From youth pastor to church planter, Pastor Sean Sears of Grace Church in Massachusetts knew one thing when moving across the country: he wanted to live near Mexican Food.
“My wife wanted to be near a Walmart and I needed to be near Mexican food, and the closest Boston had to it at the time was Taco Bell so…we’re lowering our standards big time. And the house we ended up buying, believe it or not, is equidistant between the only Walmart and Taco Bell south of Boston. That’s proof there’s a God, if you are wondering.”
While he jokes about finding a home in Boston, the process was anything but easy. Sean was raised in Denver in a Christian home, went to a Christian school, graduated from a Christian high school, graduated from a Christian college, went to go work at a Christian Church, and got his graduate degree from another Christian university. When he moved from Denver to Boston in 2001, he felt out of his comfort zone. For the first time in his life, the people he was surrounded by didn’t share the same faith as him.
The most practical thing he believed that he and his wife could do was get involved. Not by starting a church, but by being where the people are. His wife was on the PTO, he coached a few local teams, and they started developing relationships with their neighbors who were disconnected from God.
When a friend of his neighbor attempted suicide, the first place they looked was to Sean and his wife. Sean recalls, “She came over to our house and told us the story about her friend and said, ‘Would you go tell her [about God]?’ Now, you don’t have to be a church planter to do that, you just have to not be a jerk.”
And right there in the hospital, his church was born. As he shared his faith with this woman, their spiritually disconnected neighbor told their friend, “You need to be in a Bible study. If Sean and Billy Jane started a Bible study in their house, would you go to it?” And she said, “Yeah, if you and Glen will go.” And she goes, “Okay, Sean.”
Today, almost 20 years later, almost all of Sean’s neighbors who were lost and disconnected have been saved and baptized at Grace Church.
Sean’s encouragement to other pastors is to spend more time with the people you are supposed to take care of, not just other believers.
“I think that pastors shouldn’t feel bad about leaving at 2:30 if they’re coaching the local baseball team at 3:00. You know what I mean? I was an assistant to the JV coach for soccer…And that took a lot of my time. But honestly, some of those kids from that soccer team are actually showing up at Grace Church now. I say that’s well worth my time. You know what I mean? So I see that as part of the mission.
So, it’s not just creating opportunities for the Christians who are already here to be developed in their faith, but it’s creating relational context in the community with the people who actually need our faith.”