|In the contemporary fable, "Field of Dreams," the
hero of the movie hears a still small voice say, "If you build it, they will
come." And responding to that whisper, he builds a major-league size baseball diamond
in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. In the final scene of the film, a long line of
headlights is seen winding up the roads to the well-lit baseball field.
On nearly every dark and chilly winter night in Moreno
Valley, California, that scene is mimicked as cars come and go, some dropping off and
picking up their teen-age kids, others driven by the older teens and twenties who share a
common interest in the extreme sport of skateboarding. The location is a ten-acre ranch
where a small patch of land has been turned into an outreach to the "tribe" of
Every mission has a price
A few years ago, God gave me a mission. "To support,
encourage, and nurture the planting of churches targeted to reach
teens-to-twenty-somethings and their parents." A funny thing happened on the way. As
my wife likes to say, "Honey, you shrunk the church!"
A lawyer by trade, for years I had read every book I could get my hands on about
the subject of "church growth" and "church planting."
I had served as the executive pastor of a denominational church for a number of
years culminating with a relocation to a new church location. When I took over as the
interim pastor following the founding pastor of the local Vineyard church, I thought, I'm
finally on the way to my mission!
Unfortunately, God had a lesson to teach me. That lesson
was, "You don't know everything." For the next three years, everything that used
to work, stopped working. As a person who believed that cause and effect were a
predictable process, this was a hard lesson to learn. I also found out, like Charlie
Brown, that "I love mankind, it's people I can't stand."
I had every possible kind of bad experience, from church splits, to church
rebellions, to gossip and slander. I was kind of cheered up when I read a book on pastoral
burnout and realized that I hadn't ended up on the floor of my bathroom in a fetal
position, like the author of the book.
Eventually, the church had "grown" from about 125 to 30. It was time to
call it a day, and start over.
An amazing thing happens...
At the first meeting of our re-launched church last summer
an amazing thing happened. In preparation for that evening, I asked one of our teenage
boys, "What if we were to rope off an area of the parking lot for skateboarding, and
set up for your band (a Christian punk group) to play, would you be into that?" He
said yes, and that he would invite some of his friends.
I didn't think a whole lot more about it until
that night when nearly 60 skateboarders showed up! At one point there were more people
participating in the skateboarding and watching what was happening in the parking lot,
than were inside for the things I had planned for the launch of our new church.
I have learned from the scripture and from experience that you have to keep your eyes open
to see what God is doing, and then to act on it! God was doing something with
skateboarders! One of my fellow church members, Marv Schuler, jumped in that night, picked
up a microphone and began to run a skateboard contest. He and his wife, Karen, were called
that night to reach out and to minister to these kids.
It is now six months since that night. The re-launched church is a small group that
meets on Sunday evenings (ten adults), but the skateboarding outreach is alive and well.
I've just come from the Ranch where we have poured some concrete and built some ramps and
where the group meets most every Thursday night for skating, snacks and to hear the gospel
around the fire pit.
A few weeks ago we held the Christmas party. Karen prepared and served a
dinner, and desserts consisting of several pies. A professional skateboarder who stopped
by a few weeks ago, shared the gospel. The Christian punk band, CIP (Christ in Progress)
played. And over 100 kids showed up on a winter night!
I told Karen that night, that God is going to save some of these kids with mashed
potatoes and pumpkin pie. That's the only gospel presentation they are going to need. When
I told her that, she said she just wants to see the kids get saved! Marv has been
constructing a half-pipe for about 4 months now, and we just finished it last week. Karen
and Marv have taken some of the kids who need a place to stay into their home.
Going at the speed of money....
Six months ago
we prayed that God would send us workers, specifically some young men who could identify
with the skaters and minister to them. A couple of days later, Hunter Chapman came, with
dreams of a camp to reach skateboarders and plans for a half-pipe. He also brought donated
lumber. This week we watched as the first kids tried out the completed half-pipe. It took
four months to complete, we've been going at the speed of money.
The dreams of a camp, with bunkhouses and shower rooms, basketball courts and swimming
pools to go with the skateboard ramps and skateboard runs, with playing all day and the
gospel being presented at night, are being realized slowly but surely.
Marv and I joke with each other that we don't dare tell anyone that we
are doing this outreach. We already have more kids than we can
minister to effectively.
What's happening at the Ranch is not normal church, but
these kids (mostly teenage boys, with a few girls who like to be around the boys) are
experiencing the gospel through presence evangelism (the skate ramps and food have been
presented as a gift from God); through personal evangelism (there is plenty of opportunity
to talk with the kids one-on-one); and through proclamation evangelism (the kids hear the
gospel around the fire pit every week).
This is not your normal youth group, most of the kids have
no church affiliation and do not come from homes where God is an active presence. But God
is doing something great.
This week one of the kids we've been ministering to stayed
late and asked us to pray for his mom, she just discovered a lump in her breast. His dad
died a year ago. He's really worried about his mom. And so, we prayed.
A lot of raw material...
I'm not sure if we will ever get a church out of what we
are doing at the ranch. I do know we have a lot of raw material to work with. It's fun to
be in on the ground floor of something that God is doing. It's also fun to be part of an
adventure, especially when you don't know how it's going to turn out.
|>>> Click here for a photo-report
of the Moreno skate-boarding ministry.
here to see part 2
The Ranch is in the
process of trying to comply with City codes. When Marv went to the
City to apply the fee was over $3,000.
Charles Wear is
a former pastor and lawyer in Southern California.
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NEXT WAVE, January 1999.
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