“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
Nine years ago a church was born in Joplin. What began as a few people having dinner and debating the need for yet another church in our city blossomed into multiple home bible studies, culminating in an evening worship service a year later. There we reached out to our community, loved our neighbors, welcomed new people and grew into a young gospel centered church.
A few years later God graciously blessed us with our own space right in the heart of Joplin’s burgeoning downtown revitalization. It was here we continued our vision of seeing God glorified, lives transformed and a city changed by the power of the gospel. The people of Mystery loved Joplin and served downtown. We welcomed artists, hosted events and helped contribute to the growing culture and commerce of our city center. By God’s grace we began partnering with our neighbor West Central Elementary and involving ourselves with Joplin schools, doing our best to show the love of Christ to the amazing teachers and students in our community.
We grew, worshiped Jesus, baptized new believers and loved each other well. Marriages, babies and grace abound. Our small congregation had done so much with so little in such a short a time, and in May 2011 we faced possibly our biggest opportunity and greatest challenge in the form of a devastating tornado that tore through our town. In the aftermath Mystery, like many churches, sprang into action and spent the next several years giving ourselves fully to our city. In the wake of it all we found ourselves very blessed, but very weary. Mystery faithfully pressed on, but the hard work of the first seven years had begun to take its toll and our overall health and happiness suffered.
Churches aren’t meant to merely survive; they’re planted to thrive. This rag tag group of gospel misfits has accomplished tremendous things for Gods Kingdom. Jesus has been more than good and generous to us along the way. We believe he began the work of this church and he has been nothing less than faithful to it.
Over the past year for various reasons known ultimately and only to God, our body has worn thin and our needs have come to outweigh our abilities. Mystery has never been about the status quo and now we face another opportunity to blaze a faithful path. The Lord has invited us to journey a narrow, less travelled road; to courageously follow Jesus in faith along a hard, humbling, but hopeful path.
On Sunday March 8th our particular journey will end. In order to steward well what remains we are closing our doors as a church, but not The Church. In the end it’s not about us. We have and always will exist for God’s glory and not our own. Every church, like every living thing, has a lifespan and this is ours. Every excursion has a beginning and end. We are a beautiful testimony of God’s grace and love, and will continue to be so. There is no end in Christ. New Life always springs forth from the gospel and we believe Jesus has invited us to follow him, becoming seeds of grace sent out and scattered throughout our community.
The hope for our church, as well as any others who might find themselves in similar circumstances, is that through our death many churches will find new life; gaining new missionaries, gospel servants, loving leaders and faithful disciples. Our ultimate desire is to see healthy, happy Christians loving God, loving people and enjoying grace, wherever that may be. His body and mission are bigger than Mystery. For us it’s always been about loving Jesus first, and so is this.
If you have ever enjoyed a time of walking with A Church Called Mystery we would love to invite you to finish this race together with us on Sunday March 8th, 10am in downtown Joplin. We will be gathering to share stories of grace and celebrate our amazing Savior together one final time for now, with as much current and former family as we can possible hold. It’s going to be fun and full of joy. We hope you can join us.
“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Mt 28:20
For His Glory and others Good – A Church Called Mystery