Hitchhiking across the United States at 18, Luke posed a question to the Creator of the universe.
He had been about to head West on Route 50 — the highway slicing America’s midsection — when he’d been struck by the majesty of the Appalachian Mountains.
The beauty of the created world pointed to a Creator.
“God, I know you exist,” Luke prayed for the first time in years. “But I want to know your name.”
That afternoon, a driver in a Volkswagen van, a Christian, pulled up beside him. He offered Luke a ride, then a temporary place to stay.
While living there, Luke encountered a Presence who addressed him personally: “Luke, this is God, and my name is Jesus Christ.
“You don’t have to follow me. But you can never again say you don’t know my name.”
Since then, Luke says he has been captivated by the God who was willing to engage his questions.
“The most profound mystery that I’ve found in Scripture is the incarnation, that a holy, magnificent God became human and identified with us,” said Luke. “That’s the core driver of our ministry: Jesus became one of us, so we can identify with others.”
In 2017, Luke and his wife, Christina, founded Plowshares Brethren in Christ, Lexington, Kentucky — which centers itself in Christ’s ministry of incarnation. Plowshares meets people in the places they live, work, and play — in office buildings, homes, and parks. They also worship within life’s weekly rhythms: over dinner, lunch breaks, weeknights.
They can follow the cadences of daily life because their congregational model is elastic. Plowshares comprises four community groups of 6-15 people. Each community group ministers within a geographic neighborhood.
By practicing church more fluidly, Plowshares engages the growing percentage of individuals and families who would never step inside a traditional church.
A Church for the Unchurched
Between 2007-2013, the percentage of U.S. individuals identifying as having no religious affiliation increased from 16 to 23 percent. The percentage is even higher among millennials (about 35 percent).1
“We recognize fewer and fewer people are going to church,” said Luke. “It’s time for the church to go to the people.” On Fridays and Sundays, one Plowshares community group meets at the Plantory.
Housed in a former Wonderbread Factory, the Plantory is a coworking space for businesses and nonprofits. People from the work collective, representing a range of faith and non-faith backgrounds, often join Plowshares.
“Welcome to ministry in the 21st century,” said Luke. “We are explicitly Christian, and the individuals joining us are just thrilled that Jesus would come to where they are.”
Often, following their gatherings, these individuals will ask to sit down with Luke over coffee, curious to learn more about the God interested in inhabiting their workspace. Luke loves to engage them, knowing the God who met him on the road years ago also desires to respond to their questions.
Michael Lipka, “A closer look at America’s rapidly growing religious ‘nones,’” Pew Research Center, May 13, 2015.