A SIMPLE CHURCHMoving from a church with buildings, into a church that is portable made me re-think how the church I was helping plant would do ministry. The church I was leaving was attractional in that it had large facilities and large events to draw the community in to what we were doing. As a portable church, Stone's Throw would have to rethink how we would be a part of the community since we did not have a facility to draw people toward. We also adopted a simple model of church that consisted of the church gathered in worship on Sundays and the church scattered in community and doing life together throughout the week in outreach and Community Groups. The simplicity was part of our original vision so that Christians would not be busy with church events, but would rather involve themselves in the life and heartbeat of our neighbors and communities.
One of our philosophies is to find out what our community is already doing and to become a part of it. In other words we have asked, "How can we help?" As a result we have plugged into the small town events of the MOT area instead of organizing our own events for church people. As a result families have joined local little league teams instead of feeling compelled to join the church league, Community Groups throw neighborhood parties rather than only run Bible Studies, the musicians play in local bars and clubs instead of only playing in churches, members are joining local boards, clubs, and associations instead of running church committees and clubs - in other words, we scatter. When we scatter, we serve.
LIFESTYLE OF A SERVANTAs the lead pastor at Stone's Throw, I have a continuing vision for what it looks like for Stone's Throw to get on board with the community. I recently read an article in the New York Times that spoke directly to my heart and gave me an idea for where Stone's Throw could be headed. You can read the full article here (and I highly recommend that you do). It is the story of a church that is ministering the Gospel in Portland, Oregon. Portland is known for being liberal, atheistic, and for having a general distaste for anything related to the Gospel. Yet, the Gospel continues to grow the church there. In this article you will read about a church in Portland that has decided to get on board with the needs of the community. They have adopted a school in their community that simply needed help. The members of the church volunteer at the school to do grounds work, repair work and take care of general needs around the school. They take time to write to the students and to build relationships with the students and the teachers and administration at the school. Their motive is to get on board with the community and to be salt and light in their world. They have left their program books at home and have just lived their lives in the community with no ulterior motives except to be the love of Christ. What struck a chord with me was not the amount of work that they do, but the longevity of their commitment - this is not a one and done, make-ourselves-feel-good deal. It is a lifestyle.
I am hoping that Stone's Throw will continue to live this philosophy of getting on board with what's going on in our communities. I firmly believe that the Gospel will pour out of our good deeds. Do not suggest to me that I am preaching a deeds-only evangelism. Those of you who know me, know that I believe firmly in the preaching of the Gospel. I am simply saying that when Christians are around, so is the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is around, so is Jesus. When Jesus and the Holy Spirit are around, people change. I believe that the words of the Gospel will be given an opportunity when Christians put themselves in positions to share the Gospel. We put ourselves in position by loving people.
HANDS ON DECKHave you ever noticed in the New Testament that anytime a person came to Jesus for help, the very first thing that Jesus asked was, "What can I do for you?" I am praying specifically for Stone's Throw to become a church where we ask needy people, "What can I do for you?" There are so many opportunities for churches to help meet very specific needs in our community. Let's not stop with what we have accomplished so far. The harvest is plentiful - we need hands on deck.
Deck hands are leaders and self starters. The community needs Christians who not only see needs, but look for needs and then they lead people to meet those needs. Deck hands don't wait for someone else to do the dirty work - they scrub and they clean to make sure the job gets done. I want Stone's Throw to be a church that helps leaders lead. We want to mobilize people to meet needs, to serve, and to love. Ask yourself how you can be a part of this kind of Christ-like service and then let's get started. There's work to be done.