This is probably not the best picture that’s ever been taken of him (I snapped it with my cell phone while we were having coffee), but this guy may have the best name in the evangelism business. This is Ricky Love: Church Planter.
Ricky’s from West Virginia, just like me. He went to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, just like me. He has a wife and two lovely daughters, just like me. He lives in Richmond, Virginia, just like me.
But here’s where we’re different:
Ricky and his family live on Church Hill in Richmond, right next to the Fairfield Court housing project. It’s one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, and also one of the most violent. I asked Ricky if he ever hears gunshots at night and he said yes. I asked him how his wife feels about that and he just smiled and shook his head. But Ricky is not just talking the talk, he is walking the walk, and here’s how he does it:
He spends his time in the neighborhood around his house, building relationships and making friends. Once or twice a week he invites everybody over to his house, where they eat some food, and study the Bible, and say prayers for each other. Attendance varies from week to week, but Ricky says they usually have twenty or thirty who come. He says someday they hope to be big enough to need a separate building, but for now they can squeeze into his house, and for now that’s a good thing.
Yesterday I was asking if the church has a future. I believe that it does, and I believe the future of the church may be what Ricky Love is doing: it may be the followers of Jesus going out into their neighborhoods, building relationships and making friends, and then inviting those people to come to their homes for food, fellowship, Bible study and prayer. That’s what the church looked like in the earliest days of its existence, and that may be what it looks like again.
I think that’s a reason to be hopeful. And I think it raises the possibility that almost any of us could do what Ricky is doing. We may not all have theological training. We may not all have the courage to move to Church Hill. But we could all invite some friends over to share food, and study the Bible, and pray for each other, couldn’t we?
Maybe this is how the Kingdom of Heaven will come to Richmond, Virginia–one neighborhood at a time.