Mosaic Baptist Church
If one walks up and down Nostrand Avenue around Park Place one will eventually be handed a card that reads, “Join us! Now meeting in Studio 1 The Black Lady Theatre Sundays at 10:30AM Mosaic Baptist Church.” If one follows the imperative of the card, one will go up a flight of stairs and get a warm welcome at the door. Inside are a very friendly group of people and the service goes something like this: music first, performed by a band and maybe a singer or two, a time to meet one's neighbors, all very friendly, maybe hearing from visitors, and then the main course a sermon most likely by Stephen Sallard. He will comment on a passage in the Bible in a reasoned and careful way. He does not shout; he does not threaten; rather he reasons carefully and tries to find a link with his congregation. On one recent occasion he asked what animals his congregation imagine to represent them. The responses were on the one hand lion, panther, jaguar and on the other, porpoise, dog and giraffe. Stephen pointed out that Jesus calls the ordinary person a sheep and then went on to give a sermon based on that. He was logical, careful, well prepared and convincing in his argument.
Naturally one would like to know more about this man. An interview revealed the following. Stephen was born in Palatka, Florida, a small town south of Jacksonville. He has a mother and a sister Rebecca and his father was Jimmy Sallard who was a pastor. His father was the major influence on Stephen. He home schooled him until he was eighteen and Stephen became a pastor himself. At age five Stephen heard the story of Lazarus and the rich man and realized that on his own he was in danger of ending up in hell. His sense of his own limitations led him to embrace Jesus Christ as his lord and savior. As a home schooler Stephen did not suffer a limited education or a limited social life. His father had an advanced degree in mathematics and was able to give a good background in science as well as math and in the social sciences and humanities. When at age eighteen Stephen went to Luther Rice University, he found the curriculum easy and not particularly interesting. He moved on to the Baptist Bible Seminary outside of Scranton Pennsylvania and then joined the PhD Program at Southeasterm Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina where he is working on a PhD about tensions in the church during the first century after the death of Jesus. Stephen believes there are still tensions today. He was influenced by the work of Lesslie Newbegin who wrote about the need for Christians in the third world to convert the west to Christianity. Stephen believes the greatest energy for Christianity does not come from white people but from those whom they converted in the past to Christianity. The church Stephen designed is meant to welcome all, but he sees the greatest potential in those from the third world. His leadership team is black and Asian as well as American and his guests tend to be people of color and the music played is similarly diverse.
Stephen married his wife Sonya after meeting her in the Accounts Receivable Dept at Baptist Bible Seminary. No doubt Stephen always paid his bills on time. They have two children Malia and Xavier and another is on the way. Sonya and the children are a fixture at the church and she is obviously on board for Stephen's mission. Stephen is a student of missology, a word to be found in a good dictionary, meaning the study of attempts to conduct missions to others to bring them the word of god. Stephen has a set of firm beliefs but he is not rigid or intolerant. He is interested in the world; he believes he has something to contribute, but he would only work through reasoned persuasion and he is patient. He believes in doing good, but the recipient does not have to listen to a sermon or sign on to anything. For Stephen action is more important than words, and he is very aware that words are an excellent vehicle for hypocrisy. For Stephen the slogan might be, do what you believe, and that is certainly the way he lives his life. You don't have to agree with him to respect him.