the shape of leadership

A Diverse Church for a Diverse City

A Q&A with Jonathan and Nicole Ember

Chris Colvin on September 25, 2019

In 2013, co-pastors Jonathan and Nicole Ember launched Diversity Church (Assemblies of God) in Indianapolis. They now minister in three locations as they pursue a vision to open more sites.

INFLUENCE: What led you to plant Diversity Church together?
We served on the mission field in Brazil. It was in that context that I saw the gospel preached to different nationalities. The diversity we experienced there birthed a desire for diversity in the States as well. Indianapolis was our home base, so after about two years, we felt led to come back home.

NICOLE: We had talked about how much we loved missions work, but we also loved the idea of laying some roots and being a pastor in the States. As we were trying to figure out how those passions fit together, I shared with Jonathan that I saw how God had gifted him to do church planting because it kind of combines the aspects of missionary, evangelist and pastor. It’s about starting a new work in a very traditional setting.

“We had to be intentional about demonstrating our diversity.”
— Jonathan Ember

What does “diversity” mean to you and your church?
JONATHAN: It means “whosoever will.” It means every single person, no matter where they are on their faith journey, their economic makeup, their skin color — all of that. God has created a beautiful church culture where we have so many people who are from different walks of life, doing life together. The last five years in our nation has marked some of the most troubling times when it comes to race relations. It’s neat to see how this thing we are doing is starting to bridge that gap.

How do you achieve diversity?
What I love about our church is that our name forces us to face some of these topics head-on. So we’ve done race relations panels, where we have people from different backgrounds on stage together, answering questions and hitting these tough topics. We’ve had to address the topic of inclusion from the LGBTQ community. It’s forced us to stand for truth in a way that is loving and balanced. It’s been exciting to see people come in who have not been open to the gospel and find a safe place and community where they can encounter God.

JONATHAN: We had to be intentional about demonstrating our diversity. That meant we had to be intentional about hiring staff, making sure our demographic represented the same diversity in our neighborhoods. But it also included outreach. For instance, we hosted an outreach called Taste of Diversity that celebrated the food and entertainment of different backgrounds in our church and community. It was a great way to introduce ourselves to the community in a very non-threatening way, but also to let everyone know we are here in the city and what we’re all about.
NICOLE: And our multisite approach has been part of that intentionality as well. We wanted to celebrate diversity by doing this in different locations with all different people. One of the greatest successes is seeing people from different socioeconomic backgrounds worshipping together. The beauty of diversity is that we all bring something unique to the table.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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