If I ever find myself driving through Conifer, Colorado I’m going to stop for lunch at the Angry Llama. It’s the restaurant operated by the folks at The Journey Church, and like most of their outreach ideas, it’s decidedly different.
Michael Cheshire, senior pastor of The Journey Church in Conifer, Colorado, has written a lively and entertaining chronicle of how God uses clueless but willing servants. How to Knock Over a 7-Eleven (and Other Ministry Training) contains twenty chapters of the most eclectic nature: they are first-person stories directly from the experiences of a group of people whose motto is, “No education? No funding? No problem!” You won’t see this book as a seminary text any time soon–but perhaps you should.
This is a book of ideas in action. It has no real order, but it doesn’t matter. With chapters titled, Forty-Six Acres Ten Chainsaws and a Little Elfin Magic, Waiting for Uncle Pete to Die, and Flying Monkeys Suck, you can pick up and start reading almost anywhere.
The title stems from a moment when Cheshire, a cage-fighting, fire-fighting, bi-vocational pastor, was convinced his team wasn’t up to the task of church planting. “We couldn’t even knock over a 7-11 much less start a church,” he said as he stormed out of a planning meeting. When he settled down and returned to the group, they had focused their planning on just that–the individual job responsibilities required to pull off a convenience-store heist.
The Journey Church is a community of work and fellowship. They daily walk out one of their highest values: contact with the public. It’s a journey you should take. Cheshire and his team started The Journey at the very time the economy started to tank. How to Knock Over a 7-11 contains practical advice buried in each story, the kind of stuff you would never hear in Seminary. Like Indiana Jones in his very first adventure, The Journey is comprised of people who apparently live by the saying, “I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go along.”
Cheshire’s advice is refreshing. He’s in favor of collecting know-how wherever he finds it: “Steal, steal, steal from churches that do it better than you. We take a ton from about fifty other churches. Is it wrong? Who cares? I don’t. Just copy those who do it better than you, and if they get mad, tell them to chill out and realize that stealing ideas is the highest form of flattery.”
Regarding Cheshire’s unusual choice of recreation–cage-fighting, he noted, “a Christian counselor explained to me that it was okay to have hobbies and do things that I enjoyed. He said, ‘Michael, God made you a fighter. I encourage you to do what you enjoy. If you don’t fight, then your soul will turn into a civil war.’ Close friends know my hobbies, and they are cool with it. My life is now fun and meaningful again. When what I do rubs someone the wrong way and he or she leaves my church because of it, I have to let him or her go, because my life has to be sustainable. . . I have found that most people understand the need for me to be a whole person and not just a ministry machine. I refuse to hide my life anymore.”
His insights range from the bizarre (“I have never had a team member quit that I have shot with paintballs. I have not seen an official study on this, but I am batting a thousand on this one, so I’ll keep it up”) to the deeply insightful: “I have come to the realization that everyone has a church. Everyone belongs to a community. For some, it’s a bar; for others, it’s a gym or coffee shop. But we all turn to others.”
Chesire and his gang are people who have seen God do the impossible firsthand. This is their story. He does not preach (much), nor does he prescribe (at all). The energy of their lives is reflected in the book and the results of a vibrant, growing church. It’s the sort of certification every church leader should have.