Missional Living in Denver
A missional community at a Denver light rail station is growing by leaps and bounds, with more than 20 adult baptisms over the last year. Much of the growth is happening in the homeless community.
CityCenter MC (missional community) focuses on homeless ministries and meets a couple of times a week in a storefront a few steps from the platform at Englewood Station.
"The core team of our CityCenter MC is about a dozen Christians—some homeless, some not—all of whom are fully committed to the up, in, and out of life together," says church planter Dave Cheadle. Up, in, out is the rhythm of life in a missional community as people worship God (up), grow in relationship with other believers (in), and serve others together (out).
"It's not just the baptisms that get us excited," says Cheadle. "It's also the discipling and the growth of disciples who actually start living into radical rhythms of up, in, and out.
"Everyone is in deep discipling relationships—both being discipled and discipling others.
"In addition to the core group are 20 or so 'regulars,' mostly homeless folks who are part of the family but are still learning many of the basics and are still leading in mostly supervised ways. Then we have another 20 to 30 folks who are orbiting in and out of the family. These are folks who love to hang out with the CityCenter MC family, but they have not yet fully committed to the challenges and accountability of an up, in, and out lifestyle. All told, our CityCenter MC is 40 to 60 folks who are each known by name and treated as family."
CityCenter MC is part of a network called CenterPoint Community. As each missional community in the CenterPoint network grows and multiplies, it specializes its mission.
God at work
"Evidence of God being at work through the CenterPoint movement is everywhere," Cheadle says.
"People are coming to Christ and changing their lives. Weary Christians are being revitalized. Nominal Christians are becoming devout and active. Addicts and prostitutes are experiencing family and discovering life in the kingdom of God."
"We love hanging out together and doing God's work together," says Paul Milroy, who leads CityCenter MC with a growing team that does everything from passing out blankets to helping people find jobs or apartments. "It's just like going to a family reunion, except with a family that likes you."
"This summer we are promoting some leaders and forming a second CityCenter MC," Cheadle says. "As this happens, there will be more chairs at each family table that can be filled by new additions to each family. Both families will then be growing at the same time and, Lord willing, both will themselves eventually multiply into a third generation that will go from two families to four families on a mission."
CenterPoint MCs use an innovative model of leadership development. They grow people from first-time volunteers to full leaders through four steps:
1. I do, you watch
2. I do, you help
3. You do, I help
4. You do, I watch...and then a new volunteer watches you (back to step 1)
Depending on the task, it can take days or years to reach step four. Someone making popcorn for the homeless ministry, for instance, can get to step four in a single visit. With something like tutoring students in a GED class, Cheadle says, it could take months or years to move from step one to feeling ready (and having the staff agree) for step four.
"Walking into our CityCenter MC is like walking into the old Cheers bar," says Becky, one of the staff volunteers. "It's a place where everybody knows your name, and everybody is glad you came."
"When I was in high school I never felt accepted, wanted, or loved," says a woman named Octavia. "I have never felt more loved than when I am here. I mean, even when my family disowns me, I know that people will be here for me with open arms."
"When I came in I hated Jesus and I really didn't want anything to do with religion, but I found family here," DJ says. "I was loved no matter what. It was fantastic to get baptized here!"
Grace and truth
A final hallmark of CenterPoint MCs is an equal commitment to both grace and truth.
"When an addict or prostitute we know gets arrested, we visit them in jail and remind them over and over that they are forgiven," says Cheadle. "And when they get out and come back for a free hot meal on a Saturday night, we get in their face and remind them again that we do not want to see them hurting themselves, and God does not either, and that the truth is that unless they drop a couple of their drug-dealing friends, they're probably going to end up back in jail or worse.
"Same thing with Christian volunteers who come to help. We tell them right up front: grace and truth. We are thrilled that they've come to help. We love them! But if they start acting snobbish or begin to gossip, they can expect to be taken aside, where they'll be reminded that Jesus was not cool with that sort of behavior.
"It makes tough situations a whole lot easier and more fruitful when folks are conditioned to expect healthy doses of truth the way Jesus doled it out, and not just grace all the time."
Transformed and Transforming
"Our CityCenter MC is deeply committed to the kind of cultural transformation that is envisioned by T and T," Cheadle says, referring to Transformed and Transforming, the RCA's 15-year vision that focuses on transformation, leadership development, and mission.
"We deeply resonate with the call to equip emerging leaders, because that is at the heart of our MC model. As 'family members' grow in and with each MC, we challenge each other in all aspects of up, in, and out living.
"As folks are ready, they are invited into intensive discipleship huddles where leadership development is taken to an even higher level. We need to be able to double an entire leadership set every time an MC multiplies, so for us, leadership development is a must, not an option.
"Obviously, we're very excited about the third section of T and T, the call to engage in Christ's mission. We have experienced how by living into this sort of out challenge, personal transformation and leadership development are quite naturally taken to a much higher level when guided by those who've already been there and done that."