A friend of mine recently asked me to write up a quick story as to how Living Stones became what it is today - the following is what I shared:
I didn’t start out planning to plant a church, but I’m pretty sure that the reason we planted one is the reason churches are supposed to be planted. We wanted lost people to meet Jesus. Isn’t that the reason for churches?
I had just become a Christian after living in rebellion to God through selling drugs, sex, substance abuse and generally hopeless living. Before being saved by Jesus, I was a fairly talented rapper, but was always too stoned to do anything about it. After I was saved, I began devouring the Word and studying theology. And I started telling my drug-dealing, drug-consuming, and drunken friends about Jesus. A group of these friends were interested in talking about God, but not interested in going to church; my friend Matt had the idea that we should bring the church to them.
It started as a men’s Bible study. There were two Christians (Matt and I) and a handful of non-Christians. We taught the Bible, and some of them started following Christ and repenting of sin. (Two of those men are now pastors/elders on staff at Living Stones!) More people came, and for a couple years, this group existed as a Bible study that non-churched and non-Christian people floated in and out of, but our overall pattern was one of growth as week after week more people joined us.
Then, we moved the Bible study to a bigger house, and women came as well as men. By this time, one of the guys had learned the guitar and another had learned the bass. They knew about five songs. We did those songs over and over, week after week, until they learned more. I taught the Bible in a discussion format. I was consumed with God exalting, Jesus centered, reformed theology; I would teach non-Christians the 5 points of Calvinism, the sovereignty of God, providence, total depravity, and whatever Calvin and Luther said about the passage. And people just kept getting saved.
So, I decided to teach through the book of John. Each week, I opened up John, and I told the people there what Jesus said, what Jesus did, and who Jesus was. I remember people getting saved on the spot, following Christ, and starting to bring other friends who didn’t know Jesus. Soon we were starting to get too large; we were packing around 60 people into the house, and what had started out as a Bible study unintentionally became kind of like a house church.
During this period of time, I had also been a member of, and at some point a deacon of, my local church in Reno; when we had no more room to meet, I went to my pastor to ask what we should do. He said that we could meet in the church building on Friday night and so that’s what we did. Within two months, the group had doubled in size, and was still filled with non-churched, non-Christian people who were coming to know Jesus. I no longer led a simple discussion of the Bible, but had begun preaching. (Although really, it was more like a running commentary/rant on whatever section of John we happened to be in.) This is the way we—Living Stones—started.
Living Stones now averages about 1,600 people total per weekend, spread out into seven worship gatherings at four campuses, but the mission to reach lost, broken, and non-churched people while preaching good old reformed theology remains the ethos of Living Stones. And people continue to meet Jesus. Over the years, literally hundreds of people have been baptized at Living Stones and begun following Christ. Our elder board is comprised of ex-drug dealers, ex-strip club managers, lawyers, and life-long church boys (including ex-Catholic altar boys.) I think Jesus likes this.
I guess it was a pretty good way to plant a church.