Availability and Engagement – A Conversation with Kevin Gibbs
The pacific northwest has had the reputation of being a place where people go to get away from the church or get away from religious people. It has been a very culturally liberal part of the U.S. and a place in great need of the good news of Jesus. When God sent Kevin Gibbs to Seattle a few years ago for a mission experience with some church plants, little did he know that God was preparing he and Rebecca, his wife, to go and plant a church themselves.
What Kevin found in Seattle is that people are open, but not quick to trust. Churches have come and gone at a rapid rate in Seattle and there has been little sustainability. Kevin described Seattle as essentially pre-Christian because there has not been any kind of strong church presence in the area. There is a hesitancy to welcome new people into the neighborhood, especially if they are Christians. This has presented a challenge for Discovery church but has also shed some insight into how they might have an impact on the north part of Seattle.
The first step is availability. Kevin and his family have made themselves available and started plugging into existing organizations in the city for the purpose of serving and loving people. Kevin has gotten an opportunity to work with the Boys and Girls club in north Seattle. In a funny turn of events, he got the opportunity to go pick up a very nice pool table that was being donated to the club. He and some young guys decided to go pick it up and found out that moving a pool table, especially a very nice and heavy one, is no easy task. The legs of the pool table ended up getting broken. This was a sad and unfortunate event for the owners of the pool table and a horrifying thing for Kevin as he is just trying to help. It did, however, give him an opportunity to be an encouragement to the owners and build a great relationship with the Boys and Girls Club director. God took a bad thing and used it to forge a relationship. Availability turned into an engagement.
Another event that Kevin shared that has proven pivotal to their growing understanding of the culture in Seattle. They surveyed a group of students at a college in north Seattle to gauge the spiritual climate and hopefully create opportunities for engagement. What they found was an incredible number of spiritual seekers. They asked the students several spiritual questions like, “On a scale of 1 to 10 how do you feel about your relationship with God?” Most would answer with ones or twos. When asked the question “Do you want to grow in your relationship with God?” most would put eights or nines. They then asked, “Have you tried searching for God and what have you tried?” The answers were across the board: Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, agnosticism, atheism, etc.… When asked if they were satisfied with their spiritual journey, they once again answered with a resounding “no.”
It should call to mind a passage like Matt. 9:36, which says, “When He (Jesus) saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (ESV) Seattle is a microcosm of what is going on all over the world with people trying to fill this innate desire for God with a myriad of things. They are hungry and searching and have no one to guide them in their search. It takes availability and engagement to be that guide for someone. If the church will be patient and available, then real engagement with the gospel can take place.
Pray for Kevin Gibbs and his family as they seek to establish a presence in Seattle for the purpose of guiding people to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray that God would provide for their needs and the needs of their core team, so they can stay and thrive in Seattle in such a way that it does indeed become home for them. As they immerse themselves in the neighborhood, pray that God would create opportunities for meaningful gospel conversations and that lives would be changed by Jesus as they serve that part of Seattle.