Can a local church in an urban setting effectively evangelize and disciple people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds?
Apparently so, according to organizers of the Kingdom Mosaic Multi-Cultural Urban Ministry Conference, sponsored in February by the Gulf Stream Baptist Association of South Florida.
The conference brought pastors and denominational leaders together to consider how God is working in urban churches to reach various ethnic and cultural neighbors with the gospel. Tony Evans, Senior Pastor of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and President of the Urban Alternative, was this year's keynote speaker.
On Sunday night and in Monday sessions, Evans challenged participants to function as the church, regardless of cultural settings. He pointed out that the church is at the center of God's plan to make the gospel transcultural.
"The United Nations will never succeed in its goal for racial reconciliation, universal peace, and unity among diverse people and nations, because God will not allow such without His program being the foundation and in place," he said.
Bob Adams, former director of church growth for the Gulf Stream Baptist Association, said the Kingdom Mosaic was birthed from discussions with local pastors who minister in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, urban setting. Gulf Stream Baptist Association is located in Broward County, the metropolitan Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale region of southeast Florida.
The county is home to six ethnic groups from 189 different nations, which poses a formidable challenge for pastors burdened to reach the lost in their communities. Adams, now pastor of the Worship Center in Plantation Fla., said the dilemma of how to minister in a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural setting, with no tested resources or programs available, resulted in a commitment to find a solution.
From initial meetings and discussions between pastors of multi-cultural churches and associational leaders, Adams said they concluded, "God was moving powerfully in urban/metropolitan areas to grow churches in unique ways." They also observed that, "Pastors and denominational leaders must be both humble enough to learn how to reach diverse people, and empowered enough to continue to do this unique ministry."
As a result of their discussions, several guiding truths became evident:
• God has a unique design for every congregation to reach the diverse people around them, and desires to make that unique plan known to that congregation.
• God loves all people groups in diverse communities.
• God strategically places churches and mission minded Christians in diverse communities to fulfill His purpose.
• God moves in creative ways to bring people in diverse communities to Himself through Jesus Christ.
• God desires His children in diverse communities to overcome all barriers that keep them from a common worship of Him and a true fellowship with one another.
In light of these truths, they established the Kingdom Mosaic Multi-Cultural Urban Ministry Conference to equip church leaders who minister in a multi-cultural setting. They shaped the conference according to these principles:
• Leadership development and trend setting in multi-cultural ministry is most often indigenous … provided by pastors, staff and lay leaders.
• Dialogue among pastors, staff, and lay leaders is the richest resource for information when doing multi-cultural ministry.
The first conference in 1994 was simply an all-day dialogue session among area pastors to discuss trends, problems, and solutions in the multi-cultural churches of South Florida.
That meeting launched future meetings utilizing keynote speakers noted for multi-cultural ministry in urban/metropolitan settings.
The 1997 Conference included keynote speaker Charles Lyons, senior pastor of the Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago.
Seminar topics included:
• Creating a Multi-Cultural Worship Service
• Cross-Cultural Community Ministry
• Transitioning the Single Cultural Church
• The Multi-Nationality Congregation (considerations of multiple nationalities within an ethnic group, i.e. Hispanic congregations)
• Reaching Multiple Cultural Persons (considerations of second generation ethnic groups who live in one culture but go to school or work in another culture, i.e. Haitian and Hispanic children, youth and young adults)
The '97 conference added a new feature, the Kingdom Mosaic Celebration Worship Service — a compilation of worship styles and cultural influences in a setting of blended congregations.
Adams said, "The Celebration Services have been designed as a gathering of Kingdom people to experience the vitality that is a result when diverse people gather in the common worship of Jesus."
This year's Sunday evening Celebration Service brought almost 1,300 people together to share in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural worship service, and to hear Evans address the church's responsibility in a culturally diverse community.
"This Celebration Service may have been the largest gathering ever sponsored by the Association," Adams said.
The next day's schedule featured Evans in six seminars addressing discipleship, spiritual warfare, preaching, and strategy — all within an urban context.
Mark Tetley, pastor of the North Pompano Baptist Church, a multi-cultural congregation, participated in the original discussions on the need for a conference, and serves as a member of the Conferences Design Team.
He noted, "This year's conference provided the unique opportunity to enjoy the blessing and benefit of worshipping together in a large, diverse congregation, as well as the stimulating, intimate setting of gathering with sixty local pastors and church leaders to spend a day with Dr. Evans.
"The Kingdom Mosaic Conference has provided training and encouragement that I have not found anywhere else," he continued. "It is a forum that allows us to dwell specifically on cross-cultural urban issues.
Elroy Barber, pastor of the West Side Baptist Church, Hollywood Fla., is also a member of the Conference Design Team.
He observed, "This years conference provided the biblical context of how to do urban ministry. Past conferences have provided encouragement from keynote speakers who have shared their experiences concerning this type of ministry."
Barber also serves as director of African-American Works for the association and is first vice president for the Florida Baptist Convention.
"Encountering the experiences of others is valuable but having a biblical mandate and being instructed from Scripture of God's plan for ministry is invaluable," Barber said.
"Multi-cultural, urban ministry is different than the way we do things in the suburbs," he continued. "You have to consider such things as:
• moving through church growth plateaus differently
• the social nature of diverse, urban people and how to reach them
• the need to share leadership power among the different people groups
"The Kingdom Mosaic Conference has brought God's people together so that we look much like the Ephesian church," he said. "It has provided a glimpse as to the true texture of what the church ought to be."