“Sussex is in need of hearing the gospel in a way that is accessible and tangible, and that’s what I hope to do.”
Willie Vaughan has an out-of-the-box vision for his community church: In place of pews, coffee tables and in place of a tie, a barista apron. When God called Willie to pastoral ministry in his hometown, he knew it was a call to creativity. “We’d like to start out with a café settingrather than traditional services.”
Willie’s no stranger to church ministry. After recommitting his life to Christ in his early 20s, Willie became a lay leader for the youth group, serving in a church an hour’s drive from his hometown. In recent months, God has renewed his passion for his home community—and given him a unique vision for church-planting.
Willie’s vision for café-style ministry stems from the relational hunger he sees in his community.
“Teens and young adults are hungry for a relationship, to know they are loved by people and loved by God.”
But Willie isn’t content to put out a church sign and wait for people to wander in on a Sunday morning. He’s determined to bring the good news to his community by meeting people in their everyday lives. And, in a coffee-culture, cafés are everyday necessities.
What’s Willie’s plan for sharing this good news? Story-telling. As he puts it, “Seizing the opportunity to share what God has done in my life that others might come to know Christ and know him better.”
Sharing stories creates space for hearing stories. Sometimes, listening can be a powerful message of genuine love, Willie tells us. Listening helps churches understand the hopes and needs of their communities.
One of the challenges of ministry is its personal nature. “When you get close to someone, you start to feel their pain,” Willie shares. “Meeting people in their heartbrokenness is difficult. But that’s the compassion Christ showed us.”
Willie has received push-back for his vision. “People often ask me, ‘How many people do you expect to come?’ They’re looking for a certain definition of a successful church,” Willie admits.
“But if I can reach one person, that’s enough. Treat each person as if they were that one person we were supposed to meet.”
This clarity of vision inspires Willie’s obedience. He’s not looking for full pews, but open hearts.
Willie’s story encourages us to think outside the box—perhaps the box of our church walls. The calling of the church requires compassion, courage and a listening ear. To be the church is to be sent out with the good news of Christ.
Gabriela Garver is a staff writer for Education and Clergy Development. Recently returned from a year studying in Istanbul, Turkey, Gabriela is finishing her undergrad degree in International Relations at Indiana Wesleyan University. After graduation, she hopes to work with refugee resettlement. When she’s not writing, Gabriela enjoys walks, talks, and road trips.