I’ve always known I grew up in a special church. I’ve often wondered if this church was an anomaly in history: Just a collection of certain people who found each other at a certain time in a certain place which gave rise to this special place? Surely churches like my home church aren’t random. Surely they are strategically and intentionally created. I mean this church had everything all of us want in the churches we lead and in which we serve. There are many adjectives I could use to describe this place, but the one most coming to mind is the word UN-common.
Common is familiar, regular, recurrent, every-day, ordinary, without note, run-of-the-mill. Common is all around us. Common is what many of our churches have become. Common, if were not careful, is what many of our lives become. But I don’t believe Jesus called us to be common. We’re to be anything but common.
UN-common is our calling. UN-common is out of the ordinary, remarkable, dynamic, unconventional, with distinction. You might say…. peculiar. We should be peculiar or UN-common people. Our churches and ministry should be marked by peculiar or UN-common characteristics. This is attractive to our world, our society. We shouldn’t apologize for
I’ve wondered a lot about what made Elkhart Calvary (Indiana) so UN-common. I think I’ve nailed it down to five very broad characteristics:
People got saved. Every single week. There were often messages in tongues and interpretations or prophecies. And if you know my grandfather who pastored the church, this was always done in order and rightly. The spirituality spilled into every area of the church – lives transformed, marriages restored, physical healings, and miracles of faith were the norm. The dynamic of worship was always filled with passion and authenticity. While publicly, the spirituality was robust, it was behind-the-scenes spiritual disciplines fueling everything. Like the women’s prayer meeting which has met now for more than 40 years. Fasting & prayer were regular events along with spending time around the altars. The spirituality of this church was anything but common. We simply expressed publicly what we lived privately. This made all the difference.
One of the real tells of the power of community is when the people who were part of Calvary then come together now. Many of them are scattered and attend different churches. But when they come together, it’s as if they’re still sitting in the old fellowship hall eating ham salad sandwiches and sharing life again. There was and is a genuine care and concern for one another. This church embodied Jesus command to “love one another as I have loved you.” And it wasn’t just the pastors. I remember, as a kid, our church walking through two tragic deaths of key people. In those moments, it wasn’t just the pastors who showed up for those families. It was literally the entire church. Cramming into living rooms to grieve together, share moments of joy, and moments of pain. This kind of community is hard to find these days…. but I believe is something for which our culture still deeply thirsts.
I’m certain there were times the church desperately needed nursery workers or Royal Ranger commanders. But one would be hard pressed to find very many people who were just attenders. But I think servanthood is more than filling roster spots on the hospitality team. The WAY in which the people served one another was remarkable. The hours our Bible Quiz coaches spent with obnoxious 7th graders, or the whole church serving in an Easter production. The selfless way people would give of their time, energy, and finances to build buildings or reach out to the apartments behind the church, or take food to someone in need was UN-common. We served one another. It was a great way to live.
Our church always supported missions and missionaries. I don’t know the amounts or what the records would reveal, but we loved partnering with ministers around the world to spread the gospel. It was just in our DNA and always emphasized. My grandfather never apologized for this, but believed without a mission’s focus, the church could not be built. Churches which prioritize missions, local, national, and international, experience the favor of God. Emphasizing missions has another by-product: People being called into ministry. Churches which emphasize and practice an UN-common missional focus will send ministers and missionaries out into the world from their own ranks. Dozens of men and women have served or are serving the Lord today in vocational ministry because of the missional focus of Calvary Assembly of God.
This is the big one, right? If my grandfather and the men and women who served beside him had not allowed God to transform them, be teachable, humble, and lift the lid on their leadership, the church would not have advanced. Did they have flaws? Sure. They didn’t do everything right and no doubt made some mistakes along the way. But they learned. They humbled themselves. They prayed. They fasted. And they led. Boldly. With integrity. Before the age of podcasts, leadership coaching, and all the other tools we have today. They relied on the Holy Spirit and one another. This was UN-common then and probably more so today. But somehow I think they did alright.
There are probably more things which belong in this list. But if you want to build something special, something lasting, something which will leave a spiritual legacy, a pathway for others to follow, why not start with these things? Decide to lead with UN-common characteristics. Everyone has community…. make yours UN-common. Everyone does spirituality…make sure yours is UN-common. All churches have workers….in your case, build UN-common servants. Do missions like no one else…UN-common. And be bold enough, strong enough, courageous enough to lead with UN-common tenacity. Take it from this 3rd generation Calvary Assembly of God product….it will be worth it!!