Pastor Mitchell Senti of Envision Ministries, a Christian Reformed church plant in Bellingham, Wash., believes church is more than a group of people gathering in a building on Sunday morning. From discipleship Bible studies in multiple locations to praying with those living on the street, Senti refers to downtown Bellingham as the parish.
The ministry began as a nonprofit coffeehouse. However, members wanted to focus more on relationship building within the community and less on administrative duties. So they decided to close it.
Envision Ministries now holds a discipleship Bible study called “The Jesus Study” at a local coffee shop and at a Gospel Mission. Attendance ranges from three to 15 people, most of whom have no previous connection to a church. They all receive a Bible. “We study the gospels one week and the Psalms the next week. Every other week we take a chapter, read it, and start to ask how Christ can transform us through the text,” explained Senti. “We avoid a lot of theological debate.”
Church members, and sometimes local youth groups, participate in Tuesday street nights. After a time of prayer, participants are encouraged to do what Senti refers to as “the three ‘M’s:” meet someone, meet a need, and make an observation.
“Meeting a need can be as simple as listening to a lonely person or as serious as taking someone to detox who wants to recover from drug addiction,” said Senti. “We really want to be students of Jesus, learning from his Spirit at all times.” Church members have been able to stay in contact with many of the people they meet; some attend worship services.
Envision also started “The Jesus Gathering,” Sunday afternoon worship that meets in a ballroom dance space in downtown Bellingham. Approximately forty people attend on a regular Sunday.
“We certainly see God do some amazing things like healings, even deliverance from demons, but most important, obviously transformed lives that will last into eternity,” said Senti.