Monday, December 01, 2008

I Rode the Subway to Church

Yep, you read that right.

For the past three years, I've followed the blog of Pastor Mark Batterson in Washington D.C. who has taken an unconventional approach to spreading the gospel. What I appreciate about him is his conviction that the church ought to be the most creative place on the planet and that it is called to compete in the middle of the marketplace.

He planted National Community Church in 1996 with 19 people meeting in a school. Today, over 1,200 people attend one of 7 services held at four different locations in the DC area. So what's so creative about that, you ask?

Well, NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the DC area. Jim and I were in DC this weekend and hopped the subway over to Union Station, the most visited destination in the nation's capital, for the 9:00AM service. Nearly 150 people gathered in the Movie Theater for praise and worship and a challenging message from Pastor Mark.

The crowd was made up of young and old, many nationalities and a rather large group of homeless people who were thankful to get in out of the rain, enjoy a cup of coffee and a donut and hear about Jesus. There were also people in attendance who had just gotten off Amtrak and subway trains with their suitcases in tow---heading home after the holiday weekend.

I really wanted to talk with Pastor Mark and let him know how I've been virtually stalking him, but he slipped out a back exit and hopped the subway to go preach at another location along the line. He preached at three different stops yesterday.

Even though Pastor Mark had left Union Station, there were still two more services at Union Station that morning. Those people would have live praise and worship and then watch Pastor Mark's sermon, taped earlier, on the big screen.

The other creative endeavor and the one that allows them to have a voice in the marketplace is their coffeehouse, Ebenezers. It is located behind Union Station and is the only free standing coffeehouse on Capital Hill. We hung out there Saturday night and drank hot chocolate and iced coffee while lots of young twenty somethings read or worked on their laptops. Downstairs was the first of two NCC Saturday night services taking place.

So why would a church build a coffeehouse? I'll let Pastor Mark explain:

"Because Jesus didn't just hang out at the synagogue. He hung out at wells. Wells weren't just a place to draw water. They were natural gathering places in ancient culture. Coffeehouses are postmodern wells. The vision of Ebenezers is to be a place where the church and community cross paths."

In their first two years, Ebenezers sold over 103,000 cups of coffee and was named the #2 coffeehouse in the metro DC area by AOL CityGuide.

If you are ever in the DC area over a weekend, I highly recommend you check out National Community Church. It's probably holding a service at a subway stop near you!


Tiffany said...

You have got to be one of the most dynamic people I know. Awesome post. Thank you for sharing!! Very cool...

TCC said...

So cool. I've been reading his blog for a long time and thought it would be neat to visit.

We've got to get together so you can tell me more!!!