Frequently Asked Questions

Practical Matters

When and where do you meet?

Saturday nights at 6:30. Since we are just starting out we will be meeting at Corby and Jess’ house which is in North Hazel Dell, near Gaiser Middle School. Contact us for the address.

Food and Drinks

Because food sensitivities and allergies are becoming more common, there is no practical way to provide something to munch on that works for everyone. You are welcome to bring your own goodies for you and your family to snack on. The church will provide water, a selection of teas, and brewed coffee (decaf on request). Donations for these are appreciated.

Pets and Service Animals

Assuming we meet in our home, there are some considerations. Winnie (a very friendly Great Dane) and Momo (a mood-changes-with-the-wind tuxedo/Figaro kitty) round out the Stephens Clan. We do our best to keep the hair and dander vacuumed up. If you have severe dog or cat allergies our home might not be an option for you. Additionally, we ask that you do not bring your pets with you. Certified service animals can be accommodated.

Big Picture Concepts

Why are you starting as a church and not a home Bible study?

Call it a leap of faith! Then again, one person’s home Bible study is another person’s church. We believe that the vision/direction/vibe that The Lord has given us to pursue meets a need that currently isn’t being met in our area. Not better than anyone or anything else, just different.

Is this a church plant from an existing church or a brand new church?

We are not a formal church plant or outreach from an established church. We are a new church built on lessons learned, the good and the bad, from 30+ years of serving and leading. You could say we are a church plant from all of the churches of which we have ever been a part.

What kind of church planting model are you following?

None in particular. We are not against church plant models and methods. We have friends whom the Lord is using in awesome ways to reach people that are following specific church planting models. If you can call it a model, ours is going to be connecting with Christians who are like-minded (see the rest of the FAQ for what that means) and want to go in the same direction.

Who are you trying to reach?

Short answer; people. Longer answer; In the Book of Acts we read about the Apostle Paul going to Jewish Synagogues and teaching about Jesus as the promised Messiah for Whom they were all waiting. These were people who already knew the Bible and already knew God. Some followed Paul because they received his teaching. Some didn’t. After this Paul went to the Gentiles (non-Jews) who knew nothing of the Bible let alone the Hebrew God and a Messiah.

We are starting off trying to reach that first category of people; those who already know Jesus, have some knowledge of the Bible, and are looking for a place to experience God’s grace and be equipped with His word. We aren’t trying to “steal sheep” from other churches. We will make no attempt to deliberately draw people away from anywhere. At the same time, we think there are other Christians who are looking for what we want to facilitate. If you are already considering a change we would love to chat before any decisions are made.

What are you looking for in someone who might become a part of the church?

To piggy-back on “Who are you trying to reach?” we are looking for people who are “leaning forward.” You know how if someone is really interested in what you are doing or saying that they will lean forward to get a little closer? That’s what we are looking for; people who are already interested in what we want to do and how we want to do it.

The reason we are doing what we are doing is because we can’t find anyone else who is doing it. There are plenty of other ways church is happening and we never intend to be negative about any of them. Find what fits with how you are wired. This is how we are wired. Are you learning forward?

What does success look like?

When we were first asked this question three Bible passages came to mind. These aren’t the only definitions of success possible, but these currently resonate with us right now. Matthew 28:19-20, Ephesians 4:11-16, and Ephesians 5:18-21.

  • Matthew 28:19-20 is “The Great Commission” which is primarily about discipleship; teaching people to mimic Jesus. It’s Jesus saying, “Play follow the leader with me; you’ve watched what I’ve done and taught. You do and teach it. Help others to do, obey, and teach just like I did with you.” After all, Jesus Himself was playing Follow The Leader with His Father (John 5:19). When that is happening, we will consider ourselves successful.
  • Ephesians 4:11-16 talks about the “equipping of the saints for the work of ministry.” God has ministry for all of us. It’s ministry that we get to do, not have to do. When people in the church are being equipped for ministry in their families, workplaces, schools, etc, and that ministry is happening, we will consider ourselves successful.
  • Ephesians 5:18-21 is Paul’s instruction to be in a state of being filled continually with God’s Spirit which is His breath, His life, His strength. The signs of that happening are described here as people who speak God’s praises to one another and have a song of praise to God in their own hearts. They give thanks to God always for all things. They cooperate with one another out of respect for God in order to bless others above themselves just like Jesus did/does. When those things are happening, we will consider ourselves successful.
  • None of this success is because of us, nor would we ever claim credit for it. It’s simply putting into practice what’s in God’s word.

What does evangelism and outreach look like?

We believe that evangelism and outreach are fruits, natural byproducts of healthy individual Christians and a healthy church as a community. Just like apples “happen” on cultivated, mature and healthy apple trees, we believe that evangelism and outreach will happen as individuals are equipped, mature and as the church is healthy. There is a bit more to it than that, but that’s the FAQ version of the answer.

How will the church grow? MOST IMPORTANT FAQ

From the beginning, something that we want to always be true over the course of the life of this church, be it short or long, is this; we value church health over church growth. Something that is growing isn’t always healthy. Look at cancer. Something that is healthy grows to its God-intended size and then stops. If a church isn’t healthy, growth is irrelevant and might hurt people along the way. If a church isn’t growing, as long as it is healthy and doing the “Jesus stuff” well, that’s all that really matters whatever the size. (See my review of “Small Church Essentials” by Karl Varth.)

We don’t care if we are 10, 100, or 1,000 people so long as the church is healthy. What does a healthy church look like? See “What does success look like?” for some examples as well as the rest of the FAQ.

What is the church leadership structure?

This will develop in relationship to the size of the church and as relationships develop in the church. We believe that accountability is proportional to relationship. As long as we are small enough to fit in the house, one pastor/leader who is receptive to input and suggestion is appropriate. That is built on trust that goes both ways.

If we outgrow the house and need to create a non-profit for various financial reasons, a board of elders made up of individuals who meet Biblically prescribed requirements will be selected and the pastor will serve as a “first among equals.” Let’s start with that.

What Our Time Together Will Look Like

What Is This “Vibe” Of Which You Speak?

For fear of creating yet another churchy mission statement, a concise way to say it would be this; a community/family/gathering/coming-together of believers being equipped from the Bible to represent Jesus fostered by an atmosphere of God’s grace. First, we are people who come together. Pick your preferred word. I’m an introvert so this part isn’t my favorite but I know it is vital. God designed us to live and learn together. When we are together our time will primarily be spent going verse-by-verse through books of the Bible in order to accomplish what Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:11-16 (see Success above) and other passages. When we are together doing this with one another, it should produce what I’ve come to call an “atmosphere of grace.”

What is an “atmosphere of grace?”

It isn’t something that is conjured emotionally. It isn’t something that is the result of a formula. It isn’t something that is easily defined but you know it when you’re in it. It is something I forgot about and was missing from my pastoral ministry for years. Here is the best way I can describe it.

In December 2018 Jess and I visited a church where a friend of mine is the pastor. When we walked in the building we both felt something in the room. It had nothing to do with the decorations or the way people engaged us. It wasn’t the song selection or level of musical skill. It wasn’t the teacher or what was taught. It was, an atmosphere. It took me about a week of chewing on it until it hit me; it was God’s grace. The sense of God’s grace was spiritually tangible, if that makes sense. It was a sort of presence of love and encouragement. I believe that when individual people who know by experience God’s grace and whose lives are driven by that grace come together, it produces that atmosphere. Imagine a room where everyone in it had one of those yellow glow sticks. Individually the sticks aren’t that bright. But when you get a bunch of them together their light will fill a room. Glow sticks of grace? Whatever you want to call it, I want it. It will be considered an essential.

In fact, another way we would consider ourselves successful is if, when asked what our church is like, people would not say, “The worship was amazing and that preacher is so energetic!” Rather, we hope that they would say, “God’s grace is present there among His people.” I believe this atmosphere of grace is fostered when the Bible is taught and worship is expressed with this end in mind.

How is the Bible taught?

Short answer; verse-by-verse expository teaching/preaching. Longer answer; in terms of style, Corby is definitely more teacher than preacher. Preachers tend to be more inspirational which is great and has its place. The aim of preaching tends to be provoking an emotional response in order to produce action or change, ideally motivated by the Holy Spirit. Great. If that is how God connects with you, Grace Chapel won’t be the place for you and that’s OK.

While teachers tend to be more educational and information-oriented, that also isn’t quite our style. Our aim is to educate in order to equip for an experience. (Alliteration!) We teach the Bible in a simple manner in its historical and cultural context (educate) picking up on patterns and principles so as to make them practical (equip) all the while anticipating that The Lord will present us with opportunities to share and show God’s grace to others (experience). Whew!

To quote Chuck Smith, “It’s the Spirit of God working through the Word of God in the lives of the people of God.” Every Bible study will include a suggested practical element for individuals and families to do during the week.

What is the worship/music like?

Simple. Unperformed. Emphasizing who God is and what He has done (grace). Not a rock show but not an elementary school Christmas concert either (but the kids are cute). Corby and Jess both come from musical families. We value music done well. We also value that time together singing to the Lord should be an accessible experience. We might forget the words sometimes, play the wrong chord, or even the wrong song. It’s fine. Who cares? The quality of our worship is first measured in our hearts, not the quality of the band or anyone’s voice.

That said, we enjoy everything from hymns to a variety of more modern worship ministries and musicians. If you don’t dig our style, don’t let that keep you from being a part. We believe that worship isn’t a Sunday-only thing. We’d be happy to recommend music to listen to on your own time so you can worship the Lord seven days a week.

But if you are looking for a gregarious preaching and concert-style worship experience, we are not the place for you and that’s just fine.

What do you have for our kids?

Seeing as we will be meeting in our home to begin with (unless something changes very soon), all kids are welcome to be with us. If you think your kids need something to do feel free to bring whatever you think will help occupy them. Corby was a children’s performer for four years; he knows how to incorporate them. From the beginning we will have two main goals for Children’s Ministry. 

  1. We want kids to learn how to be a part of a church community. Even if we were hundreds of people in our own building, that is something we would emphasize. If they are a part of your family then they should be a part of our church family. Singing, praying, encouraging; kids can learn and do all of these things with the whole church.
  2. We want to come along side parents and equip them to be the primary source of Bible teaching and example of Jesus-living in the lives of their children, not the church. One way we will do this is to provide suggested practical things that parents and kids can do that will be taken from the Bible study. For example, if “kindness” was part of the study, your family would gather and come up with ways that they could be kind to someone at work and school, maybe identify someone specific who needs some kindness. Later in the week, when everyone had the chance to practice it, kids and parents would share that experience with one another.

Parents and kids have a lot to learn from one another. Imagine sharing those family experiences with the rest of the church family. That would be so encouraging!

Other elements we value and want to foster

We want to be holistic (in a Biblical way)

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” According to Jesus, these are the greatest commandments. All of the Mosaic Law is summed up in these. Love God with all that you are, with all that you have (including your body), and love those around you. It doesn’t get more holistic than that.

In other words, we want to eliminate our compartmentalized lives. We don’t have a church life and then the rest of our lives. We have one, whole life. God’s grace motivates and equips us to live it as such.

We want to be minimalistic

We want to be unencumbered by extra things. There are too many extra things in our lives. We don’t need extra things in church. We admire style, we admire design, we enjoy convenience. Sometimes we become a slave to those things instead of those things serving the church. Keep it simple, saints. KISS.

We want to be more Mary than Martha

This comes from Luke 10:38-42. Martha and Mary were sisters. Martha invited Jesus and probably His disciples into the house. That’s a lot of people to take care of. Mary sat and listened to Jesus teach while Martha was busy “with much serving.” Martha got irritated and asked Jesus to tell Mary to help out. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (NKJV)

There is always stuff to do. Good stuff. Important stuff. It will always be there to do. The most important thing to do is to spend time with Jesus. Then we will serve Jesus and others with grace and not guilt.

We want it always to feel like a home

Being together should be warm, welcoming, and interactive, not a spectator experience (like going to a theater). Sometimes people come to our house and they are so comfy that they actually doze off on the couch. That’s comfy! If you fall asleep in church, it’s ok. It’s being recorded.

We want to allow space in our services

Have you ever sat through a church service and it feels like you are being marched through an agenda? Maybe a teacher says something and you need a moment to process it but they are on to the next illustration or anecdote.

Sometimes you just need to pause. Rest. Listen. Ponder. Reorient. We want to allow for that space as a part of what we do.

We want to be temperament-friendly

It seems like our American church culture has decided that to be a Christian is to be an extravert; outgoing, exuberant, enjoys talking to everyone about everything. That just isn’t so. It isn’t even Biblical. God makes the extrovert and the introvert. One isn’t better than the other. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.

We want to honor and allow for how both are wired when it comes to being a part of a church. It’s possible you will see name tags that include the labels “Extravert” and “Introvert” so that we can respect each others space. You never know.

We want reproducibility

This isn’t intended to be a one-person-show or a one-trick-pony. We want to be a part of building ministry leaders to serve in our church and be sent out to serve elsewhere. God willing, we want this style of church and ministry to be reproduced elsewhere. We don’t want to copy-and-paste this, but allow for God to raise up others with the same freedom to serve as they are wired just as we are doing here.

Ideally, people wouldn’t leave our church because they are mad or hurt, but because they are being sent to serve Jesus elsewhere as members or leaders in another church.

We want to be OK with not being OK but not staying that way

No individual is perfect nor is any church. It’s OK to acknowledge that imperfection, even brokenness. That’s where God’s grace comes in. God loves us just as we are. But He also loves us too much to leave us that way. Its OK to recognize that we aren’t OK. The next step is to seek the Lord as to how we heal and grow into what’s next.

This church is not intended to become anyone’s sole source of income

We aren’t building a church so that Corby, Jess, or anyone else who leads/serves can quit their day job.

Success is not a steady paycheck from the church.

The moment that motivation becomes a reality it is time to shut the church down. Is a workman worthy of his wages (1 Timothy 5:18)? Yes. But that isn’t why we do what we do, nor will it be why anyone who leads or serves at Grace Church does what they do.

If we grow, and the leadership team decides it is appropriate to pay someone for their time, it will be a team decision.

Questions are welcome

Some churches have a vibe that makes it not OK to ask questions. “Just be quiet. Believe what we tell you to believe and do things the way we tell you to do them.”

We are not OK with that.

Do you have doubts? Let’s talk about them. Do have a question that seems basic? Ask it. Jesus taught people by asking questions. It is how we process and “own” the answers for ourselves. Questions are welcome so long as the dialog is civil.