In my early years of church planting starting in 2005, I had the immense privilege to be in a great network of church planters through Seattle Church Planting. Gary Irby, our fearless encourager, came to speak with our church in those early years and he shared an inspiring story of how The Bridge Church made a huge impact on their community. Their approach to living out the Gospel totally changed the way the non-Christians in their community view Christians and the Church. I wanted to share the story with you, so I set up an interview with one of the Elders, Daniel Espy, who was involved in the early days of The Bridge.
ME: Daniel, I have heard some great things about what God is doing at The Bridge. Could you give my readers a brief history of the Bridge and tell folks what you do in service to the church?
DANIEL: My name is Daniel Espy and I am married to a wonderful woman named Leah and we have two wild and crazy kids. Josiah is three years old and Aletheia is 21 months. About five years ago a man came and spoke in my missiology class in seminary and told about a church he was starting in Lake Stevens, WA. That was the beginning of my journey with The Bridge Church. My wife and I came up in the summer of 2005 to check out what was going on and returned a year later after graduation with the plans of being bi-vocational and helping start new churches. My previous education and experience was in managing golf courses so God used those skills to find me a job running the construction division of a landscape company while we lived in someone’s basement. After doing this for about a year God provided a way for me to quit and start being a pastor full time. Since that time, the original planter has moved back to North Carolina and I have become the directional elder for the church. What that means in the big scheme of things is that I oversee the daily operations of the church, lead discipleship classes and preach on Sunday morning. I try as much as I can to push ministry out to the edges so there are many others who lead and carry out the vision God has given us in ways that I never could.
The church itself started in a living room and then moved to a school shortly thereafter. It officially launched in March of 2006 and remained in the school until 2007. At that time God unexpectedly changed the direction of our church. To make a long story short, another church in our area was not in the best of shape and our school had come up to be remodeled so we needed a place to meet. The other church did not have a pastor so we agreed to have our service at a separate time from them yet also perform their service for them. Well after three months the two churches decided they liked each other so much that they wanted to get “married” and form a new church calling itself The Bridge Church. Just imagine how fun it was to try and orchestrate the merger between an equal number of mostly new believers who had an average age of 35 with and established church whose median age was 60. Needless to say that it has not always been easy but God has done amazing things holding us together under the banner of Christ. This past year we saw 14 people get baptized in a baptistery that had not been filled up in more than 3 years before the merger. Though the plans changed from what we thought God might do he gave us a building and 5 acres that is mortgage free and near the corner of two major highways.
ME: That is a great story brother. What a great beginning! I have heard some other great stories about The Bridge. Our mutual friend Gary Irby of Seattle Church planting, tells me that you guys came into the community with a heart for service that really changed perceptions about Christianity. Can you share with us some of the history behind the Strawberry Festival?
DANIEL: When The Bridge started in Lake Stevens, churches and Christians were not looked on very favorably. Just prior to our arrival some Christians had picketed City Hall and the mayor and there had been some strong sentiment that Christians should not be allowed to gather and have public worship services city parks. The Bridge went in and asked the mayor if we could pray for him and promised to never picket him. We asked him as a sign of good faith if there was anything that we could do to serve the community that no one else would do. He popped up and said that they always need help with trash at Aquafest, which is the big yearly event in town. We said yes not having any clue what we had just committed to. This event has upwards of 30,000 people come through town in 3 days and about 10 people had just committed to pick up trash and keep the streets clean for the entire thing by themselves. Needless to say we were completely overwhelmed and exhausted after filling up 2 of the largest industrial dumpsters you have ever seen with trash from the cans and trash that was supposed to go in the can. By offering to do this for the city a relationship of good will was built which prompted them to ask us to perform a worship service in the park the following year and every year since then on Sunday morning before the days activities begin. We also pick up trash in conjunction with another church the next town over, Snohomish. The event there is called Kla Ha Ya Days and though not on the same scale in size as Aquafest has allowed us to build good will in the community. The other big event we do each years is called CAREfest (www.carefestsnoco.org). What started with one church just 3 years ago had 10 churches participate last year. (Contact Gordon Everett at Snohomish Community Church for info and ideas) We go into the community and do as many projects as possible in one day. We do whatever the schools can’t do for themselves such as painting, clearing blackberries, rearranging classrooms, etc. Also, one of the local car dealerships opens up his mechanics garage and fixes cars all day for us.
ME: What a great story of how being a servant can bring real change. Okay, so here is my final question. I see from your website a real heart for serving others continues on through your “Common Cause” groups. Could you tell us a little bit about these groups and how they influence the life of your church Family?
DANIEL: We take our idea for Common Cause groups straight from Acts 2:42-45. These groups are the missions arm of the church. They are responsible for ministering to one another, a concept we call “No one stands alone.” They eat meals together, fellowship together, study the Word together and serve together. They are responsible for coming up with their own projects and carrying them out. We allow them to announce to the church what they are doing so people can see others besides the elders and deacons serving. If they need help with a project it is their responsibility to go and enlist the help of others in the church. This way we aren’t seen as showing favoritism to one group or project over another and they find out that they are capable of carrying out the love that the Bible commands us to show. Our two most recent projects have involved our Senior High group collecting supplies for the homeless and distributing what was collected to the people where they congregate and another group raised money and food for families in need within the church who have been effected by the recent economy.
ME: Daniel, thanks so much for your time in doing this interview. I hope all my readers are inspired to find ways in their own communities to be a real bridge to Christ.
To all my readers, what inspires you most about what you read today?