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I’m starting a monthly Gathering…

This post is my incessant rambling about starting a gathering in the Phx area.
I love all Church sizes, shapes, and styles.
I have ZERO desire to criticize any church-any time. I have ZERO desire to compete or compare with another Church who is doing what Jesus desires. I love all those churches and pastors and people.

There is no right or wrong way to do Church as long as it honors the teachings and commands of Jesus. I started Parkway Christian Church in 1997 and led it through the era of 2010, where we merged and became one Church with 2 locations with Christ’s Church of the Valley. That was 12 years ago. For the last 12 years, I’ve been wrestling with the Lord and asking Him to get me back into something biblically influential for Him. Every door has been closed by the Lord or others. I’m convinced that God has been trying to tell me something for 12 years. How bullheaded am I? God has been pointing to this very thing that has been under my nose for the last 8 years. I started Return Hope International 9 years ago, and we do work in Uganda, Africa. We’ve got a school that’ll hold around 800 kids. We’ve got around 40 acres of farmland. We have a Church that meets in the school. We help women stuck in the sex trade to learn tailoring and earn money. We drill freshwater wells, and it’s a joy to watch people who have NEVER had a fresh-water-well since the beginning of time receive clean water. The only thing Return Hope International is missing is an American gathering.
I corresponded with the IRS for 2 years, helping them understand Return Hope is actually a Church, not a mission organization. They eventually agreed.

I’m starting an hour-ish simplified Gathering every 3rd Thursday of each month. It all Begins Oct 20.
— Teachings will be Bible focused and each month will be different. (Many of the gatherings might be more of an interactive classroom setting for those who’d like to ask questions.)
— Small Groups? (I will help this if desired, but the responsibility will be on the group attenders)
— No plans to high overhead facilities or property.
— Parents in charge of spiritually raising their own kids.
— Any tithes and offerings or donations are dedicated to the mission of Jesus locally and internationally through a tax deductible contribution through Return Hope International.

The following is my response to an opinion about all this on my Facebook post…The push-back was focused and a fair concern about the sustainability of it all…and all of it being too burdensome on people, home usage, etc.

My Response:
I have secured a public facility to rent for our gathering once a month. (TINY Fraction of the cost of owning) And that is the only time we meet for all group gatherings. I’m not asking anyone to use their homes for anything. Totally agree about a company-ready home being hard to maintain…I don’t want anyone coming to my house. :)LOL
Homes would only be used if the owner wants to host a small group, etc. Groups don’t have to meet every week either. The small group curriculum will be…..the Bible. (I have a great recommendation on how to use the Bible for small group discussion) I repeat, Small groups are not something I am administering, it will be completely volunteer and self led.)

As far as those watching and wondering about this all…I’ve reserved a facility(Rio Vista Rec Center on 101 and T-Bird) for Oct 20 for our first all-group gathering at 6PM. I also booked every Third-Thursday after that. It doesn’t matter where we live in The Valley; that location is easily accessible and sustainable to attend…especially when it is only once a month.

I’m 52 years old. I’ve Been there-done that in Church world. I’m not interested in a consumer-driven mentality, or cultural christianity. I have no patience for personal preferences, not even my own. This is about Jesus and the simple ways He wishes we’d do things. Covid impact and Culture Issues have changed things dramatically, might the Church need to adjust its methodology a bit? Unapologetically, I’ve always been a disrupter. This really isn’t disruptive. And I have zero fear of failure. I’ve just got to try this. If it doesn’t sustain itself, I’ll keep serving Jesus the way I have.

Return Hope has existed for 9 years doing Jesus stuff the whole time in Uganda, Africa. Return Hope is actually legally declared a Church 501c3 Not-for-profit already.
It’s time to add a gathering to this side of the big pond. So Kelli and I are gonna go for it.
I appreciate any prayers and any early adopters who want to be learners with us.
While I’m at it, this idea I’m referencing is already being done worldwide by many. My thoughts here are not new, and the Bible says there is nothing new under the sun anyway.

A thought/idea I would like to disrupt. The thought about…”GOTTA DO LIFE TOGETHER ALL THE TIME.” I.e….go to each other’s kid’s games, potlucks, and breakfasts, mission work together, play in the park together, travel together, sing together, etc etc etc. There is nothing wrong with that…but it is all exhausting. When the Church is always together, it often turns inward, circles the wagons, and isn’t as friendly to outsiders as the insiders wish to believe. God continually, in Scripture, scattered and broke up the Church so those who don’t believe in Him can be reached. I think the Church should meet less together…learn to feed themselves….then be Jesus to anybody in their line of sight and circles of influence. Then Once a month…let’s get together and see the crowd God gathers, grow and produce spiritual fruit!

There is zero pressure to make this about all of us doing life together all the time. We’re all swamped. The phrase “doing life together” is overwhelming, intimidating, and can’t be sustained. I am fully convinced the young pastors doing all this “life-together” are burning their candles at both ends. Almost all people are overwhelmed in our culture. The last thing an unchurched person wants to do is have more meetings and more people to care for. LESS IS MORE!

This is about a stripped-down gathering with all kinds of flexibility. I don’t want to put on a show for anybody. This is going to evolve with time. For now, its me teaching the Bible in the way and style God has gifted me. We’ll take communion when we gather. Everything else is open to shift.

Those who join have so much flexibility in what they do or don’t want to do. The most essential thing in this gathering is everybody spending time in the Word/Jesus daily on their own. Then…teaching your kids of all ages to do the same. (Most agree, the common day youth ministry is not working well and hasn’t been for a long time.) My challenge will be for all to be like Jesus to those IN our lines of sight and TO our circles of influence for Jesus. IN-TO. I’m no longer willing to hand-hold anyone to the gates of Heaven. Get off your arse, and walk your self with Jesus. It’s time for us to feed ourselves. I prefer to read my Bible and spend time with Jesus every day. Attend a worship service once a month, and impact my lines of sight and circles of influence for Jesus. It’s Church without millions of dollars spent on facilities and land. Nothing wrong with millions spent on such; I just don’t want to.

We Americans are a bunch of try-hards, we are a bunch of corporate growth competitors, addicted to leadership and it’s slowly killing us. Jesus says His yoke is light and His burden is easy to carry. We are guilty of not making it light and easy. Let’s change that.

Less is more! Keep It simple stupid! God desires us to live a life of …

“Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens (all of us) and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.”
1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:11-12‬


“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:1-4‬ ‭

Pastors and Christians are dropping like flies to stress, sin, busy-busy-busy. etc.
We’re all a bunch of try-harder crazies.
Slow down. Less is more.

Well..I’m gonna try this. Stay tuned. See you Oct 20. Call me if you have questions. 623-628-1400, or email me at trent@returnhope.com

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