Start-up Relevant Church quickly gains following
When Muta Mwenya and his wife, Christine, set out to start a church in Niles, they started small.
In fact, their first effort resulted in the two of them sitting together at Pizza Transit, waiting for others to arrive.
No one ever came.
“We had an idea of what we got ourselves into… we were committed to sticking through it,” said the 33-year-old Niles man. “If it’s going to be two of us for the next six months then we will ride it out.”
That was in March of 2014.
Today, Relevant Church averages approximately 50 people at its Sunday services, which are held at 10 a.m. at Ring Lardner Middle School in Niles.
Mwenya doesn’t call the people who attend “members,” instead saying they are all part of the growing team that makes up the Christian church.
“You are either a guest or you are part of the team — that is how we talk about it,” he said. “As we grow and it takes shape we will solidify membership or what it means to truly be a member. Right now we are just a group of misfits trying to make Jesus famous.”
Mwenya’s ultimate goal for Relevant is to teach people about Jesus and the importance of giving back to their community, and to use the church’s “team” to meet the needs of the community, whatever they may be.
“We want to be really intentional about creating a culture that loves across boundaries, helping people understand that what unites us is much deeper than what separates us,” he said.
Business to faith
Mwenya grew up in a Christian household in St. Joseph with his parents both working for big businesses.
He went into the corporate world himself, before deciding his true passion was found in the church.
He worked for the faith-based nonprofit Urban Youth Ministries in Benton Harbor for a couple years before working full time as a teacher and pastor at Overflow Church in Benton Harbor.
Then, in December of 2013, after much soul searching, he and his wife decided they wanted to start their own church. They considered several different places, including in California, the Carolinas and even Nashville, Tennessee, before realizing their calling was just a few miles away in Niles.
“There is so much good happening in Niles — it is moving in a really good direction,” he said. “One reason we are here is to help people see that God is at work in the city. It is on a good trajectory.”
As for the church itself, Mwenya said he is inspired by its recent growth and excited to see where it goes.
“You have to experience it to understand it. We have a really awesome culture at Relevant Church. We have people that are passionate about people and passionate about Jesus,” he said. “We always say authenticity is the only requirement. Just show up. No matter where you are at in your faith walk there is space for you there.”
For more information, check out the church online at relevantchurchniles.com.
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