On a recent visit for my “influencer” series of interviews I got to know Jimmy Seibert, founding pastor of Antioch Community Church (www.antiochcc.net).
One of my many “wows” was learning that hundreds of members of this 12-year-old church are living as church-planting missionaries overseas. From within this extraordinary church, it’s a normal and widespread practice for members to physically move into a cross cultural setting and demonstrate the love of Christ in community. The world got a glimpse of this value back in 2001 when the Taliban in Afghanistan held hostage for 104 days two of the church’s missionaries, Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry, along with a number of others. When these young women were released, the church’s exuberant prayer and praise meeting briefly hit the international spotlight. While the political timing was poignant, since their capture occurred just after the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York and Washington D.C., the young women’s spiritual passion was not unusual. “We’ve got hundreds more just like them,” Pastor Jimmy Seibert had explained to the media.
But in the months after the dramatic release of its members in Afghanistan, the church soon ducked behind the limelight once more. As Jimmy Seibert explains in his book The Church Can Change the World: Loving from the Inside Out, Antioch Community Church doesn't want to be known as “Heather and Dayna's church,” nor even as a church with a huge emphasis on prayer. Rather, it seeks to have impact by being a people that simply loves and follows Jesus with all their heart mind, soul and strength.
On my walking tour of their campus, which is in an economically challenged section of Waco, Texas, we walked by a cell tower in the parking lot. “Bet your leasing fee helps with the general budget,” I commented to my tour host. “Actually no,” he said. “We said ‘yes’ to the cell tower so we could give those funds to the poor…kind of like the corners of the fields in the Bible.”
To me, that response symbolizes why this church models discipleship in ways that are off the charts compared to that of many other churches. Virtually everything it does happens with purpose, with sacrifice and with a desire to change the world. To this church, it’s normal for everyone to be a fully committed disciple of Jesus. As a result, I believe – as the book title affirms – a church like this can change the world.