Visit Community First for Free!

Are you fascinated by this fresh expression of the Church? Do you share a passion for a forged family and serving our brothers and sisters who live on the streets?

You can learn in person from Gannon and Alan at the upcoming Symposium for Goodness’ Sake: Cultivating Home & Community, June 11-13. On top of that, you will get to experience life at the Community First! Village in Austin, Texas.

This event is normally $635. However, thanks to a generous donation, church leaders can attend for free!

Show Notes

What happens when you follow the passions God has given you? Can God use your passions to help address some of the major issues facing our culture?

In this bonus episode of the Fresh Expressions podcast, you’ll meet Alan Graham and hear how his passion led him to start Community First! Village, a master-planned neighborhood where the chronically homeless and mission-minded Christians live side by side.

We’ll also get an exciting update from former podcast host Gannon Sims about how he is helping to develop a deep sense of forged family alongside his work as a pastor in a traditional church.

Alan Graham is the founder and CEO of Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF), a Christian social outreach ministry that provides food and clothing, cultivates community and promotes dignity to homeless men and women in need. Alan also is the lead visionary behind MLF’s Community First! Village—a 51-acre master planned development in northeast Austin that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness.

Alan and his wife, Tricia, were married in September 1984 and have four children of their own, as well as a niece they’ve been blessed to raise and include in their family. Alan is a published author of the book Welcome Homeless: One Man’s Journey of Discovering the Meaning of Home. He also is the host of the Gospel Con Carne podcast, which explores the woundedness of society through untold stories of individuals who have encountered homelessness.

Gannon Sims is a pastor, author and songwriter. He is a founding team member of Fresh Expressions US, a movement seeking to bring the church Jesus loves closer to the people Jesus loves. He lives with his wife Carey in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, Texas where he serves as Senior Pastor and lead missionary of the Cliff Temple Baptist Church, a vibrant and innovative urban congregation with a heart for the neighborhood. From 2011-2022, he and Carey directed The Center for Faith and Leadership, a training and equipping hub for university students and young leaders in Fredericksburg, Virginia and The Center Community, an expression of church rooted in homes and families.

In his first book, Bringing Church Home, Sims shows how our homes can become hubs for mission pointing toward our true home where we—no matter our previous experiences of family or home or love—can find kinship in God. Gannon is a graduate of Baylor University and Duke Divinity School.

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A special thank you to Alabaster Grace Ministries for their music.

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Interview Summary

We’ve come to understand that if you want to restore together, you must live together.” This compelling declaration by Alan Graham sets the stage for a profound discussion on community restoration and connection in a bonus episode of the Fresh Expressions podcast. Hosted by Shannon Kiser, Director of U.S. Ministries & Training for Fresh Expressions North America, this episode features insightful narratives from Alan Graham and Gannon Sims. These leaders share their innovative approaches to tackling homelessness and community disengagement through faith and active participation.

Path to Purpose: Tracing Alan Graham’s Inspirational Journey

Awakening to Service

Alan’s transformative journey began with a spiritual retreat in 1996, where a deep personal encounter with faith propelled him from intellectual belief to heartfelt action. This awakening prompted a question that would define his path: “What do you want me to do, Lord?” The answer gradually unfolded as he engaged more deeply with his community’s most pressing needs.

Vision of Service

The concept for Mobile Loaves and Fishes struck him during a conversation about outreach efforts in other cities. The image of a catering truck emerged as a symbol of mobile, accessible support, bridging the gap between abundance and need. This vision encapsulated not just physical nourishment but also spiritual and communal healing.

Community First Village: Transforming Concepts into Community

Development of a Village

What began as a mobile catering truck has evolved into a 51-acre community, a place where healing and belonging foster growth.

Alan Graham

The Community First Village started as an ambitious project to provide stable housing solutions within a supportive community framework. Alan details how this project grew from a few RVs into a sprawling village featuring tiny homes, communal kitchens, and social spaces that encourage interaction and mutual support.

Impact and Expansion

Today, the village is not just a place to live but a vibrant community that addresses homelessness by fostering a sense of belonging, dignity, and purpose among its residents. Alan shares plans for expanding this model, emphasizing its potential to inspire similar initiatives elsewhere.

Forging Families: Reimagining Community Ties through Faith

Conceptualizing New Family Structures

Jesus redefined family to include all who do God’s will, urging us to forge families that extend beyond conventional boundaries.

Gannon Sims

Gannon discusses the theological foundation for his concept of forged families, rooted in the idea that spiritual kinship can transcend biological ties. This perspective challenges traditional notions of family, promoting a more inclusive approach.

Biblical Inspiration

By referencing scriptural examples where Jesus expands the definition of family, Gannon encourages listeners to consider how these principles can be applied in contemporary settings to create supportive, faith-based communities.

Living Out Community Ideals

  1. Sharing Homes and Lives: Gannon shares practical advice for those looking to implement the concept of forged families in their own lives. Simple acts like sharing meals, opening homes for community gatherings, and hosting events can lay the groundwork for deeper relationships and communal support.
  2. Community Engagement Strategies: He provides examples from his own experience where fostering openness and hospitality has led to the formation of tight-knit community bonds. By turning homes into hubs of community activity, individuals can experience the tangible benefits of living in a spiritually and socially integrated environment.

Reflection Questions

  1. How can your passions be a catalyst for serving your community?
  2. What does ‘home’ mean in your life, and how can you extend this sense of home to others?
  3. What barriers to forming ‘forged families’ exist in your community, and how can they be dismantled?
  4. How can small acts of openness lead to significant bonds within your community?
  5. Identify a potential community hub in your neighborhood. What first step can you take to activate this space?
  6. Consider the risks and rewards of deeply integrated community projects. What makes them worthwhile?
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