My friend and coworker Brittany Gonzales just posted some wonderful thoughts on what we do here at 320 Network. I’ve had the same experience as she when I have tried to explain what we do. Most of the time when I tell someone that we plant churches, I can see their eyes begin to glaze over. “Why do we need another church? There are plenty of churches!”

So I have begun to take another approach. Now my answer is something like this: “Oh, we build relationships with people we meet who are lonely or hurting or directionless, and we love them. Sooner or later we have an opportunity to tell them our “Jesus stories”, and we help lead them through their own “Jesus story”. We gather these people into communities of believers where they can grow and be encouraged and serve each other and the world around them. These communities grow into house churches. When a church reaches two dozen folks, eight of them pioneer out to begin a new house church. That’s what we do.”

I don’t see as many glazed over eyes as I used to. Most folks now respond with something like, “Wow! That’s amazing!”

And it is!

For us, everything begins with relational evangelism. There is a reason it’s called “relational evangelism” and not “evangelistic relationalism”. In our culture, relationships come first. They matter A LOT. They trump almost everything.

So if I want to get the opportunity to speak into a person’s life, I have to earn that right. I have to love them first. I have to listen to them first. I have to spend time with them. I have to BE Jesus to them before they will let me TELL them about Jesus. So, we spend a lot of time out in the world. We don’t spend all day in an office – that’s not where the people are. We put ourselves in a position where we can interact with people. Yesterday I had a meeting at a popular restaurant here. While I was there I had the opportunity to get to know my waitress, and to pray with the head chef. Two days ago I spent almost an hour in our parking lot talking and praying with a new friend. Our planters have befriended and encouraged so many people in our apartment complexes, at coffee shops, at their part-time jobs, etc…

There is a spiritual principle at work here. Jesus was called “Immanuel”, “God WITH us”. He left heaven to come live among us, to walk alongside us. He didn’t love people from a distance – He loved us up close and personal. He still does, because that’s really the only way to love people. Jesus had a very simple ministry plan. He woke up every morning, walked outside, and loved the people His Father put in front of Him. He walked slowly through crowds. He looked at people. He stopped. He listened. He touched people. He got to know them.

That still works today. But this is not a ministry technique. (That would reduce people to “evangelistic projects”.) This is what we are built for, and called to do. This is what it means to be a Christ-follower. Every morning we wake up, walk outside, and pray this prayer: “Father, help us to see the people you see today. He us to stop, engage them, listen to them, love them, be Jesus to them.” Relationships matter, because people matter to God. And if people matter to God, they should matter to me.

Hey, would you consider a couple of things for us? First, would you please remember us in prayer? God has already acted supernaturally on our behalf in so many ways, and it is because of prayer. Second, would you prayerfully consider supporting us financially in this ministry? Just click on “Support our 320 Network Planters” on our website. Thanks!

“So, what do you do?”

Every time someone asks me this question, I literally giggle almost every time. It once was simple to respond with “I’m a Graphic Designer for Basic Invite.” Everyone knew what that meant, what it involved for the most part, maybe there were a couple questions about more specifics, but it was pretty easy to define. Now, however, it’s not so simply-put.

 

“So, what do you do?”

These last 8 months have been filled with learning. Learning how to see the person next to me. The stranger that at the exact same time of the day, and exact same square of the sidewalk, I “just-so-happen” to cross paths with while walking to my car. I’m learning how to be intentional with people. The ones I live with, the ones I pretty much live with, the ones that live a little further, and ones that I haven’t gotten to know that well yet.

I’m learning how to be a bigger server. My roommate… she’s wonderful at it. She’s been showing me what it looks like to serve other people in both big ways and little ways and I get to watch how much it blesses the people she’s serving. I want to adopt that selflessness.  

I’m learning how to be bold and obedient. How to really recognize what God has called me to and what He’s speaking to me about in the current season. How to not buy into all the lies and fears and just step out and do it. How to speak bold truths into people and call things out in them.

I’m learning how to be a disciple and a discipler. Discipleship is the focus. How to have a deeper relationship with Jesus, and how to choose Him, His grace, and His love every morning.

I’m learning that being a “Church-Planter” is not a job, it’s just life. As I make space for Jesus to pour into me, He will use me to pour into others. It literally is all about learning how to very much do-life with people. How to live in community, and put Jesus first in this crazy, fast-paced, America. Here’s what it like looks like in Pics!

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Church Sunday Morning. Sometimes we’re in our living room, sometimes it’s too pretty to be inside!

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Easter

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Bonfire Nights

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Community Love

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Serving our Apartment Complex “Waffles & Pancakes”

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Jesus knows. I have the honor and privilege of Coaching these fun and crazy girls who love this game as much as I do!

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Exploring Georgia

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Discipleship (My Favorite sort of one on one’s)

I was completely bought in before I ever moved over here to Georgia. I remember having an honest conversation with God telling him, “I am wide open and ready to jump into deeper waters with you. I’m all in in every aspect.” I was expectant of going deeper with the Father. And as it turns out, He was also expectant of going deeper with me, deeper as in, “Let’s take a look at your roots, Sarah!”

1 John 4:18 talks about how perfect love drives out all fear. And that is what God has been telling me over the past month… That I am loved with a perfect love that can’t be more complete than it already is because his love is perfect! Love is not perfected in me, but I am perfected in it because it’s already whole. He is rooting me deeply in him and uprooting anything that is getting in the way of Him having complete Lordship in every area.

I live in an apartment complex that is a melting pot full of people from all walks of life. And I get the privilege of pursuing them and loving them with the love of Christ on a daily basis! The seeds that have been planted are growing here with 2 house churches already meeting in the complex on Sunday mornings. People are coming for the first time, second time, third time and are delving into this new thing called church or experiencing church for the first time in a long time and they’re seeing what following Christ and discipleship looks like in a real, genuine, non-hypocritical way.

Life can be messy. And in this ministry, as I am following Christ myself, I am teaching as I learn; leading as I follow. When I know who I am in Christ beyond a shadow of a doubt, I then, by seeing myself through his eyes can see others by that same truth. That they are loved and pursued and so, so, precious to the Father’s heart.

 

(Please see my previous posts to get caught up on our story!)

In January, 2016 several things happened. First, four more planters arrived to help us. Sarah Buffaloe moved to Sandy Springs from Huntsville, Alabama. David Batchelder moved here from Philadelphia. Jason Kelley came from Washington to help us in Dunwoody, as did Logan Kafer, who moved from Kentucky.

Second, our small group “birthed” a new group. (Whenever a group reaches 25, we take about eight folks out of the existing group to start a new one.) So now we had two groups meeting in our apartment community.

Third, we moved our meeting time to Sunday mornings, and began meeting as “official” house churches. At the same time, a third house church began in the home of Bobby and Betsy John in Dunwoody, GA. Bobby is one of my closest friends, and my partner in this venture. And within the past week, Jason and Logan have begun planting a church in their apartment complex in Dunwoody.

So what is a “house church” anyway?

The simple answer is a house church is a small church that meets in someone’s home. It’s not a new idea – read the book of Acts and you’ll find that this is what the early church did – they met “from house to house”. There are a lot of things that led us to house churches:

  • Intimacy and community are much more easily achieved in a smaller setting.
  • Discipleship is much more easily achieved in a smaller setting. Literally every person in our house churches is being personally discipled.
  • Multiplication of new churches is much more easily achieved through the house church model. (We’ve had four churches come online in four months.)
  • There is literally no cost involved.
  • The millennials are all about relationships. I repeatedly hear millennials tell me they walked away from large churches because they had so much difficulty in connecting with other people there. (Before you start sending nasty letters, I’m NOT anti-megachurch. I just think that model is becoming less effective in reaching this generation.)
  • If you want to reach people that no one else is reaching, you have to do things that no one else is doing.

Our churches are multi-cultural and multi-generational, and everyone really likes it that way. People visit us because they were invited by a friend. Everyone is welcome. The churches are a safe place to explore faith.

This is certainly not the only way to “do church”. It may not be the “best” way. But it’s the direction God has led us in, so I’m going with that.

Hey, would you consider a couple of things for us? First, would you please remember us in prayer? God has already acted supernaturally on our behalf in so many ways, and it is because of prayer. Second, would you prayerfully consider supporting us financially in this ministry? Just click on “Support our 320 Network Planters” on our website. Thanks!

(Please read my previous two posts to get the full story. Thanks!)

Let’s pick up our story on June 1, 2015…

I’m a “nest builder”. It’s hard for me to get anything done until my house and my workspace are all in order. That took all summer, because we spent a lot of time traveling with World Race. But we also spent a lot of time meeting people in our apartment community. I met Don, a former heroin addict. I met Tony, a widower grieving the loss of his wife. I met Caroline, an addict who had attempted suicide on at least two occasions. In fact, in our first three months here, Mary Ellen and I met well over 100 people. I developed what Mary Ellen calls my “Parking Lot Ministry”. It seems that every time I walked our dog, or picked up our mail, or just went for a walk, I would meet someone new. Often those meetings turned into conversations. And often those conversations would turn to spiritual conversations. I found myself listening to, and praying with people in the parking lot. We even had a lady named Angel walk up to us while we were sitting in the drive-through line at McDonald’s, and ask us to pray for her!

In September we began to gather these folks together for a weekly small group in our apartment. Don gave his life to Jesus. So did Caroline. It took a while, but our small group began to grow.

By this time our first two church planters joined us. Brittany Gonzales moved to Atlanta from Utah, and Michael Sullivan made the move from Indiana. Both are World Race alumni, with a deep passion for Jesus and for people. God continued to connect us with more and more people. By Christmas our small group had grown to 25 people!

What we do is really not hard. Anyone can (and should) do it. We pray a simple prayer every morning before we leave our homes: “Father, help me to see the people you want me to see. Help me to engage and listen to the people who long to be known and heard today. Help me to love the people you want me to love today.” And then we just open our eyes. Jesus walked slowly through crowds. He took the time to see people. He stopped. He listened. He loved. If I’m going to be like Him, then I’ll be doing the same thing.

I am coming to understand how broken people really are – the brokenness, the fear, the confusion, the loneliness, the pain. They are desperate for community, for someone to love them. All we do is step into that space. I don’t have to “fix” them – that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. My job is to love them, and point them to Jesus. You don’t have to move to Atlanta to do that (though if you’re interested in that, let me know!) You can do that right where you are. The harvest really is plentiful. And the workers really are few. I’m praying the Lord of the Harvest will send His workers out into the fields! This is where the fun begins!

Watch for “So Jeff, What Are You Doing Now?” (Part 4) coming soon!

Hey, would you consider a couple of things for us? First, would you please remember us in prayer? God has already acted supernaturally on our behalf in so many ways, and it is because of prayer. Second, would you prayerfully consider supporting us financially in this ministry? Just click on “Support our 320 Network Planters” on our website. Thanks!