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grassROOTS Church Digs Deep to Reach the Lost
By Amber Cassady
Colorado Springs, Colo.- "If you try to pull out grass by the roots, you cant do it. They are firmly planted,” said Ross when asked about the origins of the church’s name. “This is like the way we want people to be deeply rooted in Christ. Also, as we grow in our relationship with God, we also need to care for one another like grass roots wrap themselves around other roots.” With a name that is reflective of the church’s organic and relational approach, grassROOTS tenderly branches out and welcomes those who are outside of the church culture in a city that is popularly coined as the “Christian Mecca.”
Compelled by a burden for the missing group of 18 to 35 year olds in churches across the nation, Pastor Clay Ross along with his wife, Shawna, and dear friends, Robert and Tina Leal, set out to plant grassROOTS church.“Despite being home to more than 100 ministries including Focus on the Family, Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), Colorado Springs cannot be aptly titled as a Christian community. Out of approximately 600,000 people residing in this city only 7% are involved in Christian activity. The rest of the population is largely unreached, misguided or disinterested.
In their three years of existence, grassROOTS has persistently sought out that significant 93% of the community. A way that Ross and the core group did this before official gatherings began, was by visiting bars, tattoo shops, gay and lesbian foundations, and stores to simply introduce themselves, serve and cultivate intentional relationships. In January 2009, the church launched their very first service. GrassROOTS gathered in a variety of non-traditional locations for their first few years. They did not have a building of their own and desired to be in a meeting place in which unconventional people would feel at ease. They were able to worship and hold Bible studies in a city auditorium, the Gay and Lesbian Foundation, and an old abandoned theater in downtown Colorado Springs.
To accommodate a growing group and more children, grassROOTS currently meets in the Heart of the Springs Church’s building. Their vast array of locations does not signify flakiness from grassROOTS but in fact reflects their vision of strategically meeting in many different places for the purpose of discipleship and witnessing opportunities. “That’s what we want to do as a church- gather and scatter,” explained Ross.
Love, safety, authenticity and Truth characterize the values of grassROOTS. These principles foster an environment in which people from many walks of life feel welcome and willing to hear about the God that the church gathers to worship.
Down and out and recovering from alcoholism, Allen Robinson (pictured below right) visited grassROOTS after hearing about it from a friend at a homeless shelter in the city who told him that they played a music video of people from around the world singing Bob Marley’s One Love. Allen then knew this was a church that he wanted to try out. “My life was filled with uncertainty. I had quit alcohol but I was still in the first month and it was hard,” said Robinson. “I had lost my apartment and was unemployed. I just knew I needed to be sober but I didn’t know what was next. Inside me I knew there was something missing that needed to be filled.”
From Robinson’s first steps through the door at grassROOTS, he felt loved and almost a part of the family right away. “I knew then that I was coming back,” he said. “People giving and showing love like that was something I was not used to. I had been in self-exile, and did not want to be around people unless they had alcohol because then we had something in common. I was in darkness and had no feelings what so ever.”
Robinson kept coming back to church and eventually gave his life to Christ. “Now I am a total servant for my family. The love that I have received, I have been able to respond and give back,” said Robinson about his new identity as a Christian. He exercises his new attitude of service as the director of the hospitality team at grassROOTS. He is also now employed, sharing the story of God’s work in his life with others and hopeful of what the future holds. His story of the transforming power of the Gospel is just one of many that grassROOTS has been able to behold.
Approximately one third of the congregation at grassROOTS are individuals who grew up un-churched or were extremely hurt by a church somewhere along their journey but are finding refreshment in love in the community atmosphere of grassROOTS. Another third of the people involved are the “organic hipster” community that have a strong sense of social justice and living life communally but are not committed to one specific church body. Ross described the remaining third of their church to be made up of solid Christians with a healthy grasp on the Gospel, but are maxed out with other details of a busy life and unable to fully lead with their giftedness and capabilities. Although the make-up of grassROOTS is extremely diverse, they come together with a strong sense of absolute truth in God’s Word and authentic accountability with one another.
grassROOTS Church was also a part of Power Plant, a week emphasis on church planting for youth groups in which existing churches are partnered to serve and learn about different church plants, in Colorado Springs from June 10 through June 16. The photo at the top of the page shows Pastor Clay Ross speaking to the group of students about church planting. grassROOTS partnered specifically with Vista Grande Church from Sandia Park, New Mexico and carried out multiple projects that week involving servant evangelism and canvassing the neighborhoods with information about the church. The students of this youth group went away with new perspectives on church planting and what it means to live on mission in their own backyards.
On a regular basis, grassROOTS carries out its fellowship and outreach in a variety of creative ways that are relevant to the culture of the community of Colorado Springs. From bike rides to pancake dinners to handing out water at local 5K races, the outdoorsy and volunteer oriented population can relate to grassROOTS church as they scatter outside of church walls with a desire to see the world impacted for God’s growing Kingdom.
*Photography by Amber Cassady*
Amber Cassady is the Front Range missional correspondent for Colorado Baptists this summer and is a senior communication & journalism student at Texas A&M University.