Posted on : Monday February 11, 2013

Dan Hyun of The Village Church celebrates the baptism of a church member.

By Dan Hyun

The Village Church came to life when 11 of us, sent by Grace Life Church in 2008, started a new faith community centered in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. Hampden is culturally rich, represented by an eclectic mix of hipsters, urban professionals, young families and multi-generational locals in a burgeoning dining and indie music scene. However, it has also been known as an area of extreme spiritual darkness. To us, this was all the more reason why we were led to plant a church there.

We purposely implement a simple approach hoping that our strength is not found in glitz, but in the experience of genuine gospel movement one person at a time. So our story is not the sexy church bursting at the seams overnight, but rather a tale of steady faithfulness in transformed disciples who make God famous. From humble beginnings and through both victory and challenge, we praise God that we recently celebrated our fourth anniversary as a growing community with some good, humbling lessons learned along the way.

One is the nature of discipleship. My personality is to desire results instantly, whether losing weight or seeing my daughter learn how to read. I often bring this same mentality to making disciples. Don’t misunderstand: I fully believe God can transform someone in an instant. However, the process of sanctification into a mature follower of Jesus will require more than a powerful Sunday sermon.

One man discovered The Village before we even had public worship and immediately joined us. He was active in serving, invited friends and was baptized. Then literally he disappeared, not responding to any efforts to contact him. We didn’t see his face again . . . until two years later when he asked to meet. His words to me: “I want to come home.” Since then, he has re-engaged The Village community and is being trained as a leader, almost as if the previous two years didn’t occur. Discipleship with young Christians is a day by day battle, trudging through the trenches arm in arm, celebrating their highs and wrestling through their lows. We’re discovering that in our environment, this is more the norm than the exception. We must keep this in mind, both for our own perseverance and also so that we will give continually, persistent grace to others.

Another lesson has been the call to reach those very different than ourselves. Realistically, my most effective plan for church growth would have been a strategy on how to best reach those fairly similar in demographic makeup to me and our core group: Asian or white, middle-class, suburban roots, educated, etc. However, we decided early that we would preach the gospel and love whomever God led our way. As a result, we have made intentional decisions to reflect this philosophy.

I would love to say this choice led to rapid overnight growth, but it didn’t. In fact, growth has sometimes seemed painfully slow because of these choices. Idealistically, we dreamed of a wide diversity of people brought together in the gospel, but we were confronted with the inherent, practical challenges this presented.

Still, I look around our community today and here’s what I see: there’s an older, blue-collar, newly-saved local, sitting next to a churched Asian-American student chatting with an African-American woman who is curious about our community. There are clean-cut Ph.D. candidates eating lunch with 8th grade level educated ex-cons. There are men with 401Ks, listening to those wondering how to buy dinner for the family that night. And there are parents, wondering which charter school to choose, who are praying with a single mom who hopes to reunite with her kids lost because of her long drug history.

It’s not easy. At times I look around with the crazy realization that there are really very few people like me in my own community. Realistically we understand that some people feel uncomfortable in a setting like ours and as a result, they purposely choose not to join us. But we also know that some people are drawn to The Village precisely because of the unique nature of our community. We give praise for a powerful God who gathers together those who have no other reason to be together than Jesus and their unity in Him. It’s the gospel displaying itself through a community.

Dan Hyun is the church planter/pastor of The Village Church in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. Dan can be reached via phone or text at (443) 534-4593 and via email at [email protected].