By Adam Gray
The future of the Fellowship is diverse, and it fills me with hope.
The CBF Church Starts Initiative Workshop, “Broadening and Strengthening the Diversity of the Fellowship,” showed the Fellowship’s bright future through showcasing this year’s new church starters, who will be commissioned Friday night in worship.
The conversation, led by Andy Hale, pastor of Mosaic Church of Clayton and CBF’s Church Starts Specialist, showed the wide variety of age, race and methodology that characterizes our newest crop of church starters.
Cole Chandler was the first to speak, the pastor of Beloved Community Mennonite Church in Denver, Colorado. Cole’s journey has brought him into contact with the new monastic movement, and he is structuring the justice work of the new church in the tradition of the Catholic Worker movement. Planting in Denver, Colorado, Cole is working to bring the authentic community and peacemaking of Jesus to a population that has been mostly disconnected from church.
Clint Atkins, the Pastor of Seeker Fellowship, spoke of his work in building interfaith community within the deeply conservative community of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Seeker fellowship has hosted dinners with the congregation of the local mosque – not in an attempt to proselytize, but as a model of peace and fellowship between Muslims and Christians.
Felix and Nicole Iyoko are pastoring a church, Shiloh Restoration Fellowship, that serves Swahili speaking immigrants and refugees in Raleigh, N.C. Because of the language barrier, many of these people have not found any spiritual community that can support them through the transition of immigration or the trauma of becoming a refugee. Felix spoke of the name of the church, Shiloh – the Hebrew word for rest – as the marquee of its mission: to become a haven of Christ’s rest for those seeking to make a new home in Raleigh.
Henrietta Anderson spoke of her work as pastor of Faith Ministries Church in Henrico County, Virginia. Faith Ministries is committed to the work of creating sustainable community – combining the work of church and community development. As an African American pastor, she aims to focus the work of the church in such a way as to help people life themselves out of poverty with the support of the faith community – and in turn, the people who find themselves on better financial footing will be able to help others also. Faith Ministries is a textbook example of asset based community development, using the resources that already exist within her community to reach sustainability without becoming dependent on outside resources.
Todd Toole pastors MercyChurch in Hebron, Kentucky. MercyChurch is establishing itself in the fastest growing areas in the state, hoping to grow with the community and becoming an integral part of this new generation of people moving to Boone County. MercyChurch is a service-first congregation, sponsoring mission trips and monthly service projects before they even had a permanent location.
For me, as a leadership scholar and pastor of a church plant, I am greatly encouraged to see diverse cultural, theological, and missional work launching all across the fellowship. The church start initiative is embracing the denomination, geographic, cultural, and theological diversity of our future. The messages of these church planters are close to the heartbeat of the needs of our communities, and I can see the work of the Spirit guiding them down these diverse paths. These church planters represent a Fellowship that is still young and vigorous after its first 25 years, seeking out new frontiers rather than retreating behind the walls of a comfortable tradition.
Pray for them as they are commissioned during worship tonight, and pray for them as they set out in the new directions that God has prepared for our Fellowship.
Adam Gray is a CBF Leadership Scholar and recent graduate of The McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta. With his wife Lauren and son Elias, he is the pastor of another newly formed CBF church start in St. Petersburg, Florida. Redeeming Church seeks to be a place where everyone is welcome and love is practiced with faith and hope. To find out more about Adam or his work at Redeeming Church, visit redeemingchurch.org.