Handshakes, Coffee, Jesus and Miracles: The Importance of Building Community
By Kelly and Steven Brumbeloe
May 7, 2019
Kelly: I can’t tell you how many times Steven, my husband and fellow pastor at Mt. Bethel North has walked into the house and asked me “What’s for dinner?” and I tell him “I’m not sure yet, but I just invited seven of our friends to come over and eat with us.”
Steven: Then Kelly does this Jesus miracle thing where she takes three ingredients out of the refrigerator and feeds everyone.
Our approach to church planting has followed that same recipe. Here are the three ingredients we believe have helped create a vibrant, growing faith community, that radiates a spirit of hope and transformation in the community we serve.
What do people need the most? Connection. It took sociological research 2000 years to echo the same fundamental truth that Jesus gave in the Great Commandment according to the Gospel of Matthew “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The love, care, and compassion in our church community are growing like wildfire—members are inviting friends and those friends are inviting their family and friends to join us for worship and praise. One of our church members is just bubbling over with joy and now five other families from her neighborhood are attending church and inviting Jesus into their hearts. We celebrate triumphs and grieve losses together—this is a community of hand raisers and Little Engines that Could (and Do!) asking how they can do more to serve. We are witnessing supernatural healing from the power of prayer.
At Mt. Bethel North, we encourage table fellowship, whether as organized Life Groups/Small Groups or informally as casual, spontaneous gatherings. The menu doesn’t matter—it’s about the communion, the intimate fellowship of inviting people to come as they are and share life together. Throughout the New Testament, we see Jesus going to a meal, eating a meal, or leaving a meal. Take, for example, the story of Zacchaeus in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus knew when he ate a meal with people they would often let down their guards and real conversation could take place. In other words, when you break bread, you can be real with one another.
At Mt. Bethel North, ours is a culture of hospitality—warm, friendly, inclusive, and casual. We meet people where they are in their journey of faith—and often we are the very first step. A simple handshake can be the door to relational evangelism.
For others, the door to Jesus has been opened through an Alpha course, which seeks to introduce the basics of the Christian faith through a series of talks and discussions.
People have chosen to give their lives to Christ after completing the Alpha course. Our first Alpha class had 50 participants— 75 percent of whom were church members, resulting in 11 baptisms. Our second Alpha class had 70 participants—this time with only 40 percent church members, resulting in nine baptisms.
It has been amazing to see the way that God is transforming lives in our community, as church members are inviting family, friends, and neighbors.
We don’t have the resources to create a show; there’s no elaborate lighting or visual effects behind the band. We worship in a gym with black drape curtains and second-hand sound equipment, but our soulful contemporary Christian worship band and the coffee and donuts make this house of worship feel like home. It’s a little bit bluegrass and a lotta bit grassroots. But the energy in this space is absolutely electric—and it’s infectious.
God has used the authenticity of our building to be an example of how we should come to church – bringing our true selves and not wearing masks. We gave a sermon titled “it’s OK if you’re not OK” and that’s the truth, because this is a group who will listen and lift you up. Sometimes we fall apart when we’re praying. Sometimes we fall on knees when we’re singing. The church we planted is a safe place to bring your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. God always shows up smiling.
We didn’t go into this church plant with all the answers; we went into it with open hearts and a commitment to Community, Hospitality and Authenticity. We were willing to ask, listen and learn, and we’re amazed at how God is working here.
Revs. Kelly and Steven Brumbeloe, co-pastors at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church – North Campus in Marietta, Georgia, share what God is doing in their midst as they lead a young, growing, and vibrant church plant.