By Amber Cassady
Loveland, Colo.- Elevation Church in Loveland, Colo. is living proof that you do not have to be a giant congregation to go out and serve a city. As they minister to families and singles in southeast Loveland, core members of Elevation Church strive to live missionally in their own neighborhoods. Missional Life Pastor Sergei Yepishin says,
”We have learned you don’t have to be 10,000 strong to make a difference.”
Since its first preview service in October 2011, Elevation Church, lead by pastor Angus McKinley, has sought to serve Loveland in a variety of ways with the attitude of Christ Jesus. For example, a group of people from Elevation spent a day helping single moms and widows struggling to take care of their homes. One widow had been unable to touch her yard in the five years since her husband’s death. As they cleaned out, trimmed and cleared her yard the woman said, “As the garden becomes more alive, I am becoming more alive.”This simple act of service helped to heal the sadness of a woman’s broken heart. McKinley believes that the rejuvenation of this one woman’s garden represents the story of restoration that the church is supposed to be telling through all that they say and do.
Most Sundays during their gathering time, McKinley will give out what they call “life rhythm” assignments to those in attendance that will challenge them to see the mission field all around them. The assignments are simple such as inviting a neighbor over to share a meal or asking a co-worker how they can be praying for them. “If we could get everyone at church to share a meal or do a hobby with someone who doesn’t know Jesus, we would begin to transform the community,” says Sarah Yepishin who is married to Sergei and currently the director of family ministries for Elevation. These efforts to practice living life with outsiders could help address an apparent problem of individuals trying to live on their own in a town full of people that need one another. “People just don’t know how to interact with one another here,” Sergei explained. “One guy I know told me that I am the closest friend that he has here and he has been living here for four years.”
Beginning Elevation Church has not only brought lessons in servitude but also in having faith in God’s faithfulness when things do not look like they will go according to plan.
“This whole journey [of church planting] has been a faith awakening,” says McKinley. “I was on church staff in Kentucky for 12 years. I was comfortable there but not always on fire. Stepping out and doing this new church is a total faith ‘walk on water’ kind of thing.”
After not even a year on the ground, McKinley was planning a sermon about baptism and borrowing the baptistery from The Pursuit Church in Fort Collins because five men had accepted Christ and wanted to be baptized. When things did not go as planned and all five men had to reschedule their baptisms at the last minute, McKinley decided he would have to take a step of faith and continue on with the original service unsure if the baptistery would even be used that day. God interceded in the hour of uncertainty and just before the service began McKinley was approached by a woman named Jen Schroeder who asked if it happened to be baptism Sunday. She had become a Christian two months earlier while finishing up cancer treatment. Schroeder was baptized that morning (pictured right)- cancer free and brand new in Christ.
Outreaches like sports and music camps in the community have also involved unbelievers in what God is doing through Elevation Church. A couple who does not yet claim Christ has been helping with sports camps, bringing their friends to church and offering to pray for Elevation. This has opened up the door for individuals to see the Gospel first hand as they serve along side believers to reach the community around them. This is putting into practice the life rhythm assignments even in ministry- doing what they normally do and inviting outsiders to join in.
God will surely use this openness and faithfulness to expand His kingdom in the Loveland community. McKinley remarks about how excited he is for Elevation Church, “I have been in ministry for 25 years but I have never done anything like this before!”
*Photos courtesy of Angus McKinley*
Amber Cassady is the missional correspondent this summer for Colorado Baptists. She is a senior communications and journalism student at Texas A&M University.