Unconventional Pastor Uses Angry Llamas, Drag Racing as Outreach

Doing outreach for a new church may seem like a normal activity, but for Michael Cheshire, senior pastor of The Journey Church of Conifer, Colo., it would include opening up a diner, sponsoring a racecar, and getting shot at.

These and other crazy adventures are recorded in Cheshire’s book How to Knock Over A 7-Eleven and Other Ministry Training, an account of the experiences of the young pastor and his pals while planting a church in the rural Midwest.

“You have to believe God is telling you to do this,” said Cheshire in an interview with The Christian Post.

Cheshire wrote of the projects Journey undertakes to reach out to the surrounding community: a diner known as The Angry Llama, a racecar that drag races at Denver’s Bandimere Speedway, and movies screenings on a neighborhood football field.

Cheshire also documents the bumps and false starts with each of these projects.

Initially, customers at the Angry Llama told the pastors to close the diner down over the quality of its food. And some residents of the community complained that the local Elk population was being harmed by the church’s football field movie screenings.

“God sometimes just leaves obstacles up,” remarked Cheshire, “We have to be willing to go through failure.”

Cheshire describes in the book the outreach efforts both online and offline that were done by Journey’s leadership, noting the importance of the Internet for their ministry.

“I can’t stress enough how important the Internet is,” said Cheshire, who writes in his book about how the first time someone truly visits one’s church is when they see the webpage; the second time is when they come in person.

“If you want your church to grow exponentially, then you have to drag your church into the century you’re living in.”

Cheshire talked about using Facebook ads, and putting photos and podcasts on The Journey Church’s website so as to give the cyber-community a taste of what Journey was like.

Offline, Journey leaders went door-to-door posting flyers and ads about church services, which could be a challenge given that oftentimes neighbors in the Midwest could be a mile or so apart.

Or, as one member of Journey Church found out, well-armed.

Cheshire writes about how Brian, one of the founders of the church, was putting a flyer on one isolated home when its owner, a hairy man clad only in Tweety Bird underwear, opened the door and pointed a shotgun at the evangelist.

“He goes to our church now,” Cheshire confirmed in the interview.

Humble Beginnings

According to Cheshire, it all began in Denver when he noticed that many people attending his church’s Bible study were commuting long distances from smaller towns in the state.

This led Cheshire and some fellow young evangelists to Conifer, Colo., with a population of about 9,000.

After a lengthy and frustrating meeting on planning the new church, Pastor Michael Cheshire shouted out to his friends.

“We couldn’t knock over a 7-Eleven together, let alone start a church!”

Cheshire left the meeting for a brief while. Upon returning, he found his friends laughing as they drew up a detailed plan for the robbery of a hypothetical 7-Eleven, hence the name of the book.

Early on, one of the biggest challenges for Cheshire and his fellow church planters was the problem of funding.

“We had no funding at all. We were also super-young and very broke. Most of our credit was bad or nonexistent,” Cheshire writes.

Cheshire writes about the many penny-pushing measures they came up with, including looking through dumpsters to find music equipment and driving around town to various parking lots to pick up free Wi-Fi signals.

Efforts to raise money involved starting an odd jobs company, where while helping someone move their belongings, the team was almost arrested because of a resident’s false report to police.

Yet they persevered, going from a handful of worshippers to a regular attendance that passed the 600 mark.

Unexpected Criticism  

They also weathered harsh criticism from a surprising source: fellow Christians.

Cheshire said some members of pre-existing congregations in the area “would anonymously send very vicious emails” accusing them to be “heretics,” among other things.

Self-pity became a big enemy, or a “flying monkey” as Cheshire calls it.

“We would get a hundred very good emails and one bad one and we would ask ‘why don’t they love us?’” Cheshire shared.

“We’re not going into a holy war with the church next door because they do not like how we do church.”

Future Plans  

Despite the criticisms and the occasional financial risks, Cheshire and his friends’ effort at building a church from the ground up is working.

According to Cheshire, Journey Church has outgrown its original building and will soon be moving into a larger one.

Come February, Journey will hold two services each Sunday and is looking to build a rec center on some recently acquired land.

How to Knock Over A 7-Eleven and Other Ministry Training by Michael Cheshire was released this fall.

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