In a 2011 State of the City Address, the mayor of pastor and author Mark Hearn’s city said there were fifty-seven languages spoken at the local high school. Hearn left asking himself, How should our church respond?
This question led to a movement that brought First Baptist Duluth to reflecting its surrounding community. This journey was captured in Pastor Hearn’s first book, Technicolor: Inspiring Your Church to Embrace Multicultural Ministry. Now, nearly five years after Technicolor, members of his congregation discuss the joys, struggles, and triumphs of being a part of a multi-ethnic church- providing a glimpse of the nature of a church that reflects its community.
It was a community meeting that inspired you to write your first book. Why did you write this one?
The response to the first book was very gratifying. Many readers expressed appreciation for the stories of our church’s journey into multicultural ministry. However, the missing element was explaining the mindset shifts that had to take place in order to accomplish our mission. “Technicolor” was written in 2016 (and published in 2017), about five years into the church’s journey.
Now, some five years after “Technicolor’s publication,”, I am able to look back and see the paradigm shift with much greater clarity. I felt the best way to tell the story was through the eyes of the people that experienced it. Therefore, I enlisted the help of a collaborative author (Darcy Wiley) who would interview 35 people from the church and our affiliated partners in order to explain the seismic shifts necessary for our transition.
For whom did you write this book?
This book is for any church leaders who find themselves with less diversity in their churches than is present in their communities. A vast demographic change is happening now in America. In less than a generation, every major city in America will be majority-minority. However, churches remain dominantly homogenous in their approach to ministry. Churches must look to reflect their community to remain relevant in this era of vast diversification.
During a seminar that I was leading, I was asked; “Do you think that every church should become a multicultural church?” I responded, “Not every church has the same demographic opportunity to become multicultural. However, I do believe that every church should seek ways to reach the entirety of their community. And for most churches that will involve crossing cultural lines and will require an openness to being multicultural in their approach.”
Why is it necessary for pastors and churches to keep up with what is changing in their communities?
Many communities are changing without the church noticing. Diversity is exploding in many areas while the churches remain predominantly homogenous in their approach. In our situation, Duluth was more than 90 percent Anglo in the 1990 census. However, now the city is 36 percent Anglo. And among the school-age children of the city, the number is closer to 16 percent. This drastic change in demographics was already in process when I moved to the area in 2010. However, the church remained more than 90 percent Anglo and much of the programming was obviously geared to attract the majority culture. Not all communities will experience the rapid change that happened in Duluth. However, all communities ARE changing, and church leaders need to understand the dynamics in their own churches’ mission fields.
How are you continuing the conversation that you started in your first book, Technicolor?
I firmly believe that our church’s journey can be (and should be) replicated in cities across America. Currently I serve as the Homogenous Church Transitioning Director/Coach for the Mosaix Global Network of Churches. This role has afforded me the opportunity to aid churches in their own personal transition journey. To date I have led workshops, conducted personal coaching sessions and provided consulting services for churches in eight different states.
What role do members play in establishing a multi-ethnic church? Talk about the mindset shifts you witnessed in members at First Baptist Duluth (FBC Duluth).
The book is divided into three sections: legacies (church members with more than 25 years invested at our church), languages (those that FBC Duluth is their first experience in a church outside of their native language or culture group) and leaders (from within the church but also in the community and denominational service). Each of these groups has had a distinctive path of transition that has involved mindset shifts.
Hearing in Technicolor is showing how these diverse beginning points can merge into a powerful gospel force to impact a multicultural community with the gospel message.
How does this book help pastors effectively lead their congregations to embrace multicultural ministry?
When I began this journey some 10 years ago, I read everything I could find on multicultural ministry. Most of what had been published at that time was about how to plant a multicultural church with diversity in the DNA from its beginning. However, very little had been documented concerning existing churches attempting to effectively reflect their transitioning communities. This book will help those churches capture a glimpse of the process and witness the hope that comes from seeing people of diversity embrace one another around the common cause of the gospel.
What do you hope readers will take from this book?
Years ago I would tell colleagues and ministry leaders of my vision for a church that would reflect the diversity of our community and effectively reach all people groups. Oftentimes I would hear discouraging feedback. Some would claim that what I sought—though admirable—was actually impossible. I want people reading this book to realize that those who gather primarily to proliferate the gospel without the boundaries of culture or language is not only POSSIBLE, but it is the MISSION of the New Testament church!