Matthias Lot takes Gospel
to postmoderns with passion
By Allen Palmeri
December 13, 2005
ST. CHARLES –Pastor Marc Sikma, one of several innovative church planters working within the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), believes so much in the Genesis model of God working six days and resting one day that he is building a new church on that foundation.
Sikma, 25, also believes that Southern Baptist churches are caught in a syndrome where unchurched, postmodern young adults are intimidated by Sunday morning worship times. He does not want to see the unsaved afraid to visit “the holy building with the steeple” because they do not measure up to the “holy” people in the pews. Therefore, the churchgoers at Matthias Lot blend right in with the unchurched on Sunday during small-group time in houses from noon-3 p.m., where church members and lost people dress similarly, in jeans if they want, in a non-threatening venue where worship takes place. Before noon, folks are encouraged to rest, or Sabbath, with their families.
Sikma is one of the pastors of Matthias Lot, an MBC church since Aug. 31 in St. Charles County that has grown to 175 on Wednesday and 125 on Sunday. He summarized the spirit of the church like this: Be there, be vulnerable, and live life with this group of people.
“Even by week three or week four, our people were saying, ‘This is what I’ve been looking for all my life, this community of people,’” Sikma said. “The community dynamics, what Jesus is doing in our midst, is pretty remarkable.”
The name Matthias Lot comes from Acts 1:15-26, where Matthias was chosen to replace Judas as one of the apostles. The method of selection was the casting of lots. Thus, Matthias Lot is the name that is becoming increasingly familiar both in and around St. Charles – especially in the fertile ground of Lindenwood University, where students are getting to know the young, athletic pastor as he hangs out on campus on Thursday afternoons.
“One thing that’s happened is a lunch table that started out with four or five people is now 20 or 25,” Sikma said. “We’re not preaching the name of Matthias. We’re building relationships.”
As people get involved on Wednesdays and Sundays, they begin to become familiar with the concept of LOT Families. A LOT Family is one that is Living Onward Together (LOT). The goal is to illustrate the value of a membership covenant. Because the church is so young, fewer than half of the people who are regularly attending are actually members, Sikma said. There are maybe 50 members and 75 non-members on a typical Sunday.
Sikma explained that back in the first century, because sin had entered into the community of apostles, a redemptive action had to be taken. Matthias represents that action. The selection of this relatively unknown man to become an apostle was an attempt to be true to the integrity and authority of Christ, which is how Matthias Lot seeks to portray itself as a church.
“His sole purpose in Scripture was to restore integrity to the apostolic ring,” Sikma said.
The maturity of Matthias Lot is tied to the strength of its mother church, Two Rivers Church of St. Charles, an MBC church plant that has rocketed from its launch in 1999 to 800 members today. Ron Cathcart, founding pastor of Two Rivers who joined the MBC staff Oct. 1 as a church planting strategist, met Sikma about a year ago and quickly determined that they had similar goals and methods.
“We intentionally had Marc preach once in June, once in July and once in August,” Cathcart said. “At that point, we really started to ramp up and make sure that he had the visibility in our church, because they were going to launch in August.”
Two Rivers sent about 150-200 people to the first Matthias Lot service, which mushroomed to 475. It was a huge celebration time for the church plant, which has been marked by vibrancy in its first 3½ months even though Sikma wants it known that his people do not claim to have the answers, but are sinners in desperate need of the grace of God.
“Even though we’re in the same community, the same area, we’re arm-in-arm for the kingdom,” Cathcart said. “There’s no territorialism. We want to share that with other churches, because that’s the way it needs to be.”
Matthias Lot is part of “the emerging church” movement, which is a broad categorization that Sikma tends to resist because of baggage that comes with the label. Rick Biesiadecki, another MBC church planting strategist in the St. Louis area, likes the label “urgent church,” and Cathcart said Matthias could simply be called a “Gospel church.”
Sikma spoke of the potential problems that can arise out of the “emerging” emphasis. For example, if a church makes community its top priority, conviction among the members may very well become a casualty.
“It’s almost like a therapy session, a gathering of people where they don’t want to offend anyone,” he said. “Well, the Gospel’s offensive. If you’re focusing on community, then you’re just whatever – Boy Scouts for Jesus.”
As part of the Acts 29 network of emerging churches, Matthias promotes the centrality of sound doctrine. Bible teachings of 45 or 50 minutes are not uncommon. The idea behind emphasizing sound doctrine, Sikma said, is that people want truth without compromise, and they need teaching that is passionate, deep and intellectual, all the while drawing on the strength of community as they sit under that type of instruction.
The sufficiency of Scripture within Matthias Lot is evident when one examines the officers of the church. Sikma believes that the senior pastor/associate pastor arrangement found in many Southern Baptist churches is more traditional than biblical. Matthias Lot chooses to appoint elders (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim. 3:2-7). Sikma, Jason Zellmer and Jeff Buzynski are a plurality of elders who are responsible for leading the church.
“They are years ahead of their time in the implementation of eldership,” said John Onuoha, who succeeded Cathcart as teaching elder of Two Rivers Church, which has 10 elders. “These folks have embraced it with such vigor and zeal.”
Moving forward with integrity in the spirit of conquering the gates of hell, Sikma likes to talk about lives that are being transformed on his watch, by the grace of God alone.
“Jesus is the hero of every single story that we tell,” he said.
Cathcart sees a church that has been built on a sure foundation.
“The Gospel has got to be the centerpiece,” he said. “It is the Gospel that changes lives. It’s a true, unashamed proclamation of the Gospel in language that the people in the community where we’re planted understand.”
That is precisely what Matthias Lot is attempting to do in St. Charles.
“Jesus sits on the throne,” Sikma said. “Nothing else can sit on the throne – including community.”