Recently at the Interprovincial Ministers Retreat in Harrisonburg, Va., our main presenter, Will Willimon, spent some time talking about his observation that we live in an age where the church as we know it is being changed and reassembled in dramatic fashion. This idea is not new; according to recent Pew Research statistics and others, many confirm Mainline Denominations are changing and shifting in dramatic ways.
If this research is accurate, though unsettling at times, this kind of macro change can also present new and vibrant opportunities. Could it be that the church as we know it is being urged once again to move away from “attraction” models and back into “sending” opportunities, meeting people where they are?
Such was/is the case for New Beginnings Moravian Church in Huntersville where a few years ago they entered into a joint mission with Motor Racing Outreach, a ministry within the NASCAR Racing community.
For most people involved in this sport, weekends are consumed travelling from one town to the next. So the ministry follows them, setting up worship, teaching and prayer opportunities at whatever track they find themselves.
In addition during the midweek when they are back home working at their individual shops, Bible studies and faith formation venues are pursued. Through this connection, New Beginnings Church has offered facilities to serve as a meeting space for many of the NASCAR women to gather periodically for Bible Studies, etc.
Along with other volunteers from the church we have had the chance to teach weekly Bible studies at the race team shops of Roush-Fenway Racing, preside at weddings, visit hospital rooms, council folks in crisis — all as Moravians being sent to a new mission field!
One faithful volunteer, Brother Tom Tucker reflecting on his involvement says, “I didn’t know that much about NASCAR at the time and knew less about who might be attending the Bible study that Pastor Chris was leading. And while some of the attendees have changed over the years I have found these individuals to be very genuine people. This study has certainly helped me to spend more time learning the Bible and getting closer to God.
“But just as important, it has opened up opportunities to meet and study with an entirely new group of people. Folks I am now very proud to call my friends. They are interested in continuing their walk with God, are open to different perspectives and at times very generous with their thoughts and innermost feelings. These relationships have not happened overnight, but on more than one occasion over the years I have been moved to tears based on the very personal stories and witness they have shared.”
So you have heard the old joke, “The only one who likes change is a baby.” There is a lot of truth in this idea especially in our day and time, but when we are stretched in new ways, when we seek new opportunities, God’s abundant mission is within our midst, in this case maybe our own back yard! Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!
The Rev. Christopher C. Thore is pastor at New Beginnings Moravian Church in Huntersville, N.C. and a member of the Southern Province PEC.
From the August 2013 Moravian Magazine