Have you ever had those moments where you can’t even explain the feeling? You can’t put an adjective on the emotion or the experience. It’s just one of those “THAT just happened…” moments. Last week I sat in my car, looked at a little key with tears in my eyes, and had a “THAT just happened” moment. Really the full story includes a lot of “those” moments. Let me explain theROCK story…
When I moved back to my hometown of Kingsport, TN in July of 2006 the reasoning seemed simple, “my family and friends are seemingly far from God, and it’s it’s time to go help”. That simple burden for my “people” back home suddenly went to a WHOLE NUTHA LEVEL by late 2008. I honestly began to wrestle with God over this new burden that really didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I was in a place that I felt comfortable and happy. I was pastoring a church that was full of people that I cared a lot about and they took care of myself and my family. I was 27 years old, been in the ministry for five years and was “going somewhere” in the denomination I was a part of… but everything that I had grown comfortable with was about to change…
The burden to “reach my family and friends who are far from God” suddenly became dwarfed by this INTENSE desire to reach ALL people who are far from God. Most specifically the people who NO ONE else wanted to reach or those who had been totally forgotten by the “system of church”. Over the course of several months I almost became angry as I heard story after story of people who have been so damaged by church and people who claimed to be Christ followers and I felt helpless to the point that I KNEW “I” had to do “SOMETHING”.
Enter “THAT just happened” moment number one. In December 2008 I sent out a resignation letter to a church that I deeply loved. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I didn’t know what the next step was going to look like. It was truly the first of what would be many steps of Psalm 119:105 in my life. For those that don’t know, a lamp light at your feet does not give out much light AT ALL. I would much rather have a SPOTLIGHT at my feet, instead of a lamp. Where’s the next step going? Heck if I know?
The next step ended up being the beginning of a new movement, a new approach, a new start, a new church… We rallied other people behind the same vision of no longer TALKING about Jesus, or STUDYING about Jesus, or DEBATING about Jesus, but it was time to rally people around the thought of actually SHOWING people who Jesus was by DOING the things He did and SERVING people WHERE they were. It was taking the motto of “Love God and Love People” to a new level by saying we are going to Love God. Love People. And Prove It. We felt too many churches “talked” but talk is cheap, it’s time to DO something about the fact that nearly 80% of Kingsport want nothing to do with the church.
Again, lamp unto my feet… I didn’t know where we were going to meet. Had no clue if anyone would even show up. No idea how to even begin to start a church, or all the details that would follow. But some way, some how on March 22, 2009 we launched what is now known as theROCK church. I remember coming home after “the launch” as I sat down and had one long exhale and thought, “Holy cow, THAT just happened…” THAT ended up being over 120 people who showed up and 8 of those who gave their life to Jesus Christ. I was blown away.
We began our first experience (we call our “services”, experiences because we think every time we meet to worship God it should be an experience, not a duty ridden service) in Andrew Johnson Elementary School. Our original plan was to maybe be there two to three years max, and be ready for our own facility. As of March 2014, we were still there…
Over the last five years I can honestly say I have seen the HIGHEST of HIGHS that you can experience in the ministry. I remember going through a stretch where we saw 60 people give their lives to Jesus Christ and baptizing many of them over a 4 month stretch. We have seen marriages restored, addicts become clean, people who have never stepped foot in church come for the first time or re-enter the church for the first time in a long time because they found something different… We take serious the fact that we want to knock down every barrier and wall that people have so that they can simply see Jesus. We don’t want people seeing a church or a tradition or a pastor or a musician, we want to introduce people to Jesus. Because we fully believe that in one moment with Him everything can change.
However I can honestly say over the last five years I have also experienced some of the LOWEST of LOWS that you can experience in the ministry. You always hear the people say “oh that’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do” but we always think we are different. That won’t happen to me. I have been humbled more in these five years than I have ever been in my life. Being a portable church for five years is difficult. Not having a place to call “home”. Relying on volunteers to come every week, early, to turn a school into a church is no easy task. I have had many people whom I grew to LOVE dearly leave, because it was just too much. Burn out became a very real problem at various stages. The vision was there and the people wanted it and believed in it, but the grind was just too much. It was understandable. There were many times I was done too. If I was a volunteer, I probably would have left too. I will be forever indebted to the ones who stayed even in the midst of the roughest storms. People like Dean and Gina Grills, Bill and Kathy Riner, Laverne and Ruth Simcox, Daniel and Jessica Fisher, Ruth Ford and Jennifer Shelton. We went through seasons where we literally had NOTHING in the bank. We had a desire to be out of the school, but it was next to impossible with our budget and resources. I’m sure at times people assumed the end was near…
Lamp unto my feet… I never felt at peace with starting any sort of “capital campaign” for a new building or property. I don’t know why? I knew God had bigger plans for a different facility but it just never “felt right”. Until I was walking on the beach in September of 2013 and I felt God say “it’s time”. In October 2013 we launched a new initiative called “The Imagine Initiative”. We asked people to pledge and give to the vision of theROCK church over the course of 2 years. Lamp unto my feet… not a clue where we were going! We asked people to give even though we had no building in mind, we had no blueprints, we simply had a dream and a vision to reach people so they can experience life in Christ. We knew a building wasn’t going to solve every problem in the world, but we felt if we had an opportunity to be strategically located in our own facility, our vision was possible. Although our people pledged close to $60,000 towards the vision (which was AWESOME) we still had no clue where God would lead us.
For really the better part of these five years I felt a pulling toward downtown Kingsport. Regardless of where we went, the thing I kept telling everyone that asked, is that we needed to be in an area that is NEAR PEOPLE. We wanted a place that we could show the love of Jesus to people. Foot traffic would be even better! So we began to pray and seek and ask God to move us where HE wanted us. The search was much like our five years as a church. HUGE HIGHS and TREMENDOUS LOWS. For instance a property that the moment I laid eyes on it, I was like “THAT’S IT!”. So we inquired about the property and sure enough it was about 3 times the amount that our budget would allow. And my downtown dream seemingly became a nightmare as time after time we were shot down because our budget was too low and the scene downtown was too competitive for an upstart such as ourselves. I had many long conversations with God, just asking “what’s up? Like seriously, I don’t really understand anything? Is this it? It was a fun ride while it lasted, but theROCK was only but a season? Is that what this was God?”
Then it happened… out of nowhere really. Over the course of the last year we have built a great relationship with Billy Wayne Arrington of Lamplight Theater and Billy Wayne Ministries. He’s been a huge asset and a tremendous friend in the ministry for us. He contacted Joe and Brandi Broadwater (two people on our Lead Team) and said I may have a place for you guys. By this point I had become so skeptical of the process that it was a total “have to see it to believe it” mentality that I had developed. Then I found out the property he was referencing was THE PROPERTY, that I first fell in love with at the beginning of this process! So immediately I was dejected again because I already KNEW this property was out of our league and way out of our price range! So for me, it was a “NEXT”… but only God… only God… the realtor comes back and asks one more time what our price range was. We told her. She contacted the owners of the building and “they’re interested”. WHAT?!?! NO this is NOT the same property!?! I’m sure I got pretty annoying as I told Joe and Brandi, “NO you’re SURE? It is THAT property? For THAT price? QUIT LYING! I can’t get my hopes up anymore!”
I still can’t explain it. I still don’t know really how to articulate the emotions and the feelings that I am experiencing, but it was not a cruel joke. It is reality. In a way that ONLY GOD could perform, we recently finalized a lease for our DREAM PROPERTY for this season of theROCK church. It is DOWNTOWN. It is STRATEGICALLY LOCATED. It allows us OPPORTUNITIES we have YET TO HAVE at theROCK church. So without any further ado, here is our new location. These are all BEFORE pictures, and as you can see there’s not a TON of renovations that are necessarily needed, but we are about to retrofit this sucker to be a facility that is RELEVANT and a place YOU WANT TO BE AT. I can’t wait for you to see the designs that are already in the works…
140 W. Main Street
Kingsport, TN 37660
Here you will see what will be our WELCOME area, that will be full on with refreshments every Sunday, a TV so you can view the experience as well as other cool features
Next is what we will call “the Loft” and this is where we will have our ROCK church experience with all the things that you’ve come to love about theROCK with many more additions…
My favorite part though about this facility is the fact that it will have it’s very own kidsROCK wing. I’m not going to show all of the pictures for that, but if you’re a young family we want you to know we will be creating environments that are SAFE, SECURE, and SUPER FUN for your kids. WE CAN’T WAIT!
We have not set an official date for our first Sunday in the new facility yet. But I will let those who read this in on a little secret. As of now our plan is to have an official HUGE GRAND OPENING in Fall 2014. However we will still be meeting in the facility on Sunday’s starting no later than May 2014. We just aren’t going to market and blast all of our stuff out there until the Fall because by then we will have all of our renovations completed and will be ready to make a BIG SPLASH in our community. But we would love to have YOU come be a part of the excitement and momentum now, and help us build for this Fall GRAND OPENING. You’ll probably see some “COMING SOON” signs around town, and you help us spread the word. God obviously has bigger plans than even I could envision.
Before I end this I do want to say one HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who was associated with our renting of the Andrew Johnson Elementary School facility. The custodians, support staff, school administration were all NOTHING but WONDERFUL. It is bitter sweet in a way because we developed great relationships with those people over the last five years.
Have you ever had those moments where you can’t even explain the feeling? You can’t put an adjective on the emotion or the experience. It’s just one of those “THAT just happened…” moments. Last week I sat in my car, looked at a little key with tears in my eyes, and had a “THAT just happened” moment. Can you blame me?