You know those home improvement shows we all watch; whether by accident, because it’s the only thing watchable on or because we just really enjoy the shows? We love seeing the results of taking a home that is in disrepair, total abandonment or just antiquated design and turning into something new, fresh, wholly unrecognizable from what it used to be. A lot of the changes to homes on those TV shows isn’t just in construction materials, it’s an imagination that doesn’t focus on what it looks like now, but what it could look like later.
Now, imagine that same concept, but for an entire neighborhood; one that some might call abandoned and that others intentionally left because it just wasn’t good enough.
That’s what Justin Stice saw when he stepped into a neighborhood in Lubbock known, ironically enough as “The Heart of Lubbock.” The irony lies in the fact that the “heart” looks on the outside like it’s in need of major surgery. It’s not the healthiest, not flourishing, and an indicator of some of the worst statistics in Lubbock.
But, Justin is a dreamer. If you’ve met a typical “dreamer,” amplify that by one hundred and you’ll find Justin. Justin doesn’t do anything small. He had a dream to see “The Heart of Lubbock” neighborhood awakened to God, so he and his family bought a house and moved there. He had a dream to open a business in the neighborhood that could reach people, mainly college students, and he acted on it. He saw an old, historic church building and dreamed that this building could once again be used to reach people for Christ. None of these dreams were small, but that didn’t scare Justin away.
This dream is founded in a core belief that is the key to healing a neighborhood:
“You are loved. You are valued. You are believed in.”
CO-OP Church began as The Grove Faith Collective four years ago with Justin as its pastor. The Grove has been a home to many people over those years, but one of the biggest issues they had was a place to gather. After starting in the living room of a home, which they outgrew, they then began meeting in Sugar Brown’s Coffee shop, which they again outgrew. They weren’t just missing a meeting space though, they were missing what necessitates a “CO-OP”: a partner. Enter St. Luke’s United Methodist Church and the New Church Starts Action Team.
An opportunity of moving into the historic Asbury United Methodist Church building came along, but it needed work to be usable for CO-OP Church. Through the partnership with St. Luke’s, CO-OP Church was able to secure a grant to renovate the Asbury building through the New Church Starts Action Team, an essential component of the NWTX Strategic Plan.
Not only did St. Luke’s help in securing a grant, but St. Luke’s came alongside CO-OP Church on the ground as well. This partnership isn’t just about money, it’s about ministry. Andy Hurst, Senior Pastor of St. Luke’s said, “Anytime the Kingdom of God expands, St. Luke’s wants to be a part of that.” St. Luke’s provides co-op Church a supportive infrastructure when it comes to church finances and administration, they help with children’s ministry on Sunday morning, they give leadership and encouragement when things get hard and they even got their hands dirty and helped renovate the Asbury Church building.
CO-OP Church is reaching a group of people that most of our churches struggle to reach. Andy Hurst recognizes that “90% of the people are under 30 and 50% are college students.” He said the church saw how important those numbers are and decided that a partnership could help reach all generations for God.
CO-OP Church is now meeting in the newly renovated church building, but most of all, they are getting to be the church outside of the building. Justin would tell you to dream the biggest dream possible and see if God’s dream isn’t bigger and Andy would tell you to go out and find someone doing work for the Kingdom and help. The renovation of Asbury United Methodist brought new life to a place that needed it. The Grove Faith Collective reimagined what “Church” can be. CO-OP Church, in partnership with St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, is living a dream of revitalizing “The Heart of Lubbock.”
So, what kind of partnership is your church called to engage in? What kind of dreams does your church have for making disciples? How can you step in and help others change the world?