Free Methodists played a key role as more than 1,200 people gathered Nov. 1–3 at NorthWood Church near Dallas, Texas, for the Mosaix Multiethnic Church Conference.
The Free Methodist Church – USA was a gold sponsor of the conference that occurs every three years. A Free Methodist video played repeatedly between conference sessions. Each conference attendee received a copy of Light + Life Publishing’s “Multiply Ministry: The Mustard Seed Tribe” book by conference attendee (and 2013 speaker) Larry Walkemeyer, a superintendent of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California and the lead pastor of Light & Life Christian Fellowship in Long Beach. Mosaix attracted pastors and lay members of the Oregon, River, Southern California and Wabash conferences.
Free Methodists received prominent speaking spots among well-known pastors and authors such as Matt Chandler, Wilfredo De Jesús, Miles McPherson and Ed Stetzer. Bishop Matthew Thomas shared a brief history of the Free Methodist Church. While some participating denominations had to repent of past support for slavery and segregation, Thomas told how Free Methodists have a long history as a “multicultural, multiracial movement” supporting freedom, equality and unity. “We were birthed as an abolition movement,” he said.
Some of the conference’s participating denominations continue to exclude women from pastoral ministry, and their speakers discussed racial and ethnic equality without mentioning gender. In contrast, Thomas said, “The founder of the Free Methodist Church back in the late 1800s wrote a book that was very unique for its time. The title of the book was ‘Ordaining Women.’ There was a lot of controversy behind it, but it created that kind of multiculture, multigender, multiethnic type of feel and then started empowering lay people to go out into all the world, plant churches, start small groups, and they did that in groups called lay Pentecost bands. So by the turn of the 1900s, we had about as many people overseas as we did here.”
Thomas shared that 94 percent of Free Methodists churches currently are outside the United States, and this nation’s Free Methodists are increasingly diverse.
“In the Free Methodist Church in the United States, 28 languages are spoken,” the bishop said. “Our churches are becoming more and more multiethnic, multicultural, and we’re grateful to be a part of what’s going on in the world. We’ve got a long way to go, but things are really going well on many fronts.”
Thomas then introduced Brian Warth, the lead pastor of Chapel of Change – a rapidly growing Free Methodist congregation that holds services at campuses in Paramount and Long Beach, California. In his plenary address, Warth expressed appreciation for Thomas’ participation.
“I’m excited and humbled that our bishop would come and support such a historic event,” said Warth, who shared about how Chapel of Change was planted in 2012 with the vision of being a multiethnic church. “Our heart has been to be able to demonstrate a snapshot of heaven on earth. We have seen amazing things in the last four years that God has been doing through his miraculous grace.”
Warth shared how racially charged gang activity led to his brother’s murder at age 15 followed by rival gang members shooting Warth in an arm at age 14.
“The sad thing was I didn’t heed the warnings of God, and the streets exposed me to a level of racism and segregation. At the age of 16 years old, I rebelled against my parents, and I rebelled against society, and I dug deeper into the streets until I was arrested for a gang-related murder. I was tried as an adult, and in the Compton courthouse, I was sentenced to life in prison,” Warth said. “When I was ushered in the darkness of prison, I experienced racism and segregation in a whole deeper way.”
Warth said he accepted Christ in prison and received a vision that he would be released and share the gospel with others. He was attacked in prison for reaching out to people of other races. His attacker said, “We don’t mix races in prison. We don’t do that in here.” After then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released him from prison after 16 years, Warth visited a variety of churches to share his testimony and realized church reminded him of prison in one disappointing way.
“I saw that the churches were as segregated as prison,” he said. “How could this be? What have we done with the gospel? What have we done to the kingdom of God? How is it that an N.W.A. concert can be diverse, but the church can’t? How is it that the local bar can be diverse, but the church can’t?”
Warth said the American church will lose a generation if multiethnic people visit churches and find them to be segregated by race and ethnicity. He cited Acts 4:31: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
He called for conference participants to “go back to the biblical pattern of prayer” and shake up their lives and churches: “We need to be bodacious in order to overturn the tables of segregation in our churches and in the kingdom of God. May God grant us the courage, the audacity, to be disruptive in our generation for our finest hour is now.”
Warth also led a workshop on “Planting Multiethnic in a Mono-ethnic Community,” and he advised participants, “Be passionate about engaging every domain of your city.”
The conference also featured several people with ties to Free Methodist colleges and universities. Azusa Pacific University trustee Albert Tate gave a plenary address. Brian Bantum, a Seattle Pacific University associate professor of theology, led a workshop on “The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial World.” His wife, Gail Song Bantum, gave a plenary address in which she shared her experiences as a Korean-American growing up in a black Pentecostal church and then marrying a biracial husband.
“The multiethnic church is more than a mandate,” said Song Bantum, who referenced Acts 2. “You can’t fathom yourself, your identity, your belonging, apart from the other and apart from the power of the Spirit at work.”
Mosaix honored legendary civil rights leader John M. Perkins — the inspiration for Seattle Pacific University’s John Perkins Center. Mosaix President Mark DeYmaz said, “For nearly 56 years, Dr. Perkins has given his life away to others in service of the kingdom.”
The conference raised more than $40,000 in pledges to support Perkins during the conference, and with other pledges before and afterward, DeYmaz recently announced more than $220,000 has been pledged so Perkins can “be free from financial stress and worry where his own family is concerned, as well as from any doubt about the future and legacy of his ministry.”1