Todd Watson did a 5-fold gifting survey and the results revealed he is an Evangelist. Todd didn’t see it. Yes, he acknowledged, he always has a bunch of people in his house. So maybe there was something to this “Evangelist” gifting. Just in case, Todd started cultivating the relationships that occurred so naturally for him.
Naturally Building Relationships
There are five couples in the neighborhood with whom he and his wife are close, so they invited these five couples into relationship. It wasn’t mystical or overly spiritual. Todd and his wife simply said, “We love your families and we know you love us and we think it would be cool to get together regularly and start talking about what’s going on in our lives. There will be some spirituality in what we’re doing though we recognize we are all at different places.” Not all go to church, or are followers of Jesus, but Todd and his wife knew the couples well enough to be up front about a potentially spiritual nature to what they were doing.
At thanksgiving they went around the circle and affirmed each individual. Every week they have a topic. Recently the topic was, “Where did you find beauty this week?” They don’t start their conversations with a Scripture. Yet, before everyone gathers, Todd asks God, “How can we invite the Kingdom to come and how can I provide space for the Holy Spirit to come be a part of our conversation?” The conversations have been deep and wonderful and have a spiritual element even if unnamed.
Todd and Shannon will certainly ask to pray for people when there is a really big issue. When a couple was having marital problems they reached out to Todd for help.
The neighborhood group has a text thread. And they gather regularly every Wednesday. They always eat together, then all the kids stay with a sitter while the adults go to another house for sixty to ninety minute conversation. All live in the same neighborhood.
Todd’s church has blessed his calling. The pastor and others have come out to pray for this new experience happening in Todd’s home. Todd’s family is still involved in their established church.
Is This a “Church”?
Here are three lessons from Todd’s experience story:
Sometimes Church Just Happens
First, Todd didn’t set out to “start a fresh expression of church.” Lots of the stories you will read on this web site are like that. Countless people across North American, like Todd, simply responded to a longing inside them to share life and faith with people. They are part of this fresh expressions movement without even knowing it! There is no template people have to follow. No organization to join or fee to pay. No “membership” in the Fresh Expressions movement. We on the Fresh Expressions US Team just want to tell the stories of, and encourage, new forms of church for people who are highly unlikely ever to come to the existing churches most of us know and love.
There is No Plan
They don’t know where this is going. And that is one of the wonderfully freeing aspects of this fresh expressions movement.
There is a longing for intimacy in our society. Todd said, “Gen Xers and Millenials have a real desire for community. Longing for it. “If we’re willing to be gatherers there is no shortage of people who would like to be invited into that.” Todd noted, “If you create the space and invite the Spirit He will not refuse the invitation.” Would you be willing to create space in your neighborhood, in your home perhaps, and invite the Spirit and your neighbors?
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.