Church @ Toad's Part 2

If you had a chance to read the first blog entry, “Church @Toad’s,” then you know that a group of friends and I are planting a church right in the heart of New Haven, Connecticut, on the front steps of Yale University in the most unchurched, non-religious region in America. Our first public gathering was on Easter Sunday. In the weeks leading up to the big day, answering the big questions became the focus.

How to Promote?

How do you get the word out about a brand new church to a bunch of non-churched people? We knew that this entire initiative had to be masterminded by Jesus, or we were wasting our time. So promotion began with prayer. Our launch team of about 25 people each chose 10 people who don’t attend church and are far from God and began praying for them every day for the past 2 months. That’s 250 unsaved people receiving daily prayer. Our plan is to personally invite those 10 friends and hope that this gathering will be their opportunity to interact with God.

Of course, we couldn’t stop at 10 friends. The UPS and FEDX guys have been invited (hope a fight doesn’t break out) along with Facebook friends and those people on our Facebook friends’ lists who we have no idea who they are. We’ve invited random people at gas stations and restaurants and every other opportunity for human interaction in the last few months. Since Toad’s Place (the local club where we are hosting the service) is relatively famous in New Haven, the conversation often starts like this: “Hey, how’s it going? Have you ever been to Toads?” Hopefully, Jesus intervenes from there.

Promotion, of course, has also consisted of posters—lots of posters. We’ve effectively blitzed every decent-sized university campus in New Haven County, and we’re now going back for seconds and thirds. Our team has tried to be as creative as possible, grabbing people’s attention and still communicating our message. Toad’s Place isn’t exactly a hole in the wall kind of place (occupancy 650—kind of huge for your first public gathering) so this could be suicide for a first impression or the spark that ignites a move of God in the city. I guess we’ll find out.

What to Preach?

What do you preach about at your first public meeting? I’ve preached lots of times to many different types of people in many different settings, but for me, there is something different—something historic—about this gathering. It’s 373 years to the exact day that John Davenport and a group of 500 Christians stepped onto the shores of New Haven Harbor and founded the city of New Haven. Davenport’s goal was to build a city, “where the church would provide the force to hold the community together.”

Wow. That gets God’s attention.

His goal hasn’t exactly become a reality yet. However, on the 373rd birthday of his arrival, a small group of believers are convening at the one place that actually has become the force that holds the community together—the famous local bar—to ask God to remember the prayers of Davenport and bring them into reality in our generation.

So of all the topics that could be preached, I landed on the new birth. I’ll preach out of John chapter 3 and share about the miracle of regeneration. It is the most exciting, outrageous, explosive, and hope-filled topic in the entire world— the simple truth that every one of us can and must be born again. The new birth is the only hope for the human heart, the only hope for a broken world, the only hope for a little artsy intellectual city that’s in desperate need of God.

High Hopes for New England

We plunge into our first meeting with high hopes. Who will come? How will people respond? Are we going to die out here in the spiritually frozen North East? I don’t think so. It was God who chose the little town of Bethlehem. He chose Gideon, Peter, and David. He likes unlikely situations, and I’ve got this feeling that His eyes are on New England right now.

Justin Kendrick is on staff at HolyFire Ministries and frontman for the band Out of Hiding. For more information, visit http://www.holyfireministries.com/

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