Photo: Chris Meehan
Eric Kas
Photo by Chris Meehan

Eric Kas is an advocate of God’s grace. Every day he walks alongside others, equipping and coaching them to live out the life God has called them to. This ministry plays out in two very different ways.

First, Kas is a church planter who recently started Good News Gatherings, an experiment in southeastern Grand Rapids, Mich., in which he and others attempt to be the church in the neighborhood.

Although Good News Gatherings is small in number and people meet in homes, said Kas, members are committed to a big mission: “To encourage, equip, and empower people to be disciples of Jesus and to make disciples where we live, work, and play.”

In addition to pastoring this new Christian Reformed church community, Kas has also recently become a Safe Church associate for Safe Church Ministry. This vocation allows him to supplement his church planter income and to serve the church in another important way.

In both roles, Kas advocates for God’s grace to be alive.

“With Safe Church, our mission is to equip congregations in abuse awareness, prevention, and response. We work to bring out into the light something that is often hidden in darkness, and to give voice to those whose voice may have been silenced,” he said.

“I will be especially working to encourage the development of safe church teams in each classis, so we have a variety of people at the local level who are equipped with knowledge and resources that congregations need to effectively prevent and respond to abuse.”

Kas’s work looks at preventing child sexual abuse in churches, and it helps churches prevent and respond to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of people of all ages. Even in his first few weeks with Safe Church, Kas said, he grew to realize that abuse is more widespread in churches than he had thought.

“Often people keep quiet, and things get swept under the rug,” he said

As a Safe Church associate, he will be working with pastors and ministry leaders, encouraging them in their efforts to create safer church communities. When a response to abuse is necessary, he hopes to help ministry leaders respond with compassion and justice that bring healing.

“I look forward to hearing incredible stories from survivors and to listening to those who have yet to share their own story,” said Kas.

Kas added that his church plant, Good News Gatherings, began more than a year ago after he visited and spent time with other communities who were striving to live out the presence of Jesus in their neighborhood.

Inspired by what he saw, he and another friend began to discern a calling to form a new community of disciples in Grand Rapids.

They were influenced by a rhythm of life that many are calling “New Monasticism.” They don’t wear robes or live separated from the city; instead this movement is dedicated to living out the life of Christ in shared community in the city, specifically for those who are living on the margins of society.

For their new community, they see a rhythm of prayer as one way to be the church throughout the week in homes or with partners throughout the city such as Oakdale CRC, which along with Christian Reformed Home Missions is helping to support the church plant.

Besides times of regular prayer, the participants gather with some regularity for meals in one another’s homes and organize social events in their neighborhoods, like Theology on Tap – a time where they share home-brewed beer and discuss pressing topics facing society.

“Our weekly gathering is on Sunday nights,” Kas explained, and it’s called Family Worship Gathering. ”We share in formative worship through song, prayer, and the Scriptures, joining with trusted community to hear stories of what God is doing in the neighborhoods of those who are connected to our community,” he said.

While this new experiment of being the church is not easy, Kas said, the Lord has been showing his blessings by weaving a diverse group of people together to honor and offer praise to God. Yet the work is slow. The members are committed to moving slow and remaining locally rooted, and, as a result, said Kas, being bivocational is a key part of sustaining the work of this ministry.

The work Kas does as a part of the Safe Church team is not, however, just another job to support the church plant. “It provides another way to enter the lives of people who have incredible hearts to heal and protect those around them. It is a ministry that I am blessed to be able to invest in,” Kas said.

“It is a blessing to be the presence of Jesus with people who are willing to share their powerful stories of courage and survival, and it is inspiring to hear the compassion of many who are walking alongside someone – sharing in the grief and pain of abuse. The presence of Jesus is there in whatever kind of work you do.”