Advent Giving: Brister Family
December 05, 2017
“I’m about as vanilla as you can get,” he said, chuckling to himself. It’s true, Chris Brister doesn’t necessarily translate as edgy. But, as the bible shows us over and over, God can equip a person with every attribute they need to accomplish his perfect plan.
Chris is our Church Planting Resident at Summit Crossing with Acts 29. Huntsville is an intentional pit stop on the Brister family’s journey to ultimately plant a church in Auburn, Alabama. Originally arriving in May of 2017, the Bristers will be here for about a year as they plan and prepare. This is year zero.
Meet the Bristers
Growing up, Chris was what he called “the token white guy” in his group of friends. He grew up in a very diverse community and attended public school south of Dallas. His dad was a pastor at “the white church” in town and is still a pastor today in Duncanville, TX. Living in this area, Chris began to see clearly that people in the south are just as misguided and broken as everywhere else. The difference? They go to church more. Whether it’s discipline, tradition, or denial – southerners go to church – but much of that established, traditional, southern church doesn’t not seem to reflect the intentional cultural diversity that Paul was so adamant about in the book of Ephesians and certainly doesn’t reflect the massive, multi-cultural future of the church that is presented in the book of Revelation.
After meeting his wife Cara Jane and being a part of leadership at several various churches, the Bristers began to feel called elsewhere. Cara Jane attended Auburn University for college and through a series of events that included Chris taking a solo road trip through the southeast, God provided direction. It became clear they were to uproot their lives and head for sweet home Alabama.
In Huntsville the Bristers desire to recruit a core team of families, couples, 40-somethings, and 60-somethings. They are prayerfully seeking a team of missionaries to come alongside them and join their heart for what will eventually become Union Church.
Why a college town?
The Auburn / Opelika area is made up of about 90,000 people. You don’t have to be a sociologist to drive through these communities and see the vast difference between the quaint and shiny Auburn campus and the often dilapidated downtown of Opelika (just 12 minutes away). The contrast is harrowing. Union Church seeks to bridge this gap and create holistic change for this region of Alabama. Speaking to this Chris said, “Auburn and Opelika are separated by only a few miles but are, in many ways, completely different worlds. This is an eerily similar context that the gospel was addressing in Ephesus – making two peoples (Jews and Gentiles) into one new people (the church).”
Auburn / Opelika are essentially a microcosm of the South. If the goal is to completely saturate our region with the gospel and make the South reflect more of the Kingdom, then college towns become strategic sending centers. What is absorbed and valued in college towns like Auburn will eventually be taught and practiced in places like Birmingham, Nashville and Atlanta. College is a significantly formative time for young adults. “If you want to change the future of our largest communities in the South…you have to start with the colleges,” says Chris. With more and more students leaving the faith in their college years, planting a church in a college town will not be easy. But the Bristers aren’t here to doubt, they are here to do.
“We are going to take Ephesians ridiculously serious,” Chris exclaimed. He began grinning from ear to ear and leaned in across the table to continue, “The richest definition of salvation in the New Testament is ‘Union with Christ’ and in Ephesians it is so clear. Union with Christ leads to union with others. This is my heart for Auburn. In short, Jesus has torn down the dividing wall of hostility that separates us by uniting us to Himself. So, our shared union with Christ means we now share his relationship with his Father, functionally making us brothers and sisters. Imagine how the South could change if generations of college students had this rich, theological understanding of the church and exported it with them wherever their eventual career paths take them. That could shake things up. That’s what we want to see happen through Union Church!”
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Please join us as we pray for the path ahead of this young family. Maybe you are interested in taking Ephesians ridiculously serious or maybe your kids go to Auburn or your friends live in Opelika. Whatever your level of connection, we fully believe the Bristers are here with a great mission. As their congregation and current church home, it is our goal to send them out in the best possible way – prayed over, equipped, surrounded, and supported.
Brister family - we are for you!
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The Brister family is an Advent ministry partner this Christmas season. If you’d like to give to the Brister family you can do so through at mysc3.org.
Want to get in touch with Chris and hear more?
Shoot him an email and follow him at unionchurchAO.