She, along with a handful of members of her new congregations, prayer walked for more than a year. She believed God had shown her a picture of Joshua walking around the walls of Jericho…and of the walls falling. She was sure of it. So she kept walking. And praying. And listening. And paying attention. Even when some said she should “do something.”
Pastor Becci Loy
She is Becci Loy, and since 2012 she has been the pastor of Upton Methodist Church in Kentucky and Zion Methodist Church outside Upton. A licensed local pastor in the Kentucky Conference of United Methodists, Becci walked through the small, rural town of Upton, noticing lots and lots of teenagers who seemed to be lost and drifting, without much to do, and certainly not involved in any church.
After she and others from her congregations prayed and listened for the voice of God for well over a year, she knew it had come time for the walls to crumble. So in late 2013, Becci got permission from the town leaders to use the Upton Community Center on Thursday nights. And so it began.
Becci and volunteers from both Upton and Zion started Emerge, a new form of church for people aged fifteen to twenty-five. Although though they focus upon this very specific age range, they don’t exclude those who fall outside the demographic. In fact, the first person to come to faith through Emerge was a seventy-five-year-old man! Six entire families have been baptized. Still, their target is clear: young people.
While there are an average of forty-five worshipers on Sunday mornings at Upton United Methodist and another twenty-five at Zion Methodist, eighty worshipers, on average, make their way to Emerge on any given Thursday night at the Community Center. Over 150 people call Emerge their church. And to date, forty-two people have come to faith in Jesus and been baptized through Emerge. Many others have come to faith but have yet to be baptized. Still others have been baptized by other local pastors.
In Her Own Words
Quoting Pastor Becci,
We have done baptisms in swimming pools, lakes, and in the church baptistery. We have also baptized several using buckets or pitchers of water during the Emerge service when people have wished to be baptized on the spot. These have always been fun, interesting, and Holy moments. We simply use whatever we have available at the time.
Let’s make sure we don’t miss this: Two churches that together average seventy worshipers on Sunday mornings have launched a new form of church with an average of eighty worshipers. This fresh expression of church is reaching young people and has seen forty-two baptisms! I just don’t see many stories like this!
In an unlikely place, a fun, edgy, life-transforming community of young disciples has emerged.
So, what walls need to fall where you are?
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.