KANSAS CITY – Last year a young couple who had been living together for four years came to LifeConnection Northeast’s Sunday gathering and then joined a small group. Chris Seay, pastor/planter of LifeConnection, saw a transformation take place in the heart of the young woman, who requested a counseling session for guidance on what it would look like to follow Jesus in their relationship.
“I graciously and honestly told them that it would honor Jesus if they stopped living together and reset their relationship on the foundation of the gospel,” Seay said. “But (I) asked them not to do that to appease me, but only out of devotion to Jesus.”
The woman moved out a few weeks later, but the young man didn’t like it. He tried to pressure her to move back in and, when she refused, he broke up with her.
“While it’s been difficult on her, she has made strides in her relationship with Christ and is determined to honor God in her future relationships,” Seay said. “This woman has counted the cost and has chosen to follow Jesus.”
She is one of many who have been impacted by LifeConnection Northeast, a church plant that began in 2013 by Seay and his family. Supported by the Cooperative Program, the church now has 30 core members with several more who come regularly, most residents of the northeast KC area.
“They are a passionate group who love Jesus and this neighborhood,” Seay said. “They are a constant source of encouragement to me.”
Because many people in this inner-city area of Kansas City are skeptical of the “church,” Seay said LifeConnection offers what he calls “open small groups” so that people can invite their neighbors and encourage newcomers to jump in wherever they are at.
He said the cultural and socio-economic diversity of the Northeast KC area is both a challenge and an exciting opportunity. There are more than 40 different ethnicities represented in the area, with people who make upwards of six figures living on the same block as people living in extreme poverty. The area has a high crime rate (twice the state average), but there are always children outside playing soccer and riding bikes, making the neighborhood feel much like a small town.
Because of the area’s unique makeup, Seay said LifeConnection focuses on two goals: reaching local families and international ministry. They’ve held block parties and family events in local parks, but Seay said the best way they’ve found to reach out is to give their congregation room to make disciples as they live their every-day lives.
“Instead of filling their calendars, we want to give them room to be missional under the guidance of the church’s mission and vision,” Seay said. “A few people minister to Congolese teenagers through soccer on Mondays and play basketball with Muslim teens on Tuesdays. One group rides bikes as part of a local biking cohort and has had several conversations about Jesus. Another family cooks out on their lawn every week and invites neighbors to come. They’ve seen several friendships birthed out of this and several families come to their small group and to Sunday mornings.”
Seay said the Cooperative Program has been vital to the ongoing strength of their young church plant. The giving base of LifeConnection Northeast is small, and he said even as it continues to grow numerically, it will likely never be able to match what might be expected in a suburban church.
“Having that financial support has enabled me to work full-time as a planter and pastor, freeing me to be with my family more instead of working another job. This is invaluable to me, our church and my family.”
And because of that cooperation, Seay has seen God do some amazing things in just a few short years through LifeConnection.
For instance, he witnessed the complete heart change of a couple that wanted nothing to do with church because of past hurt.
“I had coffee with (the husband) a few times and eventually invited him to a men’s Bible study at my house,” Seay said. “He, to my surprise, accepted. He was the only one who would come but after a couple of months, his wife attended my wife’s women’s group. I have seen amazing spiritual growth in them and last year I baptized their (teenage) daughters.”
Another man grew up in church his whole life but admitted at age 50 that he had not made many disciples. Since joining LifeConnection, Seay has seen him become more intentional in seeking the lost.
“One of his biking friends has been coming to Sunday morning at his invitation and he meets with him every Friday morning for coffee and Bible study,” Seay said. “It’s encouraging to see God transform life-long church-goers into disciple-makers.”
While the church desires to continue it’s evangelistic and practical ministries focused on families, this fall it will also start intentionally training and equipping future pastors, planters and church leaders in a residency-style leadership program.
“My prayer is that we could one day send a refugee back home to plant a church in his own country,” Seay said. “I pray that in five years I will see a church bustling with kids of all ages who are hearing the gospel at church and in the home, smaller huddles of Christian men and women studying the Bible in order to trust Jesus and make disciples, and a growing number of men and women equipped to go and start churches in the city and overseas.”