“Seed Stories: Part I”

I love hearing stories about people who are “being church” in whatever circumstances they’re in. I love hearing about individuals and groups of Christians quietly living out the missional life in law firms, classrooms, pubs, bands, and on park benches.

But the problem is, we don’t hear that many stories about these “incarnational missionaries” because they don’t make headlines, often don’t have Web sites, send out newsletters, or make the cover of Outreach magazine. But I want to devote however much space is necessary on this blog to such missionaries who are working in out-of-the-ordinary (or very ordinary) circumstances to expand God’s kingdom. In a day and age when the term “missional” is as vague as “Christian”, I want us to look at stories of people and groups who are truly living out the mission of God 24-7.

I was priveleged to spend a weekend in Austin with our first subject, a bald-headed, pierced and tatted rocker who loves Jesus and telling his friends about Him. Enjoy.

The Catalyst: In the World, but Not of It

What do BMX bikers, computer programmers, punk rock band members, Danish women with eating disorders, and guys who love chicken wings have in common? The answer can be found in a word…

catalyst – n. a substance, usually used in small amounts relative to the reactants, that modifies and increases the rate of a reaction without being consumed in the process

Bob Carlton started The Catalyst, an organic church multiplication movement, two years ago in response to a deep passion to see the church reach those far from God. Leaving his job as a worship pastor in a flourishing church in the suburbs of Austin, he and his newlywed wife, Kristina, moved closer to downtown and began praying. God brought believers who shared their vision, each with his or her own unique subcultures and spheres of influence.

Bob explains that there are two essential aspects to being a catalyst. First, hang out with the lost more than with Christians. Second, view every situation as an opportunity to build a spiritual friendship. With these guidelines, Bob set up a mentorship structure and began “envisioning, equipping, and empowering leaders” to penetrate their subcultures in the name of Jesus.

In just two short years, God is impacting communities and transforming lives in powerful ways. Bob tells me some stories at his kitchen table over a cup of java…

As he sips his coffee, he informs me that he got up at 1:00pm today, because he was out until 4:00am this morning. He’d had a gig downtown with his band “Gravy Boat,” of which he is the only Christian member. After months of prayerfully developing relationships with the guys in the band, God opened up an avenue through which they could discuss spiritual issues. Refraining from a “win-lose” debate mentality, Bob was able to ask his Deist friend some questions that eventually led him to conclude things in line with the scriptures. Bob didn’t push Christianity, but made sure his friend knew where he stood. “Some people are into Buddha, others Mohammed. I just happen to be into Jesus,” he offered.

Gary, one of the guys Bob mentors, hosts a family-oriented gathering in his house every Sunday night. “The Catalyst isn’t only about downtown,” Bob assures. “I don’t tell people what to do or who to reach. I just help them figure out how God wants to use them.” One of Gary’s attenders on Sunday is a homeless man. Welcomed by the safe environment, the man now comes to their home more frequently than on Sundays, and Gary and his family often set one more place at the dinner table.

Josh, a 23-year old that Gary mentors, plays pool with some friends regularly and leads a church in a coffeehouse. Bob humbly comments, “This is when I knew it was out of my control.” He had been sitting in his favorite coffeehouse when Josh walked by. Recognizing him as one of Gary’s apprentices, Bob struck up a conversation. “So what are you doing here at Spiderhouse?” Bob asked. “Oh, this is where my church meets!” he echoed and went back to his group. Peering around the corner, Bob saw a group of 20-somethings gathering to pray. Overcome with emotion, he humbly went back to his seat and worshipped silently.

Josh also went out on a limb at a BMX bike track. Not knowing how to reach these guys, but knowing that his heart broke for them, he went to Sam’s and picked up a case of bottled water, froze it, and from the bed of his pickup truck screamed at the bikers that he had free water. Now Josh is developing relationships with these guys in the bed of his truck on a regular basis with the hopes of sharing his faith with them conversation by conversation.

Kristina, Bob’s wife, organizes girls’ nights for the programmers with whom she works. Just the other night they grabbed a “chick flick.” It is a very diverse group, with women from nearly every continent. She also has been participating in an online forum for over a year with girls who struggle with eating disorders. Some of the online friendships have moved to email, allowing her to be more open with her faith. Right now she is talking with and praying for a girl in Denmark.

Bob met Brad through Kristina’s job. Brad invited Bob to eat chicken wings with a group of guys in a bar every Monday. God has opened amazing doors through this invitation. Everyone at the bar knows Bob is a pastor, and the other day, three large tables all joined in on a spiritual conversation. “God showed up, and we had church in the bar” Bob reflected. Later, when a couple who used to attend a church challenged Bob with comments like, “What kind of pastor is he?” and “Where’s his building?” The chicken wing guys defended him. “He’s our pastor!”

The stories keep coming. More and more people are using the routine aspects of their lives as opportunities to develop spiritual friendships. And as the relationships develop, the communication deepens, and hearts are pierced with the truth. As people come to faith, communities are gathered, and believers are discipled. Those new to the faith quickly catch the “evangelism bug” and are out starting their own communities. People that Bob has baptized are now leading others to Christ.

So what do BMX bikers, computer programmers, punk rock band members, Danish women with eating disorders, and guys who love chicken wings have in common? The answer can be found in a word…Jesus.

Source: New Church Initiatives

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