A couple of months ago we moved from the location we launched at, the GALA Theatre, to a temporary location for the summer, El Tio Tex-Mex Grill. El Tio has been great to us the last couple of months (can’t really complain when the room starts smelling like Tex Mex food, it’s the aroma of Heaven!). But now, after a couple of months of looking, I am so excited to announce we have finally found a new home!
We have traveled to Ecuador, Ukraine, and Albania to preach the Gospel. We have also started several new ministries at our previous churches. After working in recovery for over two years, in January 2016 we launched a God-centered 12-step ministry called Celebrate Recovery in our Arkansas church with two of our best friends. The experience changed our lives: fellowshipping and intimate teaching, creating worship from pain, encountering the power of Jesus Christ in our own hurts and destructive habits, and raising up new leaders. The ministry is still changing lives today.
This past Sunday we announced that we are moving locations for the summer! Starting on July 1, we will be meeting at El Tío Tex-Mex Grill. We have loved our time at the GALA Theatre, it is a beautiful venue and the management and staff there have been great to us. However, almost a year into our journey, and as we look forward to the future, we want to find a location that is the right fit for us as a church and that can work as a long-term location. While we search for that facility, we will spend the summer meeting at El Tío and hopefully start meeting on our long-term facility starting in the fall.
At the beginning of the Gospel of John there is a story about how Jesus gathers his first disciples. One of them, Phillip, excited about having found the promised Messiah goes to get his friend Nathanael and tells him that he found the Messiah and it was Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael's response is to say “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46).
And I can't help but think about that line, I think that if Nathanael were speaking today he probably would have said something like "Nazareth, that s**thole?"
As we are gearing up for our launch (it's just in a few days now!), we have been looking at some of the main ideas that shape who we are and the type of church we want to become. One of those ideas is our commitment to the city. When my wife and I started talking about this church we knew very few things, but one of the things we were sure of was that we wanted to start a church in a city. That decision did not come without its challenges, there are other settings where it is generally easier to start a church. The cost of living is more affordable, finding meeting space is easier, etc. And yet, I am convinced that this type of ministry is incredibly important and necessary.
One of the key scripture verses we mention all the time around Encounter is Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood" This verse which describes the incarnation informs so much of the vision for the type of church we want to be. I love the imagery of the verse, but more importantly, I love what it means: That God, through Jesus, displayed the ultimate act of solidarity with His creation by joining in the human condition. And that is what Christianity celebrates during this season.
So we are finally making our big announcement. The name of our church! For the past few months we’ve been operating as the “Columbia Heights Project” but as we start forming our launch team and get closer to our launch, we wanted to officially announce what the name of our church will be.