I have written many times on this blog about problems I see with the way most churches operate. So it is a pleasure to be able to write about a community of christians who seem to be doing things ‘right’.
Stockbridge Boiler Room
This christian community is located in Grand Rapids Michigan in the US, home of the Mars Hill church established by Rob Bell, and the city which responded to an adverse description in Newsweek several years ago to produce a live one-take version of the classic, American Pie through the city’s streets.
“Boiler Room is an international movement of simple Christian communities that practice a daily rhythm of prayer, study and celebration while caring actively for the poor and the lost.” The Stockbridge Boiler Room was established about 8 years ago, and has grown into a community with the motto: “be true. be kind. go.” and a bunch of activities.
In partnership with other churches in Grand Rapids, round the clock prayer is a basis for all they do.
Wednesday nights, about 60 neighbours in their generally poor area meet to share a meal and fellowship. This has allowed the disparate and sometimes struggling neighbours to be part of a supportive community.
After school mentoring
I love this one. Twice a week after school, boys gather in an old shed that has become a bicycle repair shop, to be mentored by some of the men in the community, to learn the skills of repairing and maintaining a bike, and to earn credits to save up to buy their own bicycle. Kids are clamouring to join the program. Next year, they’ll expand the mentoring program to include Basketball, Volleyball, Music, Songwriting, Photography, Fiber Arts, Dance, Outdoor Adventure and Organic Gardening.
Sunday afternoons they have “church“, which appears to be informal and participatory.
People from anywhere can become interns at the Boiler Room, and participate in community activities as they learn to become servant leaders. Internship includes a 10-month Vision Course that follows a live-learn-love model of growth to develop discipleship foundations. A longer degree level course will soon be made available as a second stage.
The future of “church”?
It seems to me this small caring community epitomises much that is good in christianity:
- they are servants (several have moved to less attractive neighbourhoods to be part of that local community, and the founding leader recently stood down to allow another leader to take on that responsibility),
- they are built on a foundation of prayer and hearing God’s plans for them and then obeying,
- they care for the community around about them and offer services that contribute to “social capital”, and
- they train and equip young disciples via hands-on experience.
The institutional church gets a lot of bad press these days, often quite justified, because of hypocrisy, unloving attitudes, materialism and pride. That form of church has to go down. And I can’t help feeling this is the form of church that will take its place.
I certainly hope so. I do believe christianity is changing, and I would love to be part of such a church myself.
If you never click on another link on this website, I recommend you check out these four videos Stockbridge has made to share its vision and activities.
Photos: Stockbridge Boiler Room