Real Life Diversity
Scott Hagan's vision of heaven can be seen at Real Life Church in Sacramento, California: a multiethnic, multiracial congregation whose diversity is the product of intentional outreach.
Real Life is a multisite church with five locations, most based in the area. Among the 1,000 who attend weekly services at the main campus, 60 percent are white and 40 percent are other ethnicities, primarily African-American, African, Hispanic, and Filipino.
This blend stems from Hagan long ago reading Revelation 7:9 and asking the question: "Why doesn't the church in the U.S. look like heaven?"
"Nobody works in a homogenous marketplace environment," Hagan says of often-segregated church environments. "Everyone has multiethnic relationships in the marketplace. They cannot invite multiethnic friends to a homogenous church. If you have that, you have limited evangelism dramatically."
At the church's main campus, Hagan works with a multiethnic staff of 20 people. While the church isn't overly focused on race, he preaches a biblical theology of unity.
A member of the lead team of the AG's Church Multiplication Network, Hagan teaches that prejudice and racism are sinful.
"We also teach that legalism and racism are the two goliaths of Scripture that war against the kingdom of God," Hagan says. "Almost every restorative story you can point to has some kind of legalism or racism going on."
The original product of Hagan's church-planting endeavors is located about 30 minutes south of Real Life's main campus.
Hagan started Harvest Church in 1989; there he first utilized the term, "A church that looks like heaven."
Located in an area where the Ku Klux Klan used to be active, today Harvest Church has about 1,800 people and is 70 percent African-American. Author John Dawson once told Hagan he found it to be the most beautifully diverse congregation in the U.S.
"I get to travel all over the U.S. and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find something as supernatural as what's happened in Sacramento at Harvest Church and Real Life Church," Hagan says.
Hagan left Harvest Church in 2000 to pastor an established, large congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. However, several years later he wanted to return to the Sacramento area to allow his wife Karen to care for her ailing mother. Hagan also discovered that he missed church planting. The world won't be changed by a few megachurches as much as new congregations aimed at reaching the younger generation, he says.
The Hagans launched Real Life in 2006 under a different name. The church steadily grew to a network of 2,150 followers, with a sixth campus due to open this fall in the western part of Sacramento.
For Hagan, the beauty of Real Life's diversity appeared last summer the week riots erupted in racially divided Ferguson, Missouri. A baptismal party by the Sacramento River "morphed into an old-school church picnic," with a photo of some of the young converts illustrating the power of biblical unity.
James Braddy, superintendent of the AG Northern California-Northern Nevada District, says Hagan has an amazing ability to gather people and has brought many newcomers into God's kingdom.
"Scott is an incredible communicator," Braddy says. "A lot of younger pastors like his ability to communicate and the pulpit ministry he has. He has incredible connections inside and outside the AG and is an articulate spokesman for multiple sites and church planting. We draw on him heavily for his expertise."
The director of church planting for the district until his frequent travels and speaking schedule forced him to step aside in 2013, Hagan oversees a group of campus pastors. In addition to weekly Skype meetings and regular visits to the campuses, Real Life holds six church-wide meetings a year.
Most campuses are located in tougher neighborhoods, reflecting Hagan's belief that churches need to be among society's most-abandoned people.
Maintaining a diverse membership enables the church to touch society on a broader level, too.
"We are very engaged in local and state politics, and have numerous people in our congregation that serve in hired and elected roles," Hagan says. "California is a place of extraordinary influence, and Real Life Church is able to model what education and politics alone cannot create."
In other words, a real-life picture of nations, tribes, and tongues gathered to worship before God's throne.