There’s something revolutionary going on in eastern Jefferson County (Louisville District). People have left the comfort of their Sunday morning routines to be missionaries in their own city. They are exploring ways to help create economic change in people’s lives and reaching out to share the Gospel with their community.
Revolution Church is one of two new church starts in the Kentucky Annual Conference this year. The other is The Community in the Covington District (www.thecommunityky.org). Revolution is located in Jefferson County’s East End, a site chosen for its continuing population growth, according to Kentucky Annual Conference New Church & Congregational Development (NCCD) Director Tom Eblen.
“The demographics show a high percentage of young adults in eastern Jefferson County, and Revolution Church is particularly targeting that age group,” says Rev. Eblen. The goal of Revolution, he explains, is “not to take persons from other churches [in the area], but rather reach NEW persons for Christ.”
Revolution hopes to reach the unchurched (those who have never been involved in church) and the dechurched (whom Rev. Eblen describes as people “who have become disenchanted with the church or have had negative previous experiences”).
Planting a new church can happen in different ways. A local church may develop a multi-site ministry. Examples of this in the Kentucky Conference include Broadway’s Greenwood campus and Lexington First’s Andover campus. In other cases, the new start is a “mother-daughter” church launch, providing people and financial support for the new church. Louisville’s St. Paul UMC is the anchor church for Revolution.
Support for Revolution comes from both St. Paul and NCCD. The salary for the church plant’s pastor is provided through the NCCD portion of the Conference budget. Rev. Eblen serves as a resource person for Revolution and will visit the church regularly and offer encouragement to Revolution pastor and church planter Brian Ebel.
A volunteer helps prepare the building where Revolution Church worships.
St. Paul’s support for Revolution includes sending 75 people who felt called to be missionaries at the new church. According to Rev. Ebel, this group committed to five things: inviting, attending worship gatherings, attending a small group regularly, financial giving, and regularly serving in a ministry or outreach area.
Rev. Gary Gibson, senior pastor at St. Paul, points out that those 75 people represent 10% of St. Paul’s Sunday morning worship attendance and 10% of the church’s annual revenue budget. St. Paul’s support for Revolution also includes the purchase of a keyboard for the new church, people serving in Revolution’s nursery, and prayer support.
Though he’s never had an opportunity to plant a church, Rev. Gibson has a passion for church planting that comes from his desire to reach people who are on the margins and not involved in a local congregation. A new church start, he says, “has the energy, excitement, and boldness to do ministry differently than established churches. Reaching people on the margin requires us to do ministry differently.”
“The vision of Revolution Church is to be a revolutionary teaching community that reveals and reframes the meaning of the gospel for the lost and lives out this same gospel by serving to transform the economic vitality of the least.”
Revolution’s Vision from revolutionky.org
Revolution has several ways it plans to live out this vision. Part of this is being a “revolutionary teaching community.”
“We think Jesus’ teaching, his life, his death, and resurrection are the Revolution that turns people’s lives, and the social, political, and religious systems of this world, upside down,” says Rev. Ebel. “Teaching looks to help people toward the goal of personal holiness and transformation, and we do this by using newer methods and infusing teaching into everything we do to help people understand the ‘why’ question in their lives, in the Scriptures, and the like.”
Renovation Groups are house church groups that meet weekly to study a teaching that is integrated with the Sunday morning worship gathering experience. These 14 groups will not only study together but also will be engaged as a group in a mission/outreach component.
Revolution U is another teaching component of the church. Rev. Ebel describes it as “a power-user course of study that helps people go deeper and receive in-depth training for raising better leaders, teachers, and conversationalists in lay ministry.” The planned launch for the online learning tool is January 2011.
The church is planning for a series of Life-Skill Classes that will teach people skills that lead to a better life. They will be open to anyone in the community. Possible topics include financial management, computer skills, cooking, and health. The first of these courses will begin in the fall.
Life-Skill Classes are one way Revolution hopes to help “transform the economic vitality of the least.” Rev. Ebel says the church is also working on some partnerships and initiatives in that area.
“Our vision on economic vitality comes through a justice view of serving,” he explains. “We want to not just feed people but teach them to fish.”
Revolution has been meeting weekly for worship since August at its Shelbyville Road site. The church has plans for a fall festival in support of the Portland Promise Center and is looking forward to December 5 as its “grand opening.” Rev. Gibson is optimistic about the future of this new church: “I have complete faith in Brian and the missionaries who went to plant Revolution.”
Rev. Ebel expresses appreciation to Bishop Lindsey Davis, Louisville’s current and past District Superintendents, NCCD, and especially to Gary Gibson and the people of St. Paul UMC for taking the risk to plant a church. He says there is great excitement within the church for the “great things God is doing.”
“We have watched people who have not been to a church for years come alive. We have witnessed people be renewed in their faith. We have seen people be challenged and then watch them step up to the challenge. The greatest joy is that it’s only the beginning of the Revolution...”
Revolution Church’s web site is revolutionky.org.