Those who know me are probably aware that I started an adventure with a friend a couple of years ago. It is an adventure much more suitable to young men than old codgers like Charlie and me, but we were both grateful for the opportunity. What began as a simple Bible study turned into a small church.

We had no illusions from the outset about where we would go or how we would get there. We simply met, prayed, and trusted God’s leadership. I am confident we made some mistakes along the way, we are human after all. But in spite of everything, God has brought us to a great place and last night we experienced a milestone.

A few months ago God opened the door for us to have a more permanent meeting place. We had always met in homes, borrowed space from other churches, restaurants, parks, and a myriad of other out of the ordinary locations. I especially remember a Maundy Thursday observance of communion in the middle of the Dos Gringos dining room, surrounded by other diners and a few party goers. Passing the bread and juice around the table didn’t draw much attention but singing a couple of verses of Amazing Grace produced a few quizzical looks.Dedication 1

Through a divinely orchestrated series of events, we are able to rent a store front in an up and coming neighborhood very close to downtown Fort Worth. It is an area that the city is trying to revitalize. In fact, just today Sharon and I met with business owners and city officials to discuss solving problems that are plaguing the neighborhood. It is an exciting time and we find ourselves in an energizing place.

The storefront space is amazing. We decided it was too valuable to simply use for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon so we began to discuss what else we could do. Once again we experienced a “God thing” as we now use the space for an art gallery and yoga studio. Call me next time you discover a church that is also an art gallery and yoga studio.

God has given us a young woman who understands the art world and we are right in the middle of an arts district with multiple galleries. That past two Friday evenings we have had special events at the gallery with more than 150 people coming to see the art. I have lost count of the number of conversations this has stimulated as we have greeted gallery visitors. We have made some new friends who are now coming back on Sunday evening.

The young man who leads our worship is a very experienced yoga teacher and he leads classes throughout the week. This is also providing an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the community and draw their attention to Jesus Christ.

All of that is a quick history to bring you to where we were this past weekend when we passed a milestone. Sunday evening we had worship followed by a cookout. Our small group worked hard to provide hamburgers, hotdogs, and all the trimmings for 100 folks and we did not overestimate one bit. Our new space, that we plan to hold on to for a long time, was filled with wall-to-wall worshippers from one month old to seventy years old. At the end of the evening, our core group of folks did not want to leave. We were exhausted but filled with joy over what God had done and is still doing on Race Street in Fort Worth.

As I previously indicated, I have had countless conversations about Bread Fellowship in the past two weeks. With an art gallery and yoga studio they sense there is something different about what is happening. When they ask, I explain our simple philosophy.

We do church with Christ at the center but without a circumference. In other words, we try not to draw a line and say, “If you cross this line then you can be a part of Bread Fellowship.” We do not have a line (circumference). If you want to be a part of what we are doing, just show up.

And when you do show up we will work hard to love you and make you a part of what we are doing. We will not ask you to change you activities, attitudes, beliefs, or lifestyle. Bring it all with you; we really do not have a circumference. If you need to change then we try to leave that up for God to accomplish, after all, that does seem to be something only He can do.

However, at the same time, remember I said we keep Christ in the center. That means we preach Jesus. We worship Him, we serve Him, we love Him, we talk a lot about Him – He is the center of what we do. When you come, regardless of what garbage you might bring with you, you will hear about Jesus.

When I say that, I don’t mean you will hear, “Jesus wants you to do this…” or “Jesus hates people like you.” We try not to speak for Jesus, but rather we encourage you to listen to what He says. He is capable to speaking for Himself and if someone is in need of a major life change, Jesus is capable to making that known.

Some people hear this explanation and think we have gone off the deep end of the theological pool. Most people, especially the non-professional clergy type, find it very refreshing and inviting.

I have no idea of where Bread Fellowship is heading the next year. We had no idea it would ever get to this point so why start planning now? But I am confident God is doing something in our midst, and what we experienced last Sunday with one hundred people crammed into our new little praise, art, yoga venue, was a milestone for us.

You are welcome to join the adventure. Let me warn you, if you like rules you will be very uncomfortable. However, if you are willing to learn to trust Christ for everything, I think you will fit right in.

Many years ago I had a man who was a very serious Christian come to me to express his concerns about the way we practiced the Lord’s Supper, which we only did four times a year. He noticed that we allowed some to participate whom he did not believe were worthy. He even offered, the next time we observed the supper, to sit in the back and point out to me those who should not be allowed to participate.

I could just picture myself in front of the congregation waiting for my friend to point to an undeserving sinner just as he reached out to take the bread. “Stop right there,” I would declare, “you are not worthy!”

Even in our tradition-bound little church, that would not have been well received and would have probably been my last Sunday as pastor. I thanked him for his gracious offer to be our resident spiritual judge but told him I would have to decline.

Although I was young in the ministry at the time, I had already put in a significant amount of study about the two Baptist ordinances – Lord’s Supper and baptism. As I neared graduation from seminary, my father asked if I wanted to pastor a church in Colorado, my home state. The reason he asked is because he had been a well-liked and respected leader among Colorado Baptists since they first established churches in the state. Once churches heard Bill Austin’s son was ready to pastor I was confident a pulpit would be available.

Daddy sent me a questionnaire that he gave to all his prospective pastors, asked me to fill it out, and said he would find me a church to pastor. I filled in the blanks and mailed it back to him. A few days later he called and told me there was a problem. I had answered two of the questions incorrectly – the questions about baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The problem was that I did not believe that only Baptist’s baptism counted or that only local church members could participate in the Lord’s Supper. These were the traditions of my father’s upbringing.

I listened to his concerns and told him I could not change my answers. Consequently, I never pastored a church in Colorado.

I hesitate telling this story because I don’t want anyone to think I’m being critical of my father. The truth is that his reaction to our disagreement is one of the things I have always admired about my father and tried to emulate. He held firm to his convictions. The problem was that I also held firm to mine. We disagreed about this point of theology but our disagreement never affected our relationship. I can honestly say we both respected each other’s opinion (another of his outstanding qualities).

When my friend came to me offering his services as Lord’s Supper judge, this was an issue I felt confident about and did not hesitate refusing his offer. His reason was different than my father’s (Daddy never would have judged anyone’s spiritual condition, only their church membership) but they were both products of the way church used to be done.

As weird as it seems, I completely understand the rationale. The traditional approach to doing church was to follow this pattern – believe, practice, and finally belong. In other words, we expected people to first profess their faith in Jesus and then practice that faith. Once they had done that they were then allowed to belong to our church and enjoy all the benefits. Times are changing.

There are a number of good things going on in my life right now and one of those is what is happening in our church, Bread Fellowship. What began as a small group of folks who wanted to gather to study the Bible has become a church. Well, some would question whether we are actually a church since we don’t really fit their definition.

After meeting in a variety of venues, including several homes, a park, church fellowship hall, restaurants, apartment meeting room, wedding parlor, and other unusual locations, we finally have a place to call home beginning this coming weekend. Everyone is excited and plans are underway to make our new place a hub of community activity. This journey has been fun and it is about to get even better.

At Bread Fellowship you do not have to believe before you belong. The truth is that belonging is the first step. Just show up and you belong. You will be invited to practice the faith with us, even sharing communion, which we typically do every Sunday. The Apostle Paul stated that eating the bread and drinking the cup is a way to “proclaim” Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:27). It does not make any sense to sequester ourselves away from non-believers before we proclaim Jesus. Communion is probably the best evangelistic message we share each week. If you share the Lord’s meal with us a few Sundays it will be impossible for you to ignore your own spiritual condition. At Bread, you belong at our table even before you believe.

We do not have “membership” at Bread Fellowship. We have thought about it and discussed it but to this point we do not see the need. Whenever you have “members,” the result is that non-members no longer belong. The trend among many churches today is to move in the opposite direction. Their policy is to require attending a “membership class” prior to belonging.

Several years ago when I was working as a church consultant, I was out of town on most Sundays. Sharon and I tried to join the church we attended when I was home but we could never make the membership classes, which were held on Sunday afternoon. Thus, we never did belong.

At Bread Fellowship all you have to do is show up. You can participate in our worship, share your opinions, get involved in our activities, and practice the faith. We had a young man come one Sunday evening who was heavily involved with Buddhism. He had a background in Christianity but it was not much a part of his life at the time. We discovered he could play the guitar and we needed music. His second Sunday he was leading us in singing choruses and singing words he was not even sure he believed. We loved him, accepted him, and walked with him. Now he is at the heart of everything we do, in love with Jesus, and he will tell you it was because he belonged at the very beginning.

The new location for Bread Fellowship is in the heart of a vibrant community in Fort Worth. It is filled with people who want to belong to something. Hopefully, what they will find is a place where they belong the minute the walk in the door. They are welcome to bring all their spiritual baggage – Jesus is capable of dealing with it.

I was on the debate team in college.  We were very much a rag tag bunch, thrown together at the last minute by a visiting professor who had a penchant for debate. He put together a group of eight students, enough for four teams, and taught us the basics.  I’m not sure now, but I don’t think any of us had any experience prior to this short one semester experiment.  My partner was a very pretty young woman whose greatest accomplishment during the debate season was being asked out on dates by our opponents.  In fact, on one of our critiques, a judge actually wrote “a very pretty young woman” as his only comment about her performance.

During a very difficult debate, one in which we were clearly outmatched by far superior debaters, one of our opponents quoted from both “The Christian Science Monitor” and “Playboy” magazine.  He was throwing around facts and quotes that were beyond me.  I felt like my best strategy was to throw everyone off guard.  I began my time by stating, “Since we are from a Baptist college, I do not have access to neither ‘The Christian Science Monitor’ nor ‘Playboy’ magazine.”  I got a laugh, we lost the debate, and my partner got a date for the evening. Success! Everyone was happy.

A skill that has served me well through life is the ability to not take myself too seriously. The reason I remembered that experience this afternoon is because I just read an interesting article in, of all places, “The Christian Science Monitor.”  I don’t read it often because I can’t get beyond what my father always said about the Christian Science religion – it is neither Christian nor scientific.

Anyway, the writer of the article made the point that churches that are overly political, especially very conservative, are driving young people away. It is an important issue because study after study has shown that the church is losing its young adults.  If you actually need an official study to convince you of that truth then you must not be paying attention when you go to church.

What was interesting to me is the opinion that churches that express strong conservative opinions are the ones suffering the most from a loss of youth.  Right wing politics appeals to parents with young children with its emphasis on morality and keeping our world safe.  Those things don’t appeal to young adults.  That does not mean young adults have no morality, just that they have a different standard of morality.  For example, they are likely more interested in feeding the hungry than picketing an abortion clinic, or volunteering at an AIDS clinic than fighting gay marriage.

I don’t want to turn this into a political article (that would defeat my whole purpose in writing) but I do want to raise the question of why have we become so political?  Why do we feel it is necessary to be so politically partisan at church?  The point of the article I referenced earlier is that young people are staying away from the church because of the blatant politicking that takes place in what is supposed to be a spiritual environment. We invite them to come for spiritual direction and what they get is patriotic propaganda.

A couple of years ago I met a very nice man in a hospital waiting room and we had time for an extended conversation.  He talked for a long time about politics, being very clear about his desire to elect a new President and his confidence that if we will simply choose a few more Republicans all of our problems will be solved I didn’t offer much of an opinion since it was clear that his beliefs were much more important to him than mine were to me.  I listened patiently.

He then turned the conversation to his church. He spoke graciously about his church and pastor and suggested that I would like it. He even invited me to attend in the near future.  I’m sorry, but I could not resist the temptation to ask if it was necessary to be a Republican in order to come to his church. I even asked if they had a separate Sunday School class for Democrats.

My new friend was stunned for a moment, almost as if I had kicked his dog. We had a short conversation about making people comfortable or turning them away by our overly strong political opinions. Someone who favors the Republican platform would probably be very welcome; however, many young people are turned away, not because they are rejecting the Gospel but because they are rejecting the politics.

Just last week, the Lectionary reading was the passage where we are told of the imperative of lifting up Jesus before all men. When that occurs, people will be drawn to Him. The tragedy is that we often lift up someone other than Jesus. In many churches that person is a politician who sounds like he/she might be one of us, but in reality is campaigning for office.

I did develop a few debating skills during my college experience. My nice looking partner and I actually prevailed in about half of our debates – she did what she does best and I handled the speaking. However, the last place where I want to utilize those debating skills is at church. Let’s leave the flags, campaign speeches, and patriotic songs outside and gather around the cross instead. That is a message that speaks to everyone, even the young.

It is a basic New Testament principle that in order for a church to function properly, every member has a role to fulfill.  I have several responsibilities at Bread Fellowship, not the least of which is to provide the bread for our weekly communion observance.  During our short history we have tried several different approaches but it seems the one that works the best is for me to simply bring a small loaf of bread.

I am not unfamiliar with the workings of the Lord’s Supper.  When I was a very young child, after our church observed the Supper, my sister and I would finish off the juice and bread that was leftover.  I’m sure we were allowed to do this because my mother has never thrown away anything in her life.  We always considered it a treat to be able to recreate the event before being hustled off to bed on Sunday night.  I will confess now that I always hoped for a small crowd at church since that meant more leftovers for us later.

Being the pastor of the same church for thirteen years, I have organized the Lord’s Supper in every way imaginable to avoid falling into a meaningless routine.  One of the most memorable times was provided by an unexpected source.  We had a young mother, Rosalinda, who gave her life to Jesus one evening in her home.  She and her children began attending church every week, always sitting on the front row.  She was growing in her faith every Sunday.

The first Sunday that we observed the Supper was a new experience for her.  As the Deacons took the bread trays and began to distribute the wafers, you could see Rosalinda, sitting on the front row, trying to figure out what to do.  As the tray was extended to her, she did the only thing she knew to do.  She placed her offering on the tray, on top of the bite sized wafers.  From the front of the auditorium, I observed as people would snicker at the bread tray, containing some stale wafers and a couple of dollar bills that was passed around the room.

The event is nearly as memorable as the Gold Fish and chicken noodle soup fiasco in the early days of Bread Fellowship. Perhaps the one thing that the Lord’s Supper and weddings have in common is that in spite of the most meticulous planning, something will go wrong.  At least at a wedding, someone is usually ready with a video camera to capture the event for YouTube.

At Bread Fellowship, when we finally settled on a routine where I am responsible for bringing the bread, Sharon and I developed our own routine.  The only grocery store on our route to the church is the Super Mercado on Northside Drive.  It is not the kind of place where we would normally shop but it has a fascination of its own.  The grill is almost always cooking in the parking lot and the smell is very attractive.  I plan to stop and get a few tacos on one of these trips.  Few people inside the store, employees or customers, speak in English but it has never been a problem.

As you enter the store, one of the first items you come to is a large cabinet with a glass front door.  Inside is a variety of breads, I suspect most of it is cooked fresh every morning.  They sell a small loaf that is the ideal size for our little group at Bread Fellowship.  The cost is three loaves for a dollar which means it only costs thirty-three and a third cents in order to remember the ultimate price paid by our Savior.

However, you must be careful in selecting the bread.  They also sell and very similar looking bread that is filled with jelly.  Sharon ran into the store one Sunday evening and as we approached the church it hit her that she might have picked up the wrong bread.  Sure enough, when the bread was broken open for the Lord’s Supper, we were surprised to see the grape jelly filling. I guess we could have completed the service without the grape juice since it was an all-in-one loaf.  Fortunately, we had a small group that night so we all just pinched off the bread around the edges, without the jelly.

Being asked to bring the bread to Bread Fellowship is an honor.  Even though we celebrate communion every week, the experience has always been meaningful to me.  I leave with a new appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice and a strong attachment to the others in the room. It is my way of doing my part as the body of Christ.  Sure, I have other responsibilities, as do you, but this simple task is no less meaningful.  Our worship is enhanced by something I do.  You see, we are all necessary.  Remember, contributing at Bread Fellowship may be as simple as stopping at the Mercado and getting a small loaf of bread.

I met Charlie when he was the interim pastor of the church Sharon and I attended.  It’s hard to say why we were attending that particular church.  It’s a very liturgical congregation, something I have always appreciated but high church ritual doesn’t do much for Sharon.  We ended up there because we had tried every other style of church in the city and always ended up disappointed or worse.

Every Sunday morning it felt like we were really going to church as we passed through the thick wooden doors in the front of a massive, gothic type structure with beautiful stained glass windows. I have never been a fan of attending church in a building that looks like a big box department store on the outside and a sterile community theater on the inside and this place really felt like being at church.

We liked the church but it always felt like something was missing.  Our Sunday School class was good, people were friendly, music was great.  We even managed to make the Wednesday evening meal upon occasion and attended a couple of business meetings (the true sign of a committed church member).  Because of my background and experience, I was asked to serve on the Endowment Committee, a place where it was obvious after one or two meetings that I did not fit.  Sharon enjoyed helping a group of young Korean women learn English, but as hard as we tried, we never felt like we belonged.

When Charlie became our pastor we did not anticipate much to change in our relationship with the church.  I had actually met him many years earlier but I’m sure he does not remember.  I’m not even sure why I remember.  It was in the parking garage of the office building of Texas Baptists where I worked.  We met at the elevator.  I guarantee you cannot ride an elevator with Charlie, even for one or two floors, without having a new friend.  I knew who he was, the pastor of a large church in San Antonio, but he had no reason to know anything about me.  At the church in Fort Worth, we became friends.

Charlie invited us to attend a Thursday morning Bible study he led every week and we did.  We enjoyed the group but he kept telling us we might like an evening study he was leading even better.  As you might imagine, the morning group consisted of folks who were free during the day so the average age was much older than us.  Although I am in a wheelchair, I was probably the healthiest man in the group.  We did attend the evening group and felt more at home with the younger crowd, although we were now the “old folks.”

Our church called a full time pastor and Charlie moved on to other things, but we continued with the Bible study groups.  During that time we had numerous conversations about the church and what we should be doing.  Charlie kept telling me that some of the folks in his Bible study groups were interested in having a time of worship.

Our friendship with Charlie strengthened significantly when I was in the hospital in critical condition immediately after Christmas in 2009.  He came to the Intensive Care unit and led in prayer – a prayer that I am confident God used to impact my life.  I sometimes say that I credit Charlie with saving my life and I am not kidding.

Both of us felt a burden to do something different.  We had been listening to the young people in the evening Bible study group.  They had an interest in spiritual matters but very little interest in the church.  This was difficult to understand for those of us who had spent our entire lives actively involved with church.

Charlie came to our house and had a prayer time with Sharon and me.  During the visit it seemed as if God confirmed something in the heart of both of us.  We thought it was time to start a worship service, building from the members of the Bible study groups.  We choose Sunday evenings for a couple of reasons.  Charlie was still preaching frequently on Sunday mornings and he wanted to continue to be available.  Perhaps more important was that it seemed like a better time for those we wanted to be involved in the worship time.  It was too much to expect young people who are not currently involved in church to get up early on Sunday morning.

In the fall of 2009 we held our first worship service.  Meeting in the community room of the apartment complex where Charlie lived, the place was full.  The majority of attendees on that first Sunday were folks who wanted to support our efforts but who had little interest in being a part of a new church. They quickly faded away and we had to begin building from scratch.  Today, there are very few remnants of that first service.

In one of our early times together, Charlie made a statement that has stuck with me and has really become a theme of what we are trying to do together.  Quoting something he had heard, he said, “The church should have Christ as the center and no circumference.”

We have heard time and again that an enormous number of people have great respect for Jesus but want nothing to do with the church.  In other words, they like the center (Jesus) but they don’t want anything to do with where we draw the circumference line – the line that determines who is in and who is out, who is right and who is wrong.  The reason they feel this way is because we tend to spend most of our time focusing on the circumference and not so much time on the center.

I have been actively engaged with the church all my life.  I have been a pastor and a church consultant my entire adult life.  Having preached in as many as five hundred churches, I have some definite opinions about how we do church.  I realize that I am generalizing, but I have come to believe there are only four kinds of churches.  Each of these would fight you if you suggest that anything other than Christ is at the center.  However, it is the circumference where they differ:

  •  Fundamentalist – They have a very small circle (not number of folks, but acceptable beliefs and activities) with a clear, impenetrable line for their circumference.
  • Conservative – They move the circumference line out a little and it might not be quite so clear, but it is still there.  They might not kick you out if you cross the line but they will certainly let you know when you are in error.
  • Moderate – Once again they move the circumference line a little farther out, being more acceptable of certain behaviors and beliefs.  These folks are actually willing to allow people in leadership positions who would not even be allowed to belong to a fundamentalist congregation.
  • Liberal – They often get accused of not having any rules or limits but they do.  In fact, they spend a great deal of time and energy debating that it is acceptable to believe and do things that many other churches consider ungodly and disgusting.

The one thing each of the groups have in common is that they have a circumference – a line drawn that determines who does and does not belong.  The reason so many are not interested in these churches is because they spend a great deal of effort fighting over where to draw the line.  These skirmishes are what drive people away from the church, in spite of the fact they are attracted to Jesus.

Thus, at Bread Fellowship, we have determined to focus our attention on Christ and leave the circumference up to Him.  Consequently, everyone is welcome.  We like to say that we are a faith community with Christ at the center and where everyone is welcome.  This does not mean that anything goes when we gather for worship.  We strive to worship Christ and our understanding of Him is guided by God’s Word. 

However, rather than determining who is or is not a believer, we try to just point to Christ and allow Him to do the judging.  Our focus is on the center, not the circumference.  Obviously, this opens us up to criticism, especially from the circumference police, but I am convinced if we can continually point people to Jesus, He will do the job of getting their lives correct.

Everyone is welcome at Bread – believer, unbeliever, agnostic, or whatever else you consider yourself.  When you come you will be invited to join a discussion of a text from God’s Word, your opinion will be welcome.  It is unlikely that anyone will say you are incorrect or worthy of damnation, instead we will try to point you once again to Christ.  All you will be expected to do is respect our beliefs and opinions and we encourage you to give them some thought.  If you have a need, we will pray for you and we would love to have you pray for us, even if you pray in an unorthodox manner.

Almost every church advertises that everyone is welcome, often accompanied with the phrase, “come as you are.”  While it is true that everyone is invited and likely that no one will be turned away for who they are or how they appear, that does not necessarily mean they are welcome.  What it often means is you are welcome to come but as soon as you get here we expect you to become like us.  If you have a drinking or drug problem people will keep their distance.  If you had an abortion they will probably make you feel like a murderer.  If you happen to be Democrat they will make you feel like an idiot.

What we strive to do at Bread Fellowship is to welcome you in without asking you to change.  Our hope is that you will participate in our worship and respond to our fellowship so that you will be drawn toward the center – Christ.  When that occurs, He will do the changing. This creates some messy situations at times and it means we have a very eclectic group in our fellowship.

Our goal is not to change people.  Our task is to lift up Jesus (Christ in the center).  We have deliberately chosen not to build professional quality worship experiences or obtain a state of the art facility.  Instead, we see ourselves as a group of believers who gather around Christ.  The gatherings happen in homes, parks, community rooms, and churches – wherever we can find the space.  We sing, we pray, we study God’s Word, we fellowship, we encourage, and we almost always share Communion together.

We talk and pray a great deal about the direction of Bread Fellowship.  Several amazing things have happened.  Everyone who participates is there because of a relationship with someone in our group, they were brought by someone. I think this is great because it shows our evangelism is happening outside of our worship time.  It also makes it easier to incorporate them into the body because they already have a connection.  We have only had two people show up out of the clear blue and we have had a difficult time establishing a continuing relationship with them.

Bread Fellowship has become the product of all our individuals coming together.  We are who we are together.  We have not set out to become anything in particular.  The music we sing, the discussions we have, the fellowship we share are not preplanned to be a certain way, they are a reflection of us.  Every person who joins our group changes the makeup of the group.  Charlie and I might be more vocal than most of the others but we are aware that we are no more important.  God is putting together a very unique group that we call Bread Fellowship and we are honored to belong.

The downside is that numerical growth is slow (if that is really a downside).  We could plan some big events; Charlie is a marvelous communicator with much experience speaking to large crowds.  But, we have chosen not to do that.  Instead of attracting a crowd, we are trying to build a church.  One person at a time, we are inviting family, friends, co-workers, and other acquaintances to come.  They will feel welcomed, everyone does.  We will ask about them, talk to them, allow them to share in everything, and at the very least they will be drawn closer to Jesus.  The closer they get to Christ, the less important is the baggage they bring with them.

When we say, “Come as you are, all are welcome,” we really mean it.  We will not try to change you, guilt you, condemn you, or criticize you. We will simply invite you to journey through life with us and see what happens.

Several years ago we planted a trumpet vine on our backyard deck.  The plan was for the typically fast-growing vine to climb a trellis on the south side of the deck and provide a shady environment.  We chose a trumpet vine because of its beautiful, red, trumpet-shaped flowers.  We brought the vine home from the Home Depot and carefully placed it in a flower box on the deck, directly under the trellis, wrapping the branches so they would grow and cover the entire framework.  Then we waited!

Nothing happened.  The vine did not die, but neither did it grow.  It stayed green but did not produce any flowers.  We tried patience, about three years worth, but nothing happened.  The vine was essentially the same as the day it was first planted.

Finally, it was time to give up and put something else in the flower box.  We didn’t want to relinquish a living plant so the trumpet vine was relocated to a corner of the back yard, up against the brick wall that makes up our back fence.  Something amazing happened.  The vine started to grow at a phenomenal rate, quickly climbing over the fence, also moving laterally along the fence row.  In a few short weeks we also had a preponderance of red trumpet flowers.  What a difference.

Obviously I am not a plant expert, but I suspect we had it in the wrong environment.  Perhaps it was not enough space for roots, or the sun was too direct and hot, or perhaps the soil was missing an ingredient.  It has thrived so well that we have even had people stop and ask if they can take a clipping to put in their yard.

I described this incident because I have been thinking a lot about the church lately.  I wonder if the reason many churches do not seem to work is because they have found themselves in the wrong environment.  We specifically chose the spot to plant our trumpet vine because we wanted it to take a certain shape for a purpose of our choosing.  Once we allowed the vine to be free from our restraints, it took off and thrived.

It has not grown in a way that I would have chosen.  It very much has a mind of its own and we have had to trim it occasionally to keep it from taking over the yard.  It seems that being allowed the freedom to grow its own way has been the healthiest environment for the plant.

We have seen the same thing beginning to happen at Bread Fellowship.  We have worked hard to not have a preconceived plan of what the church should be and do.  Instead, we have tried to develop relationships and allow the church to come gather and develop in the most natural way.  Nine months ago when we first started, our concept of what Bread Fellowship would be like in a year is nothing like it has become.

Bread Fellowship is kind of like my trumpet vine, growing in a very natural direction without a specific appearance imposed by an outsider.  I am confident that it will also be as healthy as my trumpet vine.


I was tempted to say something to those of you who missed Sunday evening service yesterday, but then I realized, almost all of us where there.  Only a couple of our folks were unable to be with us and most of them checked in with their prayers.  Needless to say to those who were there, it was a marvelous Sunday evening.

The hamburgers were very tasty and got everything off to a big start.  The theme of our worship time was “Symbols of Our Faith” and we shared in some of the most symbolic and powerful activites of the church – communion, anointing and prayer, and baptism.

The prayer for Royce’s healing was inspiring and encouraging to all of us.  We spoke with Royce this afternoon (Monday) and he testifies that changes are happening, noticable and positive changes. We will be eager to hear his testimony in the coming weeks.

Scott commented that he brought a towel to use after the baptism but he never used it.  He said he was not anxious to wipe away the water.  What a powerful testimony of the experience.  It was obvious that most of us were not eager to leave when everything was over.

I do have one BIG ANNOUNCEMENT.  We will NOT have a gathering this next Sunday, July 3.  Several of you already have plans and it is a holiday weekend so much will be happening.  I will miss seeing everyone Sunday, but keep in touch with phone, Facebook, Twitter, website, etc.

See you Sunday evening, July 10th!