The pandemic was a trying time for many churches, including Mosaic Conway. Imagine this. No church services for nine months and when the church did go back to regular services, they didn’t have a pastor. They were trying to be faithful but everyone there knew they were hanging by a thread. Thankfully, the lifeline that kept them going was their small groups, which continued to meet in homes throughout the Conway area to keep the church alive.
When Ahmad Muqtasid became the pastor at Mosaic Conway just over a year ago, the church’s leadership viewed it as a second act for the church, a place to begin again. “Honestly, we felt more like a church plant because we were hitting the reset button,” Ahmad said.
DIFFERENT FOLKS FROM DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS
Things have turned around for this small community of believers “cooperating with God to build a truly diverse church across racial, generational and socioeconomic backgrounds.” Go to one of Mosaic’s Sunday gatherings at a renovated warehouse space in a nondescript shopping center on Harkrider Street and you’ll see a variety of people there – Black, White, Hispanic and Asian. “Are there challenges to being a diverse church? Yes,” Ahmad told me. “You have to step outside your comfort zone of relating only to those from your own culture. You have to take extra steps to say, ‘I wanna do life with someone who doesn’t look like me.’ There may be challenges to that but there are also many blessings. We’re able to do and share life together.”
Ahmad has been preaching through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians recently. In the letter, the Apostle addresses how, despite their differences, Christ had united Jews and Gentiles into one Body. “What’s remarkable about their situation is they were a group of different folks from different backgrounds. Holding it all together was hard. Paul encouraged them to both keep their unity and walk in humility. It’s the same for us. The Lord is leading us in how we are walking together in our differences.”
A CHANGE IN DIRECTION
Ahmad understands diversity and grew up in a house divided. His father was Muslim and his mother a Christian. In the Muslim community, “If your father’s a Muslim, you’re a Muslim,” said Ahmad. He observed prayer five times a day, went to the mosque on Fridays at noon and fasted 30 days out of the year. For many in the Black community, Islam has appeal and Ahmad understands why. “There are so many men engaged. There’s a focus on masculinity and discipline. It’s no-nonsense. Those Muslim men would hold you accountable.”
When Ahmad was 15, his father died of cancer. His family moved to Atlanta where his mom visited different churches, looking for the right place for them. Eventually, she discovered a church that preached Jesus. It was there in 1999 that Ahmad felt something stirring inside him to learn more about Jesus. He was overflowing with zeal to learn but lacking in knowledge. So Ahmad would spend his lunch breaks at school in the library, pouring through books on Christianity and trying to understand the Bible, a discipline with which he had little experience.
In 2000, Ahmad moved back to Arkansas and lived with his aunt and uncle in Little Rock. His uncle was a Muslim minister and once again Ahmad found himself in a Muslim home where the man of the house told him frankly, “No Jesus in this house.” Ahmad once bought a cross necklace. His uncle told him to take it off whenever he came inside. Anything related to Jesus and Christianity was not allowed.
Unmoored and lacking community and connection to other believers, Ahmad began to drift. He started hanging out with the wrong crowd in a neighborhood known for gang violence. Ahmad’s uncle saw where his nephew was trending and made a critical decision. He told Ahmad, “You don’t have to go to mosque anymore. You can go to church because you need direction in your life.” Endowed with newfound freedom, Ahmad’s story took a dramatic turn. But not immediately.
Ahmad enrolled at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a major in criminal justice. He had yet to find a church. He might have believed in Jesus but his Savior had little impact on his day-to-day life. During his senior year, Ahmad met Tagel, a beautiful woman who wore glasses and pigtails. Ahmad was smitten but Tagel made it clear that he needed “to get his life right.” She invited him to Sunday school at St. Mark Baptist Church of W. 12th Street Little Rock. It was there Ahmad found godly mentors like Pastor Steven Arnold, Pastor Michael, Woods and Pastor Thomaswho encouraged him to dive deeper and go further in his faith and ministry.
Ahmad and Tagel eventually married and found themselves on the road for Ahmad’s job, traveling from Memphis to Tampa to Washington, D.C. In 2014, Ahmad returned to Central Arkansas. In 2020, he was led and encouraged by his mentor Pastor Kelly to plant a church in Conway. What he didn’t know at the time was that the church plant he was called to was a church looking for a second life and a new beginning.
A GREATER VISION
The vision and mission of Mosaic Conway honor the multiethnic efforts that Mosaic Church of Little Rock has been engaging in for 20+ years in Central Arkansas. It’s about more than simply bringing a diverse body of believers together. They want to be a bold witness for Christ among their neighbors and make disciples who make disciples. This is how they describe the kind of community they want to cultivate:
We’re all about Jesus; spreading the Gospel for His name and fame throughout the city and the world. You won’t be met with shame, guilt, or condemnation; Jesus paid for that on the cross. And we don’t care how you’re dressed or even what candidate you voted for. Our church is made up of beautifully diverse, broken people with every kind of story imaginable. No matter what you’ve been through or what questions you might have about God and faith, our church is a place where you’ll find the love, grace, and forgiveness Jesus gives to everyone.
TOUCHING EVERY AREA OF LIFE AND RELATIONSHIPS
The reach of Mosaic Conway extends beyond the city limits to places like Greenbrier, Vilonia and Maumelle. Ahmad sees how, in ways big and small, this community is being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around them:
My first sermon series as pastor was on Acts and I wanted to give our people a picture of the church back then. I wanted them to see how this small movement spread to other places as people were dedicated to witnessing and making disciples of Jesus. I want people to see that we’re on fire for the Lord. We are training our people to be the light of Christ in their community, wherever they are.
For the Mosaic Conway community, the Church isn’t simply a location or an event. It’s a living, breathing thing that touches every area of life and relationships. “We are more than just a Sunday gathering. We want to make disciples who are producing fruit in our neighborhoods,” said Ahmad. “We want to meet people’s needs inside and outside the Body. We care for people. We may be small but we’re a loving group. Our small groups are a beautiful example of that. We meet in homes to worship and pray together. We break bread together. We are doing life together through the good and hard times.”
SMALL CHURCH, BIG IMPACT
As this community embraces diversity, they hold fast to the unity they have in who Christ is and what He has done to bring people together from all backgrounds under the banner of His glorious name:
Jesus broke down the wall of hostility we had against God and against one another through the cross. We live in this work of Christ, which has reconciled us to God, and we extend it to others through proclamation, demonstration, and acts of justice. We work for the good of the city because we believe that through us, the church, God is redeeming it.
Mosaic Conway may be a small church but its impact on those from all backgrounds is felt in big ways. We are thankful for the exceptional work of Mosaic Conway and for all the churches in our city that are working toward a genuine unity within diversity that displays the love and beauty of Christ. They’re helping the whole Church grow.
Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Christopher Loux | Communications Director and Network Developer, CityChurch Network