Path 1 has championed the creation of diversity-oriented churches by partnering with national organizations such as “Mosaix” and by sponsoring training to help communities of faith foster multiethnic congregations.

Rich Havard, while serving as a “High Impact Church Planting” resident at Chicago’s Urban Village Church, attended one of those trainings held in San Antonio, Texas. The training featured the Pastor of Mosiac Church, Mark DeYmaz. Rich picked up on how Mosaic Church was able sustain innovative ministry. Here’s what Rich had to say about the experience.

Rich Havard_360x225When I signed up for Path 1’s inaugural Multiethnic Church Planting Conference in San Antonio, I had two basic expectations. First, I’d trade in the never-ending Chicago winter for a little Texas heat. Second, I’d eat Tex-Mex for every single meal, even breakfast. Impressive and thoughtful expectations, I know.  My first expectation was met, sort of; Texas did have a slight cold snap as soon as I arrived, though. The second was certainly fulfilled; Thank you God for breakfast tacos! Here’s what I didn’t expect, though: to learn about an abandoned Kmart building and $10-a-month gym in the heart of Little Rock, Arkansas. But with Mark DeYmaz as the conference speaker, that’s exactly what I got.

My peers and I spent eight hours learning from DeYmaz, a multiethnic church planting guru from Arkansas. DeYmaz started Mosaic Church in 2001 after God relentlessly agitated him with this question: “Why can’t black folks and white folks go to church together in Little Rock?” Today, Mosaic has grown into a beautiful collection of people, incredibly diverse in race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. DeYmaz and his team refused to create a church that forced all people to fit into the dominant white culture. Instead, they crafted a community that engages the messy and difficult work needed for diverse communities to truly thrive.

DeYmaz outlined Mosaic’s ministry model for our group. Mosaic, with the holistic Gospel as their foundation, strives to do two things. First, they meet people’s spiritual needs through worship, small groups, and the like. Second, they work with their neighbors to meet physical needs through a collection of nonprofits focused on community development.

Meeting spiritual and physical needs; that’s pretty standard stuff for faith communities (or at least it should be). What was quite unusual, though, was the way Mosaic funds these two types of ministry. DeYmaz realized that passing the offering plate simply wouldn’t work for his church. He also knew that grants and a few big donors wouldn’t be long-term, sustainable solutions to Mosaic’s financial needs.

This is where the abandoned Kmart building and the $10-a-month gym come in. Mosaic started thinking outside the box about a funding strategy. They bought an abandoned Kmart building — a space where they could serve and create community with their neighbors in all sorts of ways. They only use about half the building. Their neighborhood had no affordable workout facility, so they struck a deal with a gym company that uses the other half of the building. Because Mosaic only charges the company a modest rental fee, the gym can keep membership costs affordable (only $10 a month) for Mosaic’s neighbors. The gym’s income, though, still pays for Mosaic’s monthly mortgage and more. Plus, the gym has promised to dedicate hefty sums over the next several years to neighborhood beautification projects and development.

Recap: Mosaic Church bought an old Kmart building and uses half of it. A gym uses the other half and provides the neighborhood with an affordable fitness facility. The gym pays for all of Mosaic’s mortgage plus more. Mosaic is able to focus their finances and energy on ministry instead of mortgage payments.

DeYmaz didn’t pretend like Mosaic’s model was exactly reproducible in every place. What his ideas did, though, was give us all permission. Permission to think outside the box, to take creative risks, to do church differently — things we must do for ministry in the 21st century.