“Societies fail because their primary concern becomes the perpetuation of their cultural model at the expense of nearly everything else,” says Tim Suttle in his book Shrink. These ideas of faithfulness to community over the status quo made me wonder, what if we change the cultural model of our small towns by discovering their deepest needs and meeting the people in that need? Then offer them Jesus.
That’s what a missional outpost is all about. It’s a “fresh expression” of the church, a missional model that meets people in their need within a given community, or goes where they are already gathering within said community, and builds church from there. (For more on what this can look like check out Michael Moynagh’s book Church for Every Context.)
My husband and I are the parents of two amazing daughters, the youngest of whom has autism. Our journey thus far has actually been a painful one. Truth be told, I don’t want my daughter, Gracie, to have special needs. In fact, I pray for her healing all the time. But one day, as I walked into her kindergarten classroom with her after a therapy session, and listened to the chorus of “It’s Gracie,” “Hi Gracie,” “Gracie’s here,” “Where’s Gracie been?” I walked out realizing – this isn’t about me. These kids will never be the same because Grace was in their class. They will never look at special needs kids the same, and their hearts will be forever changed.
This is the unique place that God has put me. So my family is in the process of creating Gracie’s Place, a therapy center, much like the one Gracie started out in, that offers hope to families and help for kids with special needs and a Vineyard missional outpost and church plant in Northern Wisconsin. Lord willing, all looks good for the doors to open in April of this year.We think our success in this endeavor could change the lives of Northwoods families, the structure of school districts and the hearts of communities. We plan to create a consortium of people engaged with the lives of marginalized special needs kids. And, in so doing, create the basis of a church plant for some of the most unreached families in America – those with special needs kids. We seek to plant a missional outpost that speaks to a deep and desperate need. Serving this population has the potential to impact families, schools, tribes, clinics, hospitals and most importantly these kids, who are struggling to reach their full God-given potential.
My family and I are in the midst of answering God’s call as it unfolds. Yet, I never wanted to be a church planter and certainly never wanted to run my own business or be a social entrepreneur. Since becoming a Christian, my goal has always been taken directly from Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” My prayer right back to the Lord, for years has been, “Lord You ARE the desire of my heart. Let me delight in You, that in the end I might have more of You.”
Then God started to put desires for ministry in my heart. So I started working part-time on my Master of Divinity at Asbury Seminary seven years ago. And what I’m finding most fascinating? God is taking the things I wanted to do least and combining them with this heartbreaking diagnosis and He’s saying to us, “This right here, I will redeem this if you follow me.”
Our heart is to evangelize, disciple, raise up leaders, diversify and do it again in the context of this specific small town community, because this is where Jesus had put us and this is what he is redeeming. So, in your life, how is God doing this? In which area are you uniquely situated to share the good news? Have you considered that God doesn’t make mistakes? In what ways is God inviting you to embrace your situation and its opportunities?
Deb Adams is currently a Master of Divinity student at Asbury Theological Seminary, as well as their Director of Communications. Deb, Pete, Cora and Grace are actively working in the Minocqua area to begin offering therapy services, community outreach and discipleship for children and families through Gracie’s Place.