By Rick Thiessen
For the Globe-Times
Allen Creek Community Church, or AC3 for short, started with 15 people in a North Marysville living room in 1995.
We began with a simple mission: to be a safe place where every seeker in Snohomish County can become a fully devoted follower of Jesus.
AC3’s vision centers on developing real friendships between serious Christians and the irreligious and to invite them into settings where we can help spiritual seekers untangle true Christianity from the chaff of cultural Christianity or misunderstandings of faith driven by increasing cultural skepticism and secularism.
The second half of our mission is to train up every respondent to God’s grace in a new way of life following the teaching and example of Jesus.
We want to be a church where it’s normal to focus a Christian’s whole life around the purposes of Jesus: to love God, to love the church and to love the world.
There is a permission giving in compassion that opens the door for our message – not just in the poor we serve, put in those who see us serve the poor. AC3 started by offering free food to the needy, which we gleaned from local food stores.
This outreach grew into assimilating a food panty from another church, which grew again into our current Seeds of Grace resource center.
Here we distribute food, but also seek to engage with the displaced and needy to seek long-term and whole-life solutions to poverty, unemployment and disempowerment.
We have also recently joined forces with Everett Gospel Mission and the city of Marysville in a program called Marysville Extended Shelter Housing, or MESH.
The city has offered homes, the mission has placed individuals who have completed treatment, and we offer ongoing neighborly care to transition the homeless and addicted back into society.
Much has been made in the national media about the growing group of people called “the NONES”. These are people who no longer identify with any religion or tradition and instead select “none” in answer to their religious affiliation.
The PNW was always way out in front of this trend, and at AC3 we have always been focused on this segment of the population.
We’ve found that, surprisingly, while some are ideologically opposed to the church’s teaching, many are open to going to church.
But they’re hesitant because of negative past experiences, stylistic obstacles, formality, giving pressures or simply not understanding the message.
Taking permission from the Apostle Paul who adjusted his methods depending on his cultural context (1 Cor 9:22) AC3 has tried to create weekend services that speak to our post-Christian, spiritually seeking, investigating friends.
That means some very different methods. Like addressing the questions, concerns and issues an irreligious person might have with God, the Bible or the Christian faith.
Or like taking giving pressures off our visitors and like leveraging the arts in media, drama and modern music to make the ancient truths of our Scripture understandable and to touch the heart as well as the mind.
In addition, AC3 focuses on apologetics, giving a winsome defense of Christian beliefs in light of modern anti-religious arguments and attitudes.
All this unique programming emphasis rests on a foundation of belief that all people, including outsiders to faith, matter to God and therefore ought to matter to us, and so Christians ought to love our unchurched neighbors in authentic, real relationships that point to the love and grace of Jesus.
Rick Thiessen is the pastor of Allen Creek Community Church in Marysville.