A little over 2 years ago when we decided to venture down this path of starting a church in an area where we knew no one and had no connections; we really had no clue what to expect. Heather (my wife) and I didn’t know exactly what kind of church we wanted to create we knew what kind of church we didn’t want. Nor did we know what to expect when we finally were able to move up to Merrillville, IN.
I’ll admit we wanted to create a church based on our own personal experiences as well as our experiences as pastors on staff at several different churches, some were boring, some were way too fancy and uptight, and most weren’t innovative. So when we decided to start a church we decided to start a fun, casual, and innovative church.
- Start a fun church.
My first memory of church happened when I was about five years old. The pastor standing on the stage babbled on and on about stuff I had no clue about. Like most five-year-olds, I got bored… really bored. My older brother and I sat there talking, fighting, and who knows what, but we were especially loud on that particular day.
The pastor, Pastor Helmet Head, was the name I gave him because of his perfect depiction of a TV Evangelist of the 1980’s… his hair wasn’t moving at all hence “Pastor Helmet Head.”. He looked down from the stage as he stood behind the pulpit and told my brother and me to be quiet. I simply responded back, “Yes, Pastor Helmet Head….” I realized then that kids were expected to act like adults, and most adults just simply endured this version of church. After Pastor Helmet Head, a new guy named Dave became our pastor. Dave was pretty traditional but fun. He helped me to get a glimpse of what church would look like when there is fun involved.
I think it’s time we started allowing the church to be fun. I think it should be age relevant environments so that an adult can encounter Jesus just like a child can encounter Jesus. Kids shouldn’t have to sit through an adult service and never move. There should be dancing, fun, games, and the occasional loud screams of joy from the kid’s area. All these things should be a sign as to what’s going on as adult leaders break down the complex truths of the Bible into simplistic forms meant for kids. If these things don’t happen I would tend to question what’s really going on!
It’s time for RE.THINK Church to make it fun!
We don’t take ourselves too seriously because let’s face it if God has a sense of humor maybe it’s time for His church to have one too!
- Start a casual church:
I remember waking up every Sunday and wanting to wear my jeans and a t-shirt, but no I couldn’t. I had to dress up, put on my Sunday best. The funny thing is I remember doing all this, but not doing my hair. My hair was a mess most Sundays, but at least I wasn’t wearing jeans!
One particular Sunday, in between our Sunday School and church service, I asked an adult, “if someone can’t afford dressy clothes can they come to church?”
The adult’s response has shaped me since, but not in a good way.
The response I got was essentially this, “If you can’t afford dressy clothes coming to church is the least of your worries…” the adult caught himself after those words, but the damage was already done. Like toothpaste that has been squeezed out of the tube, he couldn’t put the words back in his mouth. There was no recovery for him, his attitude is one that I’ve seen in several churches throughout America. He just happened to voice it.
When I think of a church a place that should be known for grace, mercy, love, and kindness. I shudder at the idea that church is known for the thing most people get dressed up in order to encounter Jesus. Pastor Jud Wilhite states in his book, Uncensored Grace, “Sometimes people who have it together externally are a mess internally.” Let’s not fool ourselves here, dressing up doesn’t make you any more godly.
I’d rather have someone show up in what they can afford, what they are comfortable in. As long as bits and pieces are covered and there are no disrespectful writing or graphics, then we’re good.
Having a casual church isn’t all about the dress code though.
We understand that the message of Jesus and living life the way He intends us to live can be a very difficult thing to live out. We get it, we are still striving to do the same here. Creating a casual church goes beyond the dress code and into the terms of how people mature through their relationship with Christ.
People are in control of the pace at which they want to take their next right step. We’ll explain everything up front as much as possible, but we expect people to take the journey as they see fit. We’re here to journey with you along the way!
- Start an innovative church:
I’ve been a pastor since 2001. I’ve been involved in churches to some capacity my entire life. I’ve noticed something about churches… on the surface, churches have the same elements. Every weekend there is a service, songs are sung, someone stands up to give a message, and someone says some prayers and that’s about it. Some churches have kids ministries, some churches don’t. Some churches have things for teenagers some don’t.
RE.THINK Church has a goal, a mission to be an innovative church. We don’t want to just start up a church that acts, feels, functions the same as churches we can find anywhere else. Innovation goes beyond cosmetics. I believe innovation goes down into our DNA.
RE.THINK Church resides in Lake County, IN. There are 220,000+ people who have no religious affiliation at all. We want to see that number eliminated. Why? Because we believe the message of Jesus is one that will change people’s lives forever. These 220,000+ individuals have stories, reasons, and beliefs that have led them to consciously check “No Affiliation” on their census. I don’t know their story, but I want to.
In order to make it possible for each of the 220,000+ people in Lake County to encounter Jesus in the same manner I have; I can’t depend on the same methods to work. Let’s face it, they most likely won’t.
I’ll admit, I don’t have this one nailed down completely, but I do know that my friends, neighbors, fellow parents at soccer games, football games, people I meet at the gym, and at the coffee shop and every other person deserves an innovative church, and that’s what we are striving to accomplish.
I believe that if God really did create each human being in His own image there is a God-sized God give dream inside each of us. We want people to discover that dream and unleash the potential in their own lives. I believe when we start doing that we’ll start living into the full potential that God has for us as individuals, families, and communities.