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In Class Today: Mosaic Churches


Some notes again from my class, “Emerging Models of Church” with Prof. Steve Hayner. Today, we’re discussing Mosaic or intentionally multi-ethnic churches. I’m not going to try transcribing every word like I did last time, but I will be trying to get the high points. Enjoy~

We started today’s class with a viewing of “King of the Hill” looking for a new church (h/t: pomomusings).

Point #1: Everyone is ethnic. And by ethnic we mean:

ethnicity describes the characteristics of our origins – our family, tribe or national identity—our customs and characteristics—our corporate identity as a member of a unique people group.

Culture is one of those weird words. Anyone who has studied anthropology may know how slippery this word is. Some definitions then…

  • Culture: variously defined–all culture participates in both the dignity of humanity created in God’s image AND in the brokenness of humanity.
  • Multiculture: either pluralistic, where each culture contributes to the whole, or particularistic, where concern is to preserve the particular characteristics of each.
  • Multiethnic: consisting of people from various “people groups” (cultural, tribal, national identities = “the ethnos”)
    • Preference not to use the word, race. Race is a 20th century invention that is designed around external characteristics…race is not a good enough indicator of who a person is as is ethnicity.
  • Counterculture: intentionally discerning direction contrary to norm based on faith .If multicultural ministry is not countercultural, it is simply political correctness.

Globalization, tribalization (aka balkanization), immigration are huge phenomenons affecting the world we live in.

John Long, Director of US Census Bureau. By 2040, we can extrapolate these demographic changes:

  • White 54%
  • Black 14%
  • Hispanic 22%
  • Asian 7%
  • Multiracial 2%

If we talk about context transitions, the way we look at these issues. In modernist culture, we think about world unity. In postmodern world, tribalism is on the increase. In Christian thinking, we think of God’s Kingdom. Respectively we see human progress, human cynicism, and eternal hope. As high values, respectively we see individualism, tolerance, and agape love. And furthermore, we see integration, ethnicity, and multiethnicity.

Our generation, without necessarily knowing it, is calling the church back to what the church has always been called to be–a multi-generational, multi-cultural, open, orthodox and culturally engaged body of believers. This is what the church will need to be in order to speak to the postmodern culture with any legitimacy.”
Dieter Zander, Re:generation Quarterly 5, no. 3

  • “Civil rights challenged the legal systems, but did not challenge the heart.” — Alex Gee
  • “When we talk about multi-ethnicity, it’s generally White people drawing people in…[it is different to have people of color look at another] and say, ‘I value you’” — Alex Gee

Theology of the Multiethnic Church
Within multiethnic churches, there is also theology that becomes important underlying parts of the conversation:

  • Diversity in the created order — starts with diversity in creation
  • The “walls” created by our sinful brokenness — pride, jealousy, anger, resentment…
  • God’s concern for reconciliation through the Scriptures, and Israel’s reluctance to carry the mission out (cf. Jonah)
  • Reconciliation as a key theme in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus
  • The glory of Pentecost — focal point of Christ’s work now directed outward from Jerusalem, Judea, to the ends of the earth.
  • The Gospel goes global (Acts 10; Ephesians 2)
  • Fulfillment in the Kingdom (New Jerusalem — Rev. 4, 5, and 21) — “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it” (21:26)

Application Questions:

  1. How would you describe God’s kingdom story?
  2. What is the significance for your church or ministry that God is the God of all ethnicities and that he desires to bring these ethnicities together?
  3. What does that mean for your own ethnic identity?
  4. What does that mean for your church’s ethnic identity?

The goal of all of this is to not be color-blind or ethnicity-blind or culture-blind. But how does culture work?

Cultures have primary message systems. You need to ask some questions to help you find message systems to help uncover thought patterns, idioms, philosophies.

  • Language
  • Temporality – attitude toward time, routine, and schedule
  • Territoriality – attitude towards spaces, property
  • Exploitation – methods of control, how we use the things around us
  • Association – understanding family, kin, and community
    • Subsistence – attitude toward work and division of labor; who does what?
      • 2/3 of all working hours in the world are performed by women, but women only make 10% of the income and only own less than 1% of the property (ref. UN)
      • If you want to change the world, the single best thing you might do is to educate the woman


  • Learning – how does educational system work?
  • Play – humor
  • Protection – personal security, how close do you stand to one another when you talk?

Value Polarities in Cross-Cultural Contexts

See Patty Lane A Beginner’s’ Guide to Crossing Culture: Making Friends in a Multi-Cultural World

High Context vs. Low-Context Communication

  • High context culture – there is a lot going on, coded messages, intuitive
  • low -context – a lot is communicated.

Monochronic vs. Polychronic

  • monocrhonic see time as limited and moving ina linear fashion; value punctuality
  • polychronic are event-oriented. important happenings begin when people arrive. time is abundant. time functions in cyclical manner

Being vs. Doing

  • being values relationship. friendships last a lifetime.
  • doing values accomplishment, materialism. friendships last based on circumstances and utility

Hierarchical vs. Egalitarian authority

  • hierarchical – status is attributed, important, linked to class, race, economics. they accept social stratification connected to social interaction.
  • egalitarian – status is associated with money and achievement. anyone can “get there”. conversations, dress are informal.
    • We do this in church: What happened to “priesthood of all believers”?

Group vs. Individual Identity

  • Group – framing of decisions and life-shaping activities rest within the group;
  • Individual –

Concealment vs. Willing to Expose Vulnerability

  • Concealment – tendency to save face. Communication is shaped to not offend or disappointment. You don’t say ‘no’. You find another way to conceal negative responses
  • Exposing cultures – contractual, up-front

Premodern vs. Postmodern

  • premodern – truth is defined by authority and tradition. supernatural is really important and beyond human control
  • postmodern – no absolute authority, truth is limited to a context.

When we move across culture… HOW you approach the culture affects your ability “cross”. You may actually discover some things about yourself as you face another culture. Cultural differences lead to dissonance — ie. “It’s not the way it’s supposed to be”. Ultimately, this can lead to frustration, fear, aggression, embarrassment, etc. Your personal coping skills have a lot to do with your ability to relate to this culture — You get what you put into it.

Ethnic Identity / Kingdom Assimilation
In multiethnic environments, there are two things at the same time that are true about us.

  1. We have an ethnic identity, a God-given ethnic identity.
  2. As people “born again”, we have a Kingdom identity, an identity in Christ.

They are both true at the same time.

  • Low ethnic identity / High Kingdom assimilation – primary issues are what it means to be Christian, seldom relate to people outside ethnic group. For example, African-Americans who grow up in White contexts, may have a low ethnic identity, but are good Christians.
  • High ethnic identity / High Kingdom assimilation – strong sense of bi-culturalism. They see themselves as strongly Christian and strongly ethnic. They move back and forth between dominant and minority cultures. They are great bridge people in churches. They have strong sense of unity in Christ, but also strong sense of self-hood.
  • Low ethnic identity / Low Kingdom assimilation – not at home in any culture. tend to feel lost.
  • High ethnic identity / Low Kingdom assimilation – don’t like the notion of integrated churches

7 Practices of Successful Multiethnic Churches

  1. Inclusive Worship – diverse worship styles integrated fully and regularly; worship always feels a little bit edgy to everybody
  2. Diverse Leadership – leadership styles, clergy and laity, broad representation (e.g. Victory World Church staff)
  3. Commitment to Kingdom vision and concerns – to things, issues beyond themselves, not just about ethnicity — missional concerns, justice, evangelism… (e.g. NewSong vision statement)
  4. Intentional multiethnic value – willingness and commitment to multiethnic future, disarming racist forces that are pervasive in a community.
  5. Fosters skills for relating cross-culturally – include direct feedback; communities have to learn this kind of stuff, it does not come naturally
  6. Careful attention to effects of local demographics – their churches need to mirror the communities around them. To move or not to move?
  7. Adaptability – willingness to change in our ideas, practices, structures, and ways. There are things more important than having our own way.

About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

2 responses to “In Class Today: Mosaic Churches

  1. johnlamb

    “Civil rights challenged the legal systems, but did not challenge the heart.” — Alex Gee

    For someone faced with the limits of participatory democracy, this is a revelation. And a compass.

  2. Pingback: Asian church vs. multi-cultural church, part 1 at

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