The Road is a common metaphor in the Bible, in popular music, poetry, but it’s also a new worshiping and discipleship church startup in Rapid City, South Dakota. Christianity itself is a road, but how often do we take the time to place our personal or communal journey as followers of Christ into that metaphor and self-reflect on our progress and navigation of that road?
Rev. Jeff Hauser, associate pastor at First UMC in Rapid City, South Dakota, and leader of The Road, asks his companions in Christian travel those questions and more. The Road began as a recovery ministry, with Revs. Jeff Hauser and Brett Roes at Canyon Lake UMC in Rapid City and moved to Rapid City First UMC last year. The Road– and most importantly those who travel on it, continues to evolve and thrive from a purely recovery-type ministry into a fully-immersed Christian community of fellowship, study and outreach.
Several small groups meet every Monday night to do a 12-step, Christ-based study. There is also a group meeting every Thursday, doing an inductive Bible study. Right now, that group is going through the book of Matthew. These groups get together for worship on the 2nd Sunday of every month, where Pastor Jeff gives a message, communion is shared together, and they share a meal together.
Pastor Jeff said, “We’re realizing, as the community of believers we are, that we’re not so much to be about recovery in the sense of addiction but recovering what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and also, what it means to be the body of Christ. The Church of Christ where Jesus is the head, and we are different members of the body.”
He said that The Road provides a place of safety where people can be transparent and “let this stuff out and let God’s light shine on it so that they can grow into letting that go, and how we can’t do it on our own.” He compared it to what James said about “confessing our sins to one other, and praying for one another, so that you can be healed.” He and his congregation are seeing that first-hand, where people can be transparent, and the healing process starts for people as they realize who they are in Christ.
Their recent study of Ephesians 4 brought this to light, this understanding that we are all gifted with unique gifts, and are necessary to complete the body of Christ. Rev. Eugene Peterson put it another way in his contemporary version of the Bible, The Message:
“He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” (Ephesians 4: 8-13 The Message)
Rev. Hauser explained some of the energy and dynamics of the developing congregation he is leading into ministry. “We’re really diving into– and realizing that’s where God is leading us, into that direction more and more. The author of Hebrews even said, ‘Let us put aside the basics of our faith– that Christ was crucified and resurrected, and the foundation of baptism, and let us move on to fullness, to completion, to the deeper things.’” Hauser continued, “I think part of that ‘deeper things’ is realizing who we are, within the body, so that body can operate within its fullest potential. And that is where the power of the Holy Spirit is able to flow through and really impact not only our lives, but Rapid City as well.”
Pastor Jeff’s message of “recovering what it means to be disciples” reaches people from Rapid City First UMC’s congregation, as well as previously unchurched from the Rapid City community. Some of the folks in the existing congregation have joined groups and worship with The Road, and the ministries are working well together.
Pastor Barry Whipkey, lead pastor at Rapid City First UMC, is mentoring Pastor Jeff, who is also occasionally preaching at regular Sunday morning worship services. Pastor Jeff is enjoying that opportunity and says he could foresee preaching even more. Pastors Barry and Jeff often discuss their theology with each other, and complement each other’s preaching and ministry leadership styles.
Hauser said, “I see that pouring over into and inviting those that are part of First United Methodist Church, and I’m beginning to see the reason that God called me there. So, we’re really leaning into the fullness of what it is to be the Church, the body, and full-blown disciples of Christ. Allowing God’s spirit to illuminate those little crevices, those dark spots in our lives, that are holding us back.”
Going forward, Pastor Jeff says, “we want to invite everyone to come, to throw off the burdens that may be hindering them from realizing who they really are in Christ, and where they fit, specifically, into the body with the gifts they have been given, so that they can live those out. And when they all are able to do that, the body can really flourish. So, that’s really our focus right now, and we’re diving into it quite strongly.”
“As far as the relationship with First UMC and The Road, there’s a lot of unknowns in the future, but we’re going to just keep stepping forward in faith, allowing God to reveal as we go.”
“That’s kinda the fun part of this that used to give me anxiety and worry. I’ve learned to trust and to seek to be faithful in what’s in front of me, and even as I try to vision and look forward, to do it loosely, knowing that God’s ways are indeed the best ways.”