How Marti Got Her Street Cred
He was shot just a few feet from her back door. Nine times. A tenth bullet missed him, came whizzing through one of Marti’s walls, bounced off another, and landed on the floor.
Marti was inside hanging out with two of the teenage guys from the neighborhood and a man named Louis. For Marti and Louis, this was their fourth date.
Marti and Louis ran outside and found a man (whose name they would find out is Frank) lying in the street with nine slugs in his body. Marti and Louis prayed for him, told him to hold on, provided first aid, and held him until the paramedics arrived.
For two-and-a-half-years she had lived in the house. She’d made some friends, especially with the kids in the neighborhood. (Her home soon became known as “Miss Marti’s House.”) But Marti was still somewhat suspect in the eyes of the adults. The next day, however, people of all ages wandered by when Marti was out in the yard…to chat…and to thank her for helping Frank. Suddenly she had street cred.
Louis, an ordained Presbyterian minister, didn’t get scared off by the shooting, by the way. A year later they were married.
A House Became a Mission
When Marti moved into the neighborhood in 2005 she wasn’t on a mission. This was not a deliberate decision to incarnate the gospel. She just liked the house—a house she couldn’t afford if it were in suburbia. This is one of those “As you go into the world make disciples” (Matthew 28:20) stories.
Despite warnings from both her black friends and white friends, she was strangely drawn by the architecture and the community-feel of the place. In August, 2005, this Human Resources Executive moved into the hood. I mean, really, “the hood.” Now Marti says, “I can see why the Lord wanted me here….for serving others….and changing ME!”
A Missional Micro-Expression of the Church
Although they have always had an open door, in 2008 Marti and Louis began inviting people into their home for meals and spiritual conversations. I recently worshiped with the missional community who gather on Tuesday evenings in “Miss Marti’s House.”
It felt very much like a New Testament church. That is not accidental; they have modeled their missional community after Acts 2:42ff. They refer to themselves as “a Missional Micro-Expression of the Church where we eat a meal, study the Word, pray, serve and ‘do life’ together.” I now know some of the people who are being radically transformed by Jesus because of the decision of a few Jesus followers to be a new kind of church they call Life Transformation Church.
Marti and Louis began a non-profit called “Into the Neighborhood” in 2013. Their goal is to facilitate the multiplication of what God has done in their lives and community. This is a beautiful example of a Christian Community Development ministry and worshiping community existing symbiotically alongside each other. It is a story of holistic care, risky love, and supernatural rewards.
It is a fresh expression of church—taking the church Jesus loves closer to where the people Jesus loves actually are.
By the way, intentional ministry is not easy. Louis and Marti’s motives have been questioned. Their lives endangered. Their heart’s broken. But neither one would want to live anywhere except in “Miss Marti’s House”—in their neighborhood among people they love.
Travis Collins is Pastor of First Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama, and Director of Mission Advancement for Fresh Expressions US. He holds a PhD in Christian Mission and is the author of From the Steeple to the Street and Fresh Expressions of Church.