The Antioch Effect

Reimagining church in a multicultural world via the book of Acts

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Many years ago, Missiologist Donald McGavern wrote in his 1970 work, Understanding Church Growth, about the Homogeneous Unit Principle—one of the swiftest approaches to expanding a church by connecting with individuals who share similarities with us in appearance, language, behavior, and political preferences. During the ascent of the Church Growth era in late Christendom, church plants took off immediately with rapid growth in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. The way many seminary students were trained back then, including myself, was to meet the spiritual needs of a world that no longer exists—and this is a fact we need to reckon with if we are to have maximum impact. 

The truth is that globalization has become more of a reality in the business world and, yes—even in the Church—where God is bringing the Nations to us here in the West. To support this point with concrete data, the latest census report tells us that this is one of the first times in the history of the United States that there will be more non-white babies born than white babies. Our world and nation are evolving into multi-ethnic landscapes, and this fact alone means that we need to fundamentally regroup our approach. 

The challenge lies in the fact that, for an extended period, the composition of the local church has remained unchanged, lacking diversity. So, when the vision of Mosaic Church (Beavercreek, Ohio) was birthed, it would not rest on the shoulders of a solo heroic leader or go after homogeneity. Instead, the approach adopted was a team-based model inspired by the principles outlined in the book of Acts. Yet, rather than strictly following the pattern in Acts 2, the emphasis was on Acts 13:1-3. The duo of Barnabas and Saul would lead the first-ever multi-ethnic church, the church of Antioch, where this new movement of Christ followers was first called Christians (Acts 11:26). 

Now in the Church at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod, the tetrarch), and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1-3)

The church-planting team in Antioch comprised individuals with diverse backgrounds. Barnabas hailed from Cyprus. Simeon, also known as Niger, likely had North African roots, and Lucius, too, originated from North Africa. Manaen is interesting because of the opportunity to grow up under Herod’s guidance, but this could imply—as New Testament Scholar Craig Keener in A Multicultural Church—Acts 13:1-3 notes, that Manaen could have been a child of a fellow noble family or even a family servant. And, of course, more is known about Saul (Paul) having dual citizenship as both a Jew and Roman, which allowed him to travel with his trade as a tentmaker, have faith discussions, and preach to the Gentile world. The church-planting leaders of the church at Antioch were an eclectic bunch positioned to reach a new world that transcended one central place.

We wanted to use the church at Antioch as a blueprint as Mosaic was planted. Just as Barnabas and Saul teamed up, so did I, along with Pastor Wayne Botkin. The vision of Mosaic was birthed on a car ride to Columbus as we carpooled to a church planting seminar (we did not even know each other!) to hear from Vineyard Columbus’ founding pastor, Rich Nathan. Nathan cast the vision to a room full of pastors and planters to think about planting faith communities in teams instead of having singular leadership.

As Mosaic took shape and approaches its seventh anniversary, the journey has been wild. We were worshiping in two different movie theaters, seven different parking lots (with a flatbed truck serving as a stage) throughout COVID with outdoor worship, community centers, malls, and then finally, God led us into adoption with St. Andrew United Methodist Church who was looking for a new vision in their life cycle. Pastor Lilanthi Ward joined our senior leadership there, where we now have three co-pastors and four speakers on our preaching rotation. We were able to renovate and fix up an established church building to reflect the DNA of Mosaic.

Today, Mosaic Church is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of those around them while intentionally and purposefully embracing its multi-ethnic, multigenerational, and multi-economic community, with a large group actively in recovery from addiction. It is incredible what God can guide us to do when we humble ourselves and join others in working toward God’s preferred future.

Interested in learning more about how the book of Acts could help shape your ministry? Check out the Faith+Lead Academy course, The Book of Acts: The Ever-Expanding Church.

  • Rosario Picardo

    Roz, a first-generation Sicilian-American from western New York, has an expansive educational background including an MBA from Dakota Wesleyan University and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary. He has diverse ministry experience, from military chaplaincy to founding pastor at Mosaic, Dayton, and has played pivotal roles in large churches like Ginghamsburg Church. Beyond pastoral roles, Roz is a national speaker, heads Picardo Coaching LLC for church planters, and has authored 8 books.

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