It has been an extremely busy time planting Hope Chapel Hill Country. Though Dripping Springs, Texas, is a small town, there are lots of people in them thar hills, many commuters from Austin, which is only about thirty minutes away.
It has been estimated that 85% of the people in the Austin metropolitan area is unchurched. Some have called this part of Texas the largest unchurched area in America. My mission is to go find the lost sheep of Christianity, those who are not saved, of course, but also those who think they are.
My goal is to reach people. People are God’s biggest concern. Mine too. And the church is the people. Hope Chapel Hill Country is not a building, nor a name nor an idea; it’s the people. Or should I say, we are the people.
Because people don’t usually appear out of nowhere and come to church, I have to invite them. Jesus himself said this in a parable: “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.'”
My immediate territory is an apartment complex about 100 yards from our church. Walking distance. I go door-to-door just like a Jehovah’s Witness, just like a Mormon—with one big difference: I have the truth. I hate going door-to-door, but I must do for the truth what the cults do for a lie.
On Wednesdays I head down to the Seniors Activity Center and mix it up with the old timers. These septo-, octo- and nonagenarians are firmly entrenched in their various denominations, but it doesn’t mean they are saved…and there isn’t much time left for many of them. I get to learn about their lives, their personal histories and the history of Dripping Springs itself. One man said he’s a third generation Drippin’ man. “My family’s been here since 1880!”
I was introduced as the new pastor in town by the Center’s manager, but she forgot to mention our church. I noticed that all these old folks had to buss their own lunch dishes. When I started clearing their tables of the dirty dishes and utensils, they then started asking me, “So, where is your church?”
There is a method to my madness by meeting with the seniors. I hope after weeks and months to earn their trust. Perhaps they may even attend Hope Chapel Hill Country someday or recommend us to a friend or grand kid.
He’s a World War 2 vet…and proud of it. He pulled an old photo of himself and his buddies, circa 1945, out of his wallet! He talked with me at length about how he was in Tokyo four days after we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How he worked in an ink factory but quit because he was getting ill from breathing asbestos and how all his co-workers died a few years after he quit.
He’s mad at the Catholic Church because of all the child abuse, but he believes in Jesus. I offered to give him a ride to our church.
He pulled out another photo of he and his beloved wife on their wedding day. We both got quiet for a moment. I smiled. He smiled. What a life he has lived.
I have a radically novel idea: For Hope Chapel Hill Country I’m not “looking” for youth. I want old, young, short, tall, skinny, fat and nondescript people. Yes, people. I have no plans to be cool, relevant or trendy. I have no gimmicks to offer nor wild displays of the “Spirit.” I do have the Word which I pledge to preach faithfully. But, I will wear jeans, though.
At a Chamber of Commerce luncheon I introduced myself as the new pastor in town and offered a Trillion Dollar Bill to anyone who asked for one. I announced that the most important question anyone could answer was on it.
No one took me up on the offer.
But I did hang with three other pastors: Pastor Jason McNutt of Hill Country Bible Church Dripping Springs (center) and Pastor Jeff Jackson of Gateway Hill Country Church. Of course, our church is Hope Chapel Hill Country. So, apart from all of us being pastors, what else do you think we have in common?
For those I don’t meet in the street, perhaps they will meet me at KDRP, on the air. “Shine Your Light,” is a program where I teach the Bible in a simple, easy-to-understand manner, so people can simply understand the Bible. Call it Milk for the Masses. If they miss it when it airs at 11AM, they can tune into my new website that features past programs at www.ShineYourLightRadio.com (You can hear my first series, a four parter, on John 3:16.)
#1: The First Offended Person
I invited a woman to Hope Chapel Hill Country and she explained that she was a life-long Catholic and went to the local diocese. I asked her a question that I ask most Catholics: “What do you think is the biggest difference between a Catholic and a Protestant?”
She answered, “Mary.”
“No,” I replied. “Let me ask you, where will you go when you die.” She answered Heaven because she didn’t believe in Hell. I explained a little more thoroughly that what the bible says is more important than tradition and took her through the 10 Commandments. I cautioned her to examine herself because she didn’t want to be wrong about eternity.
She wasn’t offended.
“That’s the difference,” she protested. “Catholics want to help people and all you want to do is preach.”
Instead of arguing, I gently stated that I was concerned for her “because I don’t think you know the Lord.”
That’s when she got offended. She huffed. Puffed. Then ignored me, not even saying goodbye when she left the business we were both patronizing, a business owned by an atheist. (He wasn’t there, but walked in immediately after our conversation.)
#2: The Family of No Return
I know I’m going to have to get used to this as a new church planter, but it still hurts a little.
A couple came and sat in the front row of Hope Chapel Hill Country for the first two weeks after we opened, came to our Bible study twice, and their son even helped me set up for service. I also gave the woman a Bible to replace her tattered one. As I stood outside the doors our third Sunday morning ready to greet visitors, I saw the couple drive by; they even waved. I thought they were going to grab breakfast and return. They didn’t.
Heck. I didn’t even know they had an old church.
The key in planting this new fellowship is to develop a tough skin and let the Lord keep my heart soft. And, never, ever, get cynical when planting His church.
Why? Jesus promised to build it. It’s His responsibility. “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
His church is the people.