I spent last week in New Jersey with my cousins who pastor a pretty awesome inner-city church. They started it about ten years ago with little outside support and the help of only one nephew. The church is growing and thriving now, with over 250 in weekly attendance. I love receiving updates from Tanya about how many were in service or how many were baptized. My intention was to write a blog about how fantastic Tapestry Church is. I have been there a few times, and love the authenticity of the people and the pulse I sense. It tells me the church is alive and tuned in to the presence of God and the purpose of God. They have a great team of leaders working with them, supporting and inspiring the Langstons and devoting themselves to the mission and vision of the church.
Image Source: Joy Langston Photography
But that is all I’m going to say about Tapestry Church. That is another post for another day. Instead, I am going to brag about Tony and Tanya…. because sometimes you just have to give honor where honor is due. Sometimes when you are moved and challenged by someone doing the work of the kingdom, you have to say so. This is me saying so.
This is how the Langstons gather.
1. The Langstons gather people together in their home. I have never met anyone with an open-door policy like that of the Langstons. Their home is the hub for meetings, dinners, social activities and weddings. They have hosted countless services, prayer meetings, counseling sessions and leadership meetings. Their furniture, refrigerator and carpet pay the toll. They have had NINE people live in their spare room in the last ten years (including my niece currently). Their neighbors drop by and are welcomed. Young people from the church show up and are greeted with open arms. And you know what? I have never heard them complain about it.
I long for this type of community. Here in the suburbs, it seems like a miracle if I can get to know the names of my neighbors. Yet the Langstons have shared the love and gospel of Jesus with countless neighbors and a large number of their church members have come from their genuine connections with these very neighbors.
2. The Langstons gather ideas, knowledge and experiences. My brain spins when I am around them. They are constantly discussing how to improve their effectiveness. They have a mission and they gather every possible resource to help them accomplish that mission. They attend conferences, read books, listen to sermons and push one another to grow as leaders. Tony and Tanya have been successful in seeing their church grow by many standards, but they are not satisfied. They celebrate the growth, but are always quick to say how far they have to go, how many they have to reach.
3. The Langstons gather people to Jesus. I am so moved by their genuine love for people. Tony and Tanya aren’t doing this exhausting work to make money, build an impressive church or gather accolades from their Christian counterparts. They are in it because they desire to gather people UNTO Jesus. Their mission field is saturated with real people who have real, heartbreaking stories. The people they gather tell stories of abuse, drug-addiction, prostitution, violence, divorce, abandonment, depression and hopelessness.
Yet because of the persistence, compassion and love the Langstons have for their city, and by the faithfulness and power of God, these stories have turned into lives full of hope, healing, restoration, deliverance, peace, unity, commitment and freedom in Christ Jesus.
Image Source: Joy Langston Photography
Their job is messy. Many of the people they love and reach have issues I may never witness in my privileged suburb. It is often a thankless job. It is a job that faces much scrutiny and criticism from the Christian world. Their methods are questioned. Their dedication and commitment to doctrine are questioned. Their job is all-consuming and never-ending.
This is the work of Jesus, my friends. They are carrying a heavy cross to walk this path with Jesus. When I see their ministry, I see the Great Commission being carried out with grace, compassion and an abiding love. And while their job isn’t easy by any means, it is rewarding.
They are seeing lives transformed by the power of God. They are experiencing tangible, sustained growth. They live with an authentic community of believers. They are seeing their purpose fulfilled. They are reaching a FIRST-GENERATION of disciples.
Their passion is exhausting, yet I am inspired. I feel like I received a holy gift last week. I saw a glimpse into the lives of people who are truly gathering people to Jesus. I am changed by it and I thank you, Tony and Tanya, for your unyielding commitment to the purpose God has laid before you. I thank you for being a shining example to me of what it means to spend a life for the cause of Christ.