Memorial Lutheran Church in Katy, Texas (Rev. John Davis, senior pastor) is reaching out to its community in a new way. The congregation called Rev. Ben Spaulding as a candidate from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis to plant the church outside the walls of a traditional church building, in the Katy community. Pastor Ben and his wife Gini are about half a year into the new process. We had the opportunity to catch up with Ben and pose a few questions about the ministry and how it’s going.
Pastor Ben, please describe the approach to planting the church that you are using.
By God’s grace, and the leading of the Holy Spirit we are pursuing a model called Apostolic Church Planting. This model focuses on planting the church, instead of solely planting a church. We are walking with disciples to grow in their personal gifts. We are learning how to invite the unbaptized into our lives consistently and fostering spiritual conversations. Then we provide experiences with the planter and team for people to process faith questions, hear the gospel, and imitate the ways of Jesus.
Tell us how it’s going so far. What successes have you had?
It has been a wonderful experience thus far and we are making progress. We have a team of disciples ready to grow and walk alongside us as we invite others into what we are doing. Our apartment ministry has given us many connections with people who are not part of a community of faith or have a relationship with Jesus. We are bringing them into our lives more and more and are looking forward to seeing the Lord work in their hearts.
What is the most challenging thing about your ministry?
While this model is highly relational and incarnational, moving into people’s busy and guarded lives (due to pandemic fear) has been challenging. Inviting them into consistent relationships with disciples is difficult. But when it happens and the relationship takes off, the struggle and work are totally worth it. The team and I remind one another daily, “Even in the midst of mayhem, Jesus can and will do marvelous things.”
What is the most important thing that you have learned?
To be devoted. As a great friend of mine defined it, “To be devoted is to continually persist with intense effort in the face of adversity.” The early church in Acts has much to teach us. They devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teachings, breaking of bread, fellowship, and prayer. Grasping these practices and making them my foundation for all I do makes a world of difference and to invite others into this lifestyle is a game-changer.
You and Gini are partnering with Apartment Life. Please describe how that works and what opportunities for ministry you have realized through that partnership.
Apartment Life is a ministry that connects apartment residents to a richer understanding of community and makes room for people to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. My wife and I are a team at The Maddox Apartments in Katy, Texas. Statistically, apartment dwellers have little to no connection with faith or a faith community. Through the community events we plan and our daily relational habits, God has brought us many people who are disconnected from a faith community and from a faith relationship in Jesus. We are thankful for being sent to this apartment neighborhood where the harvest calls us to daily labor for our neighbors.
What words of encouragement do you have for congregations who might be thinking about planting a new congregation?
Planting does not come in just one package. Be willing to get a little weird at times and try different gospel experiments to reach others in your community. As we move more into an age where the institutional church is suspect for the unbaptized, how can we transform our homes and hangouts into places of healing? A haven for good food, friends, and faith conversation? If the church is a collection of homes making up a hospital for the broken, then may our homes no longer be personal fortresses, but may they echo the mission of the church and be a place of peace for our disconnected neighbors. Our abiding Savior walks with you and that is the certain promise that anchors our mission efforts in every season, time, and place.
That’s one story. How might God be moving your congregation to establish a new mission outpost in your community?
By Rev. Dr. Jon Braunersreuther
Mission & Ministry Facilitator Area D