Church says: Bring us your questions

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Nov. 17, 2017 at 2:57 p.m.
Updated Nov. 18, 2017 at 7 a.m.

Pastor Kyle Howell gives his sermon at Authentic Church. "There's a lot of people going to church who have questions that aren't getting answered," Howell said of the church's services where parishioners are encouraged to ask questions.

Pastor Kyle Howell gives his sermon at Authentic Church. "There's a lot of people going to church who have questions that aren't getting answered," Howell said of the church's services where parishioners are encouraged to ask questions.   Nicolas Galindo for The Victoria Advocate

In front of a small congregation in the back of a former retail and storage building, Kyle Howell finally realizes the ministry vision he aimed to accomplish last year.

The small tin-sided building has been gutted and rehabbed for his newest church launch, Authentic Church, which opened recently to the public in Victoria.

But opening the church wasn't Howell's goal.

Opening a church with an interactive dialogue among members to be had during and following regular services - was.

Through an open call for members to text him and connect with the young pastor through social media and email, Howell's Authentic Church is the first in Victoria with a specific mission to interact with those with spiritual questions.

Last Sunday, Howell said some in the near 30-person audience would ask questions during service and after.

"To me, that was kind of cool to see people answering me during the sermon," Howell said, who is leading a series that will end Sunday on what the Bible says about Heaven. "It's still a process that I'm working on, and I don't have it all figured out yet. But I want this church to be a place where people can ask questions, and I can help lead them to an answer.

The idea for Authentic Church was formed years ago, but it wasn't until last year Howell began moving forward on seeing the church concept come to fruition.

He yearns for believers to participate in an apologetics-structured environment, but he also wants the church to be a safe place for former and nonchurchgoers, or those who have been hurt by churches in the past, to voice their biblical criticisms and questions and have a real discussion about who Jesus is, what the Bible says and what it doesn't.

Tanya Costello, who plays keyboards for Authentic Church's worship band said she had stopped going to church after moving to Victoria four years ago because the churches were too big.

"When we found Authentic Church, it was like we found our family. We were home," she said, mentioning her husband, Travis Costello, and their six children, also attend.

The intimate environment is comforting for the Costellos, but it's the interactive component that lets her know she will always have room for spiritual growth.

"I think it's so smart to approach church this way. In a world of technology, these are the ways people are connecting now. Even Bibles are on cellphones," she said.

Costello mentioned in a previous church environment, she had been scorned in a way she felt uncomfortable asking questions and sympathizes with those who may not feel comfortable questioning God's authority or Holy Scripture.

"A lot of times, it's easier to text questions or ask them anonymously and get an answer, rather than feeling the shame of having a question. Here, there are so many options to come as you and ask any question you have," she said. "It's a great idea."

Howell said the church's aim is to grow in size and to fulfill The Great Commission by creating disciples of Christ and feels the easiest way to accomplish that goal is to arm believers with answers, rather than suppressing or inhibiting learning.

"We're not after people that want to go from their church to ours. We want people who wouldn't go to church to come here with their questions," he said.

At each church service as well as on Facebook, Howell is asking his new members to engage. He gives out his cell number and other contact information, and encourages them to contact him. Those questions become part of the sermon, or are simply answered after he's done preaching.

"It will take a while for people to understand what we're trying to do here, but my hope is that they will engage, and I can get them to see their questions can be answered and they are welcome," he said.


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