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 WORLD MISSIONS

Mark Mohr Plants Church
by Mark Mohr for Christian Activities
3/15/2004

St. James, Trinidad - Following Christafari's 2003 European tour, Mark Mohr of Christafari (lead vocals) and his wife Avion (bass and vocals) followed the Lord's lead and moved to Trinidad and Tobago, a twin island country in the southeastern Caribbean. Trinidad is a very ethnically diverse land with a population that is about half Black and half East Indian, with a few Assyrians, Asians and Caucasians in the mix. After about a month in Trinidad, it became clear why God had brought them to this country. "After studying the Christian churches of Trinidad I found a major void," said Mark. "While many churches may have good youth groups, when a teenager finishes secondary school (high school), he/she is stuck with two choices: become a youth leader, or attend their church's general service which can be tough for a 17 year old teen who watches more BET than TBN. With the average age of many congregations around 45 (and the pastor may be even older), these youths are found searching for a message with relevance. There are some great youth events and concerts held for college age singles, but many churches in Trinidad and Tobago have a void in Christian education for those aged 16-32."

After this realization and much prayer, the Mohrs set out to plant "The Gathering"--what many today would label a post-modern church. They don't actually call it a church, because the church is the body of Christ--people not buildings. The word "church" can also have a negative stigma for both the un-churched and Christians alike, keeping them from attending and hearing the Word of God. The Gathering is redefining the Christian church for today's young adults in Trinidad and Tobago. "It's kind of a Church 2.0," says Mohr. "Before starting The Gathering, I studied the Gospels, the book of Acts, and the Epistles. Comparing that Biblical church model to the typical church of today, it didn't take long to realize most of today's churches carry a lot of excess baggage, jam packed with empty traditions, and a vibrant alternative was needed. The Gathering is founded on four key pillars: Worship, Instruction, Fellowship and Evangelism (W.I.F.E.).

Climbing the stairs to the Gathering, which meets on Mondays (not Sundays) at 7:50pm in the bustling and sleepless city of St. James, one quickly realizes it's not a typical Trinidadian church. As sung by Mohr and Sherwin Gardner in a dancehall commercial created for radio in promotion of The Gathering; There are no pews, no pulpit, no steeple--this is just a simple gathering of the people. There are a few chairs in the back, but most attendees recline on a couch, or on a pillow. A pillow? "That's right, think about it," says Mohr. "When I am at home about ready to watch a great movie, or my favorite TV show, where do I sit? I choose the most comfortable spot in my house, the couch. In the same way, why shouldn't we be comfortable when we worship?" In lieu of pews, Avion sewed large Jamoo mats and about 100 custom made pillows.

There is no dress code at The Gathering. In fact, Pastor Mohr (though he prefers it if you just call him Mark), arrives in shorts and a t-shirt, delivering messages that are conservative in doctrine, yet dynamic in delivery, utilizing relevant analogies and a plethora of props to accentuate his points. "Different people have different learning styles, so in my expository teaching I use parables, analogies and a lot of visual examples. I often start off messages with a clip from a popular movie like 'Lord of the Rings' or 'The Matrix' and always end with an opportunity for the audience to personally apply what they have learned," says Mohr. "While many pastors in Trinidad will literally yell at their congregation for hours on end, I limit my messages to 45 minutes and try to use different dynamics in my speech. I talk to the congregation as I would to a close friend." With the lights dimmed and the candles lit, every attendee is meant to feel welcome and at home--and they do.

Each Monday night, the event is kicked off with a DJ spinning the best of today's gospel reggae while the people gather. Next is a mixer--a time for the people to mingle, asking each other one assigned question. The answer to this question is always addressed later in the message. The mixer is followed by a time of musical worship The Gathering calls "soul-lifting intimate acoustic songs." "It is more like MTV Unplugged than Hillsong," says Mohr. "We rotate worship leaders weekly and each one is a well-known Caribbean gospel artist. Their God-directed songs are becoming the praise and worship standards of this generation in Trinidad. I strongly encourage the artists to use their own material and possibly a few other Caribbean praise songs. I also discourage them from using American or western songs. I believe a significant problem with the churches here is so many of them have been robbed of their own culture by missionaries who instituted the western music they were accustomed to for praise & worship. Rather than have The Gathering imitate what is going on in America, I want to bring Trinidadian culture back into the church and make it a 'Trini ting!' As another key element in accomplishing that objective, I'm building up a Trinidadian leadership team and eventually phasing myself out. We already have several strong native teachers in position who can lead when I'm out on the road ministering with Christafari."

At each Gathering we introduce a special guest artist for what we call the "six-pack." In the six-pack segment, we ask the guest artist six personal questions in a late-night talk show format. This intimate discussion gives the audience a glimpse of the artist's heart and passion for the Lord. In the six-pack, the sixth question is always, "so tell us about the song you are going to sing for us." The music that follows varies weekly from reggae to dancehall, hip hop, soca, calypso, jamoo or even alternative. Pastor Mark's message is usually tied into the subject of the guest artist's song. The message is followed by a time of prayer and a song by both the guest artist and the worship leader. Finally, The Gathering concludes with fellowship, but this after-church fellowship is like no other. Food, snacks and drinks are available, and the DJ starts spinning the slammin' reggae tunes once again. The pillows and mats are cleared out to make way for the pool tables, foosball,! air hockey and arcade games. "It is amazing. An hour after the service, half the people are still there talking and hanging out. This is after-church fellowship at it's best!" says Mohr.

"I am not against the churches of Trinidad and Tobago. I believe the churches here work for those who are already attending. The problem is most churches are allergic to the word 'change' yet there is a spiritually malnourished generation being fed primarily by a consistent diet of movies, media and music. We aren't effectively reaching the lost. My studies at BIOLA University and my background of musical ministry with Christafari have prepared me to reach this demographic group through these mediums," said Mohr. What started in early November of 2003 has already grown to as many as 100 attending The Gathering. Plans are underway to start another Gathering in the southern part of the island and then possibly Tobago and other Caribbean islands. The Mohrs and The Gathering are under the covering of Sanctuary International and The Sowers International missions organization. They are supported entirely by the one-time and monthly love offerings from those who believe in the ir ministry. If you are interested in supporting this vision please e-mail: mark@christafari.com

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  Contact: Christian Activities

Christian Activities Publications                   P.O. Box 210182                               Nashville, TN 37221-0182

2001 Christian Activities