If asked the question, “What is the church?”, more than likely the response will be, “The church is a building where people go to learn about God.” However, there’s a growing movement among contemporary evangelicals to redefine the word church. Instead of a building, these churches see Christians themselves as the church. Expectation Church in Fairfax, Virginia, is one of those churches and sees events like their recent Easter Eggstravaganza as a way to connect with the community.
At Expectation Church, their mission statement is: “We exist so that people far from God will experience faith in Christ.” Connecting with people, particularly in Northern Virginia, an area with long commutes and tight schedules, can be a challenge. People are busy, so it’s imperative that churches find ways to be relevant in order to meet the needs of these families.
To fulfill their mission, several times throughout the year Expectation hosts a community event such as their recent Easter Eggstravagana. Families from neighborhoods surrounding the church and beyond were invited to enjoy egg hunts, bounce houses, games, and to meet the Easter Bunny. Families sampled treats from several food trucks, adding to the festive atmosphere.
More than just an opportunity for fun, the church sees this as a way to build a relationship with the community. Senior Pastor David Stokes says, “In many ways, churches are voices ‘crying in the wilderness’–only it’s a wilderness of noise and distraction. To be heard–even noticed–we must be creative. We like to say it this way, ‘the message never changes, but the methods do’. Church connects us with people as it connects us with God.”
It’s all comes back to that mission statement – bringing people far from God to faith. It’s not about religion – it’s about a relationship. The cable news definition of what it means to be a Christian has left a sour taste in the mouth of many AmericansAccording to Pew Research, the number of Americans who say they believe in God is declining, dropping from 92% in 2007 to 89% in 2014. Perhaps more significantly, the “nones” – people who don’t identify as religious or identify their beliefs in “nothing in particular” – has risen from 16% to 23%.
It’s through events like Expectation’s Eggstravaganza that churches demonstrate their message is the gospel and not politics. These are the churches who redefine “Christian” and “evangelical” as something deeper and more relational than simply “not an atheist”.