You can listen to the same podcast I did. Just look for Mark DeYmaz’s podcast at
The vision for a church that is multi-ethnic originates with Jesus and then becomes a Biblical mandate. Jesus earnestly desires that all his followers be one - one with him, one with the Father, and one with each other. Jesus envisions a church that is composed of different people from different backgrounds and classes and races coming together to be his body (John 17).
The Holy Spirit creates such a church in Antioch in Acts 11. The Bible describes this church as Jews and Gentiles (two different races) coming together and forming a church centered around Jesus the Messiah. The leadership team of this first multi-ethnic church were Jews and people from Africa and Asia. (Acts 11:19-26). This is the church where Paul first has a leadership role.
Paul goes on to be the Apostle to the Gentiles and he intentionally builds churches which mix both Jews and Gentiles. The entire book of Ephesians is devoted to the unity of the church for the sake of the Gospel, by which Paul meant the unity of Jews and Gentiles, living and worshipping together - being one in Christ. In Chapter 2, Paul talks about how the blood of Christ has broken down the walls that separated Jews and Gentiles. In Christ, they are one people. In Chapter 3, Paul talks about the great mystery of how God intends that Gentiles are to be included in his salvation.
Why is the church in North America so segregated? There are many, many reasons, but chief among them is that the devil loves to divide people and seeks to keep Christians from becoming one. In John 17 Jesus says that if his followers are one, all the world will know he is the Savior. The devil surely doesn’t want that to happen.
Zion has a long history of being a welcoming place to mixed race couples. Recently, however, we’ve seen God doing some amazing things that lead us to believe that he intends to make us into a multi-ethnic congregation.
About two years ago, we had several Liberian families join the church. “Why this church?,” I asked. “Because when we drove by, God said, ‘This is a good church.’” Amazing. Overnight, 1% of our membership was Liberian.
Then last fall Shola arrived. Shola is from Nigeria and he and his family have been a blessing to me and to our church. Shola ought to be on staff. I hope someday we can afford to hire him.
Then, in December of last year, the Mizo approached us about joining together. By March of 2010, we had a fifth weekly service, this one in the Mizo dialect. Again, overnight, we’ve suddenly become a multi-ethnic church with members from all over the world. God is certainly up to something and my earnest prayer is that we allow him to continue his work and that we participate in it and become the church he desires us to be.
DeYmaz outlines Seven Core Commitments that a church as to make in order to become multi-ethnic.
You must embrace dependance. God is the one who is doing the work. He is bringing the people of different backgrounds and ethnicities. it is his work. We cannot “make it happen” by ourselves. We cannot program it, we cannot control it. In order to allow God to work, we, the congregation and leaders, must be comfortable being uncomfortable as God works.
You must take intentional steps. As God does the work, we must be obedient. We must be ready to move out and do what God is asking. We need to be willing to go out into the community and help people. We must be willing to invite them to meet Christ. Sometimes our worship styles can be obstacles to what God wants to do and we have to be ready to sacrifice our preferences and traditions. We are not talking about compromising theological principals here. God would never ask us to compromise the truth. But he may ask us to compromise all manner of human preferences and traditions. It is the age old question: will we ask the new people to assimilate or will be accommodate them? To assimilate means that we ask them to change. To accommodate means that we ourselves are willing to change for the sake of the other.
You must be willing to empower diverse leadership. As a church, are we willing to raise up leaders who are of different races than we are and empower them to lead?
You must develop cross cultural relationships. This means that we have to willing not just to say “Welcome to church!” to people of different races, but we must be willing to share their experience as well and really get to know them. We need to go to dinner at each other’s houses. We must be willing to build relationships and to really get to know each other on a personal level.
You must be willing to pursue cross cultural competence. This means that you are willing to grow in your understanding of different people and their experiences. You are willing to learn what offends and what honors them. It means that you are willing to learn a few words of their language, taste their food, share their stories.
You must be willing to promote a spirit of inclusion. What does this mean? It means that we must be willing to make people feel welcome. Display the flags from the places they come from. Translate our bulletins. Be sure that in everything we do we put them on the same level as we are. That we don’t treat anyone like a second class citizen.
You must be willing to mobilize for impact. What does this mean? It means taking the power of God that is present in diversity (when his followers are one) and using that power to impact your city for the Gospel. Can you imagine what would happen to Des Moines if the churches were truly united? Men and women of every ability, class and race, working together? That witness would transform our city.
DeYmaz identifies many challenges that will face us. Remember, the devil doesn’t want this to happen.
Challenges include (but are not limited to):
Personal challenges. Our friends or family members may not approve of what we’re doing. After all, this is a difficult task. We could be more comfortable and safer doing something else.
Theological challenges. It is harder and slower to build a church that is multi-ethnic.
Relational challenges. In working with people of different races, there is a 100% chance of being offended.
Practical challenges. How will we do worship now?
Spiritual challenges. DeYmaz says that it’s no accident that Paul put his treatise on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6. The book of Ephesians is all about unity between Jews and Gentiles. The devil will be sure to attack us. Unity provokes him.
The podcast is wonderful and I hope you’ll take some time to listen to it. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ