Contend Earnestly: Why We Chose Our Church

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Why We Chose Our Church

As of last June, my family decided to leave our church of over 5 and half years. I served in many different capacities in the church, but we felt as though it was time for us to move on. I am not going to air my "dirty laundry" here, but know that I take leaving a church very seriously, so that alone should tell you that we left over some things we felt were a huge deal in the scope of things.

For these posts I am going to delve into why we chose the church we are currently attending and then also why we are going to stay here and become members. So it is sort of "Why we walked through the front door?" and then "Why we aren't sneaking out the back?"

First, the church that we have decided to dig into is called Harambee in Renton, WA. Harambee is simply a Swahili name meaning, "Together Pushing Forward." It is located in the heart of downtown Renton, about three blocks from one of the most, if not the most, diverse High Schools in Washington State. Renton High School is 36% Black, 33% Asian, 16% Hispanic and 15% White. This is actually one of the reasons we chose Harambee is because of the diversity that is found in the area that they minister. That is a little about where they are, but let's get into why we chose Harambee in the first place.

First, they are affiliated with Acts 29. The pastor that started Harambee, Mike Gunn, was one of the three that started Mars Hill alongside Leif Moi and, of course, Mark Driscoll. Mike is still an elder and our primary teaching pastor, but gets paid as the Acts 29 International Director.

When we left our church we really wanted to be associated with Acts 29. We had another opportunity to look into a church plant in downtown Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle where my business is located, but decided that it wasn't what we were looking for and it was just too far from our community where we live. As we searched the area for Acts 29 churches, there were some others, but none were as close as Harambee (little less than 20 min from house), nor as urban as Harambee.

First, we wanted to be a part of Acts 29 because they are Reformed, missional, complementarian and hold those things that are essential in a closed hand and those things that are secondary in an open hand. The Nicene Creed (closed hand) is read each week at Harambee showing those things that we fully embrace to be orthodox Christianity. Harambee and Acts 29 are very dedicated to the word of God and being theologically astute without giving up what it means to be immersed into culture every day of our lives.

We also desired to be associated with an Acts 29 church because of the focus of glocal missions. Meaning, they fully believe that we need to be missionaries to the communities we are a part of, to show them Jesus, and we also need to be equipping foreign people to make an impact on their own communities through church planting. They don't ask the white dude to go and set up shop in Africa, they send the white dude to help raise up local guys to plant churches in their own areas abroad. This is a huge difference and one that I fully support and see supported through the whole book of Acts in the life of Paul.

The way that Harambee specifically showed us how they are impacting the community around them came about in three ways specifically.

1. The Hall

The Hall is an after school program (held at the church building) for the local high school kids to hang out, be mentored, get help with school and just old school discipleship. There is no secret message of Jesus being forced to them. There is no helping in English class by making them read the Bible. It is just a place to serve the community, specifically the youth of Renton, that usually find themselves in trouble if left to themselves. Below is a video of the Hall and what it is striving to do. It has just been taken over by Matt Topping who is going to take it to new heights and also is being joined up by a Christian Hip Hop artist named Celestine (video below) with a ministry (Cry Out) that aids inner city youth through music and mentorship. To put it bluntly...we are very excited in what Matt and Celestine have in store for The Hall.

2. The Refuge

The Refuge is a place that aids the area's homeless. The Refuge takes place at the church building on Saturdays to feed, give health care and just a place to chill out for the homeless in the community.

3. Missional Community Groups

This is not small group Bible study. This is a time to come together to pray for each other, to disciple each other, to go over biblical questions and studies and also to strategize how to impact the community that each one meets in. This is the extension of the church. This is where one will find aid spiritually and physically and one that becomes family instead of merely a group that meets to go through a study and part ways. These people will serve together and grow together. When someone is in the hospital from the group, the group supports, when someone has a baby from the group, the group comes alongside. There is no need for a churchwide program to "deal" with these issues, but these issues are handled like a family would handle them. We have just started one with an elder at Harambee and have enjoyed our time together and have already been able to start to aid our community. Not only is this going to be made up of people from Harambee, but also those who attend church elsewhere and those who just want to know more about who Jesus is. The groups function as the hands and feet of the church to the local communities spread throughout South Seattle.

4. Right Focus

We chose Harambee because it has the right focus when dealing with the day to day in church life. Instead of having program after program that was formed in the mid 50's, it allows the missional groups to function organically on how they want to serve. Harambee doesn't have a different program for every little thing or every person that attends church. Harambee, instead, makes the parents responsible for the upbringing of their children, so they teach them how to do so. Harambee makes the husband and the wife responsible for their actions and roles, so they drive them into missional groups together, instead of studying separately. Harambee drives the singles into missional groups to study alongside married people and others so that they learn how to be Christ centered.

By doing this, the main function of Harambee is Sunday morning and the night of your missional group. They are very simple. They don't have program after program that takes up all your time, making it impossible to love your family and your community.

Through all these things, Harambee got us in the door to see what they were about. Little did we know that this would be the place that we would dig our heals into and try and call family. We have only been at Harambee for 3 months, but it feels like Christ has been doing open heart surgery on us since we started.

These four things were the central reasons we chose Harambee. The next post will deal with why we are so excited about Harambee and why we are starting to find it a place to call home.


Steve said...

Why titilate with statements like the following?

"I am not going to air my "dirty laundry" here, but know that I take leaving a church very seriously, so that alone should tell you that we left over some things we felt were a huge deal in the scope of things."

The article would have held its own just fine without it.


Seth McBee said...

The purpose was not to titilate...the purpose was such that many people leave their church for pretty lame reasons...I wanted to allow the reader to know that wasn't the case, without going into specifics.

Steve said...

I would see that as a different subject altogether. Again, I think the rest of the article stands alone.

By the way, I'm happy you and your family have found a nice place to plant your roots. :-)


Seth McBee said...


We would disagree to some was a quick sentence and then moved on...

Thanks for the encouragement...hope you're well.

Anonymous said...

It was a quick sentence, but I am *so* curious now. You left your previous church over things that were a "huge deal". hmmm. For those of us from TCC, we will be left wondering what those things were...

Seth McBee said...


It must be nice sometimes to be able to hide behind a keyboard :)

If someone wanted to ask in private, I would tell them. I have chosen to not "air" that in the open.

Some have told me to let things out, but for personal reasons I have chosen to keep it to myself and my family.

I wouldn't leave a church over petty reasons though.

I hope for TCC that they glorify God in whatever capacity God has called them to.

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