Practice What You Preach At Home
Steven Grabiner was originally drawn to the gospel by a healthy spread of vegetarian food. He accepted Christ through the outreach of a small restaurant in New York. Eventually, he became a pastor, serving in Boston, Massachusetts, for 11 years, then moving with his family to Zambia, Africa, where he served as director of Riverside Farm Institute. Today he is president of Outpost Centers International (OCI), a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church with more than 90 member ministries around the world, many of them ASI members as well.
Despite the heavy responsibility of networking and nurturing such a large number of international projects, Steven is also involved in missionary work on a local level. In 2008, he and his wife, Vivian, along with members of the Sabbath school they attended, began seriously considering the idea of starting a church plant at home.
“It’s easy to come to church and sit on a pew and think, ‘Well, I’m doing ministry in my work with OCI, and that should be enough,’” Steven says. “But I felt a lack of personal involvement. I thought we should take our talents and put them to work at home.”
With prayer and consideration for God’s leading, a core group formed to discuss the new church plant. They settled on East Ridge, Tennessee, and held their first meeting in a rented church in December 2008. In the fall of 2010, the group purchased a church building that was in foreclosure. Eight months later, they paid off the mortgage and became a full-fledged church.
Although East Ridge is no longer a church plant, it is still led by lay people. Church members are encouraged to be active and to make evangelism a part of their lifestyle. As part of the original group, Steven continues to be involved through preaching and leading out in services and programs.
Steven’s previous experience as a pastor gives him a unique understanding of the work and commitment involved in beginning a new project. This understanding has been useful in his work at both East Ridge and with OCI members. Steven says one of the obstacles faced when a new project begins is that of moving from the idealistic honeymoon stage into the long-term grunt work stage. Another challenge is maintaining the heart of the original vision, yet being flexible enough to change. One way or another, the vision must remain Christ-centered.
“Human nature is the same everywhere,” Steven says. “People want to be encouraged, to feel like they’re making a difference, and to feel like they’re being heard.” This knowledge is valuable to him as he works to foster a desire among fellow church members to become involved in evangelism, and also as he helps OCI ministries to evaluate the obstacles they face. He raises questions and encourages discussion of ideas, but ultimately he reminds them to remember that it is God’s work.