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I ncredible thrills, rough valleys, perseverance, risk, reward, and hope-filled expectation. These are all markers of adventure. And sometimes the most inspiring adventure stories involve a yet unknown destination.

After talking with Pastor Jim Beezley, it’s clear that the church he shepherds in Muskegon, Michigan, is truly living into its name: The Adventure Church.

“We are living to follow Jesus in our everyday life and joining him in his mission together,” says Beezley. “We want to help people discover Jesus to see if he’s worth following, look at how to actually follow Jesus, and equip people for their mission.”

Recently, following Jesus’s mission led to what Beezley refers to as a “radical shift” for the church—a God-guided adventure filled with challenges, joys, and excitement for the road ahead.

In the beginning

“Adventure” was not always part of the church’s name and vision. Twenty years ago, New Life Community Church was planted in Muskegon with a traditional church planting model—that is, an attractional model.

“That mindset is: get a cool church planter, a building, and launch it with some borrowed people from neighboring churches until the plant is stable,” says Beezley, who joined the staff eight years ago. “That’s a consumer mindset, rather than us as a church being the body of believers.”

Hank Waldo and his wife were some of the early attendees at New Life—connected with the pastor and invited to be involved in the church plant. The relational aspect of the church struck a chord.

“My wife and I joined New Life because we were looking for a church that treated us like family and not just someone to fill a seat,” he says.

In not too long, Meggan Muchna became part of the family at New Life, too.

“My family started going to New Life because we were invited by friends,” she says. “I had been away from the church—and God—for ten-plus years. My husband, Jon, was not a Christian and he hadn’t ever attended church. I started looking for a church to be a part of because my heart was pulling me that way and my husband agreed to tag along. We eventually took our friends up on their invitation to join them. Jon and I agreed after the first service we attended at New Life that it was where we belonged. My husband became a Christian, and our daughters were baptized.

“We made friends, felt cared for, and learned more about God and the ways that Christians live because they know Jesus,” adds Muchna, who now serves as an elder. “We were growing, so we joined the church. Since Jim has been leading, we have continued to grow in big ways. He came with a fresh perspective about what following Jesus looks like and we were changed.”

A few years ago, Beezley began to wrestle with what mission looked like for the church, asking key questions like, “What can we do based on our context and who we are? How do we better live that out? What does it look like to give tools so that other people can be teaching the gospel as well?”

The answers pointed toward significant change.

Related: Why church leaders need to lead from imagination, not memory

Adapting with purpose

Boldly pursuing change came as a faithful response to Jesus’s call to be disciples who make disciples and as a way to care for the people in the church’s community.

“We recognized that in Muskegon, 74 percent of the community is disconnected from the church,” says Beezley. “Our community is isolated and alone, and church is not the answer for them, whether that’s because of baggage, hurt, excuses, or [seeing church as] a waste of time. That’s our mission field.”

Related: How prioritizing the needs of your community increases your welcome

The church leadership team discerned it was time to shift from an attractional church plant model to a missional model. The pandemic had also revealed truths about church attendance that necessitated change.

“Like many churches, we were experiencing declining attendance and then COVID hit and we lost a pretty significant number of members and attendees,” says Waldo. “We realized that we needed to do something different.”

“Our leadership team decided we needed to cast a vision that would either repel or inspire people—it had to be one or the other,” adds Beezley. “We didn’t want to play the game of staying alive, or playing to convenience Christians or consumer Christians. We needed a compelling vision, truly living out what Jesus is calling us to do.”

Before the re-launch went public, the leadership team took time and care to identify who in the congregation would struggle most with the changes.

“We wanted to be relational—to spend time with the people who would struggle with it, to love them, and gently guide them through that,” says Beezley. “We set aside time to say, ‘We love you and we care about you. This is what we’re thinking of doing. What’s your reaction? What are you hearing?’

“And we talked about the why. What is God’s big why throughout all of Scripture? To redeem this world that he loves. The church is the primary pathway for the redeeming of the world. That’s God’s mission.

“Anytime we do vision shifting, we look at God’s why and our why,” he adds. “How we do [mission] will always be unique to current context and culture. If we are Reformed and always reforming, we should always wrestle with the question: are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing?

“And people told me I was going to lose a lot of people,” adds Beezley.

Related: How I’ve experienced the beauty of being Reformed and always reforming

“Myself, I was ready for a change but others were not,” says Waldo. “We lost more members because they couldn’t or wouldn’t see the change being something that was good. I stayed because I was convinced that there could be no greater adventure than following and trying to be more like Christ.”

It’s all about mission

The name change—from New Life Community Church to the Adventure Church—pointed to the desire to “unapologetically live into being a church that is following Jesus in his mission,” says Beezley.

“My heart’s passion is to see a church on mission together, truly growing and following Jesus,” says Beezley. “We’re not abandoning key things that a church has to gather. We want to be simple but movement oriented.”

For the Adventure Church, being a mission-minded church means thinking specifically about the people in the community nearby. That “discovering Jesus” piece of the church’s vision is key for a community that is disengaged from the church.

Beezley shares the example of his daughter’s social studies class, learning about the Roman empire.

“When an image of Jesus on the cross was shown, my daughter was one of only two people in the room of 30 kids who knew it was Jesus. The kids then said, ‘Who’s Jesus?’

“The church needs to live out its faith. We need to be thinking about living into a post-Christian world,” says Beezley. “We’re called to make disciples who make disciples. How do we actually do that?”

For newcomers and the church’s neighbors, the first step is not a membership class. It’s about relationships and learning about Jesus to see if he’s worth following.

“On Sundays, I’ll always invite people to keep the focus on what Jesus calls us to,” says Beezley. “We want to keep inviting people to take that next step and think differently.”

Even as the new name points to the adventure of truly following Jesus, the church’s name is not on the building—a decision that has not been without dispute.

“In a lot of Christian culture, the building is the church or a place to go on Sunday,” says Beezley. “But if the word ‘church’ is on the building, that’s a major barrier for a lot of people. And Jesus talked about removing barriers.

Related: How to offer everyone access to God’s community

“Some people left [our church] because they thought we were ashamed to put the name on the building,” he adds. “But the first churches weren’t buildings, and there were no names on buildings. The church was the people, and they met in houses.

“The building is not the church. Our building is a missional tool.”

A new normal: selling coffee and sowing seeds

In order to get the full story of the Adventure Church’s mission today, we need to backtrack to pre-shift New Life Community Church—a church facing the realities of dwindling attendance and struggling finances. It’s a chapter of creative thinking and courageously living into Jesus’s call to make disciples.

“At one of our consistory meetings, Jim brought up the idea of looking into starting a coffee house to help offset losses, but more importantly, provide us access to part of the 70-plus percent of our local community that doesn’t know Jesus,” says Muchna. “I listened with an open heart, and I was excited about what was bubbling to the surface.”

Related: Innovation moves the church forward

The excitement continues now that the Community House: Coffeehouse and Social, opened in September 2023, is a reality. The coffeehouse is a neutral space that gets used every day of the week, rather than a church building that only gets used for church members one day each week.

“When we first started the Community House concept, God opened doors for us every step of the way. Things and people came forward that we never anticipated,” says Waldo. “We got the feeling that this was something that God wanted to happen. And the transformation has been significant! More unchurched people have been touched since the start of the Community House than in many previous years under the old methods. It’s very exciting seeing people being willing to talk and learn about Jesus because of a cup of coffee and an invitation.”

people sit at tables in coffeehouse
people sit around tables at coffeehouse with windows in background

Pictured: Game nights at the Community House. The Adventure Church meets in an adjacent event space in the building.

“The Community House is an ecosystem of all kinds of people, from a transgender Wikkan to atheists—it’s a space they can feel welcome to connect around other affinities like our karaoke or game nights or senior socials,” says Beezley. “It’s also a place for our church to bless and engage other people. Relationship is our mission, and we pray that God would work in their lives.

“It’s not a hip trick to get people into the church doors,” adds Beezley. “The Community House is a place to build connections. We bless people and have conversations. We’re not pushing Jesus on to them, but listening to them and helping them discern what is that next step?”

Related: The importance of relationships in ministry

While the Community House is not yet a sustainable revenue stream for the Adventure Church, there are encouraging numbers.

“If we have 25 to 30 people a day at the coffeehouse, multiplied by six days a week—that adds up to about 6,000 engagements we’ve had since September,” says Beezley. “And those are people not from church.

“It’s like the parable of the sower,” he adds. “There’s a lot of cultivation to do—softening hearts, sowing seeds of hospitality, blessing, and listening well. Hopefully there will be a gospel harvest to come.”

“It has been beautiful, humbling, and sometimes painful and challenging,” says Muchna. “When we—the consistory—voted to move forward with the coffeehouse, we lost about a third of our members. There was this tension between opposition, doubt, and unexpected setbacks and doors being opened, new encouragement, and the faithfulness of God.

“All I can say is that it has been worth it. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do!”

Becky Getz is a writer and editor for the Reformed Church in America's communication team. You can contact Becky at