Doing things a little bit weird for the kingdom

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Church planting & multiplication

Tyler Toon thrived in football by hitting people ― hard.

The former linebacker said he became team captain, not because of his skill, but his effort and intensity.

“I just hit people,” he said. “I wasn’t really that fast. I’m 5-foot-8. I was just your undersized, unathletic white boy that liked to hit people.”

Toon didn’t know God was about to hit him hard.

The Kentucky native finished high school and attended the University of Kentucky. He studied biology so he could become a doctor and, he hoped, become wealthy.

After two years in school, he went to Thailand and China for a summer. During those travels, God showed the ambitious, type-A young man that surrender achieved more in the kingdom than success.

“I was trying to impress people. I was trying to be a high achiever,” he said of his pursuits before going to Southeast Asia. “I was miserable every step of the way. God just completely wrecked my world.”

Hard hits that eventually heal

That summer in Thailand and China helped Toon know Jesus as Lord, not just savior. Growing up in the Bible belt, he had accepted Christ at a young age and was never rebellious. But he had not yet surrendered much of his will to the Father’s heart.

“I want all of you,” God declared to Toon that summer. “I came back prepared to spend my whole life devoted to Christ, his work and his church.”

Related: Escaping the wheel of suffering

Toon is now the pastor of Mosaic Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Mosaic worshiped together for the first Sunday on September 19, 2021.

What Toon and his wife, Allison, offer the community is the same God who wrecked Toon to transform his life. A typical American idolatry and the resulting misery defined his life, even though Toon was a Christian. Now, as a pastor focused on making disciples who make disciples, he hopes God heals people with the hard hits they need before he can put them together again.

“I’m motivated by seeing people’s lives completely wrecked and transformed by God,” he said.

People want churches that accept brokenness and offer hope

Craig and Angie Davis are from the Bowling Green area. They returned a few years ago after working outside the United States.

Several months ago, as the Davises settled back in, Angie watched a TikTok video about a Texas church named Mosaic. She and Craig liked that church and wondered if Mosaic might be a common term for interconnected churches. So, they looked for a Mosaic in Bowling Green and found Pastor Toon. There’s no connection between the two Mosaic churches.

Even so, Craig Davis glimpses how God is doing something beneficial through the new Converge church. Together, Converge’s 10 districts have a goal of starting 312 churches by 2026.

Related: Converge launches five-year church planting goal

The church’s name is perfect, Craig Davis said, for how God works in and through a church.

“If you think of a mosaic, none of those things exist in their original form,” he said. “They are broken and as they are repurposed, they form something beautiful. It’s not exactly what it was originally intended to be but it’s something new and beautiful in its own way.”

He said American churches are not always as responsive to the challenges and the brokenness people are bringing into Christian community.  Many times, a church accepts people who commit certain sins yet shuns people for other sins.

Churches outside the U.S., he said, treated guests and members with more consistent grace and truth.

“Overseas, they took people where they were,” Davis said. “American churches often say, ‘Why don’t you make yourself like us and then come?’”

In response, Converge churches have been committed for several years to open the front door of the church for anyone to walk through. The goal is to welcome new people into Christ’s community of imperfect people following him.

To the Davises, Mosaic accepts people in their brokenness while offering the power of God through the gospel to achieve transformation.

“How are we ever going to get people where they need to be if we’re not in relationship with them?” Craig Davis asked.

Sometimes, baptisms happen before buildings

Mosaic’s convictions emphasize the value house churches have in building relationships around the hope of Christ. The first two house churches launched in August, six weeks before the first Sunday worship service.

“We did that intentionally because we wanted to have a couple of house churches up and functioning before we had a Sunday gathering,” Toon said. “House churches are a front door for people.”

Related: Church plant growing spiritual fruit in a food desert

In one of those house churches, the leaders led their son to Christ earlier this summer. And that young man wanted to be baptized in July, months before the church had a building, much less a baptismal pool. Such a reversal of church activities ― baptisms before buildings ― thrills Toon.

“[That’s] the picture of the family discipleship we want,” Toon said. “Before we were ever trying to answer the where do we meet on Sunday morning questions, we were trying to answer the where do we baptize people question. That’s the order I prefer.”

During the summer, the Mosaic team met once a month in a real estate office conference room. But when the boy was ready for baptism in July, the disciples weren’t waiting for official Sunday services.

“We blew up a portable hot tub in their parking lot and baptized him there,” Toon said.

Child being baptized 

The Davises love the flexibility of a church plant. Plus, one of the best ways people meet, know and follow Jesus is within new churches. You can help by giving to the Launch Offering, which supports each new church with a financial grant.

That grant helped Mosaic purchase audio/video equipment, signage and promotional materials for the launch Sunday. But, even before that, Toon chose Converge because the movement of 1,500 churches gives churches legitimate support.

Related: Converge churches to church planters: “You are not alone.”

“What we went looking for is a network or denomination that will let us plant where we felt called to plant, how we felt called to plant,” he said.  “We’re doing it this way because we believe God called us to do it this way and to reach a certain group of people who would respond to this model of being a church. Converge believed in the vision that God gave us.”

The pandemic helped Mosaic clarify their priorities

Inside and outside of house churches, Mosaic distinguishes itself among the many churches around them by emphasizing relational discipleship.

Since the pandemic isolated many Christians, Toon analyzed what people missed when church buildings were closed.

“What they missed was community and getting to serve with people they love and all of those relational things,” he said. “There were very, very few people who missed listening to us preach in person. Very few people missed hearing our worship bands play Elevation music worse than Elevation plays it.”

That guided the launch team to build a community around relationships, not event spaces, weekly programs or individuals.

Related: Let your chill be evident (finding peace in times of fear)

“What if we planted a church that emphasized the things only the local church can do and de-emphasized the things that COVID could take away from us?” he wondered.

That meant no huge buildings or heavily structured programs.

“That’s not really how discipleship and evangelism work,” he explained. “It happens when both my neighbor and I are rolling our trash cans back from the street. It happens when I go meet a guy for lunch and I can speak truth into his life.”

Mosaic has a unique, multi-cultural opportunity

Among his neighbors, Toon sees a parade of nations without leaving his road.

“In our little cul-de-sac of 15 homes, we have five different nationalities represented just on our street,” he said. “We have a really cool opportunity. A lot of these people come from areas that are hard for us to reach.”

Many refugees are making a home in Bowling Green. The city of 140,000 is a resettlement hub for the U.S. State Department.

Some Afghans fleeing the most recent crisis there this summer arrived in Bowling Green, Toon said. In addition, Iraqis, Syrians, Bosnians and Eastern Europeans now live in Bowling Green.

Toon’s wife, Allison, is a nurse practitioner. Patients at her clinic speak more than 30 languages. Moreover, an international school started in Bowling Green where students speak 20 to 30 languages.

“We have the ability to reach the nations by reaching our neighbors,” Toon said.

He knows the local church can spread the gospel in every town and around the world through refugees. He recognizes the differences in identity, faith and values he has with his neighbors.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t be kind to them, serve them and leverage our opportunity for the gospel,” he said.

These people maintain close relationships outside the U.S. that can lead to evangelism and discipleship.

“I think about the impact we could have generationally if you have a new refugee family [in your neighborhood] and one of the first friendships they have is with a family of Christians across the street,” he said.

Related: Refugees in Minnesota discover for themselves who Jesus is

Such an initiative and openness to ministry among the diaspora* has much the same spirit and posture as Mosaic. The new church desires God’s work in people’s lives, whether they moved from Bhutan or grew up in Bowling Green.

As one of the fastest-growing cities in Kentucky, the community attracts crowds for work, life and education. Chevrolet has always made the Corvette in Bowling Green, which is just one of the many employers in the region. The population has doubled since 1990.

That’s a draw for the Toons, who want to offer an alternative expression of discipleship to the growing city. He has friends at other churches and sometimes recommends those churches.

However, at Mosaic, Toon wants to prevent an unintentional consequence that happens in discipleship. Some churches serve unreached people in a way that separates them from their deep relationships and connections. Instead, Toon hopes God wrecks lives within the transforming relationships of house churches and neighborhoods.

“We want you to do all the things your neighbors do and build relationships there. We’re trying to introduce you to Jesus and have you introduce your community to Jesus,” he said. “We’re going to do things a little bit weird for the kingdom because there are people out there who have not been engaged.”

*Local churches who want help with ministering across cultures can reach out to John Baxter, Converge’s diaspora specialist. Baxter helps churches find ways to love their neighbors of other faiths and backgrounds.

Converge is committed to starting missionally minded churches until every people group and community has heard the gospel. When you plant a church with Converge, we will be with you every step and provide a clear pathway for you to start a new church. Each step has been strategically designed to improve your success so more people will have the opportunity to accept Jesus. Learn more about church planting and how Converge can help you reach others with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene