As twilight dawned on Saturday October 15 in a small 1950s era church building next to a bankrupt town home development, a dilapidated turn-of-the-century home, across from a lumber liquidator and a closed down school building - all in the shadow of Houston's high-rise buildings - a muddled milieu of young and old from various ethnic backgrounds gathered together in a small room to follow Jesus and expect change.
The event was the launch of Unveil Church, one of LINC Houston's newest mission plants, held at San Pedro Lutheran Church downtown. There were a little over 90 people in attendance for their first worship service.
The church is definitely different. Rev. Ben Gonzales, the planting pastor, is a Houston native and he and his team share a common vision of bringing back the Urban Neighborhood Church. To do so, they combine a heart for the community with a high-energy service focusing on change in the city through the message and ministry of Jesus.
"When I walked in the place was more like a club than a church" said Mark Junkans, LINC Houston's Executive Director, "it was awesome to see how it was completely different than 'normal church' for people who might not be comfortable with 'normal church.'"
The service, led by Pastor Gonzales and a DJ who coordinated power points, worship videos, loud club music, fog and lights was one part celebration and another part dedication for a different kind of Lutheran church in downtown Houston. Following the service the whole set-up was broken down quickly by a flurry of volunteer hands so that tables could be erected to get ready for a family style meal of potatoes and BBQ beef. The meal was polished off with a specially decorated Unveil Church cake and plenty of diverse conversation with people from all over Houston. Crafting an unconventional and energetic ambience is just one of the ways Unveil connects with the de-churched and un-churched individuals of their local community.
"Our team believed the first Sunday was a huge success" said Pastor Ben Gonzales, the team lead at Unveil, "the only advertisement was on social media and through personal invitation to family and friends not connected to a church."
Unveil Church's short term goal is to build a core crowd of devoted followers first and later on launch another church in Houston similar to Unveil.
"While we believe Saturday was a success we also know we still have a lot of work to do in Jesus' name" said Gonzales as he looked toward the future of Unveil Church. "We stand firm in our mission that when you follow Jesus, you can expect change."