I spent portions of last week with new church planters who had come to Chicago for training with our denomination. On Sunday evening Maggie joined two other church planter spouses to talk about their experiences and what the pastors and their families should consider as they go into this unpredictable work. She was, of course, her typical thoughtful and keeping-it-real self.
On the way to the Orange County airport this morning the van driver, a member of the church that hosted the conference, asked what stood out to me about the Mosaix Multi-Ethnic Church Conference. I’m working on a short article recapping the conference for Leadership Journal so I’ll save most of my reflections but there was one theme that I found especially refreshing. I don’t go to many Christian or church leadership conferences but I’ve been to enough over the years to notice at least one commonality. These conferences tend to elevate certain models and systems that have worked (at least by someone’s definition of success) and offer them up as templates that others can apply to their ministry settings. This kind of thing drives me nuts as it almost completely ignores the many, many contextual factors that ought to be considered when deciding how to go about ministry.
The many speakers, preachers, and presenters at Mosaix 2013 mostly avoided this sort of one-size-fits-all approach to the ministries of our churches. Instead we heard good theology which underpins the multi-ethnic movement and good sociology and social science that illuminated some of the challenges facing those of us within multi-ethnic churches. I can’t tell you how refreshing this was! It’s as if most of us shared the assumption that our churches and ministries need to look different from each other- that cultures, neighborhoods, and history all matter. The franchising of American Christianity was hard to spot at Mosaix and it made me exceedingly hopeful.
This week I’ll be at the Mosaix 2013 conference in California. As the pastor of a multi church, there aren’t a lot of conferences where I can show up and assume that folks share my commitment to multi ethnic (racial, cultural) ministry. Mosaix 2013 will be that kind of a conference. I’ll be wearing a few different hats while at the conference. Primarily I’ll be there as a learner, looking for good theology and methodology that will benefit New Community Covenant Church. I will also be there in my role as Director of Church Planting for the Central Conference of my denomination. I’ll be paying attention to church planting trends and noticing the different ways church planters talk and think about diverse community. (We don’t all think the same way!) Finally, I get to spend some time representing my friends at Leadership Journal. I’ll write an article about the conference for them and connect with some of the speakers on their behalf.
There will be a lot of folks at the conference who have been long-distance teachers and mentors to me: Paul Louis Metzger, Christena Cleveland (whose blog you should follow and whose new book is quite good- I’ll post a review soon), Soong-Chan Rah, and many others. I’m glad for the chance to continuing learning from these women and men.
Will you be at the conference?
On Sunday afternoon I met with a leader from our church over coffee and our conversation turned to an upcoming sermon about worship. This African American woman and I discussed the many different levels of complexity when it comes to worship in a multi-ethnic church. She pointed out some of the generalizations that are often made about the worship preferences of different cultures and ethnicities; I wondered about the potential for spiritual formation when we submit to forms of worship that are not initially comfortable. As we left the coffeeshop I mentioned how grateful I am to belong to a church community that expects these kinds of discussions, questions, and sermons.
In fact, I’ve come to take these conversations for granted though they are probably rare for most pastors and churches. Despite the many challenges of a young, diverse church, such conversations – and their applications – are surely one of our greatest gifts. Pastors and church leaders who serve in less diverse circumstances must look elsewhere for the theological agitation that is necessary for forming churches that faithfully reflect Gospel reconciliation.
Thankfully, the upcoming Mosaix Multi-ethnic Church Conference will provide one such forum. With sessions on theology, church planting, sociological trends, best practices, and more and with seasoned and competent leaders like John Perkins, Choco DeJesus, Michael Emerson, and conference organizer Mark DeYmaz, the conference will be full of thoughtful information. But as I look at the list of speakers and consider who else will be attending I know that it will be the conversations, like the one this past Sunday, that will make those days in Long Beach so fruitful.
The conference is November 5-6 so you’ve got plenty of time to register.
There were quite a few highlights from the CCDA conference last week. Like I mentioned before, this was my first CCDA conference and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I bumped into a few friends from around the country, got to room with my dad who was there with a couple of folks from his church in New Jersey, and ate delicious arepas – the Venezuelan food of my childhood – from a food truck.
The session on urban church planting I helped with seemed to go well; it was a smaller group which allowed for a lot of conversation and brainstorming around questions raised by the participants. My favorite plenary session featured Rev. Dr. Ray Rivera preaching about captivity theology including four biblical responses to ministry in the context of captivity. Rev. Rivera is from NYC and is a mentor to a couple of church planter friends from that city. I’m looking forward to getting into his new book, Liberty to the Captives.
I arrived in Minneapolis on Wednesday morning in time for my session and left Friday afternoon for my flight home so I missed the final 24 hours of the conference. All in all it was a great introduction to CCDA and I’m grateful for the many, many folks who worked to put on this excellent event. Interestingly, the session that has provoked the most follow-up thought, in addition to Rev. Rivera’s sermon, was one I found myself disagreeing with. I’ll come back to that in a subsequent post.