EULESS– The sun beats down on my bare arms as I approach the field, realizing only now that I've neglected sunscreen and silently praying that I find a slice of shade beneath the tents and inflatables adorning the wide stretch of land behind Foundation Baptist Church. I'm soon lost in a sea of vibrant orange — the color of choice for church members — and vibrant conversation.
With street-side access from Harwood Road, Foundation finds itself uniquely located; its front porch opening onto a busy street and a back yard that reaches into a quiet neighborhood. In the model of the early church, they seek to engage the world around them; to become part of the community in which they have been placed and to serve and love those around them. In a neighborhood such as this, that means making space for children to play.
“We're in a neighborhood, in a community, and we want to show them that we want to be a part of that community, as well,” said Matt Thompson, a member of Foundation Baptist and a newlywed whom I interviewed along with his wife. “We've been at this church for about two months,” said Brittany Thompson, “I think that we've grown a lot since we've been here. We've learned a lot about the gospel and evangelism. I think that was something that we had kind of lost touch with for a while.”
On this particular Saturday, a healthy majority of the church has come to cook, to serve, to play and to love. Beneath a tent emblazoned with the 6 Stones logo, half a dozen volunteers prep burgers and ice water. Across the field, a dozen more man the various entry and exit points of massive obstacle courses, slides and bounce houses. Between them, the aforementioned sea of orange ebbs and flows. I dive in.
I'm greeted by a cheerful group of motorcycle enthusiasts from First Baptist Church Keller, Foundation's planting church partner. We gather under their camp rig and talk bikes. Well, they talk bikes… I, proud owner of exactly 0 cc's worth of two-wheeled steel, try to keep up with the lingo. It isn't long before we're graciously imposed upon by a boy of around 8 years. He hands each of us a “Trillion Dollar” bill and asks if we've ever considered the Trillion Dollar question: what comes after death?
Having personally witnessed the kerfuffle that is too many conversations at once in my own life, I graciously excuse myself and let the boy do his work. No need to distract from this important conversation. With that experience in mind, however, it's hard to find anywhere in the vast field to plug myself in as a Writer/Representative from 6 Stones. And that's a good thing.
I learned a long time ago, on the beaches of South Padre Island, that Gospel presentations are highly personal, often somewhat private experiences. The last thing I want is to jump into one and disrupt its flow, distracting an audience from a message far more important than I. Suddenly, it's impossible to join in anywhere: the Gospel is being shared in every circle and encounter from one side of the lawn to the other. I smile and sit back. It's nice to watch the Church be the Church.
“I grew up thinking I was a Christian my whole life and I didn't understand that being a Christian meant that you look different than the rest of the world. I thought I could keep God in one box and then keep all of the other things that I wanted to do,” Brittany reflected after the last inflatable had transformed into a deflatable once more.
“That's not how it's supposed to work. God isn't in a box. He should be your whole life. Nobody ever shared that with me before college; nobody explained what it meant to be a Christian. So for me, whenever I evangelize to people, I think of where I was; that I even grew up in a Christian environment and I didn't know who God was. So every time I share with somebody, I think about what I wish someone would have told me.”
For the men and women of Foundation Baptist, more than community is happening today. Love is happening. Deep thought is happening. Life change is happening. “It's an outpouring of love to the community. We're providing food and entertainment and we're excited to be there. So whenever they come to visit, it gives us a chance to show Christ's hospitality and love towards them in that way,” Matt explained. “Obviously, we're there with the ultimate goal of sharing the gospel with them because realistically, all of it is meaningless unless we share that with them.”
“You meet a lot of people who are broken and lost and don't know it,” Brittany adds. “You never know what you're going to get, but it's important to share with anybody you can, because you might be the one who changes somebody's heart. You might be the one who introduces somebody to something that they've never heard. It's an incredible opportunity.”
For this couple, who met through ministry in their college years, there is nothing more vital than to develop and understanding of God. To have relationship with Jesus; a relationship that all people need and that few of us truly understand, even if we think we do. To them, these discussions are the most vital service one could ever hope to provide. They are glad to meet physical needs — to feed and to serve and to entertain — but they cannot be satisfied until they tend to the more pressing, enduring needs of the spirit. Everyone wins in this equation; everyone sees the need to be more than an island in this sea of orange.
The beauty of this day is that 6 Stones did very little to make it happen. We love to serve the community, but we love even more to empower the community to serve itself. By putting a few tents and burger patties in the right hands, we've given a new church all the tools they need to do what churches are meant to do: to impact the people around them in a visible, palpable way.