Church #29. Meet Rob Martin. He is a solo pastor at First Lutheran Church and has also contracted with Lutheran Church of the Prince of Peace, both in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With a combined worship attendance between 60-80 people on a given Sunday, Martin is all about how churches can use church or public space to share God’s love and generate authentic relationships.
“Space and how we use it is important in building community relationships,” says Martin. Looking at the church calendar, there are many groups that use the building space at First: a non-denominational worshiping community, AA groups, and an outreach prison ministry. Allowing others outside the church membership to use the building shows collaboration and cooperation in relationships.
Another way that First shares God’s love and generates authentic relationships is in public space arena. Starting a Pub Theology, Martin along with a core team meet every other Thursday in a Pub to discuss Bible stories, theology, and practical faith.
Martin says, “We purposefully choose public venues that are open, and where we cannot be sequestered off from other Pub users.” They want to be overheard talking about faith and God; the goal is that others around them will join in the conversation. Often, this is the case with bystanders who listen in and ask a question.
Pub Theology became so popular that some regulars wanted to take things one step further. Now as a synodical authorized worshiping community, one couple started a dinner church called Servant’s Table.
Servant’s Tables gathers every other week in varying restaurants in Tulsa. They are served mainly from ELCA pastors or other ecumenical partners. Martin, then, is not the only pastor, but one of many who serve this church.
Servant’s Table starts with a gathering time for fellowship and a chance to order drinks and food. The pastor comes prepared with a simple word, and presides over communion.
Get this! The overhead for this church is minimal. It includes banking fees, web costs, admin stuff, and to pay for the presiding pastor’s meal.
Servant’s Table is defined as a church that serves, worships, eats and drinks. Food and service are core to their identity, hence the name, and they are an active bunch in being the hands and feet of God in Tulsa. Numerous projects have come across their plates including being part of a food and foot ministry, which serves the those experiencing homelessness, a community garden, and a community meal.
Servant’s Table is not your typical 1950’s Lutheran church. Yes, they have a similar purpose, “…to be fed with both the Word and the Bread to be sent out to be the hands and feet of God.” But there is no card-carrying membership or a church building. Yet, around this servant table, people are fed with faith and fellowship, served up to ask faith-filled questions, and blessed to find sacred community in a public space.
What does paying attention to the way we use space matter in ministry? It matters because of how both Jesus and Paul were creative in reaching out to the gentiles. Both Jesus and Paul moved out of the temple building and into public venues to teach and preach about God’s love. Martin says, “Ministry these days is about bridging the gap – to keep providing for people who sit in the pews, those who don’t want to change and experimenting with those who need to see and be church in a new way. This does not mean we neglect out Lutheran identity; it means we just don’t hold on too tight.” Paying attention to space in our ministries – inside and outside the church walls – is a both/ and in helping the church to grow.
For more information on this story, please contact Pastor Rob Martin at 918.582.0917.