesleyan Church.” On a more personal note, Gil Jun of Crossroads Community Church said, “The Mosaix Conference has been a great learning and repenting time for me. I am asking God to guide me to implement what I have learned in our church setting.”
There is much work to be done to improve our multi-ethnicity and cultural sensitivity in the Church. Citing Michael Emerson’s work, Mosaix Global Network Director Mark Deymaz noted, “Our churches are 10 times more segregated than our neighborhoods and 20 times more segregated than our local schools.” The breakout sessions were an opportunity to get into the inner workings and fine-tuned next steps of these multi-ethnic challenges.
As Wesleyans consider whether the ethnic and cultural makeup of our congregations reflects the communities around us, there is a deeper theological question at work. Our aim in the end is higher than even a community-minded focus. Our vision is transforming lives, churches, and communities through the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ. But our aim is to reflect heaven itself in our churches, not merely our communities, so that all ethnicities and minorities would be welcome, so that each church might reach everyone God might draw unto himself. That would the true hope, and what a truly “made new” holy congregation would look like.