I love what Stadia church plant, Verve, is doing in Las Vegas…
“In 2010 we started a new church in the heart of Sin City called Verve.” Says pastor Vince Antonucci, “As Christians we are suppose to be drawing people to Jesus, but what often happens is the exact opposite. Then, in 2013, we came up with a new slogan for our church … “God For The Rest Of Us.” Our attendance grew by 40%. And, it wasn’t people from other churches. It was unchurched, non-Christians who were coming, drawn by this message that maybe God still had a place for them. Some really cool things are happening here …crazy stories of lives being changed.”
Verve church launched as a Stadia church plant in 2010 and has seen over 250 people baptized since. As Verve celebrates its five year anniversary, the release of Vince’s book, God’s Love For the Rest of Us, is just one more reason to celebrate. As Vince shares his story of how he found God’s breathtaking love at work among the people often forgotten and disdained by this world, he asks, “Is God for the people who are forgotten and left out? Is He for the guy who betrayed his wife and left his kids? Is He for the doubters? The skeptics? The atheists?”
The answers to these questions can be found in the lives of people Vince meets. What does it feel like to be loved by a limitless God? God For the Rest of Us wakes you up to the outrageous, extravagant, and sometimes even scandalous love of God for the rest of us. In his book, Vince explains one of the more unconventional ways that he and his team worked to reached out to people on the Las Vegas Strip.
“We were on Fremont Street. Freemont is the “Old Strip” in Las Vegas and still the most visited attraction in Sin City. It’s where the bullhorn Christians hang out and yell. They stand on soapboxes, informing people that their final destination will be hotter than a 115-degree August day in the desert outside Vegas. One full-time hatemonger on Fremont is a guy who stands proudly holding up a huge sign with the title “WWJD?” Just below the letters it says, ‘Who Will Jesus Destroy?’ Underneath is a list of all kinds of sinners. Some are a bit more scandalous – abortionists, murderers, oppressive communist despots. But take heart, you’re on the list too. It includes liars, gossips, cheats, the lust filled…
“At some point it’s not enough just to shake your head in sadness at the guy holding the sign. At some point you have to make a sign of your own, and we decided to do it. That’s not entirely true. We actually decided to go with flyers … Our flyer’s title? ‘WDJL?’ Just below the letters it says, ‘Who Does Jesus Love?’ Underneath is a list of, well … it’s the exact same list as on the ‘Who Will Jesus Destroy?’ sign. We realized that copying the list would lose us creativity points, but we wanted to make sure everyone made the connection to the bullhorn, hatemonger guy.
“To add creativity, we put duct tape over our mouths as we handed out the flyers right in front of the bullhorn, hatemonger guy. Under the list of people Jesus loves, our flyers proclaimed: ‘It’s very common to find “street preachers” here on Fremont Street, loudly declaring who God hates. There’s a problem with that, and it’s that GOD LOVES. The Bible says that “God IS love” and that He sent Jesus not to condemn, but because of and in love. The truth is that God loves … homosexuals, gamblers, strippers, abortionist, prostitutes, addicts and you. And so we apologize for anything you’ve ever heard that would lead you to believe otherwise. The reason they spread a message of hate is because there is power in hate. But we have chosen the way of Jesus, the way of love, and find it far more powerful. We have taped our mouths shut as a symbolic way of offsetting the verbal abuse you may have heard in the past and may hear tonight.'”
Check out this video with Vince’s list of who God loves.
Webster’s dictionary defines verve as, “energy, vitality.” Verve is certainly living up to its name and the next five years promise to be filled with energetic style.