By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joshua Evans opened the doors of his church in downtown Joplin on Dec. 18, 2010. Two years later, to the day, a fire closed them.
It would be easy to see how this Joplin pastor and his congregation, who have offered much solace to others, could use a lot of that themselves these days. But that is not what Solace Church and Venue (the venue refers to its musical outreach) is all about.
The non-denominational church that began with services in Evans' home and moved to a rented building, at 1610 S. Main St., six months later has not missed a beat since the fire.
Evans and the congregation of about 30 members still hold their 11 a.m. Sunday services, now at God's Resort, at the corner of 15th and Pearl streets. The latter is an outreach of College Heights Christian Church. A family night gathering is also held at 7:30 p.m. each Wednesday at Evans' home.
The process of raising funds to get established in a new church building has begun, and anyone wishing to help or get more information may visit the church's website, www.solacejoplin.com.
The church is affiliated with Anchor Mission USA, a group of independent churches that stress discipleship rather than membership.
In a come-as-you-are ministry, Solace welcomes people from both Protestant and Catholic backgrounds, as well as anyone who has no history whatsoever with the church. Evans said that most of his members joined Solace after being hurt or frustrated by their previous church experiences.
"Our goal is to be real, organic and honest with everybody," said Evans, 31, who grew up in charismatic churches and previously served as a youth pastor at Community Chapel in Neosho. "We are not interested in taking anybody from any other church. We just let them know that we have a heart for God, and are not just trying to sell them something or add them to our registry and make them another mark in our book."
Evans said that while he was growing up, he became disenfranchised with church, even though he felt he had been called to the ministry.
"To me, church became more about trying to sell people something Ñ sell them on the idea of religion, the idea of Christianity, on Jesus or worship," he said. "It just stopped seeming real to me, and I became frustrated with it. I did not realize what was happening, but it made me very bitter and cynical, as well as judgmental and critical."
In trying to balance those feelings with his call to preach, Evans said it put him in a dilemma.
However, following a discussion with an Anchor Mission pastor at a church service in Nashville, Tenn., Evans' attitude took another turn.
That pastor presented the idea to Evans that if he was called to minister, he should consider planting a church.
"I told him there are already too many churches, and I am sick of church," Evans replied. "Then, he said, 'You need to plant one that is going to be right for people like you.'"
So on July 17, 2010, Evans held his first Solace Church service out of his home. At that point, he said, the frustration and bitterness over other church operations had disappeared. He said he came to the realization that there was a place for them to do what they do, but it was just not for him.
As Evans and his congregation seek to find another permanent place to worship, you can count on one thing: The emphasis will continue to be on the people who meet there.
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.