On December 17, 2014, my phone rang and our twenty-year-old son Adam was calling...
Wes Barry and his family are planting a church in Charlotte, North Carolina. This is ECO’s very first East Coast plant.
Heading off to the mission field
Six months ago, I was hugging the congregants of the large, downtown North Carolina church I had served for six years. My family and I were preparing to leave the comfort and stability of this 200 year-old church to become missionaries.
We didn’t need to get shots or passports. We didn’t even need to fill up our car with gas to hit the mission field. God had called us to be missionaries to the SouthParkites and Ballantonians of South Charlotte. Following the example of Paul in Acts 18:7, we left the religious epicenter of our community in order to go next door into the homes of our neighbors. We realized, being a neighbor does not simply mean you live around others in a neighborhood, but that you actually invest in them and invite them to follow you following Jesus.
One very important conversation
The journey began when a member of my old church called me out of the blue saying, “Wes, I need to meet with you tomorrow.”
Now, a message like that makes my pastoral-spidey-senses tingle, and I wondered what was going on. Was there some huge issue in his life?
We sat in my office and had a very surface level conversation for an hour. Each time he paused, I waited for his big confession. By the end of the hour, we hadn’t moved beyond casual chatter when he said, “Oh, by the way, I am part of a men’s group and we work out at 5:30am at Freedom Park and then I lead a Bible study afterwards. It’s called ‘Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith.’”
I jumped at the opportunity. “Fitness, Fellowship, Faith? Those are my three favorite things. I will be there tomorrow.” The next morning, I joined this group of men and have been going ever since.
As I began to meet men on their own turf through Fitness, we forged the bonds of Fellowship so that issues of Faith could emerge.
A few months later, I had forged a stronger friendship with the congregant who first told me about the group and I was able to ask him why he came into my office that day. He then shared, “My wife had seen you teach the youth and talk about your love for your duct-taped Bible last spring, and she began praying we would get to know each other better.” I uttered, “Well I don’t know what you’ve gotten out of this bond, but tell her thank you because her prayer helped to change my life.”
Instead of waiting, now we go to them
Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith (F3), has allowed me to meet with people where they are rather than waiting for them to polish up their lives and come onto a church campus. Instead of being like a bullfrog sitting on a lily pad waiting for a fly to come by, I have been called by God to become a lizard scurrying about from coffee house to parking lot to Panera Bread meeting people where their lives happen and bring the gospel to them.
Partnering with ECO has allowed our family to follow our dreams and live a missionary life by planting a new ECO church. For us this began by forming a genuine community of Trailblazers who will help clear the path towards a new worshipping community.
In the fall, as Trailblazers began to emerge, we had a growing desire to converge for authentic worship. We hosted three evening advent worship services and welcomed 73 children and adults at the gatherings. The stories from men and women who had given up on church, but not on God have confirmed that God has set Lindsay and me into this exact time and place to draw people closer to Jesus Christ (Acts 17:26). After three weeks of worship, we intentionally folded up our tent and went back to the mission field with the prayer that God would re-gather our growing community in April for worship.
The Trailblazers have felt led to call ourselves, Waypoint Community. We want to be a place where people come to get their Bearings for this Journey called Life. In ultra marathon races, a waypoint is a tent where racers converge at mile 30, 60, and 80 to be nourished, mended, and have their vitals assessed. After 15 minutes they are forced back onto the course; if they wait too long they will lose the energy and motivation to finish the race. Our vision is for a small, simple, and genuine community where people will gather for authentic worship on a biblical foundation to be impacted daily through Jesus Christ.
Thank you to ECO for providing my family the gift of being on the frontline of this ministry. What a privilege to hear and see God transform men and women from pew-sitters to Gospel participants!