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A brief encounter with a coffee shop owner changed the way Greg Lemaster thinks about church. He’d learned the shop was struggling to make a profit and wanted to help. So he asked if the space might be used for an upstart church on Sunday mornings. Without hesitating, the owner of the coffee shop offered him a key to the building. Greg’s desire to help a struggling business uncovered a passion for ministry. On that day, Greg moved from church-goer to missionary.
We forget that in the end, we are free agents with a calling to align our lives with the mission of God in the world. Organizations, leaders, resources, etc. are incredible assets when they encourage us and empower us to pursue this life. But don’t make them a crutch or an excuse. We are still responsible for freely discerning and freely following the Spirit of God into the places we are called.
8. Biker Church
As I walked up…and this is no exaggeration…the very first sentence I heard was from a conversation between two guys in leather vests standing out front. “Yeah, I had to go to anger management classes” said one of the two men.
Then, the first sign I saw read, “We love the hell out of people.”
I see this whole idea of starting fresh expressions of church as an experiment in listening and serving the people in our own context—and letting the need and environment dictate the form and structure instead of the other way around. And although these experiments may not demand our standing knee-deep in waders all day in the middle of a marsh, it does require us to step out and serve, try new things, and experiment in our neighborhoods and communities.
Never fear, you pew dwellers, you Sunday school directors and deacons. God, who is ever devoted to his bride, will faithfully bring what is needed to make her beautiful again. Yeah, it may be uncomfortable to see certain elements coming to rock our beloved ecclesial cities, but if we ignore the signs, this breaking up will certainly happen again … or, worse, end up being permanent.
After a few years of doing these Friday nights—and a result of a Fresh Expressions Vision Day in Richmond—Valerie Carter, our Associate Pastor for Glocal Missions felt led to do something more substantial. Hence Wendy’s on Wednesdays. A few Christian ladies are committed to being there every Wednesday at noon to buy lunch for any of the people we meet on our Friday night walks. Word is spreading. People are inviting. And a ministry that was born in loving service is starting to take shape.
Steve Edwards and Charles Cheek look like something of an odd couple. Steve is a Caucasian man with an earring. He looks like he is familiar with life on the street. Charles is an African American man with no earring and the look of an executive manager. Both of them have “regular jobs,” and both of them have experience doing street ministry. And they are great ministry partners.
It’s hard to be a Fresh Expression for the unchurched and dechurched if you don’t know any. You might think of people outside your church as a “target market” rather than as your neighbor Joe or your co-worker Sandra. But before you can do church for them, you’ll have to get to know them.
One thing she discovered is that successful entrepreneurs simply start with what they’ve got. They don’t start with a wonderful idea and go looking for the necessary resources. They start with what they already have – who they are (their passions, jobs and interests), what they know (such as the neighborhoods they live in or their particular expertise) and who they know (their relational networks). They then work with others to turn what they have got into a commercial venture.
Every fresh expression of church is different. Some are in rural areas and others are in the suburbs. Some are in housing projects while others are on college campuses. Some are primarily for youth , children, or young adults just beginning their careers. Others are based in schools and some in homes. Each is a new adventure for the gospel that brings the church closer to people who might not otherwise experience the need for church.