On Tuesday, I wrote a blog post about Gateway Branson, one of my church’s networks that we took 30+ students to serve last week. The way ministry is happening there seems to have struck a chord. It’s so different, but it seems so right… like church in it’s purest form.
Gateway Branson actually started as a non-profit ministry that fed the homeless and working poor. That was and continues to be the mission. People, but Christ followers and those who don’t follow Jesus connected with the ministry because they caught the vision. It wasn’t until a few years later that the ministry began streaming live services from Austin to both volunteers and the people they served. Church as we know it, where we sing a few songs, hear a good message and then grab lunch before the Baptists, isn’t really at the center of who Gateway Branson is. They exist to serve the homeless and the working poor. Everyone helps and serves. Many of the most faithful volunteers every week are homeless and working poor, serving other homeless and working poor. Many of these faithful servants, being the hands and feet of Jesus haven’t even actually put their faith in Jesus… yet. Hmmm, that’s kind of radical.
But people are coming to faith and it’s not because of awesome services steamed from Austin, but because a bunch of people with little extra to give are giving of themselves to help others.
Gateway in Austin is a pretty large church. There are so many people who are just checking out church and faith, it’s hard to see God at work like you could when the church was much smaller. Close to half of the staff came to faith at Gateway or experienced significant transformation because of Gateway. On any given Sunday, almost 1/3 of the people sitting in the auditorium are not following Jesus. To me, this paints a very interesting picture of what the church could look like.
A phrase that we use around here at Gateway that refers to our path of spiritual development is “Lost to Leading.” It requires having a very interesting view of people. My neighbor who gets drunk on his back porch every night, well it’s not so hard to begin praying for him every day that he would find Jesus. But it’s entirely different to see him as one of my future small group leaders. Who knows, maybe a few years from now, he could be on my staff or one of my core volunteers. I’ll admit, that’s not usually the way I think. I’m more likely to say, “Dude, he needs Jesus!”
Gateway Branson definitely sees people this way. A large number of people serving the homeless and working poor are homeless and working poor. Many of the leaders and volunteers at one point were homeless or the working poor. When people have something significant to do in church without having to be somewhere specific spiritually, you really can make it easier for people to jump on a path from lost to leading. One of our most faithful leaders in Early Childhood started coming to Gateway before Gateway had officially launched. She was not yet a Christ follower, yet she was asked to simply read the Bible Story to preschool kids. After a few months, the Holy Spirit grabbed a hold of her heart and now, ten years later, she leads dozens of volunteers who lead hundreds of preschool kids. That’s an example of helping people go from lost to leading, truly raising up the church out of the culture.
Here’s a video of Christy telling her story: