“The more people stay in church, the less they interact with others.” Damian Young thinks that is a problem. In part one of this two part series, we introduced Pastor Damian Young and told the story of his surprising calling to plant a church as a black pastor in Bagley Downs in Vancouver, Washington. In this piece, we will discuss how Seeds of Greatness is reimagining what a faith community could be.
As Damian continued to feel drawn to this vision of starting a new church, he kept connecting to the ideas of trees. He envisioned a community that could be strong like a tree, rooted, but with many branches and expressions, each with leaves and fruit. He hoped this would be a place where people can bring their ideas and feel free to explore them -even people who were just curious about spirituality.
The more people stay in church, the less they interact with others.
Seeds of Greatness wants people to change the perception of the Church from within. “We really want people to be able to come and explore.” To Damian, this means that people can come and just check it out- no pressure at all, no expectations. After that, the hope is that if people connect, they get planted or rooted in the community- not just the spiritual community, but the neighborhood as well. This was foundational to the formation of Seeds of Greatness. Before they were planning anything for a Sunday gathering, Seeds of Greatness was first and foremost serving the community- “looking outside of itself and being the arms & feet of Jesus.” They started by serving the poorest in the area: partnering with Clark County Jail Work Release Program visitation, serving the homeless, giving school supplies to disadvantaged students, and caring for the elders in church and society, were key to their presence in the community. The church should go through a metamorphosis to be a more whole reflection of the kingdom of God. That isn't going to be done sitting by and watching the neighborhood suffer while we go on singing. Serving is part of loving others and should be key to our spiritual life.
We truly want to be a community that provides shelter for others.
If people are exploring what it was like to be a part of a spiritual community, deciding to get planted, then the next step is for people to grow. Growth implies change, not being locked into broken mindsets, and getting unstuck from old behaviors. This takes extending radical grace to those that have made mistakes in society. As Seeds of Greatness started to come together, it became central that this be a community where people become aware of their gifts, talents, and the Greatness that lies within them.
Damian shares: “ This is one of my favorite parts of being a pastor- getting to come alongside someone to draw out the beauty and greatness that lies within them.” He saw this as he participated in the jail visitation, but he also saw it in tired moms in the neighborhood, elders, and young people.
Growth is for the individual, but the goal of growth is also communal. “We envision a community that continues to help generations to come by listening to the next generation, providing employment opportunities that lead to gainful employment or entrepreneurial opportunities.” Damian adds: “We are striving to be a place that would be sustainable to the community.” The idea is for the neighborhood of Bagley Down and city of Vancouver to be uplifted by the presence of Seeds of Greatness. Damian seeks partnerships in the community that provide more jobs in the area, open up opportunities for people who might otherwise not have employment, and spaces where Seeds of Greatness can lend a hand.
The idea is for the neighborhood and city beyond...to be uplifted by the presence of the church.
If people that connect with Seeds of Greatness are continuing to explore with God, are planted in the community, and growing, the final hope is that they go out and produce. Damian doesn't mean money, or a bunch of identical looking churches, but rather allowing their lives to flourish in a way that brings them alive, and those around them more alive as well. Of course, if families come with children, there may literally be the next generation being produced; children must be considered when forming a community. What do they need to explore, grow, and get rooted in the community?
Long before the lockdowns, Damian had this idea of bridging the gap between the spiritual world and technology; seeking creative ways to make technology accessible. This ended up being central to starting a church in the midst of a global pandemic. Because of COVID19, they have had very few in-person gatherings on a Sunday morning. They are more likely to gather online for teaching and praying and see one another in person for the events to serve the community. Yes, they have preaching, yes they want great music, but this isn’t what makes a church. There is so much more flexibility needed to address the spiritual and physical needs of a community today. We have to stay light and flexible, both utilizing technology and in person. If churches are going to continue to be relevant, they need to stay attentive to the community we love, and really be places where people can be family and share life together.
Damian summed up Seeds of Greatness this way: “We envision a church where you will continue to help us write the book of Acts, a church that will tell our story, a church that will make life better here on earth”
If churches are going to continue to be relevant, they need to stay attentive to the community we love, and really be places where people can be family and share life together.
Part 2 of Can We Gather? In this article, Genevieve addresses shame.
Genevieve take's a pilgrimage of churches and tackles the question, can we gather without harming one another?