LAWTON—Like a lot of church plants, Lawton, Credence didn’t have permanent space for a church office and midweek gatherings when the church first launched. Pastor/planter Brady Sharp launched the church with the vision “to place the good news of Jesus in every home, every workplace, and every marketplace in Lawton, Fort Sill, and beyond.”
Under Sharp’s leadership, the church plant developed an idea that became a part of the church’s permanent culture of service and evangelism.
“We thought why not go to the same place over and over and ask the Holy Spirit to open doors of opportunity?” Sharp asked. “Why not ask the additional question, take people’s petitions seriously and take them before the Father? Why not prepare our hearts before we go meet?”
Sharp and his ministry team put this strategy into practice of being witnesses to the community through frequent contacts made with area business. They based the vision on Eph. 2:10: “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”
“We think of it like three meetings,” Sharp said. “The first meeting is with the Holy Spirit to prepare ourselves. The second is with the staff of the business—we get to know them by first name and the names of their family members or pets. The meeting we were going to have anyway is the third meeting that becomes the bridge to live like Jesus has redeemed us to live.”
One example of this approach is that the Credence leadership team meets regularly at a coffee house in Lawton for staff meetings, disciple groups and other meetings involving the church
“We have been frequenting this place for years now. The coffee is good, but the relationships are our aim,” Sharp said. “We were going to buy coffee and binge the WIFI anyway. We were going to be meeting in a building for, sometimes, hours at a time. We determined to use the times when we meet in purposeful, intentional ways.”
Through the church’s relational approach, the team met Andrea, featured in photo above, who works at the coffee shop.
“During the summer of 2020, in the height of the response to COVID-19,” Sharp said, “one of our Credence Community leaders encountered Andrea multiple times the same week. Near closing one night, he asked how we could be praying for her. She said she was looking for people of God who would love her and accept her in their community. He asked if she was part of a church anywhere. She was not.”
On the following Sunday, the church leader’s wife picked her up to be part of the church’s Sunday gathering. Andrea didn’t have a driver’s license. Her first Sunday was her birthday. The church was meeting in house churches at the time due to the pandemic. That house had prepared gifts and flowers, and they celebrated her birthday.
“The host family of the house invited her to stay for lunch,” Sharp said. “Another family invited her to dinner later in the week, and this continued. She now says that not even in her family of origin has she ever been around, served with or worshiped with a group people who loved her like family. In fact, when we encountered her, she did not have a permanent place to live as a 19-year-old. We wouldn’t have known any of that without engaging her,” Sharp said.
In a recent Baptist Messenger WordSlingers blog post titled “Dining on Mission,” Sharp reported that Andrea is a core group leader in the ministry of the church and is now serving a lot more than coffee.
“(Andrea) is sharing the love of Jesus,” Sharp said. “She is also actively working at the coffee house, and she is doing more than sharing espresso. She is actively praying for, loving on and serving the people of this establishment with the love of Jesus.”
Sharp encourages other Oklahoma Baptist churches to find ways to engage and connect with community businesses.
“Join us by thinking about where you eat, drink, recreate and shop as not just places to make exchanges and transfers, but to make relationships and transformations,” Brady said. “Ask the Spirit of God to make your heart aware of those on the other side of the counter. Consider all the places you already frequent, and ask the servers, baristas and cashiers about life and about them.”
Read Brady’s blog “Dining on Mission” at baptistmessenger.com/blog-dining-on-mission.