Path 1, a denomination-wide church-planting movement, invited New Church Starts to share stories and pictures from the frontiers of ministry: real stories about individuals whose lives have been changed as a result of interacting with their new faith community. Path1 encouraged all people involved in new faith communities to share their snapshots of hope with the rest of the church and the world.
Rev. Matt Johnson, pastor at The Community, a New Church Start in the Kentucky Conference, shared the following story .
Arica is 24 years old and did not grow up in church. She works as the manager at a local bar where my team hangs out, and for a year we extended as much love and acceptance as we could to Arica. We tipped well, included her in conversations, listened to her, and did everything we could to invite Arica to belong, believe, and become part of our community. When Easter rolled around Arica and her boyfriend attended our Easter Gathering and something about that spoke to her heart. After our gathering she looked at me and said “I don’t know what this means, but I want to be a part of what you’re doing.” After that, she and Zach became regular attendees. They showed up at every service and met with the team whenever they could.
In September after one of our team meetings Arica pulled me aside and asked to get a cup of coffee. We met later that week and she expressed that she had never been loved unconditionally by people before like she had been loved by our team and she wanted to know more about Jesus for herself. Through the course of our conversation she gave her life to Christ and asked to be baptized. In October we gathered for worship and Arica professed her faith and was baptized. I saw her with tears in her eyes but a huge smile on her face as we rejoiced in her newfound relationship with Christ. I was able to see her during our time of worship as she poured her heart out before God. It was incredible to realize that this young lady didn’t know a single song of worship four months ago, but today was worshipping God with incredible passion. Her entire family was present, all of whom are unchurched.
We continue to be amazed at the doors that Arica opens for the Gospel and the way that she is passionate about growing in and sharing her relationship with Christ. She’s the first of what we believe will be many people who give their life to Christ in the future. Every time that I’m reminded that planting a church from the ground up gets difficult, I remember Arica and the others that God is bringing to us, who are coming to experience Jesus for the first time, and I give thanks for this work of which God has allowed me to play a part.