The Refinery: A Replant for a Rural Industrial Community

Robinson, Illinois, is a unique town of about 8,000 people. Rural, but defined by industry, Robinson is about 40 minutes away from the next largest city. It is home to a Marathon Petroleum Corporation refinery, a Hershey Company plant and a state prison. It is also where Pastor Adam Hafenbridle, along with his wife, Emily, […]

Robinson, Illinois, is a unique town of about 8,000 people. Rural, but defined by industry, Robinson is about 40 minutes away from the next largest city. It is home to a Marathon Petroleum Corporation refinery, a Hershey Company plant and a state prison. It is also where Pastor Adam Hafenbridle, along with his wife, Emily, and two young boys, is planting a church called The Refinery.

“Jesus makes things better” is something Hafenbridle says often and encapsulates his vision for ministry.

“No matter the circumstances or situation, if Jesus is present, things change. He is willing to take the worst in us or whatever we can offer, and refine it, making us useful for his kingdom,” he says. “The highest goal of humanity is to be spent for God. I don’t want to be satisfied, and I don’t want others to be satisfied, by a life lived without divine purpose. Jesus can and will change our lives for the better if we let him.”

The oil refinery in the community provides an interesting analogy for how God refines our lives. The name also communicates that the new church is a very welcoming place for the hardworking, blue-collar people of the community.

REPLANTING

The town had been home to a Wesleyan church that was started about 100 years earlier. For generations, it met the needs in the community and in the lives of the people who attended the church. However, this church realized significant changes were needed if they were going to respond to a changing culture in a new era.

A replant was launched to foster a different culture within the church, one that would be much more evangelistic. And that is where Hafenbridle came in. He realized that he needed to personally live a life of outreach if he wanted that value to permeate the culture of the new church.

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He likes to build bridges in the community by visiting the same businesses regularly and getting to know people. He enjoys listening to their stories and frequently asks if he can pray when he hears about needs. One of the biggest lessons he has learned in the process is that when you build relationships toward the gospel, it often takes longer than you expect.

EVANGELISM

Hafenbridle is also helping his team move from timidity to a lifestyle of evangelism. The BLESS model has been especially helpful (Be praying for people, Listening, Eating with people, Serving them or Serving with them, Sharing your story). It is creating opportunities for members of The Refinery to celebrate any relational step (no matter how small) toward the gospel.

Most of the people do not see themselves as evangelists, but they have caught the vision of being a blessing in the lives of their friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors and colleagues. As a result, the DNA is beginning to change.

ORDINARY SPACES

A significant philosophy embedded in the new church is to turn everyone’s attention toward reflecting God’s love and care to people in the different spheres of their lives.

“In a sense, I want The Refinery to be an ‘inversion’ of how we view church,” says Hafenbridle. “I want people to hear about Christ outside the church, in homes, at work or school. If our people live with Christ in the moment, God will use them. We are sent to where we have been placed, we just have to be present. Asking God how we can be a blessing in these ‘ordinary’ spaces will open doors for the gospel.”

They also look for ways to belong in the community and to join what is already happening. Hafenbridle recently took steps to work alongside the chaplain at the local prison, and they are investigating ways to love and support students at the local community college.

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“I’ve never been assured that this will work, but I am sure that I’m called to do it. If I stay focused on Christ there will be fruit,” he explains.

Hafenbridle had a different timeline in his mind, and those expectations have been a catalyst for spiritual warfare. He notes how easy it is for a church planter to get discouraged and to measure success or effectiveness in the wrong way.

“But seeing someone’s countenance change when I’m spending time with them, and suddenly there is trust when there was distrust. That moment someone lets me in. When I get to pray for someone, and afterward I see tears in their eyes. When I get texts from team members scared but excited because they are about to pray for someone. These are signs of bridges being built, of hearts softening. Fruit becomes visible in these moments.”