A home missionary looks back over God's unfolding plan...
And the Answer Is...
by Donnie Burke
I would seriously question anyone who arrives on their mission field feeling fully prepared. When our family arrived to begin the church planting process in July 2010, I realized my list of questions was growing by the day!
We had no potluck dinner awaiting us, no group of church members eager to get to know us, no church bulletin from the previous week, and no pantry filled with groceries. As a matter of fact, there was no church building or property. No one knew us in Castle Rock, Colorado, and quite frankly, no one cared! What were we thinking?! Was this really a sane thing to do with a young family? Well…yes. At least in our opinion!
The vision of what we hoped to accomplish for the kingdom of God was becoming a reality, and we couldn’t be more excited. Yet questions still persisted. At every turn our family has seen God come through on His promises. Let me walk you through the first few months leading up to our first meeting at a pizzeria! I can best help trace the steps by using the questions that crowded my mind during the beginning process. May I be so corny as to use a list that everyone will recognize:
This first question rests heavily on the mind of all missionaries. Who would possibly want to come to our church? The statistics all held true. Castle Rock is a bustling city that has retained a small town feel, even though it is nestled closely to the southern reaches of Denver. The population within a ten-mile radius of the downtown area is quickly approaching 120,000.
Photos: The Burke Family.
Even so, who would want to come to our church? Who should we talk to first? Who should we target? Who would even care? Who? The question haunted us during the first several months. We began to pray fervently for the answer to the question.
Then along came another question.
This question piled on another problem to the church planting equation. What method would we use to approach or interest people? With statistics showing that nine of ten people in Castle Rock do not regularly attend church, what would get things started? Our answer seemed to be over-simplified. Food! We wanted to find something that bound all humans together in a non-threatening way. What is more comfortable than sharing an enjoyable meal together? Prayers regarding this idea became a regular, and with the new strategy in mind, we began to think about logistics.
If food was the means to draw, when should we hold the meeting? We needed adequate time to meet and invite people. We gave ourselves a time frame of two months. I have to admit that once the date was set, we really got nervous. This was it! We were committed. No turning back. My daydreams became the nightmare of having our first meeting with no one in attendance. I really couldn’t sleep, and my prayer life stepped up another notch. At least we had a few things lined up: Food…check, time frame…check, location…uh…um…
Where in the world do you host a first meeting? Maybe the food seemed like a great idea, but what restaurant would be willing to host an event like ours during regular business hours? More prayers…
As you know, moving can be a very involved process. Settling takes months. One particular day found me sitting in the waiting area of a vehicle emissions testing facility, hoping my Jeep would pass. (It didn’t.) To pass the time, I struck up a conversation with the man next to me.
After noticing my obvious Georgia accent, he asked what had brought me to Castle Rock. When I told him I was starting a church, he smiled and asked if we had a location for our first meeting. When I told him we didn’t, he said, “Why don’t you stop by Scoreboard Pizzeria and talk to my son? He and I own the place, and we would be glad to help out.”
I’m sure he noticed as I pushed my dropped jaw back into place. “Could this really be happening?” I asked myself. “I knew I had prayed about it, but….”
“Oh, and by the way, I remember those first few meetings,” he said. “My son and I helped start a church years ago.”
Prayer again, but this time I asked the Lord to forgive my tiny, little faith! Method…check, timeline…check, location…check, but…
How to go about the actual inviting process? People have jobs, door knocking is not permitted in most areas of Castle Rock, and we didn’t know a soul, other than a few neighbors. How could we get the word out? Asking God to give us fruit seemed as if we expected God to send people to us.
The answer to our prayer came in a “can’t see the forest for the trees” fashion. We realized that the most effective way to meet folks was during the normal course of living routine. When Jesus gave the command to let your light shine, it wasn’t meant to be used in flashlight function mode—click on, click off. Our light is supposed to shine all the time, not just during evangelistic outreach events. We quickly came to realize that people are more willing to open up to conversation about church and religion when they are not put on the spot.
Our method simply became carrying our invitation cards with us everywhere we went. When the conversation would allow it, we shared the reason for our move to Castle Rock. We met our core group in a wide variety of places including yard sales, a hot dog kiosk, a motorcycle ride, a car show, and, of course, our neighborhood. The how in our list of questions has actually been answered the easiest to answer—just meet folks anywhere and everywhere! So, we did, but…
Why even consider putting our family in such a strange predicament? Our deep, Southern accents are hardly unnoticeable in Colorado. We are the outsiders. However, with every day that passes, our hearts become more burdened for the area. This is home now. We simply wanted to attempt the greatest thing we could for our Lord. Castle Rock is inundated with false religion and spiritual apathy. Our prayer is that God will use us to help bring the true light into this dark area through the ministries of Truth Free Will Baptist Church.
How did the pizzeria meeting go? We were thrilled when 23 people showed up to see what these newcomers were doing! Since that first meeting, we have averaged 25 at Bible studies and core group meetings. The Lord provided a theater for our initial services through the every-day-routine method. As I talked with Joe about purchasing his small trailer, he asked why we had moved to Castle Rock. When I told him about our plans, he smiled and said fate had sent me his way. At my puzzled look, he explained that he and his wife owned a theater and had decided to rent it to someone starting a church. The problem was to find such a person!
As I signed the rental agreement, I smiled and said a prayer of thanks to God for yet another question answered. At every turn we realize that God is with us, even when the answers to the questions don’t seem obvious.
This year we will host our preview and launch services and add team members Mark and Danielle McCraney. I’m sure that with these new adventures, we will ask many more questions. But we are determined to move ahead and watch for God’s answers along the way.
About the Writer: Donnie Burke is a Home Missions church planter based in Castle Rock, Colorado. Learn more about the Burkes and their ministry at www.homemissions.net.