By Carl Stagner
His office is a coffee shop. His conference room, a soccer field. Their fellowship hall is a neighbor’s kitchen. And their sanctuary is a nearby resource center for homeless teens where worship is lived out. Ministry leader Matt Klovdahl and the Transformation Communities—Yakima are by no means your traditional pastor and church. And they have no intention of ever becoming that.
“Traditionally, churches have been about gathering; that is, getting together for worship, preaching, learning, etc.,” Klovdahl notes on the church’s website. “Much of the focus is internal, and on keeping the institution functioning. Following the model of the church in the first century, Transforming Communities exists not for ourselves, but for the world around us. We are sent by God to make a difference!”
The need for a new approach to ministry is observed in the culture this church seeks to transform. Klovdahl explains that many people in the Northwest are living in a post-Christian world where the church is generally viewed as irrelevant, sometimes hypocritical and abusive, and out of touch with modern society. So on the first Saturday of each month, Transformation Communities meets for a night of fellowship—a social connection designed to attract nonbelievers. On the second Sunday, the group comes together for breakfast and a contemporary worship service to celebrate what God has done through their ministry. On the third Saturday of each month, they work together on a community service project. Then on the final Saturday of the month, Transformation Communities focuses on discipleship.
The church teaches the importance of wholehearted devotion to Christ, and they keep each other accountable. “We ask people to bless at least three people each week, and one has to be a nonbeliever,” Klovdahl says. “The blessing can be a meal, a helping hand, and so on.” Individuals are also expected to consistently read Scripture and follow along with a Bible reading plan to encourage spiritual growth.
At this point, the church has no intentions of acquiring a building. They don’t even plan to remain as a single group, nor aspire to grow in one location. That’s why they’re called Transformation Communities. Though they just have one group now, the long term goal is to establish multiple missional communities throughout the Yakima Valley, and all will unite together on the second Sunday of each month for worship and celebration.
Matt Klovdahl and his family came from a growing contemporary church in Lacey, Washington. As a former youth pastor, things are much different in this new approach to ministry. “We left family, friends, a church we were a part of for nine years. But the biggest thing we wrestled with is deprogramming ourselves from the pace of activity that happens in traditional church activities. The pace of life here in this model of ministry is a lot slower because it’s so focused on relational development. We don’t have a large church where people will stop in and visit because they see our building. It’s an adjustment, but there’s a healthy rhythm of life now between rest and work, and a real opportunity to focus on connection.”
Every day the traditional church model brought ritual and comfortable expectation of what would come down the pike. At the helm of Transformation Communities, there is no sense of structure. “Here, every day I wake up and ask, ‘What am I going to do today? Who will I connect with? What will I say to them?’ It’s exciting trying to communicate that concept to the people in our communities. Do you live with that kind of intentionality each day? Are you expecting each day to connect with people? Or do we walk through life on autopilot?”
For the Church of God in Yakima, a restart was just what the doctor ordered. “Starting fresh gives us freedom to really examine and look at everything we do. What are things that get in the way? What’s hard for a lot of people is that possibly even your Sunday morning worship service is getting in the way of people coming to Christ. But in every cultural context, it’s going to be different. Our focus is like that of author Mike Breen (Building a Discipling Culture), who writes that when building a church, you won’t always make disciples; but when building disciples, you’ll always have the church.”
The theme for this year’s Faith Promise is “The Church Has Left the Building.” We encourage churches to reach beyond the four walls of their building to make an impact for Christ in their communities. Discover ways to exercise this kind of extreme love in your community by visiting www.chog.org/extreme-love.