What do you think about our church plant initiative in Richmond, Virginia? From the outside looking in, you can only say so much. The video we created to spread the word and the website we have, which is dedicated to share information about our current Bible study series, meeting time, and location, is about all you know. That is okay. I do not expect you to know much more. Now, however, you can (if you are interested).
I asked some people in our church plant Bible study to share their thoughts and experiences about our time together thus far. It was an open-ended question, which allowed them to express whatever they desired. As an outsider looking in, I hope you are encouraged. I am! I praise God for the themes that flow throughout their comments (e.g., gospel-centered, cross-cultural/multi-ethnic, multi-generational).
I have removed their names and some other information for the sake of anonymity. Again, I hope you are encouraged. This Wednesday (4.23.14) will mark our 9th week of gathering to the study the scriptures. I am finishing a series on community from Philippians. Once completed, I am teaching a short series on hospitality, followed by a series on sanctification, then covenant theology. After our series on covenant theology, two gentlemen from our study will teach a series on the doctrines of grace. I will eventually teach a series on Christian liberty, corporate worship, the Westminster Standards, and Presbyterianism.
Please continue to pray for us. We need more families and young adult singles. I am also fundraising. We require much more support in that arena. Lastly, pray that God continues to knit our hearts together as a church plant.
Enjoy their comments!
We're glad to share with you our experience in being involved with the church plant bible study thus far. As soon as we learned about the study we were excited about this new work of the Lord. After a couple months of gathering, studying, eating and laughing we can't wait to start having services. We love the PCA, the solid doctrine, rich Reformed history, confessional standards and more but have been concerned that our biracial children would grow up assuming that Bible believing, God fearing Christians were of one ethnicity. We need not be concerned at our study, as there are several races represented and a number of other interracial couples. We've also loved how the children have been incorporated and encouraged to be part of the study and not an afterthought. The faith is their faith. God's people are their people and this has been evident from the beginning of our study. We've also been stretched already in the areas of hospitality and evangelism. Leon's example and enthusiasm for sharing the gospel with the lost has been infectious and we are eager to see converts, not only church transfer, as a regular part of the plant. There are so many things that we could count as blessings already in the short time of our study but these are among the greatest.
We just wanted to share our hearts concerning the church plant initiative here in Richmond, Va. My name is ______, and I was was born and raised here in Richmond. My husband's name is _______ and he will be giving his testimony next. We have been married ___ years, and we have ___ children, who are truly blessings from God. I recently found myself asking God if at all possible, could he please lead us to a church that was more diverse. For the last ___ years, we have been one of only a couple of African-American families in predominately white churches. I would find myself trying to fit in by talking and acting differently, and trying to hide certain characteristics of my ethnicity. Right before we joined this last church, I asked my husband to pray about it some more, and the Lord led us to Pastor Leon Brown. The very first night at the bible study, the lesson on being Gospel-Centered when dealing with conflict, was just what we needed. That very night we were able to utilize that teaching when we got home and found out that our boys had been making prank calls! Every since then, each bible study has helped me to grow in my walk with God. On top of that, the fellowship with such a diverse group has even my children excited about Wednesday night bible studies! I love that the kids are also included during each bible study. They are learning and growing so much! I am truly thankful that God led us [here]!
My name is ______, and I am truly thankful for Pastor Brown and his family's sacrifice to come down to South Richmond and serve. The fellowship with him and the other families has been like fresh water in desert land. I find the multi-cultural interaction refreshing and necessary to truly thrive in building the Kingdom. Pastor Brown's emphasis on the Gospel has been centering mine and my families life slowly, yet effectively. More than ever I know the Gospel is the answer and solution to any problem and the widow through which we look at life's developments. I'm excited to see all that God has in store for this ministry.
I first heard about the church plant when a friend of mine shared the link about it on Facebook, and after seeing the video and commenting, I ended meeting up with Pastor Leon. When I heard his vision for the church, I was struck by how segregated the church really is, but excited about the vision to create a culturally, ethnically, and socially diverse church, where brothers and sisters from all walks of life can come to worship God together. After our meeting I was pretty excited to check it out and see what it was all about.
I remember on the first week being kind of nervous thinking "who is going to come?" and "what will it be like?" but even by the end of the first night, feeling encouraged and blessed to be a part of it. Now that we've been meeting for several weeks, our Wednesday night meetings have become a highlight of the week, and it's always so good to get together and worship, study the word and fellowship with everyone; and I look forward to starting Sunday morning services. Even though a lot of us have different backgrounds, interests, or are just in different life stages, it really feels like family. It's been a great place where we can open up, share experiences, laugh together, and just be there to encourage one another. And it's so awesome to even see the kids opening up and participating in the discussions, and praying with us.
The studies every week have been really good, and have both challenged and encouraged me personally. One of the things that Leon has really been driving home is to focus on the gospel... It's so easy to be legalistic, to want to try to fix ourselves when we sin, judge others when we think they're wrong, and ultimately take for granted that we're all sinners who fall short, [but] we desperately need the gospel. It's been really good going through the studies and really breaking down who we are in Christ, and how that impacts everything from our relationships with each other to how we deal with conflicts, and even evangelism. It's been cool being able to both talk about ideas and concepts as well as playing out scenarios and going over practical ways we can really apply the gospel.
Overall, I feel like the plant has been going very well and it's so great to see what God is already doing in this group. I'm excited for the future and the work that God will continue to do in this church, in our communities and in the city of Richmond as a whole.
God is Great! The phrase "there's much more I could write" has rarely applied to anything I've written as much as it applies to what follows. My family has been greatly blessed, encouraged, and changed by our time with the families of our Bible Study. What started as a very casual consideration of whether to attend or not, has quickly grown into the highlight of every week for my family. There are myriad reasons why this is so, some of which I'll enumerate below.
1. The consideration of the uniqueness and beauty of various cultures united in Christ. This has been beautiful to see as we sing different genres of music unto the Lord. It's also served us as our comfort zones are being challenged, and in some cases redefined. The "do you" paradigm is refreshing. Finally a church environment that doesn't demand (intentionally or otherwise) assimilation.
2. The intentionality around being a transparent, honest and judgement free people. This, not for its own sake, but because of the truth and freedom granted us in the Gospel.
3. Our children! Their inclusion in our Bible studies has been transformative. Preconceptions related to kids' varied abilities are being destroyed. Parents and children are together-worshiping, praying to, singing to, learning about our God. It's so amazing to see our kids as valued, active and included people within our community. As Pastor Leon says, "this is YOUR church and I am YOUR Pastor as well as your parents'."
4. Solid, orthodox teaching-Pastor Leon has shepherded us well through the Word of God and lead us to clearer understanding of the passages we consider. The exercises we've gone through have been priceless as we seek to move from Orthodoxy to Orthopraxy. That sounds like a given, but often is not unfortunately.
5. The genuine bonding of the people together, unprovoked and not scheduled by the Church. People desiring to "be the church" motivated by the Gospel. In our Bible Study, we are helped to see how we are bound to Jesus clearer, and that has helped us recognize how we are bound to one another. It shows practically in our growing love for each other.
6. The zeal of our group to pray for one another. We are so thankful for God's work thus far among us, and excited to see what He has in store for us.
So far I have really been enjoying this church plant initiative in South Richmond. I have never experienced a church like this, for one, the relationships that I have begun to cultivate with others is truly amazing. I don't have to be somebody I'm not, the people there are welcoming and willing to receive me for who I am, a brother in Christ. Aside from the wonderful relationships, another aspect of this church plant that I have never experienced before is the gospel-centered teachings. I am not accustomed to hearing every aspect of my life to be centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ, but yet I am constantly reminded of this great truth on Wednesdays, not just from pastor Leon but also from those who attend the bible study. This has been extremely helpful in my Christian walk and also in my relationships with others, to constantly be looking unto Jesus Christ and to point others to Him as well. In addition, I am truly encouraged by the kids. It is such a blessing not only seeing them sitting amongst the adults during bible study but to see them actively participating during group discussion. I believe that they feel like this is their church as well. I am so excited by what the Lord has done thus far and by His grace I am looking forward to what He has for this church plant in the future.