On May 17, 2001, Mark and Linda DeYmaz responded in prayer to a very specific call of God on their lives. That day, they committed themselves and their family to a journey of great faith and sacrifice that would lead to the establishment of a multi-ethnic and economically diverse church in the heart of Central Arkansas … a church founded in response to the prayer of Jesus Christ for unity and patterned after the New Testament church at Antioch: a church for others; a church for all people; a church called Mosaic.
Here in part is what led them to do so …
Precious Williams is a hairstylist who has cut Mark’s hair for as long as he can remember. As an African American woman who grew up in Little Rock, she is a valued friend of his from whom Mark has learned much through the years. And in the fall of 2000, God used her to change his life.
While reclining in her chair and getting a cut one day, Mark was enjoying a lighthearted conversation with Precious. At some point, however, they began talking about racism and, in particular, the systemic segregation of the local church. Mark asked Precious if churches in Little Rock had always been divided along ethnic and economic lines. Had this affected her spiritually? Had it shaped her view of Christians, of the Church, of God?
He really doesn’t remember all that she said to him in response, but he does recall what he asked her next.
“Precious, do you think that Little Rock needs a diverse church, one where individuals of varying backgrounds can worship God together as one?”
Her answer came as no surprise.
“Oh, yes, Mark,” she said, in a quiet but hopeful tone.
Closing his eyes, he pondered her words. What she said next shook him to the core.
“Mark, do you think it could ever happen here?”
Now in the precise moment that Precious spoke these words to him, Mark experienced two remarkable things.
The first was actually a physical sensation – the same adrenaline rush you get when someone scares you in the dark! Spiritually, however, something even more remarkable occurred. For though he had heard with his ears—“Mark, do you ever think it could happen here?”—in his spirit he heard, “Mark, would you consider doing it here?” It was a breakthrough moment in his life.
Over fifteen years later, the church Mark planted in response to that call is an established work of God’s grace where individuals from some thirty nations now walk, work and worship God together as one. And thankfully, we are not alone.
In 1998, a national study of American congregations found that just 5% of Protestant churches were racially diverse (where no one racial group is 80% or more of the congregation). No differences existed between large churches (with 1,000 or more attending the weekly services) and other churches. However, when this same study was conducted again in 2007, a major change revealed that Protestant churches were three times more likely to be multi-ethnic just ten years later. And large evangelical congregations were five times more likely to be so.
As noted sociologist Michael Emerson observed, “This is seismic change in a short time! Since large churches typically are the bellwether of change to come throughout Christendom, more change is coming.Yes, an old system is crumbling, and a new one—the multi-ethnic congregation—is emerging.”*
Yes, at Mosaic, we continue to believe, as Chris Rice, co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School, has said, “I believe God is not very interested in the Church healing the race problem; I believe it is more true that God is using race to heal the Church.”**
*See Michael Emerson’s foreword in Leading a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church by Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li (formerly Ethnic Blends: Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 2010, 2013).
**Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice. More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press, 2000), p. 261