A feeling of community, elusive though it may be, can be an immense blessing to a church starter.
In our journey to establish and build Mosaic Fellowship, finding that sense of community, both internal and external, came slowly. In the early months, when we couldn’t get any cooperation (or even a returned phone call, much less any meetings) from the established churches in town and struggling to make inroads in our neighborhood, that lack of community was a burr under my saddle, creating a spiritual sore spot. And, to be honest, I would keep mentally prodding that sore spot, unthinkingly working it like you do with the empty socket when you had a tooth pulled. It didn’t help, of course, it only made me even more aware of the lack.
Somewhere along the way during those early months, we met Tom Henderson, the Director of Mission for the Bell Baptist Association. Every 6 to 8 weeks, Tom would organize a breakfast meeting with the church starters in the association as well the sponsoring churches. It was through those breakfasts that we found our primary sponsor – Freedom Road Biker Church, a church start only 18 months older than Mosaic Fellowship; pastor Jimmy Van Loozen believed in us and committed to supporting us while we were still in the home Bible study phase.
It was also during these breakfasts that I experienced my first real sense of belonging locally.
I would sit there and hear those pastors talk about the difficulties and trials they went through, and it made my own struggles more bearable. Their successes became not just events to celebrate, but goals for us to strive toward. These people understood me; they knew exactly what I was going through. They encouraged me when I was down and congratulated me on our successes.
They made me feel like I belonged.
I had found some community.
This past Saturday morning, Mosaic hosted the BBA church starters breakfast, cooking and serve these folks we had come to know not just as colleagues, but as friends.
Sitting around those tables were Korean churches, an Hispanic church, our biker church friends, and us – a church of the poor and working class. Some of the missing members are a country church, an African-American church, and church that meets on local college campus. Quite a motley crew; we had seemingly nothing in common but the single most important thing possible – we were co-workers in the Gospel, being the hands and feet of Christ in our communities.
As we shared what was happening in each of our churches I was struck by the atmosphere. There was no sense of rivalry, no competitiveness, no possessiveness. We celebrated each other’s successes as if they were our own; we empathized with the other’s struggles and offered support wherever we could.
When Jimmy was describing how Freedom Road had baptized 11 people in 30 days, I wasn’t even a wee bit jealous – I was as thrilled for them as if it had been our own church.
We were invited to the Hispanic church Sunday afternoon for the ordination to ministry of their music director.
Attending and partaking in that ordination service were pastors from more than 10 churches, 3 of them members of our little church starts community (4 counting our hosts). The audience were 4 different races (African-American, Hispanic, white, and Korean) speaking three different languages, but we were one body. Despite our difference, we were united in purpose, welcoming another worker into the work of Christ Jesus.
Our individual churches were little communities as well as part of the larger community of Bell County churches, and a tiny little slice of the church as body of Christ.
The sense of belonging, of togetherness, of brotherhood – it was almost palpable.