For a small church in the West Valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area, local outreach comes in many different forms. Axiom Church is a Mennonite Brethren church plant in Peoria, Arizona, that got its start about five years ago, when members of several small groups began gathering together to worship. What began as nine people committed to furthering God’s kingdom in Peoria grew to become a group of about 200 believers.
While Axiom Church has evolved over the past five years, the focus of its members continues to be on deepening relationships with Jesus while remaining mission-minded and serving the people of Peoria.
Pastor Gavin Linderman says that many churches in the area are moving out due to social and economic challenges. “With that comes a lot of outreach opportunities,” he says. “Jesus is still very much interested in the people here.”
Linderman estimates that about 60 percent of the congregation participates in “Axiom communities,” small groups that gather to study Scripture and celebrate life together, but also to reach out to those in need in the area.
“Each group becomes a discerning body for ways to serve, bless and be sent to a local people or place,” he says.
This spring, Axiom is planning a “give and grab” barbeque. The event will take place after a Sunday service and involve bounce houses and a free meal. This effort gives the people of Peoria an opportunity to bless their neighbors by bringing food or an opportunity to receive food if they are in need.
The church has also done supply drives throughout the year that involve the entire congregation. The collections cater to a specific and seasonal need in the community. In the past, the church has collected coats and blankets in winter, water in summer and school supplies in the fall. In the spring, church members look and listen for the particular need of the Peoria community at that time.
“We do events that make sense for the area, but ultimately the hard work that we’re doing is developing integral relationships.” Linderman says. “We really are looking for their counsel and their voice and trying to figure out what passions, dreams and pains they’re experiencing.”
Linderman believes that focusing on developing friendships with people through outreach leads to more intuitive and natural opportunities to share the gospel. He wants the people of Peoria to view the Axiom community as a safe place where their voices will be heard.
He suggests that churches begin incorporating the ideas of local outreach and mission into their environment by talking about them often. Axiom Church uses the phrase, “In Peoria as it is in heaven,” as a way to remind members to look for ways to display God’s love through action by meeting needs.
Linderman’s encouragement to those looking for effective ways to live on mission is to be creative, both in deciding what outreach looks like and in defining success. “We always want to qualify our mission by the outcome or success, and I think you have to take that away,” he says. “If it blesses people, then it’s mission.”
Linderman believes that outreach does not always have to involve a widespread or complicated effort. In his experience, outreach can often be just as effective when it starts small and remains simple.
“If this is something that’s been put on your heart, you need to cultivate the environment that is going to breed a heart for mission,” he says. “Just begin, wherever you are now, however you know how.”