AAEO: Church plant focuses on bringing heaven to earth
Mar 19, 2012

CINCINNATI—It’s just about dusk at Heritage Glen apartments in the Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb of Fairfield. As the sun drops from sight, the lower light begins to mask some of the harsher realities of this low-income apartment complex—including the dilapidated tennis court that’s populated with random cracks and missing a net, the overgrown grass, and the worn exterior paint job. A handful of volunteers from the Red Door, a Southern Baptist church plant in Cincinnati eagerly play with, laugh with and generally corral neighborhood kids. What better way to kick off the church’s fall plans than by doing what’s at the heart of what the church is all about?

The apartment complex is only about 25 miles from the posh community of Indian Hill, where Cincinnati’s elite—like famous astronaut Neil Armstrong—live. Yet Heritage Glen seems like a thousand miles away.

PREP WORK Josh Lenon (left), a 2012 North American Mission Board Week of Prayer missionary, paints a jungle gym in the Heritage Glen Apartments playground in Fairfield, Ohio. Lenon’s church plant, Red Door Church, adopted the low-income apartment complex, which has been the site for block parties and birthday parties for residents. NAMB Photo by Dale Stroud
But, more to the point for church planter Joshua Lenon, it’s even further away from heaven. For the past two years Cincinnati’s Red Door Church, started by Lenon in 2010, has pointed people in the Heritage Glen apartments to Jesus by trying to close that distance.   

Josh and Tiffany Lenon are among five North American Mission Board missionaries featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 4-11, 2012, and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®. The offering supports Lenon and others like him who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists throughout North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Whatever It Takes.”

“We can provide just a glimpse of heaven on earth,” said Lenon. “We can paint a picture of God’s future for these people.”  

Today that means throwing a block party for neighborhood families—complete with pizza, popcorn, cotton candy and a great family-friendly movie. In the past it has meant everything from re-doing the complex’s playground—including buying equipment and doing the landscaping—to providing Thanksgiving meals for its residents for the past two years.

And much of that ministry is thanks to the faithful gifts of Southern Baptists. “Flat out, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing without the support of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the North American Mission Board,” Lenon says. “We wouldn’t have the funds to do that.”  

The Lord’s Prayer re-imagined

The church’s passionate commitment to bringing heaven to earth isn’t just a trendy church planting strategy; instead it’s borne out of a deeply held conviction about the Bible’s most famous prayer—the Lord’s Prayer, found in Matthew 6.

Lenon came to this realization in the midst of a particularly tough time in his life. Discouraged and saddened by a bad experience on staff at a large church, 30-year-old Lenon and his wife, Tiffany, left the ministry and began a time of deep soul-searching. 

“The Lord’s Prayer became really significant for me,” Lenon says. “I thought if Jesus said to pray about this then it is probably what I should be about. I prayed it repeatedly. I thought about it constantly. For me, it was hitting the reset button. I knew this was going to be a critically important thing for me—to wrap my mind around this prayer.”

Late one night, as he pondered the prayer, he came across a life-altering realization—the Christian life wasn’t just about getting people into heaven—it was also about bringing heaven to earth.

Tears started to flow. Months of frustration boiled over. “If that prayer moves from heaven to earth, it means I have a very specific mission for my life: to spend my life bringing heaven to earth,” Lenon says.

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