Why did you start another church?
The last time I checked, there were over 200 churches in Cape May County. Why another one? Before I answer the question, let me explain that it wasn’t because we thought every other church was wrong, it wasn’t because we thought only we knew the truth, and it wasn’t because I needed a job. The short answer is that we planted a church because we believed that it was what God told us to do. Here is a small part of our story.
Gina and I were missionaries to Madrid, Spain, where we had moved to work with immigrants from North Africa, primarily Moroccans. Our goal in Spain was to work at a community center that used job skills, language lessons, and more to demonstrate the love of Jesus and, in so doing, earn the right to verbally share about Jesus with the immigrant community. Once we arrived in Spain, however, we learned that the community center we were going to work at was not going to exist for a few years. Since we had signed up for an initial mid term (two to three year) commitment, this was problematic for us. After a year of working with Spanish youth, we felt as though we needed to regroup and come back to the states while we figured out what we wanted to do from there. We loved our time in Spain, but it wasn’t what we envisioned ourselves doing long term.
Coming home from Spain ushered in a hard time. Since college, we had been working towards moving overseas. We honestly never thought that we would be coming back home anytime soon. Now we were home in Cape May County. What was to become of us?
After a few months, we decided that we wanted to still pursue moving internationally, but this time into a developing nation. We were in various talks with people working in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Southeast Asia. During this time, I received training in WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) developmental work, and our intention was to use clean water as a tool to go help people and share about Jesus Christ. After much discussion and prayer, we set our eyes on Southeast Asia.
After a month of seeing where we would be living and meeting our future teammates in country, we came home to begin our paperwork. We were incredibly excited! Out of the blue, separately, my wife and I both started to wonder if this was what we were supposed to be doing. We wanted to be overseas, but as we looked around the county, we saw that there were large segments of the population in our own backyard who had never clearly heard about Jesus. We saw people who had become disenfranchised with church culture and religion, but were still hungry to learn about God. We saw people who wanted to learn about the Bible, and honestly engage in tough questions, but didn’t know where to go. We saw people who refused to go into a church because they thought they would be looked down upon or unwelcome. We saw a county begin to be crippled by heroin, alcoholism, and apathy. Now, this isn’t to say that no churches in the county are engaging with these people, but just that the need was clear and it was great.
Shortly thereafter, we officially resigned from our mission agency, informed our supporters, and stared at each other not knowing where to begin. In the months that followed, God surrounded us with a curious group of like-minded people, most of with whom we had no previous relationship. We told them that we wanted to start a church that didn’t revolve around a denomination or a certain culture of Christianity, but instead started asking ourselves, “What would a church look like if it revolved around Jesus? What would it look like if we read the Bible, took it at face value, and tried to live it out? What if we started a church for people who wanted to learn about God whether they were young or old, black or white, rich or poor, agnostic or life-long church attenders? What would it look like to obey the Bible and try to reach all people?”
The next year consisted of us meeting with 18 other people as we tried to figure out what on earth we were doing. After a year, that number began to grow with each passing month, and we began to understand a little more what this whole church thing was really all about. Don’t get me wrong, we still don’t have any real idea what we are doing, but we know what we want to do and we know who we want to be. We want to be a community who hears what the Bible has to say about God and life, we want to embrace that truth deep in our hearts (not just pretend to believe it), and we want to live out the faith that we claim. We are so sold on this idea, that we want the whole world to know about it - even Lower Township. That’s why we started a church.