Our vision is to guide people to experience life in Jesus Christ!
This vision statement fits us perfectly for a couple reasons:
1. “Access” is the name of our church because it has been one of the greatest burdens on my heart for the people that God is reaching out to (both in the church and outside the church). In our day, it can feel like God is far away or unreachable. We see the atrocities of evil gaining ground around the world and in our own lives. Sometimes, it just seems like God isn’t available…or accessible. That’s why it means so much to me that, when Jesus breathed His last breath, the veil was torn in the temple. That’s not just some minor detail. Jesus, by allowing them to tear His flesh, tore down the walls between God and man! Jesus gave us access to Himself! This is at the heart of the gospel, and it will be at the heart of our message!
2. We sense that discipleship has been overlooked in recent years. To be fair, it’s been overlooked in my own life up until a few years ago. Nevertheless, it is the heart of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. We are called to make disciples! Our vision statement simply states that we’re all about guiding people to experience life in Jesus Christ. This is the essence of discipleship, especially if we pay attention to the multiplicative element of it all (making disciples who make disciples who make disciples…). If you think deep enough into this equation, you get to a really fun part of our vision. Our vision (and mission) is to make disciples. Eventually, we’d like to see a group of those disciples take ownership of a community on their own. In other words, we want to be a church that plants churches! From the outset, our goal is to plant more than one church in Ohio. But let’s start simply: one should be enough work for now!
These two elements work hand-in-hand. Discipleship and Access. Helping people know Jesus more (which is to help them help others to know Jesus more). At the end of the day, we’re all seeking comfort and significance somewhere. My desire is for my family and I to find that in Jesus, and then to walk with the people that God puts in our path, for the purpose of guiding them to experience life in Jesus Christ!
What does that mean?
It means that we won’t start by launching a church service. We’ll move into the neighborhood and start hanging out with people…wherever they are in life.
Front yard hang-outs.
Families doing life together.
They may not be interested in church, but we can walk with them where they are. That’s how we’ll start the church and that’s what we’ll continue to do the church. What I mean by that is this: we’re not going to stop walking with people when “our church gets started.”
That is church to us. Doing life with people.
Wherever they are in life.
So, when we say that we want our people to go out and love their neighbors, that means the senior pastor does it, too. Not just to get people in the doors. This is what it will look like for us to be the church. As we walk with people, some of them will stand out as people who are willing to walk the greater journey with us. My utmost desire is to disciple those people, so that they may, in turn, disciple their friends and family. We will always get on the ground level in peoples’ lives. And if we’re running a million people, we will still invite people to do life with our family.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re not against gatherings or anything. We will gather to study God’s Word, and we’ll have a blast when we do it! But the people who need something like that will need a slower on-ramp to something like that. There’s a process at work here.
If we were sitting in a coffee shop, I might grab a napkin and a sharpie and describe it to you this way…
1. SEEDS: We strike up friendships with those in our path. This stage is all about beginning slowly by getting to know these new friends. This may make people nervous, but we’re not even trying to share the gospel with them yet. At this stage, we’re planting seeds, loving our neighbors, and getting to know our community.
2. WATER: At this stage in our relationships, we’re inviting people to be a part of something bigger. At the beginning stages, that looks like being part of a periodic Bible study in our home. We’ll dig into some deeper conversations, but only in the context of knowing them and being known. When seeds have been scattered, they will be watered to inspire growth. This is where people will begin to discover Jesus at a deeper level and (hopefully) desire to be a part of a church.
3. HARVEST: Eventually, we’ll walk with certain individuals who have surrendered their life to Jesus. They have been discipled and are ready to begin discipling others. At this point, we’ll walk with them through these same steps. To be extremely clear: this process is only a win if this person reaches out to people in his core of influence to disciple them as well. Our desire for people is to grow in the Lord and that only happens in the context of serving, being discipled and making disciples.
Now, I’m smart enough to know it won’t always be easy. In fact, if you’re proactively spending time with people in the first stage, you know that it gets messy. There’s not really a manual for this, because this process looks different for everyone. I’ve never experienced a discipleship process that looked like another one. In most cases, you have to walk with people through some really tough situations.
I remember, as a teenager, hanging with a guy named “John John” (or at least that’s what we called him). He spent more time smoking weed than I did sleeping. He started coming to our church and opened up about his struggle. He confessed that he wanted to stop, so we all agreed to be there for him. We told him that he could call us whenever he felt the urge to smoke. And he did…a lot! As teenagers do, we grew tired of the constant phone calls and expected him to get it together a lot sooner than is humanly possible. I learned a lot from John John that carries into this very moment.
Some people aren’t on the fast-track to surrendering their life to Jesus. And that’s ok. We will walk the long road with them.
When they struggle, we won’t abandon them.
When they fall, we won’t turn our backs.
When they need us, we’ll be there.
Because when Peter took his eyes off Jesus in the ocean, Jesus was right there to catch him. Our God is merciful and compassionate! And He offers us abundant life in Him! He gave us access!
And that’s what our church is all about!