Dan and I are about to do something crazy.
In fact, it might be one of the craziest things we’ve ever done.
We’re about to start a church.
Well, really it’s our friend Brian Ward who’s officially starting the church. After serving on the pastoral staff of one of the most progressive evangelical churches in the country, Brian and his wife Carrie took a big step of faith and returned to Dayton to launch The Mission—a new community of Christ-followers committed to loving God and loving people.
Over the past two months, we’ve been partnering with Brian, Carrie and a very cool group of people from around town to get things started. The plan is to hold regular Sunday night services beginning in January.
To say this is an answer to prayer would be an understatement. Dan and I have been searching for a church for some time now (see “Finding Our Notch in the Bible Belt”), and more than once, I prayed that God would send Brian and Carrie back to Dayton for this very purpose. We were looking for a local community that shared the reputation of Jesus—that hung out with sinners, cared for the poor and the marginalized, stayed out of politics, and made room for folks who didn’t fit the religious mold. Sometimes we joked about starting such a church ourselves.
I guess you have to be careful what you pray for…and joke about!
Starting a church is crazy for a lot of reasons. Here are a few:
First of all, some people will think that we’ve started a cult. Dan’s suggestion that we build anearthship to use as a sanctuary did not help the cause. Fortunately, Brian is ordained, already has a good reputation in town, has filed the appropriate paperwork for a 5013c, and didn’t seem to like the earthship idea…so we’ll probably be okay.
Second, now that we're part of a core group, church is no longer a spectator sport. Gone are the days when we went to church to get our needs met. Instead, the next few months and years will be filled with hard work, decision making, problem solving, time commitments, financial commitments, faith commitments, vulnerability, uncertainty, and all the messy and beautiful things that go along with spending a lot of time with people.
Third, when you’re as idealistic as I am, there’s a good chance that disappointment and frustration will be a part of the deal. I have so many ideas about what I want church to be, and it’s tempting to assume that The Mission will fulfill all those dreams. I suspect that sometimes things will go the way I want them to go, and sometimes they won’t. I just keep reminding myself that that, either way, this is going to make great material for the next book!
By far the craziest part of The Mission is…well…our mission:
"We are a community of ordinary, broken people committed to the stubborn hope that God loves His creation and will restore all things to Himself. The mission of God to redeem the world is therefore our mission, as together we pursue justice, celebrate beauty, love our neighbors, and share the good news that God is building a new kingdom in our midst under the authority of Jesus Christ.
We look to Jesus—his life, teachings, death, resurrection, and eventual return—as our example, as together we seek to live in authentic, loving community with one another and those around us. We believe the Church is at its best when it sacrifices and serves.
We are ordinary people committed to living out the Mission of God in community and for the community."
If that isn’t crazy, I don’t know what is.
So, what do you think about us starting a church as a solution to our search for a faith community? What are the pros and cons of starting a new church rather than joining an existing one? Have you ever thought of doing it yourself? What questions come to your mind as you read about The Mission?
Also, I’d like to hear from my Catholic readers, who I suspect might have a slightly different perspective on what it means to be a part of the Church. (Devin?) :-)