This Is What It’s Come To: Substance Church, Ashland, OH
Drug Mart in Ashland, Ohio, could be a setting in a Wes Anderson film about a depressing Midwestern drugstore. It’s that unintentionally-stylized. You can buy whiskey and convalescent toilets there. Drug Mart has all the tools, under one flourescently-lit roof, for getting addicted, ruining your life, dealing with the ruin, and then getting healthy. They also have a coin-operated copy machine which is why I’m there with former rock-star and current church planter Ronnie Martin.
Welcome to the glitz and glamour of church planting. It’s not all skinny jeans, Toms, cowboy shirts and iPad 6’s. I mean, it is of course, but you get the idea.
Copies are fifteen cents and we need change. We’re directed to the Courtesy Center where no courtesy (or change) is actually doled-out. Ron screws up the first copy. More coins are dropped in. Coin noises happen.
“Coins are vintage,” he says.
“This is what it’s come to,” I reply.
I’ve never been to a church plant on the very first Sunday morning. I enjoy the crunch of gravel under my car tires in the parking lot. I spend a few minutes walking around the church building (a loaner from another church). I smell the basement, which smells like all church basements, everywhere. I see a copy of “Why We Love the Church” (my book) sitting atop a pile of Amish romances – all of which look like they’ve been read way more than my book. I count only four hipsters and twenty-one regular people.
Church planting (and by extension GOING to church plants) isn’t only for the young and fashionable. You don’t have to know the collected works of Thom Yorke. You can be an athlete. A salesman. A housewife or…gasp…a woman without a husband or…gasp again…WITH a job. It’s true.
There’s comfort in a church that’s planted by a guy who’s been hurt and humbled, and is trying, in Christ, to deal with it the right way. And who loves the Bible and loves people. I can relate to hurting people…I can’t relate to a church planter whose sum total is some blog posts, designer jeans, and a dream. Dreams aren’t enough. Dreams disappear and inspiration wanes. Christ remains, and is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
There is comfort in “Jesus Paid It All” and “All I Have is Christ” sung to an acoustic guitar. There is comfort in the gospel of God’s grace for sinners (of which, to quote Paul, I am the worst).
If you live in Ashland or Mansfield or Columbus or the Tremont Neighborhood in Cleveland, you owe it to yourself to check out Substance Church at 9:30 AM next Sunday morning. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/substancechurch or @substancechrch.