Looking Back from the Future - A Spirit Path Easter Story
As Easter dawns, it seems appropriate to think of new life in all of its many forms - new life for us as individuals, new life for the world, new life for the church. On that front, I thought I'd share a brief Spirit Path Easter story.
I'm taking an interactive online course called "Church Planting 1.0" from the Center for Progressive Renewal in the States. One of the recent assignments was to dream big about the future of your new ministry. "Imagine that it's five years down the road, the year 2021, and your church has grown tremendously - so much so that CNN wants to do an interview with you to see what's going on in this church." The assignment was to write the outline of an article that you would send to CNN to prep them for the upcoming interview. What follows is an excerpt from what I sent in for the assignment. It's meant to be future oriented, but it actually begins with a true story that came from our very real first year - I couldn't resist sharing it. Perhaps the truth of the other prophecies recorded here will be revealed soon? Enjoy the read and let me know what you think!
"That's the kind of enthusiasm we're looking for!" That's what one of our neighborhood canvassers said after his experience of being chased down the street by a very interested potential church member. The canvasser had knocked on the door of a young family's house, and told the young man who answered all about Spirit Path, our new church plant in the area. After being told that they weren't interested, the canvasser thanked the man, gave him a Spirit Path pamphlet, walked down the steps and turned onto the sidewalk, heading for the next street over. About a minute later, he heard the sound of quickly approaching footsteps behind him. He turned to see a young woman hurrying after him, waving the pamphlet and shouting "We are interested, we are interested!" It turns out that her husband hadn't realized just how interested their family was when he turned the canvasser away, but they have become one of the core members of the church. Now it's true that not all of our members have come chasing after us like that young woman, but it was a sign that we were on to something in that neighborhood. There was a hunger for a local church, especially the kind of non-traditional "church without walls" that we were proposing - a congregation without a building that meets in people's homes, gathers for discussions in the local pub, and rents community center space for larger worship services and children's events. This growing suburb had thousands of people, but no churches, no community centers, no shopping centers, nothing to tie them together as a community. It seems that Spirit Path was in the right place at the right time.
From there, things continued to blossom. Word spread quickly about this new kind of church. Some of our youngest members are among our greatest evangelists. One of our seven-year-olds takes a notebook to school once a month and goes down her list, inviting everyone in her grade to our Messy Church event. As more people expressed interest and joined our core group, we quickly needed to expand into more and more house groups. Some are geographical (centered in different parts of the city), and some are theme-related, like our music group, our families with young children group, and our social justice group. Every second Sunday evening, people from all the different house groups join together for a wider worship service where we celebrate all the different aspects of the ministry in a true celebration of God's love and Christ's grace! This service has grown so much that we've had to move into larger spaces three times in the past two years. Yet we believe that our growth springs from the fact that we are a small group church - with big celebrations, yes - but it is our small group gatherings where people find the deep connections that feed their souls, both with God and with one another. It is in the house church model where those close relationship have been fostered and where people have felt their voices heard and their true selves known.
The growth over the past five years has come through other means too. We've had success with our online presence with many people connecting to us through our website as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages. It's a great way for all of our different groups to communicate with each other and share what they're doing. We also run an outdoor summer Vacation Bible School in a wide open park-like area in one of the new suburbs. It has attracted a number of families who are new to the area and even new to the country. It's a great carnival-like atmosphere with upbeat music from our awesome band. Our super cool youth group focuses on social justice and that seems to be the glue that holds that group together - a passion for being the hands and feet of Christ in their world. Some of our members went on a "local" missions trip - all the way downtown to spend a weekend working at one of the city's outreach ministries. And we had a huge influx of people when a local church was considering closing. They had to sell their building and were contemplating closing but decided instead to become one of our Spirit Path House groups. They feel like they have been resurrected and are now excited about their future for the first time in a long time. One of our members jokingly compared our plethora of house groups to a fast-food restaurant chain, saying "it's like we have franchises all over the city. Maybe we should have one on each side of the busiest streets so people would never have to make a left turn!" Great idea! At Spirit Path, we're always open to new possibilities! Wherever the spirit leads, we'll gladly follow!
So? What do you think? Will that be how Spirit Path unfolds over the next five years? Help us prophecy! Send in your thoughts, ideas, dreams, and visions. Make a comment on something in the story or start your own thread. The discussion is always open!