Published April 8, 2004
SEATTLE, Wash. — The paying crowds will not arrive until later in the afternoon, but an audience of another nature is already passing through the front door of the Regal Issaquah 9 Cinema theatre complex.
The afternoon crowds will pay to be entertained for a couple of hours, but the morning crowd is learning how to live forever, for free – thanks to a team of former Georgia Baptists who are taking the gospel to the Pacific Northwest.
Last April 12, Barry Odom moved to suburban Seattle to lay the groundwork for one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s newest churches. Wife Robin, and son Jeremiah, 11, and daughter Sarah, 9, followed him in June.
The family, along with two other families from Peachtree City’s Braelinn Baptist Church, was stepping out on faith as it responded to God’s call to one of the far corners of America. It’s something the couples say they never planned, but simply responded to through prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
If the slowly growing attendance is any indication, their prayers – and those of other believers in the area – are being answered.
“It’s just wonderful to see how the community has embraced this group,” says member Jeanette Reed. “Eastside Mosaic is less about bringing people into a building and is more about meeting them at the well, in their marketplace, and in the city park. It’s about taking Christ to them throughout the community.”
That miracle is due to the commitment of Braelinn laity and staff who felt called to the area, a distant seven states and nearly 2,500 miles from their Georgia roots.
Barry and Robin Odom are no strangers to church starting. As a layman, Barry Odom was part of the core group from New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville which helped launch Braelinn Baptist Church in 1987. He eventually joined the church staff and, along with founding pastor Keith Moore, saw the church grow from 35 to about 1,000 members. Today he serves as lead pastor of the new church which meets in Issaquah Highlands, east of Seattle.
But the Odom’s didn’t come alone. They were joined by Troy and Shanna Blackmon and Cory and Paula Eubanks. Troy Blackmon has served as a small group leader and coached other leaders at Braelinn with Odom; the Eubanks were lay leaders in children’s ministry and wanted to be faithful to the vision which they shared for planting a church.
Church starting in the Pacific Northwest is a world apart from starting a church in Georgia, Odom says.
Making a difference in the Kingdom
“About two years ago, Robin and I wanted to do something that would make a real difference in the Kingdom. We didn’t want to just go somewhere and start a church.
“As we worked through our calling, we became sensitive to the power of large cities and how they are shaping world culture. We felt led to find our Corinth, our Rome, like Paul did to make a real difference in the world. We wanted to impact the world, and we felt we could do it best through tapping into a large city somewhere.”
The couple went to Moore, who affirmed their calling and said Braelinn would help them start a church anywhere in the world where they felt led to relocate.
“We just turned him loose to follow God’s call,” Moore says.
Odom explored options with Jim Millirons in New Church Development Ministries at the Georgia Baptist Convention and with Richard Harris, vice president, church planting, at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta. The couple eventually narrowed their options to three choices: downtown Atlanta, Marin County across the Bay from San Francisco, and Seattle.
They ended their search in Issaquah, an area of explosive growth just east of Seattle.
“Seattle: Ground Zero for us.”
“We felt like Seattle, especially the east side, was Ground Zero for us. This is our launching pad to reach the whole world,” Odom explains.
It doesn’t take much to get the couple excited about reaching the area for Christ. They talk in a passion that bears out their desire to see the church take roots and spread throughout the Puget Sound area.
“There is so much potential to impact world culture from a great city like Seattle,” Odom says. “This area is quickly being populated by many of the movers and shakers of society and we want to be in on the ground floor with that growth.
“It seems that every third person we meet is employed in some way by Microsoft, which is located here and has several campuses throughout Seattle. If we can possibly reach some of the influencers in Seattle society – and Microsoft is one of those influencers – we could see them impact the world for Christ.
“One of Microsoft’s core values is to make life better for others. When you get the gospel into someone’s life with a core value like that, you have a tremendous impact on the world and through their connections with friends and other professionals,” he says.
Odom says the natural explosive growth of the area will fuel that movement.
“If we can just tap into that growth and reach the movers and shakers, and they reach their friends and business partners, the movement will catch fire.”
When discussing the church, Odom says one reason the small congregation has been accepted is how it reflects the area’s value for land use. Not owning a building, at least in this early stage, has been a plus.
“We don’t have a vision for building a campus that all of Seattle will come to, but being part of a movement that is a virus that will be a change agent. Christ spoke about yeast that will infect the entire loaf; that is what we are praying that Eastside Mosaic will become.”
Infecting Seattle with the gospel virus
“We want to infect Seattle with the virus of the gospel that will heal its hurts and turn its heart toward Christ.”
That approach means Eastside Mosaic has a very decentralized structure; most of the personal growth occurs in small groups meetings in homes and coffee shops throughout the week. The Sunday service, called The Gathering, is the only time members come together for fellowship and worship.
“We want to create the paradigm that the church exists in the hearts and lives of the people, not at a physical address where the building is located.”
For about seven months they met at the Avalon Wynhaven Clubhouse in the planned community where the Odom’s live, and where they held their first baptism in November in the community hot tub. In January the group began holding its first of three monthly preview meetings at the theatre complex. They will go public with their launch service this Easter Sunday, at which time they will move from monthly to weekly worship.
But growth does not mean the group will immediately look to purchase property for a building site.
“One of the core values of the Northwest is efficient land use. Even people who are far from God believe in treating the land wisely. That fits perfectly with our vision, and the locals appreciate and respect the fact that our primary goal is not to purchase land and build a building that will sit empty for most of the week.
“We are not against any church that wants a building, and we may have one of our own down the road. But as we think outside of the box we want to ask ourselves ‘What if we never own property and were never saddled with that debt? What if our true objective was to expand the Kingdom, using our funds to start other churches – other communities of faith that meet in satellite locations – to bring the gospel to those throughout the area?’”
Small groups are at the heart of the church
Eastside Mosaic is accomplishing that by building its fellowship around several small groups which meet weekly. That’s where the budding congregation is at its strongest, assimilating people into the fellowship, meeting their needs and training them for ministry to others.
Those distinctive traits are what attracted Krissy and Mike Rosedale to the gathering.
“There are a lot of churches with a lot of buildings in Seattle, but not much of the spirit of Christ in those buildings. There are too many social clubs and not enough churches with real transforming power,” Krissy Rosedale explained.
“Mosaic is all about a sense of community. They have created an atmosphere akin to a big extended family, and that’s what people are looking for these days. Familes are scattered from one end of the country to the other these days and there is no real family bond among people; at Eastside we support each other, hold each other accountable, and are there for each other.”
Seattle native Tom Pangborn and wife, Amy, echoed those sentiments.
The couple sheepishly admit that 20 years have passed since either have been involved in church, and even that limited involvement occurred in their youth. Now married for eight years and with a four-year-old son, they are exploring what Mosaic has to offer.
Their second visit on March 28 is a new direction since they have never been part of a church in their married years.
“The message that I am receiving here is meeting my needs,” Tom Pangborn said as he stood next to the concession counter in the theatre lobby.
“I still have a lot of questions about God and faith, but Mosaic is helping me find some of those answers.”
Meeting those needs is what energizes the Odom’s.
“We want to create the paradigm that the church exists in the hearts and lives of people, not at a physical location,” Robin Odom says. “Our objective is not to bring people to church but to take Christ to people. We don’t want people to think they have to come to a worship service to be in the presence of good spiritual values; they should be able to incarnate those values where they live.”
Barry Odom agrees.
“This is a very unchurched territory, but God is beginning to work in the Puget Sound area and we want to be part of telling His story.”
He pauses for a brief second and then adds, “I feel like I was created for this moment. When Robin and I are not connecting with people who are far from God I feel like I have a lack of purpose. But when we are around lost people I become energized because I see their potential in the Kingdom.”
“I want every person I meet to reach their full potential in Him.”
A Macedonian call to Georgia Baptists
Barry and Robin Odom are praying that other Georgia Baptists will join them in winning the Puget Sound area to Christ.
Barry Odom’s “most passionate prayer request” is that other churches will ...
• personally get involved in the Northwest movement by sending potential planters and planting team members;
• take responsibility for resourcing at least one new church start in the Pacific Northwest;
• encourage individuals and short-term mission teams serving in the area to help new communities of faith reach those without Christ.
“Strangely enough,” he says, “getting behind a mission like this has helped rejuvenate a sense of the apostolic expansion seen in New Testament churches. For example, since Braelinn Church in Peachtree City has committed to the Northwest movement their fellowship has grown in number, offerings have increased, and it added new staff.
Odom adds, “Sometimes our economy is not God’s economy.”
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