By John Chace
Imagine a special glimpse of Heaven every time you go to church. If you worship, study, serve, or fellowship at Community Christian Church in Tamarac, Florida, you’ll do so with people from almost 80 countries.
In this South Florida congregation, church members harmoniously celebrate the blessings of broad diversity. The people know diversity is there, but don’t necessarily see it. They feel good about fitting in easily and being fully accepted for who they are; they are warmly welcomed and encouraged to get involved.
Most are quick to cite common bonds—acknowledgement they are sinners, in need of the hope of Jesus Christ, and hungry for Bible teaching. Many point out the “No Perfect People Allowed” banner prominently displayed at the entry to the auditorium, saying it symbolizes inclusion and the comfort they feel about worshipping at CCC.
Attendees come from almost every West Indian nation and several Hispanic ones, from countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, and even from Russia and Thailand. Outside of U.S.-born congregants, Jamaicans, Haitians, and Colombians comprise the most attendees. And CCC even has some Jewish believers.
“We don’t see it as diversity; we see one common thing—the love of Jesus Christ,” says Cuban-born Luky Hadler, whose Jewish husband, Barry, was immersed into Christ with the rest of the family three years ago. “It’s amazing that we have such diversity, but we don’t look at any color. When we walk in, we feel the presence of God and love.
“I feel like it’s our family. We are accepted and loved for who we are, and they (staff and attendees) know us,” adds Hadler, who faced the additional challenge of finding a church that would warmly welcome and provide specialized care for their son, Michael, 15, who has cerebral palsy.
Leaders Reaching Out
Scott Eynon, senior pastor at CCC since 1994, echoes Hadler’s comments and those of others. Eynon cites Revelation 7:9: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.” He says he feels good about telling the congregation, “We get to be a part of a church that looks like Heaven will be like one day.”
CCC’s leadership reaches out to the area’s diverse population. For instance, CCC has Spanish translation at the second (and larger) Sunday service. In July, CCC held an international dessert night where people brought treats representing their heritage. Last Christmas, worship pastor Brian Beckner created a video of readings from Luke 2 in 13 different languages.
And from a programming perspective, Eynon says, “We are very careful about every video we show, every printed piece, every mailer we create, and have tried to represent the different ethnic groups from within our culture.
“We all have the same hope. We don’t see ethnicities. People are people,” Eynon says. “In some sense, we become color-blind to what is going on around us.”
In populous South Florida, CCC stands out as one of a few churches of all persuasions that takes great advantage of cultural opportunities. Broward County, where CCC is located, is home to the nation’s sixth-largest school district, which includes students from 204 different countries.
“It’s incredibly thrilling to know you are part of a church that really is reaching people from all over the world,” Eynon says, “and being able to equip people to go back to their country as well and share the hope of Christ.”
CCC started in 1957, and by 1980 was a generally older and very white congregation of about 100. After one Jamaican family—Sidney and Pearline Martin and two children (at the time)—joined, they invited friends, and friends invited friends.
“We were coming for the message,” says Sidney Martin. The couple had been Christian church members in Indiana and Chicago.
“We were comfortable there (at CCC),” and so were their friends, Martin says. “You could see the domino effect. The preaching and teaching were excellent.”
Martin initially became a deacon. I was an elder, and together we served as the church’s main callers/evangelists for many years. Martin became an elder more than 10 years ago.
“I can’t remember seeing anything like this at other churches we had attended,” he says. “It’s the commonality of the Word, it holds us together. It’s not where you are from or who you are, but whom we serve. Leadership maintains that message. The message is Jesus!
The Martins, like other members, take the Word back to family members and neighbors in their native countries. “We can be a lightning rod to spread the Word back there,” he says. “We’re on to something bigger here than we think.”
During and after a move to a new building in a very well-to-do area (where land had been donated) in 1983, CCC continued to attract different ethnicities; and by 2007, when the church opened in Tamarac, more than 30 were represented.
Leaders were excited by the demographics of the new area, which the congregation more than mirrors. Church members take pride in such events as periodic community impact days, where several hundred congregants serve in surrounding neighborhoods and the county.
Touching the Heart
Samroy Williams, a diminutive widow who was born in Thailand, recently asked for prayer and travel mercies at the conclusion of her Bible class of about 60, as she prepared to leave on her annual trip home to see her stepmother. “I’m going to miss you,” she said. “I kind of look at the church as family.”
June and Josh Pratt, from Jamaica, were attracted by the new church building opening in December 2007. They immediately found the church to be friendly, with a very good mix of people. Josh, in particular, fell in love with the “No Perfect People” sign.
“We just see fellow Christians,” says June Pratt, an office volunteer for several years. The couple has invited several people to worship, and they too have come and like it.
She was really surprised on a Sunday a few years back when a friend introduced her to a guest, Barbara Black. June and Barbara were next-door neighbors in Jamaica and had not seen each other for 55 years. (Since this piece was written, Josh passed away.)
Diana Taxin was born in Washington, D.C., and went to an all-white school, and now she is an active volunteer at CCC. “It’s great with all the diversity,” she says. “We have great opportunities to learn about many different cultures. I am aware of differences from what people say in (Bible) class. But I just see people.”
Jennifer Hunter tried a lot of churches after moving to the U.S. from the Bahamas. She was impressed by the way CCC clearly explained and practiced its purpose, by how quickly she was called after turning in a card requesting prayer, and with the way her daughter, now 6, is taught and treated.
“I know the purpose here is to get a better understanding of God’s message—to be encouraging to others, to study the Bible in small groups, to fellowship and pray, and to reach out,” says Hunter, who joined CCC three years ago.
“It’s nice that we have 75 nationalities,” Hunter says. “It’s not what you have or where you come from. It doesn’t matter what you look like. We all are sinners. It’s what is in the heart.”
John Chace serves as chairman of the elders and director of pastoral care with Community Christian Church in Tamarac, Florida. He was a news editor and writer for 43 years.