It’s 9:00pm Sunday evening. I am sitting on my back porch reflecting on an awesome day at Franklin Community Church. It’s mid-November, but it is unusually warm. I am about to blog about something that could come across as bragging, but please know that is not my intention. All the glory belongs to God, and I have to share what He is doing in my life and the life of my church.
Four years ago, when I returned to Franklin to restart a church, my hearts desire was not to have the “same-ole” kind of church. I was tired of being the “same-ole” type of pastor. I wanted something different. I needed something different. Something real. Some authentic.
God has begun giving me that dream. One day this past week I was having lunch with a guy and sharing with him the vision of our church. This guy knows my denomination well, working with them on many projects. He, himself, is not part of my denomination. He stopped me mid-way through my vision casting and said, “Please don’t take offense at what I am going to say because I love what you are doing, but you are not a typical Free Will Baptist.” (If he only knew the whole story.)
Franklin Community Church (FCC) is a relationship driven church. God is all about relationship and He is all about reconciling relationships. Our church is located in one of the wealthiest cities in the country, but God has called us to build relationships with people who are not wealthy. Our calling is to serve those in our community who have been overlooked by most everyone else, especially the churches. We are determined to build relationships across racial, denominational, and economical lines.
This morning, a man who has been out of prison for 7 months after serving an 18-year sentence testified how our church has changed his life. This African-American gentleman said our mostly white church was more of a family to him than his own family. (This morning, about 30% of our congregation was minorities.) We gathered around this gentleman and prayed for him. He needs a job, but he is a felon. Other people, both black and white, testified and encouraged him. There were lots of tears. I then preached my final sermon from Job, and I felt the anointing like I have not felt in a long time. (That’s not really true, I felt it last Sunday as well. Also, hopefully, this man’s testimony will be on the web soon for you to hear.)
Sunday evening we gathered for our annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner. The community our church is located in is a traditionally black neighborhood that was formed right after the Civil War. It’s a historical neighborhood with lots of needs. We had more people from the neighborhood celebrate with us tonight than we did church members! What God is doing is hard to put into words.
After the meal, I spent some time with a lady from the neighborhood who is now a member of our church. Four years ago she was on cocaine and alcohol. Now she is sold out to Jesus! Her life has been completely transformed by the grace and power of God.
During the meal, another lady, who has drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and prostitution in her past, called me to let me know how much she misses our church and can’t wait to come back. She said she would be at our bible study Wednesday evening at the local American Legion Lodge.
Before the meal, an upper-class white lady in her mid 70s that has been with our church for a long time said there was no church anywhere like our church. (This lady grew up in extremely conservative churches.)
All through out the gymnasium where we ate and have our services people of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds were eating together, laughing and fellowshipping. It was a thing of beauty.
By the end of this year, our church (we average about 50 on Sunday mornings) will have given away close to $30,000.00 to meet real needs of real people who are struggling, or who just need some encouragement. Over the past two years, along with a few other small churches, we have distributed over 150,000 lbs. of food to our community.
The disenfranchised, the down and out, and those who have been forgotten in our materialistically driving culture are not an outreach program of our church. They make up the core of our church. They are our church. We don’t have a program. I don’t have a clue what I am doing. We simply have a dying conviction that God has called us to unconditionally love everyone, regardless of his or her sins, social standing, race, or ethnicity.
I am a happy pastor. I would not trade places with anyone. I am extremely grateful and thankful for the transformation that has taken place in my own life over the last four years. To steal a title from a really good book, I am Failing Like Jesus. (A shameful plug, I know.)
And, to top it all off, I leave this Saturday to go and pour my heart into the life of 80 Honduran pastors who minister among some of the poorest people on our planet. They are my heroes.
Please excuse me for boasting, but I am boasting on the Lord.
Thanks for reading.
One more thing: During our dinner tonight I was talking to an older African-American lady, who does not attend our church but lives in the community and attends a friend of mine’s church. As I was talking with her, someone said to her about me, “You know Kevin is leaving us next weekend.” She thought that meant I was leaving for good; the person who said this meant I was leaving for Honduras and would be gone a few days. The lady looked at me sternly, and said, “Don’t you dare leave this community!” I assured her I wasn’t. I think that is the greatest compliment I have received in 20 plus years of ministry.