Indigenous ministries, grassroots leadership, and financial generosity are all trends commonly part of international missions. But what do those same commitments look like when applied in traditional churches in the United States? Leadership asked three pastors who have led their congregations toward radical missional expressions to describe the convictions and commitments that transformed their churches.
Growing Where You're PlantedAntioch (The Church of the Y)
Pastor David Newman
A few years ago, Antioch Church began holding services at the Countryside YMCA in Lebanon, Ohio, a northern suburb of Cincinnati. At the time, the congregation considered the location a temporary space that would suffice until they could find or build a permanent facility. But since then, Antioch has recognized the YMCA as a mission field and has made this rented space its permanent home.
In the New Testament, the church went where the people were, pastor David Newman explains, and the Y is where people are today. "I have 8,000 people a day walking the halls in the place where I minister. That's an extraordinary opportunity." Not only does the Y attract a host of nonbelievers every day, the institution's demographic is a wide cross-section of the area's population.
To reach them, Antioch meets in a gym in the YMCA facility (for a very modest fee). During the week, church members teach classes, serve on the board, coach t-ball and soccer—whatever they can to be a missional presence at the Y. Families are often attracted to the Y by some desire for personal improvement, whether it's learning a skill, getting into shape, or spending more time with the kids.
A common story at Antioch, according to Newman, is a young family coming to the Y for swim lessons and seeing signs and literature for the church. They realize they should be asking spiritual questions, and they turn to Antioch for answers.
The best part is Antioch's ability to do ministry with "little to no red tape," because the Y is a faith-based organization. "What makes the Y a great church planting platform," says Newman, "is when you walk into this building, you can point to the mission on the wall and say, 'We can help you fulfill your mission.'" Each year, every YMCA signs a national pledge affirming their mission to be "a worldwide fellowship united by a common loyalty to Jesus Christ for the purpose of developing Christian personality and building a Christian society."
That means, as Newman points out, that "the true mission of the YMCA and the true mission of missional churches are essentially the same."
Like its biblical namesake, Antioch sees itself as a missionary congregation. "Antioch was the missional launch pad of the ancient world. Similarly, we want to be instrumental in seeing a church planted in every YMCA in the world—all 14,000 of them."
Newman also hopes to use Antioch's "Church of the Y" network to connect with other churches that currently meet in YMCA facilities.
In the meantime, the congregation is committed to the missionary life at home and remains fully immersed in its target culture.
"We aren't just a church in the Y." Newman insists, "We are the church of the Y. We are not meeting here until we become a 'real' church; we are committed to this community."
The Faith of Mustard SeedsTrinity Lutheran Church
Pastor Eileen Hanson
Founded in a rural area north of Seattle in 1942, Trinity Lutheran watched its neighborhood transform into a high-traffic and increasingly multi-cultural suburb. Amid this change, the church building was destroyed by arson in 1992, a tragedy that forced the congregation define itself apart from its building.