USA: Developing gospel-centered relationships to build a network

There was a time when Nate Morsches and his wife, Meghan, desired to be overseas missionaries and a part of full-time ministry work. When the leader from his church came across BILD in 2008 while searching for leadership development resources for churches, Nate began work in the BILD courses, seeking to earn his Masters of Ministry degree with the hopes of fulfilling that desire.

It wasn’t until he took the BILD course, Acts: Keys to the Establishment and Expansion of the First Century Church, that there was a shift in his understanding of missions and the importance of the local church in the funding and progress of the gospel. As Nate came to understand the biblical principles the Apostle Paul laid out in his established network of churches in the New Testament, Nate realized he could still be involved in full-time ministry without leaving Kansas.

“The Acts course was a pivotal event for me,” he said. “It was the normativity of Paul's strategy for building church networks (what BILD calls the Pauline Cycle), and understanding Luke's intent that sharpened my vision for ministry.”

Nate began to pursue a way to run a business that could fund the network based on what Nate had learned as Paul’s strategy of progressing the gospel. It would also be an important piece in the building of a citywide network of churches, as Nate had come to understand Paul’s strategy of building churches in the New Testament. CityChurch Lawrence was already living this out as a network of house churches, but the Pauline Cycle could also be applied on a local level in their own community, at a higher level in their Lawrence/Kansas City network, and at a global level in their continued connection with BILD.

Nate and Meghan, along with fellow church leader Matt Pool and his wife Betsy, then came up with a business concept they hoped would not only help support their families, but serve as a way to engage with the city of Lawrence.

“We wanted to be able to have the freedom to work with church stuff when we needed to, and do it in a way that our household was taken care of income-wise,” he said. Thus, RPG, or Restaurant, Pub and Games, was opened in the fall of 2019 in downtown Lawrence.

Nate said there were a couple of different reasons for this idea. One was having a presence in the community as a brick and mortar location. “We wanted to get involved with the community, community leaders, and other business leaders, and learn who would be good to know in our effort to serve this city,” he said.

The other reason was to propel the gospel in what could be considered the toxic environment of the restaurant industry. “We realized as we started we have the true opportunity to engage our industry with the gospel,” he said.

In a business model that usually has low-paying or unwanted jobs, bad management, and so on, Nate said they wanted to do things differently. By creating an environment that offers better pay and opportunities and a positive work environment, Nate said they have already made a name for themselves in Lawrence as a business based on different values.

“The way we’ve run the business has been clear to the community as they see that we’re doing something different,” he said. “To the point where we hear from other restaurants that when their employees have to leave or go work somewhere else, the employers are telling them to work at RPG.”

As their restaurant stands out from others because of the way it’s run, Nate said that is one way in which they are reaching out into their community. It has also opened the door for new people to visit CityChurch Lawrence and see how a small house church network operates as a family of families, sharing in their new life in Christ just as the early churches did in the New Testament.

Because of the connection between the business and the church, Nate said it has brought up new conversations about good works and seeking the welfare of the city and how those elements serve a greater purpose in spreading the gospel.

“I like to think that the very nature of the existence of the business challenges people to seek to understand how to unify their lifework with the church’s mission,” he said.

Having the business has also brought about a cohort of area church leaders who meet weekly in RPG’s private dining room. A few months ago, Nate started teaching BILD’s Acts course with multiple leaders from different churches, which has been going well.

“I really feel a sense of kinship with these guys,” he said. “Like it is very possible that a network could develop starting with these guys as the beachhead, and just spreading as we continue to develop relationships with other entities.”

As he has understood the biblical principles to establish and multiply churches, Nate is helping implement BILD’s teaching on Christ’s grand strategy at the local level by partnering with strategic leaders in the Lawrence community to progress the gospel and multiply churches. “The first step is laying the foundations for relationships and bringing people together,” he said.

He has been able to connect with leaders from other USA CityChurches and learn how they have also been developing their own networks. He has found in the early steps, that since his house church network is small right now he has been focusing his time on also working with other church leaders in his community and exposing them to BILD principles and to BILD's global work.

His networking has opened the door to developing relationships with the mayor, local government leaders, and city and county commissioners, giving him opportunities to help his city and those who live there.

"It is all about serving the needs of the city and about growing the church. In order to do these things well, we needed to build relationships and expand our ability to have a positive influence on meeting the city's needs. We also needed to raise money for our own families' needs. I suppose it has also required a new level of ability to do theology in culture," he said. “You can’t really write theology in culture if you’re not involved in the community and if you don’t have a pulse on what the community is actually thinking.”

Developing relationships with local leaders has shown that RPG is a business that cares about the community. “I feel like we would have missed the point of self-enterprising ministers of the gospel if we weren’t focusing on these relationships,” he said. 

The interconnectedness of the business, church, his family, and faith is Nate’s lifework. “It’s all integrated. Every piece of our life,” he said. “So, as we’re building relationships through the business, we’re figuring out ways to get people involved as we develop a citywide network with churches, business leaders, nonprofits, and artists.”

Aspiring to do work like that of the Apostle Paul and his team, Nate’s focus is doing what is needed for the purpose of the church. “Apostolic work is my drive in everything I’m trying to accomplish,” he said. “I’m doing the entrepreneurial stuff because it is needed, it’s a tool, and it’s a good vehicle for the purpose of building the church.”

His business acumen and application of living out New Testament principles has more recently brought about his work with BILD’s Benefactor Development Team. The team consists of leaders from the USA CityChurch network who are seeking to establish benefactors and equip the CityChurch network to add new benefactors who will partner together to fulfill the Great Commission. 

“Hopefully as we apply biblical principles and build strong benefactors in our local contexts, we can provide models for others so that they can then create their own models in their own context,” he said.

Nate said it is significant to him to be provided the opportunity to do this work with BILD and contribute his expertise. “If we can help solve problems so everybody can benefit, then it’s all the more important to be faithful in our efforts and it gives our lifework increased meaning.”