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I’ve been talking about our Synodical Conference this week and while doing so I realized that I use the terms Ablaze rather interchangeably. This has been confusing to people, especially to those outside of our Lutheran Circle. Let me clarify if I may.
There is ABLAZE! which refers to our Synodical Mission Program (something our family and home congregation supports) and there is Ablaze, the church plant in Northern Broken Arrow which is sponsored by The Lutheran Church of Our Savior. I didn’t pick the name – so don’t ask me why we named it that, I don’t know. I realize that unless you are part of our group, it’s really hard to distinguish what I’m talking about. Most of the conversations this week have been about the ABLAZE! initiative. For today’s post, I will be talking about Ablaze Church.
While some church plants receive funding from their districts, others are privately funded. We at Ablaze Church do not receive a dime of the Fan into Flame funding, and we are okay with that. There is another church plant in Bixby that does get district assistance and they need it more than we do. Thier Vicar (who is under direct supervision of a local pastor) has to raise his own salary and funding for his church and deserves a livable wage. Our pastor is already earning a salary from our home church and the time spent at Ablaze is 100% volunteer. He does not get compensated for his time there – and neither do the rest of us. We are all volunteers. All funding we receive is courtesy of our home congregation and private donations or tithes made by Ablaze families.
Our little mission start began on Easter weekend in 2006. We rent space from Liberty Elementary School and meet on Saturday nights with Bible Study at 6pm and services beginning at 6:30. Because of the rental costs and rules of the school we have to be out by 9:00 pm. Also because of rental costs, we can really only afford to be there one night a week. That does not leave a lot of opportunities for outreach which is why we host events from time to time.
Ablaze church is a 100% a mobile church. What that means is we have a trailer locked up at our home congregation across town. Every Saturday at 3:00 pm, a group drives out there, loads the trailer and drives it back to Liberty, 30 minutes away. The doors open at 4:00pm and for the next two hours we are unloading our trailer, setting up the cafeteria and running sound checks.
Can you imagine if the elders of your church had to do that every Sunday Morning? They arrive to a building with no pews, no sound system, no pulpit, no coffee or snacks, no Bibles or hymnals and they have to set everything up before church can begin?
Services at Ablaze end by 8pm. We have a short time of fellowship and our team begins to take down the sound system, pack up the nursery and the bibles and books and load everything back into the trailer. We pray and are back on the road to Our Savior’s garage by 9pm. Once there, our team unloads the trailer and puts the sound system back inside the church to protect it from the climate.
We’ve been doing this every Saturday for 4 1/2 years.
Yes, we have a praise band called Zion’s fire to lead worship. And yes, they do contemporary Christian songs as well as reworked hymns and original compositions. We also have confession and absolution, and pastor Dreier delivers not only the children’s message, but the sermon as well.
We decided early on that we wanted our signature outreach event to be the Easter Egg Hunt. Most churches today are only doing hunts within the privacy of their own court yards, for their own congregations. We wanted to be different. We wanted to reach the young families in the neighborhood. And so we opened our first weekend with 4,000 eggs and about 100 prizes. It was cold and snowy that day and we expected at most 100-200 people.
750 people showed up that day, filling the cafeteria. People were standing in the hallway to hear the message. And we were blown away. Seeing the need in the community, we went bigger the next year and planned for 8,000 eggs.
We made a few mistakes with the hunt in 2007. I’d gather that anywhere from 1,500-2,000 people showed up and we were only expecting 1,000 at the most. We didn’t want to turn people away and yet, our building could not contain the crowds. We learned a lot of hard lessons that year. This event failed on many levels. There was a crowd gathering outside while we were worshipping inside and even though people were stationed out there to guard the eggs families were lining up, a child yelled “go” and like that, all 8,000 eggs were gone. We learned a lot that year. We learned that we needed to be 100% outside. We learned to shorten the service. We learned to combine this with a food drive, to equip team members with walkie talkies, and to have security present. Did the results of this event keep us from trying again?
No. In 2008 we tried again, this time with 12,000 eggs and instead of placing them out in the field before hand, we roped and sectioned it off and placed eggs after people arrived. We also asked families to donate a can of food for Neighbor for Neighbor as they came onto the grounds.
We also did something unusual. We hired a clown to deliver the message. That is not a typo folks. We hired Stephen Smith, otherwise known as Tupper the Clown, to deliver the message for our hunt.