Our guest blogger today is Ben Mandrell. Ben serves as a church planter with the North American Mission Board in Denver, Colorado. In February, 2015, he and his team launched Storyline Fellowship in the northwest corner of the Mile High City. The vision of Storyline is to become a multiplying center, spawning many churches along the Front Range. In 2017, a strategic residency program will launch for aspiring planters. If you would like more information on this program, please email Lange@storylinefellowship.com.
When my wife and I were first married, we moved into a tiny apartment. When I say tiny, I mean: two rooms and a bathroom. There were no corners for clutter, and we definitely didn’t drop much cash on furniture. Though the space felt confining at times, our minimalistic space caused us to get outside to play tennis, to enjoy afternoon walks, and to linger long over chips-n-salsa at the local dive. We made the most of it and now look back on that season with fondness.
Fast-forward fifteen years, and we now find ourselves fostering that same mentality in our local church. Storyline Fellowship is a 19-month old plant, with no place to keep our things. We live out of trailers and rented spaces, and yet—we are rediscovering that lean living has its advantages. It’s all in how you look at it!
- Manual labor creates meaningful friendships among believers.
Every Sunday morning at 6 AM, the trailers roll up to a school, and volunteers roll up their sleeves. These people push and pull, stack and scoot. For three solid hours, this work creates the space for inside jokes to be made and a sense of accomplishment to be felt. One day, this weekly project will go away, and we will miss it around here. These people are making memories and learning each other’s stories.
- Manual labor creates a meaning place for spiritual explorers to serve.
Many people that walk through our doors in Denver have never been to church before in their lives. They are interested in knowing more about the faith. They feel drawn to the warmth of community, but they feel intimidated because they have no biblical knowledge. One of the best ways to honor the unchurched person is to ask him/her to help out! We’ve seen God “set the hook” in many lives through the sense of dignity received by being genuinely useful. By hanging a sign or taping down a cord, seasoned Christians and spiritual seekers find a common ground.
- Minus a building, we keep it simple.
In my last church, we had rooms galore—a sprawling campus with on-site educational space. As a result, we received constant requests for use of the spaces. Sometimes, this was a blessing as we saw ministries birthed that truly made a difference. Other times, we allowed ministries to launch without excellence and purpose—someone’s “wild idea” that was still half-baked. Being portable makes it easy to say, “Sorry, we can’t do that right now…we just don’t have the space.” Conversation over.
At Storyline, we strive for programmatic simplicity so that our people have time to invest in their unchurched friends and neighbors. While being portable can feel limiting at times, it can also be quite liberating.