New Ministry, 707 In Northeast Ohio

A close-up look at how one organization is reaching a generation with no foundation, little truth and broken hearts.
by Kirk Rattray

Senior Pastor Rick Duncan, (wearing vest) greets new visitors at the new 707, Sunday night ministry at Cuyhoga valley Community Church, where the ministry focuses on reaching those in their 20's and 30's with a relevant worship experience.

The parking lot fills quickly and people stream towards an auditorium. Upon entering, you spy CDs displayed on a table, and the festival atmosphere is infectious. The air crackles with excitement as people are laughing, smiling and hugging. The stage is set for five musicians, and guitars abound. Two huge screens flank the stage, and contemporary music wafts from above. The crowd hushes when a video is played, and stands to its feet when the musicians begin. Adulation flows, but not for the band. After all you are not at a rock concert, but at an exciting new Sunday night church service!

The place is the Cuyahoga Valley Community Church, and the service is called 707. Named for Matthew 7:7 (if you ask, it shall be given), this service came about because 49 year old pastor Rick Duncan had a burden to reach the next generation. He has passed the baton to a staff of qualified Generation Xers, who are all filled with passion to reach their peers. Dan Burgoyne, 30, is the pastor, and 26 year old Ryan Wilkins leads worship. Both are going hard after the "18 to 30 something" crowd, who Burgoyne calls "the single most unchurched generation in American history." The 707 service is attractive to the post modern generation because it combines authentic relationship, vibrant worship and cutting edge technology in helping them understand who Jesus is.

707 offers "radical authenticity in both person and presentation." Burgoyne rues that his generation "has no foundation, little truth, broken promises, broken hearts." Additionally, because "they don't know about the pursuit of God," they wallow in hedonism, mistrust and fear of commitment. As the pastor, he promises that 707 will address the heart cry of his generation. "We want to get to the heart of the matter," he explains "We want to address ethos-heart to heart, not speech to ear." He reminds us that "God has been seeking you for longer than you even know" and that "He stands over your bed at night." Burgoyne assures anyone visiting 707 that "This is a venue where you can experience God. He has something to say to you."

Wilkins chimes in, noting that the Israelites died in the wilderness because out of fear "they never believed God." Just as God had to raise up a new generation to enter the Promised Land, Wilkins wants God to raise up his generation. He invites them to "come into all that God has for them and stop living in fear, and stop living in loneliness, rejection and guilt." As the worship leader, he strives to demonstrate that "God desires a kind of worship that is scandalous" in its abandon. He cites the story of the woman who washed the Lord's feet with her hair, a very intimate, yet scandalous, act of worship. Wilkins wants people "to see there is a deep heart centered way to worship God." Burgoyne's vision for 707 worship is to achieve the Greek word ginosko, which means to "intimately know," akin to when Adam knew Eve. He envisions that people experience "that intimate relationship God wants with His people," and hopes that people will be free to "express that secret, private, sacred place in your heart, and abandon it to God."

While authentic relationship and "throne room worship" are key components of the 707 service, the post modern generation will not experience God if they do not find church alluring. Here is where 707 excels in reaching its generation, by using the language of high-tech. Huge screens display video images and song lyrics. Lights, camera, digital cueing, and a fifteen thousand dollar sound system have been installed because "this generation grew up on things like MTV and computers and movies and high (tech) media." All this transforms a regular church service into "a high-media event." The state of the art presentation of 707 is so intricate that the service requires its own technical director!

Church members have also caught the vision and have pooled their talents to help get the Word out. Thousands of impressive looking brochures, pamphlets, posters and CDs have been given away, and a video about 707 is being considered for an award. Burgoyne and Wilkins are appearing on local television morning shows touting their message, and ad campaigns are now under way. Basically, Burgoyne admits, "We are screaming out to the people to tell them that God has set a banquet for them." The response has been phenomenal. A packed house of over 700 people greeted the April 6th inauguration of the 707 service. To catch this exciting move of God, call Cuyahoga Valley Community Church at 440-746-0404. This new Sunday night service starts, appropriately, at 7:07 p.m.

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