Our StoryThe Harambee story is a bit wrapped up in my (Mike Gunnís) story. The vision began around 1992 as I began to feel the need to plant a church that represented the diversity of Godís creation, as well as a gospel that centered on Godís glory and not our own needs. I was prompted by the Spirit to engage the culture in a more meaningful and direct way, so God decided to send me and my family on an unknown journey to Seattle to begin a campus ministry for athletes at the University of Washington. This began to hone our skills in apologetics, evangelism, and discipleship, creating a desire to reach the next generation with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
At that point, Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland and Mark Driscoll entered our lives. My family began attending Antioch in January of 1994, and we started helping the college group, which was run by Mark Driscoll, at that time, a 23-year-old intern recently graduated from Washington State University. It became obvious that we had similar backgrounds and ministry callings, so we began to explore the possibilities of our vision (reaching truly postmodern, post-Christian people for Christ), and it became abundantly clear that we were to begin a new work in the city of Seattle.
With the blessing of Antioch and the exodus of about 30 of the students, Mark, Lief Moi, and I began Mars Hill Church in October of 1996. We watched God work His mosaic miracle as He began to put together the matrix that became Mars Hill Church. The church grew to more than 1,200 people in five years, and because of facility limitations at the time, we were running seven services at three different locations in the Seattle area. One of these was Mars Hill South, which began as an evening service in October of 2001 with about 40 people. During that time it became evident that God was calling us to a different work, and that we needed to plant as an autonomous church. Subsequently, as of October 6, 2002, we became Harambee Church and began meeting at the Tukwila Community Center.
In reality, we are made in the image of Mars Hill, cut from the same philosophical mold founded by Paul in Acts 17. Thatís our philosophical underpinning that we hope to refine under the crucible of a slightly different cultural context.
According to a study published in The Seattle Times (May 2002), the area we are trying to reach has the most diverse demographic of any other region in Washington state. Because of the gentrification of the Central District in Central Seattle, it is predicted that this area will become increasingly an area of color and low-income families. I believe that God has called us to this work; the Bible confirms the need to work amongst the poor and disenfranchised in the world.
We plan on continuing to proclaim Christ through the strong preaching of the Word and establish an urban style of worship that hopefully reflects the diversity that exists in our community. This diversity must be intentional, and authentic, not forced. We must remain open to change in form, and will do so as God provides leadership in key areas. Music is personal and can be used beautifully as one of the ways that we express worship to God, or it can be quite divisive. Subsequently, I pray that our music is unique, diverse, and experientially worshipful. With a continued emphasis on the arts and Trinitarian worship, we hope to present the gospel through the Word, worship, and the arts, affecting the mind, emotions, and the will.
Harambee is a Swahili term which means, ďTogether pushing forward.Ē It uniquely presents our vision of real Christian community. The primary metaphor Paul uses for the church is the family. The idea behind the term promulgates a community coming alongside one another for a common cause. Often times in the African Sub-Sahara, community means survival. My prayer is that we become a diverse community of people who truly love one another and are bold enough to take the gospel across racial, social, and economic barriers, while extending our arms wide open to the greater community, looking for opportunities to live the gospel out in service and love to those in need. I envision a community of people that have a common cause: the Glory of God, and the living, embodied proclamation of His Son through His Spirit living within the community.
After four years of existence God blessed us with our own building in Renton, and we have been able to use this as a community resource to house an after school program seeing about 80 kids a day, as well as hosting many concerts, art programs and theatre. Since we desire to see more of these church plants flood the south Puget Sound, we are joining forces with Soma Communities to strategize a way to make this happen. Many people wonder why we need to create new churches. Arenít there enough of them in America? Actually the answer to that is no! The statistics tell us that there are way more people than there are churches to reach them, and many of the churches that do exist are no longer missional in their philosophy. Some of them have completely lost the gospel, no longer believing in the atonement, and the deity of Jesus Christ, some have programs that reflect the fact that they are more interested in maintaining their membership, while some have lost touch with the cultural language and no longer can speak to the culture. We pray that can we can foster individual missionaries in a culture that is increasingly becoming secular and un-churched. For this reason we have decided to join a like-minded group of missional communities that exist to love God and others in strategic and meaningful ways.
After six years of existence, God continues to bless us with opportunities to serve our community! And the storyÖ..