Sought Church, Las Vegas, Nevada
When you visit a new church every week, you get a lot of swag. I mean, not Oscar-bag-with-a-pendant-from-Tiffany’s level swag, but swag nonetheless. As visitors, we’ve been given lots of pens (with which we take notes during sermons), a fair deal of coffee mugs and water bottles, candy (4” by 10” chocolate bars are the true “fun size”), even t-shirts with church logos. We’ve received DVDs and CDs of sermons that made for good listening at times and fine coasters at others times. We’ve been given good and lame books. But I think the best greeting gift we’ve received was at Sought Church in Las Vegas.
We were asked to fill out a visitors card with whatever information we were “comfortable in giving.” We wrote what we always write, our names and our e-mail (DeanandMindygotochurch@gmail.com . We got out of the habit of putting down our address last year when we didn’t have an address); and then the pastor making the announcement said that turning in our card got us this great gift: $5 would be given in our names to Caridad, a Las Vegas ministry to the homeless.
We’d spent part of the day before with our friend Kathleen giving cookie to the homeless (Cookies and Hope) and helping a little with a dinner and worship service for the homeless. It was nice to think that gift might go to people we met the day before.
We’d been looking for place to worship the Sunday morning we were in Las Vegas (actually, we were looking for a second place to worship, since we’d gone to Guardian Angel Cathedral earlier that morning). We liked some of the things we read on Sought Church’s website. “With Sought Church, you don’t have to dress up. We’re not concerned with who you voted for in the last election. And, please, don’t feel the need to pretend about anything. Everyone is welcome here -- to share your story, your questions, your doubts, or struggles -- because all of it is valued. You won’t find canned answers, but you will find genuine conversations. From there, we’ll seek together.”
Sought Church is in the Arts District of Las Vegas, a short walk from the motel where we were staying. The Arts District has galleries and theaters, many in converted warehouse space, containing more subtle art than most of what’s found in the Strip. The church rents space in a small theater, setting up every Sunday for 10:00 am worship. Jake Musselman, the pastor, said they’ve come to love the neighborhood and the unique opportunities for ministry it offers.
There was a guest speaker that morning; Stephen Feith, a pastor friend of Jake’s from Madison, Wisconsin. He talked about the challenge of pastoring in that city, the home of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, where of the sixty attempted church plants since the year 2000, only two are still going. But their church has prospered.
Stephen joked, “Jake said I get twenty minutes to speak. Usually I have thirty-three, so I’ll have to speed up.” (He still went over.) After the sermon, there was time to pray; people were encouraged to pray silently.
Because Jake and the leadership of the church promised an hour-long worship service, they didn’t serve communion (which they would normally do). But after the service, they set a ten minute timer and encouraged people to talk to each other. People were encouraged to talk to someone they’d never talked to before, which was easy for us, of course.
During that time, I talked with Pastor Jake. He’s a Nevada native, but he’s not from Las Vegas originally. He’s been in the city for three years now and thinks the best is yet to come. Besides the worship time, the church meets in small groups in homes, and they also meet in homes for supper clubs. They plan to rent a laundromat soon so they can host a free day there for the community.
That morning of worship was about twelve hours before the shooting in Las Vegas. Since then, we’ve received several emails from Jake with great words of encouragement for the congregation. The city already was a place of unique challenges for ministry, but Sought Church seems ready, with God’s grace, for those challenges.