In 2003, Anthony Scoma (M.Div. 2002) planted
Southwest Family Fellowship among the post-Christian population
in Austin, Texas. The church, which meets in a shopping mall,
has grown from a core of 23 to 100, 80% of whom were not in church
before coming to Southwest Family Fellowship. Anthony describes
their ministry philosophy.
Our goal is to accept people without assuming where
they are in their spiritual journey. We encourage non-Christian
visitors to feel they are a part of our church—as if they
belong—even before they make a commitment to Christ.
Pastor Scoma with
his core leadership group.
When a core member brought a co-worker one Sunday,
I could tell the visitor was moved by what she had experienced.
Later, when her friend asked what she thought of the church,
the woman replied, “It was great. Everybody was so friendly,
and I felt really good there. Do you think it would be rude if
I went back?” Taken aback by the question, our member asked
what she meant. The visitor replied, “Well, I really don’t
believe all that [about Christianity]. I mean I don’t not
believe it either, but I really liked being there.” When
our member explained the church’s philosophy, the visitor
This young woman, whose mother is a practicing
witch, had been to a church only once before and was in the process
of searching for her spiritual path. She had been reading books
about Islam, Buddhism and Catholicism, but she loved what she
experienced in the body of Christ at our church. Although not
yet a believer, she has attended services, including mid-week
prayer meetings, nearly every week for five months.
When young adults have kids, their priorities
shift. What might be different about postmodern parents is that
they want to be hands-on with their kids’ development.
We are committed to encouraging families to take a spiritual
journey together. Before the main Sunday morning service, kids
bring their parents to The Buzz, a Bible-based, interactive service
that features drama, music and video. Each month the leaders
highlight a different value such as discipline, trust or cooperation.
Even secular parents want their kids to learn these values, and
our church has grown because of this focus.
Kids bring their
parents to a service called The Buzz.
When kids come to The Buzz, they want to bring
their friends. One girl came with a classmate for three months
before her parents visited. Her mom, who had grown up as a Buddhist,
told us her daughter was writing notes like, “Dear God,
hope you have a good week.”
She had never seen anyone display a personal relationship
with God like that. The girl’s father eventually started
attending, and now the entire family—although still on
a journey of faith—comes regularly.
Authenticity and respect are huge keys to communicating effectively
with our audience. Our demographic is among the most educated
in the nation and, like many postmoderns, on the lookout for
manipulation and arrogance. While not apologizing for the Bible,
my approach to preaching is different from the traditional Pentecostal
church. The biggest difference is in the closing. I encourage
a decision but do not push for one. I lay out the information
clearly and leave the choice up to them. This comes from a respect
for people’s God-given intellect and decision-making ability
and my deep trust in the Holy Spirit to change hearts. The Spirit
of Christ alone turns a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.
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