You don't have to be a Christian to come to Cultivate Church. In fact, we welcome and encourage it. Our mantra is "Love lives here." We don't just make a loving home for Christians. We also make a loving home for non-Christians. We're making a loving home for people — period.
I first meet Larry during our welcome and hospitality time before our worship gathering. I think he is a Christian because he shares his expert knowledge of the Scriptures. I also notice that he is very nice and friendly. I politely excuse myself and get ready to start the worship gathering. Jade, our worship leader, is taking a week off so I fill in for her. I start leading worship and play a song by Elevation Worship called, "Uncontainable Love."
As soon as I end the song, he asks, "How long have you been playing the guitar?"
I respond by saying, "I think I've been playing for over 10 years."
He says, "Ah, nice!"
After that, I transition and play two more songs. I play "All This Time" by River Valley Worship and "What a Beautiful Name" by Hillsong Worship.
The music comes to a close and I go into teaching. If I remember correctly, I think I was teaching on the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
After the worship gathering, we get a burrito from Chipotle, but cross the street hang out at Argo Tea at W 26th St. & 7th Ave. with the rest of the group. I sit by Larry and get to know him better. I find out that he is really big into politics. I also find out that he is a Jewish Atheist. The reason why he knows so much about the Bible is because of his Jewish background. In fact, he even knows more about the Scriptures than a lot of my seminary friends. Although he doesn't believe in the claims the Bible, he still respects the Bible and applies moral principles from the it. Our hangout at Argo Tea comes to a close, but Larry and I decide to hang out on another day.
A few days pass by and we meet up again in Chelsea, Manhattan. I take him to Joe Coffee in Chelsea and we talk some more. We also go to The High Line, Chelsea Market, and Union Square. During this time I'll never forget a conversation we have.
He says, "When I came to your church, I wasn't really a big fan of the music. The preaching was okay." I keep listening and lean in.
Larry goes on to say, "...but I really enjoyed the people. They were so nice, kind, and loving! I definitely want to come back and hang out with you guys!" As he says this last part, I burst with joy on the inside!
I respond to him by saying, "Larry! You have no clue how much that means to me! That's actually the win for us! That's why we always tell people that 'Love lives here' at Cultivate Church. We want to make sure that no matter who we are with or where we are, people will always walk away from us without being able to deny that we showed them the love of Jesus. It's that simple. Thank you so much for the feedback!"
All of us at Cultivate Church stay in regular contact with Larry. We don't just love Christians. We love non-Christians also. We actually keep it simple; we just love people. Following Jesus is only real if it supernaturally happens between God and the person God is pursuing with His love. I don't want to be a distraction to that or try to manipulate the process. The way I look at it, if I can convince Larry to follow Jesus, Larry can also convince himself out of following Jesus. It's not my job to convert him; that's between Larry and God, even if Larry doesn’t believe in God. However, it's my job to love Larry with no strings attached. It's my job to be his friend with no ulterior motives. It's my job to encourage Larry as he is trying to figure out this difficult journey we all experience called life.
No matter where Larry ends up or who he becomes, I look forward to loving him and getting to know him more and more as time passes by.
The best is yet to be.
If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 CSB)