Editor’s Note: We noticed on social media that one of our podcasters/contributors, Richard Lee, had posted about a church that had launched in an atypical fashion recently. We reached out to Richard to ask if he could connect with the church’s pastor, Jon Coords, about this launch and share more about his story with the Missio Alliance audience. What follows is an edited version of their correspondence.
Richard Lee: Jon, tell us about One Church NJ. What made you decide to plant a church?
Jon Coords: One Church is a new church plant with a mission “to create a community of believers dedicated to living in unity by loving and serving others and getting proximate to our local community.” Two key statements in mission are that 1) we ARE a community and 2) we are IN the community. The name One Church comes from John 17:21 (NLT) in which Jesus prayed to his father that they (the church) “would be one as you and I are one.” Jesus is praying for the unity that exists between God the Father and the Son to be reflected in the relationship that those in the church have with one another. I believe that that sense of unity lived out in community is exactly what Jesus wants and is exactly what our local community needs. So we will love one another and we will love our neighbors by getting proximate to them and demonstrating our love.
Lee: What are some of the values of One Church that affect how it reaches the people of central Jersey in a way that might be different from other churches?
Coords: So we have eight core values which are Unity, Diversity, Simplicity, Community, Generosity, Participatory, Authenticity, and Multiplication. Each of these is different but points to an overarching theme and culture of unity and community as we call our people together and empower them to go and meet people right where they are at. We are about being outside the walls so much that we will have church in the community from time to time by serving our neighbors instead of meeting in our building. The idea is to think bigger about what the church is and what it needs to be. I don’t believe it’s God’s design for the church to be a holy huddle or a rock concert that attracts people to a show. Don’t get me wrong, excellence is awesome, but the command of Jesus to us is to love one another and show the world we are his disciples by how well we do that. That can’t always happen in our church building. We also have a First Serve Saturday outreach every first Saturday of the month. I saw a friend’s church doing this and thought, “That’s what church actually looks like.” I don’t believe it’s God’s design for the church to be a holy huddle or a rock concert that attracts people to a show. Click To Tweet
Lee: Your original launch date was set to be September 12th, but you recently moved up that date to September 5th. Can you tell us about that decision and how you made it? This was right around the time the effects of Hurricane Ida were making their presence known in your area of New Jersey.
Coords: We had been building toward September 12th for months, but as Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans but the Lord determines our steps.” I was sitting in my office starting to work on a message as the world around me washed away in historic flooding, displacing our neighbors and destroying their homes. I just felt like God placed it on my heart to live out what I have been talking about and be the church. How can I plan a celebratory first service when people are dying and hurting? So we changed gears and announced that we are planting a week early by joining together as a community to serve our community, that we wouldn’t have services in a traditional way, but we will still be worshipping our Lord. We identified many homes that needed our support and worked with the township on how we could serve them well.
Lee: What did you see on Sunday when you “launched” in the neighborhoods around you?
Coords: I had already been on the ground for a couple of days before Sunday, as a smaller group and I were just going house-to-house to help people. It honestly felt like a war zone. There were homes that had literally exploded so there was nothing left, people’s basements and first floors were already being dumped at the curb, and people just looked shell-shocked.
When we showed up Sunday as a group it was amazing! It was so fun to stand before our team of 40 or so people, after seeing what I had seen the previous two days, and share that there was no better way for One Church to begin than serving those in our community who just needed the church to be the church in that moment. Everyone on our team was so excited to be there and were pumped to help out. We emptied and cleaned basements, mowed lawns for the elderly, and threw a picnic lunch for anyone who could come in the community. It was an amazing, exhausting, beautiful launch day.
Lee: What do you think you are saying to the community-at-large when your first Sunday service is not located inside a sanctuary, but outside in the community?
Coords: I hope that what they hear us saying is that we love them, we are for them, and we are here for them. I hope they see the love of Jesus in the midst of their pain because we are with them with no strings attached. I pray that they see that they are more important to us than a building or event could ever be, and that we will be here for them whenever they need us.
Lee: What has been the response to your request for volunteers to help, and how has your offer of help to the neighbors been received from those in need?
Coords: Both have been so overwhelmingly positive. We have been sharing what’s going on in community pages and some think it’s awesome, some are wondering if it’s for real, some are financially supporting our Ida Relief fund, and some are strapping on their boots to lock arms and serve. People from afar and in neighboring towns have been looking for ways to help, and I love that they are finding their solution in the church. The response from our neighbors was incredible. Many couldn’t understand why we were there and struggled to express how they felt in the moment. The whole situation was so overwhelming for them, so it meant so much to see the church there to just simply love on them in a real and tangible way.
The community started catching wind of what we were doing and were nominating homes for us to help, and dozens of local community members were sharing our posts and thanking us. I am now in contact with the local township officials identifying further, ongoing ways to serve the community.
Lee: Will One Church continue to find direct ways to serve the community like this in the future?
Coords: This is the heartbeat of our church. In many ways this is exactly why we decided to start this “new thing”. I wanted to make a tangible difference in our community and meet people’s physical needs before we did anything else. I never want to have our growth strategy be about a building or coming to a building. Let’s see how many people we can reach outside our building even if they never come in. I never want to have our growth strategy be about a building or coming to a building. Let’s see how many people we can reach outside our building even if they never come in. Click To Tweet
Lee: For many of us, we are not local to central Jersey, but we might like to help your efforts with those affected by Hurricane Ida. What are ways that we can help if we can’t help with our hands and feet?
Coords: The best way is to give to our Ida Relief Fund at https://pushpay.com/g/onechurchnj. Make sure you select the Ida Relief as the fund, and every dime will go directly into our community to help them with whatever they need. I am praying that we can help “insure” people who don’t have flood insurance!
Lee: What is one story that stands out in your mind from that launch day?
Coords: I had the honor and privilege to pray with several of the people we were able to help. My heart just broke for one single mom; we met her through her neighbor who stopped by our supply distribution spot because she had seen that we had cleaning supplies for people. We gave her what she needed, and 15 minutes later we showed up with eight people to remove all of her belongings from the home. As some stayed to clean, others then were able to meet her neighbor and help her do the same. She was different, though. I could just see the pain all over her face and body. She was losing everything she owned and had worked so hard for and was trying to hold onto her furniture because she knew she couldn’t buy new. We stood by her truck and just talked, and I was able to pray with her and invite Jesus into her pain. That is what being the church looks like! It was the best church service ever.