Billinghurst Middle School6685 Chesterfield Ln.
Reno, NV 89523
I wonder how many people who profess Christianity look around the world and see a world devoid of Christian faith. I often get the feeling that Christians still feel somewhat under siege, even though, with the example of Colorado’s Saddleback Church vetting of presidential candidates, they control a lot more than they are aware. I used to think it was a secular world, but, after a year and a half of doing Filet of Soul, I’ve begun to realize that I see sparks of spirituality virtually everywhere I go. And that’s in part due to churches with missions like the Milestone Church’s—to honor Jesus Christ’s example by doing good works in the community.
There are several things that are “different” about the church. For one, it meets in the purely secular environment of Billinghurst Middle School’s cafeteria. However, with a few changes in décor—a couple white spandex sheets to serve as projection screens and stage framing, a bit of sound equipment, a gray tarp on the floor, and a simple glass-topped table, there’s no question that congregants are in a church.
Members are dressed very casually. Many folks wear blue jeans or shorts, sandals and T-shirts. Their look exactly reflects the community—just like the people you’d see at First Thursday at the Nevada Museum of Art or a downtown event. It’s a very young group, maybe early 30s for a mean age. I’d guess there were about 55 of them sitting on the 80 green folding chairs.
The service began at about 10:40 a.m., Sunday. I didn’t really get the impression that anyone was concerned that it was supposed to start at 10:30 or in a big hurry. It began with several songs led by keyboardist Kyle Rea. Joining him in the band were guitarist Cody Rea, bassist Jason Johnson and James Navares on drums. Quite the rockin’ ensemble, they played more than competently—passionately, with songs like “I Will Sing,” “Finally Found You,” and “He Reigns.” I was taken with the guitar playing. Not to overstate things, but Cody Rea’s atmospheric guitar picking reminded me of U2’s The Edge.
Pastor Greg Rea, a former Reno cop, took the mic for some announcements, most particularly to honor Josh Huckabee, the intern who was heading back to the Midwest. Pastor Rea also called up Ryan and Kim Hopkins, who boarded the young man here. After mutual compliments, the group laid hands on Huckabee and prayed for him, the congregation extending their palms toward the group. “May he have green lights and open doors in his future,” said Kyle Rea. After the announcements, the band finished up with “All that I Am,” and “Your Fire Burns Within Me.” Finally, keyboardist Rea sang a mood setting solo, and Pastor Rea took center stage opening with a prayer, calling on Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit to watch over the group and to bring strength and understanding.
That’s when the minister and congregation moved to a place with which I have little experience. Essentially, they used modern media to bring in a guest minister, Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich. It was a slickly produced short film—from the series, Nooma—in which Bell discussed historical matters of the early church and how those historical Christians and that historical Christ related to the world around them, and how modern Christians relate to this world.
After the video, Pastor Rea called Huckabee and Ryan Hopkins back up, and they led discussions about questions that were generated on 3-by-5 cards by the congregation during the video. I don’t have words enough left in this column to discuss the discussion, but suffice it to say, in this, as in most of the other things I heard and saw, the focus was on how to emulate Jesus in this world, without becoming part of a world where sometimes believers think He’s a little hard to find.