New Faces, New Spaces

A country church started a Celebrate Recovery ministry for victims of opioid addiction.

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A county-seat church brought its church bus out of the garage for the first time in two years and started transporting children to Wednesday night events at their church.

A suburban church started a young adult ministry called “GAP” that meets over dinner in restaurants.

A dying church opened its doors to its Korean neighbors and started hosting Korean worship services.

These stories and more were shared at the North Texas Annual Conference over the past few days in celebration of the theme, “New Faces, New Spaces.”

Every year, the annual gathering of local United Methodists focuses on a different theme, and this year’s conference zeroed in on the effort to reach new people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was encouraging to hear how our brothers and sisters have attempted to do exactly that over the past year in a variety of creative ways.

This was at the heart of the work of the Vision Task Force over the last few months; the group was deeply concerned about how to be a vibrant church home for people who are not yet here.

And frankly, this is my own personal passion, too. I want the people of north Oak Cliff to discover the joy and fulfillment of following Jesus, and I want them to join us in our journey. I don’t think I will ever be happy or content to “rest easy” with the status quo.

There will always be room for one more worshipper or one more new member. There will always be a need to feed another homeless person, or to read with an elementary school child. There will always be an injustice to fight, or another wrong to right.

I get really excited when I see people doing creative things for the sake of God’s mission. That’s why Annual Conference is so much fun. We get to hear about the real practical work on the ground in North Texas.

But I think it’s time for us to also think about the meaning of “New Faces, New Spaces.” Because new spaces are springing up all around us. We’ve seen an unprecedented rise in the number of apartment units available in the area — up and down Singleton Ave., Ft Worth Ave., and Davis St, not to mention throughout the Bishop Arts District. The new spaces are already here.

Which means the new faces are on their way. Each new face represents another beloved child of God who is in need of community, friends, support, and inspiration.

Kessler Park UMC exists for each new face. That’s why we’re here. As the body of Christ, we literally represent Jesus to and for them. The stories at Annual Conference reminded me that we need to think seriously about these new faces. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions about our own spaces.

Can we make space for the new faces?

Do we need to create new spaces?

What do we have to offer the people of Oak Cliff?

Remember, the day that the church stops thinking about how to reach new people is the day that the church starts dying.