A Garden Story
A Garden Story

By Mel McGowan

Mosaic Church in Winter Garden, Florida, opened their doors in 2003, but the church’s story began taking shape centuries before. In fact, it has the same origin we all do, the Garden of Eden, a paradise handcrafted by God for his beloved creations.

Eden began as a perfect oasis that offered humankind everything we could ever need—and then it was broken by sin. And the shattered world that emerged was rescued by Jesus and restored for eternity. The heart of Mosaic’s story is summarized in three words: rescue, identity, and mission. And this story informs and describes their purpose as they serve and spread God’s love.


Adding a New Chapter to the Story

Mosaic opened a new chapter in its restoration story when it opened its new campus last December 10. The two-year process involved extensive planning, preparation, construction, and of course, plenty of heartfelt prayer as the church broadened its reach into the local area and the world.

“As we continue to be obsessed with the gospel and equip the saints to live on mission for the kingdom, we have seen more and more people enter the story who desire deeply to be transformed by the gospel,” says lead pastor Renaut van der Riet.

Mosaic’s three campuses lie outside Orlando, including the only church that meets within the bubble of the Walt Disney World Resort. Two years ago, Mosaic purchased an abandoned, 78,000-square-foot, big-box retail space—a space they planned to make their global base of operation. The church’s ambition was to distill and express their story using the massive space they’d acquired.

When van der Riet told me Mosaic’s dreams and ambitions, I knew there was a deeper, more important story to be told—and it was up to me and my team to help bring it to the surface.


Uncovering the Heart of Mosaic’s Story

First, Mosaic’s team needed to uncover the core of the story they wished to tell, both within their walls and throughout the city. We participated together in an in-depth visioning workshop during which the heart of their story unfolded. The result was a unique “big idea” that reframed the project in a new light and informed the direction it needed to go.

The visioning process opened the Mosaic team’s eyes to the Eden story they wanted to tell. And through their rescue, identity, and mission focal points, Mosaic actively participates in the work God is doing in the world to spread redemption and re-creation. Their visioning process helped them define this story and decide how they wanted to represent it visually through the architecture of their new campus.


Bringing the Church’s Story to Life through Design and Architectural Elements

With Eden as a focus, Mosaic’s vision for the facility began to take shape: They set out to “bring the outdoors in” by visually representing nature’s juxtaposition of chaos and order. We set this in motion by layering surprising elements and rhythmic patterns to suggest the whimsy of nature as life breaks through.

“The design team listened to us, and then they came up with a design that reflected our DNA so well,” van der Riet says.

When visitors enter through the front doors, they’re immediately drawn into the Eden story through a contemporary interpretation of the iconic tree of life. From there, garden arbors and trellises overlooking seating areas provide them with plenty of opportunities for connection and relationship-building.

Through the Spatial Storytelling elements woven throughout the beautiful new worship and community space, Mosaic’s members can find encouragement to actively participate in God’s plan to restore creation to its original purpose: cultivating relationships with God and people.

The church’s idea to bring the outdoors in is forging both literal and metaphorical roots for the congregation.

“You know, I used to think that buildings really don’t matter, but over the last few years I’ve come to understand that buildings allow us a space where we can put down roots,” van der Riet says. “And those roots give us the opportunity to have a firm foundation off of which we can be sent out into the world to be world changers for God.”


Sharing God’s Restorative Love in Orlando, Disney, and Overseas

Mosaic serves Greater Orlando and internationally in thousands of ways, big and small. Members pay bills for families who need assistance, feed the hungry, repair cars for single moms who can’t afford it, help people move, and serve alongside local organizations.

Mosaic’s Walt Disney World campus was inspired by their heart for Disney employees. The church launched the campus at Disney to cater to Disney cast members whose work schedules made it difficult to connect with Mosaic. At the Disney campus, park and resort employees can experience God on a schedule that works for them. As a former Disney Imagineer myself, this resonated with me on a personal level and helped deepen the connection I felt with van der Riet and his leadership team as we moved forward with the Winter Garden campus plans.

On a global level, Mosaic has served in Kenya, South Africa, the nation of Georgia, Cambodia, China, Brazil, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. International ministry is funded in part by a coffee shop van der Riet launched in Winter Garden. Named after Axum, Ethiopia—Mosaic’s first overseas partner community—Axum Coffee is a cause-oriented chain located down the street from the former Winter Garden campus.


Becoming a Catalyst for Change around the World

Van der Riet hopes the church will become an irresistible magnet for their city to enter the story, engage with it, and ultimately express it to others. He and the Mosaic leadership team envision the new space as a “catalyst for fearless world change.”

“Now, by God’s grace, that is exactly what it’s going to become,” van der Riet says.

Mel McGowan is cofounder and chief creative principal of PlainJoe Studios. He is a leading master planner and designer of churches in America.

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