Three months ago I returned to my hometown of Foley, Alabama to start a church. It was very different to all the other times I had come home. I am used to coming home to lots of people wanting to see me. I am used to people asking me to come pray with this person or talk to that person. However, this time, there was none of that. I returned home to silence. The silence spoke loudly.
Apparently I have picked up some beliefs which are not too popular with my fellow evangelicals. They have made it clear that I am not in their club and will not be receiving the benefits which come along with being in their club. That in itself changed what we thought we would be doing when we moved here.
One thing that did not change, however, was that we were to start a church out of our home. Out of all the things that have gone wrong since we moved here, this has gone better than we could have ever hoped for. I am blown away by what I have seen the Lord do within our little church and it more than makes up for all the hurt and rejection I have faced since returning to my hometown.
We called the church Nameless Church because we want to be a home for those people who feel they are invisible, a home for those who feel nameless. We also want to be a place that does not put labels on people. We want to be a center for people to just be, rather than feeling they have to be something or someone. Nameless Church is meant to be a place for people to let their guard down and know that there is no judgment.
The people who have formed this little community are people who otherwise would not be going to church. That is a word the Lord gave us before we ever came here. Karen and I were visiting a while back and I heard God say fairly clearly that our church would not be built from people swapping churches, but rather from people coming to know Him.
I recognize that I am very different from most pastors and that I believe some things that are different from what most evangelical churches, especially in America, believe. And I think that is ok. If I was just like everyone else then I would be foolish to start yet another church in the heart of the Bible belt!
We have had some really discouraging moments since moving down here. People I once considered like family have completely shunned us. There was one night when we were supposed to be having church and three people showed up. We had a moment where we had absolutely no clue how we were going to pay the rent in the month of April. I was substitute teaching and loving it and then my sub card got deactivated because of a crime committed nearly thirteen years ago. But every single time, God has been so good to us in the midst of it.
Some friends have become better friends, some of our closest friends have shown us that we are deeply cared for and loved. The night we only had three people come to church turned into a very fun game night and bonding time. We paid the rent in the month of April, and due to people’s generosity, we were able to pay our bills for Karen’s doctor visits for her current pregnancy. I have my sub card back. I stand here more confident than ever that God is exceedingly, abundantly good, even though I am still walking through some very difficult situations.
This morning at church, nearly everyone in the room heard God’s voice for someone else in the room. Tears were shed and much affirmation took place. Our community is mostly a group of people who are foreign to the idea of “hearing God,” but they are hearing Him now, for themselves and for one another. This was one of the main things Karen and I hoped to bring to whatever community of people God set us in. We believe hearing the voice of God is absolutely vital. So, to hear that today and to see people walking in peace and love and compassion for one another, well, it nearly took my breath away.
All we want is to see people learn to love each other well. We want to help as many people as possible, learn to love as many people as possible, as Jesus has loved us. We are seeing this begin to take place in the tiny community of believers which has developed around us. We may be a nameless church, but the people within our church know each other’s names. And they care deeply for one another. In my book, that is a great victory.