This is a pastor friend of ours in Coburg, Oregon, and this is one of the best stories I have ever read.
What other missional stories are you aware of or a part of in your neighborhood?
Surprising ministry in my community? Scot, I know I have shared my story with you before, but I think this fits in with the question you’ve asked.
I am a pastor and had spent nearly a decade in our community pastoring a congregation full-time and doing what churches normally do related to outreach and the like. I became acutely aware that I didn’t know the folks in our small (about 1,000) neighborhood/community. Eventually frustration grew to a tipping point (the Jesus Creed helped with that) and we decided to do a really crazy thing, we opened a pizzeria. The whole idea behind doing this was to get to know our neighbors. We got a lot more than we bargained for.
My wife and I and our four kids jumped in with all 12 feet. We knew more people in our small town after six months of making pizza, than we did in 10-years of pastoring the church; we’ve been at it three and a half years now. We’re just serving them and being kind — it was the sole purpose of the venture, to just be with the people in our community that we can’t seem to get to.
Our level of customer service is high, but we’ve sacrificed away the edge of professional sterility with genuine warmth and hospitality. We’re training the staff — both believers and non-believers — to offer Christ-like hospitality. And, additionally, for the non-believers, we’re not only ministering to them (which in some cases is primarily expressed in patience and long-suffering, mostly suffering), but we are also changing the shape of their work environment from what they have ever known.
Thus, the place doesn’t feel at all contrived, nor like a restaurant that is a tract. We’re just meeting the folks, being kind to them, and it is opening doors allowing us to pray for them, pray with them, and minister in many ways we’d never have had the chance, simply because we’re becoming their friends. We connect with 600+ families a month. 75% of them are in at least twice, 35% are in every week. I’ve been waiting on them a few nights a week for the last 3.5 years and have developed some great relationships; been invited to cycle with some, attend a wedding of another (which I ended up performing), helped someone decide on a new computer, helped a bunch of parents with their kids and parenting skills, helped kids with their homework, prayed with a devastated young man who just watched his cousin die, read to elementary school kids in their reading program, sat with and prayed with an older lady whose husband had just been diagnosed with cancer, helped kids with their entertainment choices and family problems, I’ve been serving on a civic committee, we regularly feed various community groups, the police department sends the hungry to us, we donate food and services to the non-profits (PTA, etc.), I was just named 2010 Citizen of the Year for our community, and I have just been asked to run for City Council (though I’m not sure that last thing is a good thing). All of this around our table. Jesus’ table really.
It’s taken a lot, with 80+ hour work weeks a regular occurrence. I’ve had pastor peers tell me I needed to get back to preaching/pastoring like I was called to do, that this was a distraction, and that I wasn’t honoring God with my gifts and calling. They were serious. I love them, but they haven’t a clue. Besides, nothing has changed regarding my public ministry at the church. But, I can tell you this, I have changed, and my family has changed, and even our congregation has changed and it continues by being shoulder to shoulder with the folks in our community.