LOS ANGELES (BP)–Lights dance across the walls of the downtown Los Angeles nightclub as hundreds of young people — Asian, Anglo and Latino — sway and clap to the music. The room pulses with youth and energy as the excitement builds. But a hush settles over the room when a man perches casually on a stool and begins to talk about three symbols of death — the cross, baptism and the Lord’s Supper — key symbols of the Christian faith.
This is Mosaic, a church like few others.
It’s a church that’s actively exploring a move downtown when other churches are headed to the suburbs.
A church whose growth is fueled by the city’s single 20-somethings — many with jobs in Hollywood — and people from more than 50 nations.
A church whose lead pastor says Christians shouldn’t be looking for a church that meets their needs, but rather, “If you’re a Christian, you’re trying to find a church that meets the needs of the world.”
It’s that core value that has made Mosaic one of the most missionary-sending churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. More than 40 overseas workers are scattered across the world, and many more are preparing to go.
“We realized that Mosaic’s vision is to be a spiritual reference point throughout Los Angeles and a sending base to the ends of the earth,” lead pastor Erwin McManus explains.
L.A. is one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities — a place where Christianity is just another world religion. But that makes it an excellent proving ground for those who want to minister overseas.
Mosaic’s commitment to the city is evident in their Sunday morning worship services in a suburban high school and in the life groups meeting almost any day of the week in homes across the city. And it is clear in the plan that divides the city into quadrants and assigns a pastor to reach — and to build community — in each.
But to see their commitment to the ends of the earth requires a deeper look.
Visit worship the Sunday after McManus, himself a resident alien from El Salvador, shares experiences from his latest trip to the other side of the globe. Partake in the Lord’s Supper using Indian “nan” as the bread to get a taste of what lies ahead for the overseas worker they’re commissioning that night.
Sit down with some of the folks who’ve moved to L.A. — some from halfway across the country — just to be part of a church so in tune with God’s heart for the world.
That’s what folks like John and Julie from Oklahoma say.
John heard former senior pastor Thom Wolf and Erwin McManus at a student missions conference called Mission ’95 and made a two-week visit to Mosaic the following summer. There, he says, he understood for the first time God’s passion for all the world’s peoples to know him.
After college, he and Julie moved to L.A. for graduate study and to explore God’s call.
At other churches Julie attended, members went to church to be fed, she says. “At Mosaic, there is the perception that our lives are about giving; the resources of God are to flow out of us.”
Drop in on one of the life groups led by someone preparing to move overseas. They’re learning by doing — honing the outreach, leadership and relationship skills needed to start churches overseas.
“Our small groups are evangelistic support groups,” says pastor Gerardo Marti. “Our training, the defining, the equipping are all related to what it will take for us to touch others, to connect people who are disconnected. … Small groups have the same mission purpose, methods as what we do overseas.”
Go with 100 church members on a Labor Day trip to Ensenada, Mexico, and see how they’ve used those skills in building relationships with government, medical and business people of Ensenada while at the same time meeting needs in Christian love.
Hear how not only Mexicans, but also non-Christians who went to serve, were moved to relationship with Jesus Christ through these efforts. Notice how those new Christians assume that being on mission is normal for a Christian.
Eat breakfast with Karin Primuth and Laura Marti as they tell about the church’s mission mentoring program and how it prepares members who have made a commitment to go overseas within the next two years.
Hear their passion for making sure these people have mentors to walk alongside and encourage them so that they’re not diverted from what God is calling them to do.
Hear about the tools and experiences they’ve developed to make sure these future overseas workers are familiar with the practical aspects of serving overseas and have developed the character and spiritual walk the church expects of them while serving.
Listen to Robyn’s story. Hear how Mosaic is the first place she understood there is a loving side to God. “At Mosaic,” she says, “I realized there is a God who loves you so much he died for you.” And loves so much so we can share that love with others.
Hear how Robyn and her sister dropped a trip to Switzerland for a mission project in South Asia — and how it changed her life.
Since then, God has brought Robyn many South Asian friends. And Robyn has taught herself to read and write in their language, to sing the songs they love.
And finally, hear that Robyn leaves for South Asia tomorrow.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: POWERFUL, SERVICE, WAITING, LEADERSHIP and LIFE GROUPS.