In the fall of 2007, the Lord began to do a fresh work in my family’s heart. My wife and I had been married for just a couple of years. We both loved our jobs, our church, and the community of people that God had raised up around us. Our first little house was constantly full of friends and family. We hosted Bible studies, cookouts, game nights, and frequent out of town visitors. In those early years, our home was a revolving door of friends and strangers (soon to be friends) alike. It was a fantastic season of life.
As we reflect back on that season, we feel nothing but a deep sense of gratitude for all that God was doing.
It was in the midst of that season that God began to give birth to a new dream. We sensed God was inviting us to help begin a new expression of His Church through that community that seemed to be accidentally forming all around us.
So in the fall of 2008, along with a handful of close friends and family we started Ethos Church.
The last five and half years have been exciting, exhausting, satisfying, and joy filled. We have celebrated success and picked ourselves up after failing. We have seen many come to Christ, relationships healed, the poor served, and many missionaries commissioned both locally and globally. It has been an amazing adventure, and only God can take credit for what He has done.
There are countless stories and decisions that have shaped our church’s culture over the last 5 years, but for the sake of brevity, I want to share 3 choices that continue to shape us deeply.
ONE : WE WILL BE OUTWARD.
First, we have decided that if our church was in the shipping business, we would be in the business of exporting not importing. In other words, our primary goal is to export our people for the good of our city not merely import the people of our city for the good of our church. As I look at the scriptures, the marching orders of Jesus to his followers seems to be quite clear — “we go to them.” Jesus has not called us to build a great church. That is his job. Jesus has called us to reach a city.
This understanding of Christ and His mission has shaped virtually every aspect of how our church family functions. It shapes the way we gather on Sundays, spend our money, organize our time, and hire our staff. When it came time to find the spaces in which our multiple campuses and services would gather each Sunday—our goal was simple. We wanted just enough space to gather our people around God on Sunday for the purpose of then deploying them into the city for mission. We wholeheartedly believe that when Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives, the arrows of our church’s heart will always face outward.
TWO : WE WILL BE MOBILE.
Second, we have decided that in order for our church to be effective in sharing the gospel, we must fight hard to stay mobile. In a culture that is rapidly changing, to be anything but mobile is nothing short of a death sentence. Although our church is quite large, we have intentionally chosen to operate in a way that is simple and small. If our church were a boat floating down a river, we want to be more like a pack of tugboats traveling together than a giant barge. Although a giant barge can carry more freight, it is far too cumbersome to turn or maneuver. A tugboat is quick and responsive, and more importantly it is strong enough to pull something much larger than itself into port.
This imagery has helped us continually find ways to keep a unified mission while constantly decentralizing ministry. After 5 years of ministry, we still have a week to week lease on the buildings we gather in for worship. This might sound crazy, but we find it liberating. We use a small staff to mobilize and release hundreds of volunteer leaders. If our volunteer leaders can’t drive the ministry, we aren’t ready to start it. These leaders pastor house churches, care for people, visit the sick, preach weddings and funerals, lead ministry opportunities locally and globally, and so much more. We’ve discovered that a lot of people carrying a little bit of weight, can carry much more than a few people trying to carry the whole load. This mobility has been essential as we continually try to reach a changing culture with an unchanging Gospel.
THREE : WE WILL BE CENTERED.
Finally, above all else, we strive to be centered on the person, presence, and promises of Jesus Christ. We firmly believe that every trend, fad, and methodology will pass. We know that even our tiny expression of the local church will eventually close its doors, but the name of Jesus will never fade. His church will never be stopped. His kingdom will never be slowed.
So for us, every choice we make revolves around keeping Jesus at the center of our church and our lives. We preach Jesus boldly. We listen for his voice with expectancy. We invite people to Jesus unashamedly.
We believe our mission as followers of Christ begins with the finished work of Jesus. He has paved the way. He has paid the price. He is present with us. He will teach, guide, correct, encourage, rebuke, and protect. He will draw men and women to himself. He is our great shepherd, and our deepest source of joy and comfort. When Christ is at the center, everything else will be quite alright.
Dave Clayton loves God, his wife Sydney, and his two boys Micah & Jack. In the late fall of 2008, Dave & Sydney, along with a small group of friends, planted Ethos Church in the heart of downtown Nashville. Ethos Church is a young, urban church passionate about reaching the lost, serving the poor, and planting churches all over the world. Ethos Church currently meets in a variety of locations and has congregations in Nashville, TN and Eastern India. Dave is passionate about helping a new generation of men and women love God, love people, and awaken the movement that Jesus began.