Foursquare’s theme this year is “Sent”—a concept not limited only to Connection 2015, but an action lived out by Foursquare leaders across the nation, every day throughout the year. In this exclusive new feature series, meet people in the Foursquare family who have been sent by the Lord to different places. Get ready to be inspired.
When Matt Kladnik, senior pastor of Vintage Faith (Culver City Foursquare Church) in the Los Angeles area, wanted to expand his church’s reach beyond Sunday services, it took a combination of critical and optimistic thinking.
The final result was Love The City Thrift Store (LTC), which the Culver City, Calif., congregation opened last October. It operates from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“We wanted to be a church that affects our city all week long,” says Matt, a former missionary to Australia. “Our dream for opening LTC was simple: to provide an avenue for the church to have influence all week long. It would be a place for volunteers to serve and use their gifts and talents, as well as a neutral ground to meet the needs of people who might never step inside a church.”
The store sells donated items, stocking an array of clothing, furniture, assorted household items, art and books. Located in a shopping center on a main thoroughfare, it attracts more than 500 customers a week.
Matt says their journey into community service included obstacles, challenges and trepidation. Yet, every step of the way, God provided—whether it was a $100 donation slipped under the church door or last year’s $45,000 Foursquare Foundation grant. The grant enabled Vintage Faith to sign a lease, and pay rent and security deposits.
Although now averaging 160 people in weekly attendance after a merger with another Foursquare church, the Vintage Faith family numbered just 30 when Matt got the vision for the store in 2013. By asking what people and resources they already had, and what needs existed in Culver City, Matt and his leaders came up with the answer: a thrift store.
The first piece of the puzzle that fell into place was Bryan Lucas, a faithful church member who would become the store’s manager. An experienced bookstore manager, Bryan had worked for several major retail operations until getting downsized.
Even after 18 months of prayer, numerous yard sales and other fundraisers, just days before opening the store still needed clothing racks. Instead of panicking, members prayed.
“Sure enough, the call came, and all the racks were donated from a store going out of business,” Matt says. “As people heard about the store’s mission, they gave of their time and resources.”
Although Bryan is the only full-time employee, his wife, Jennifer, handles such tasks as data entry, tax letters and bank deposits. Other volunteers play key roles in keeping the shelves stocked, providing excellent customer service and praying with people. Matt says that Bryan, with his natural ability to connect people and retail management background, has proved a perfect fit.
Besides providing personnel and a flood of donations that mean LTC has more inventory than it can display, God has touched Bryan on a deep, spiritual level.
“This has definitely brought me out of my spiritual shell,” says Bryan, who hopes to soon acquire his Foursquare credentials. “I’m representing Christ on a daily basis. I found within me a passion for God I didn’t know existed.”
Initially operating on a break-even basis, the store plans to soon invest a percentage of its proceeds to help fund citywide improvement projects. It already is a viable site to receive and distribute food and other necessities to those in need. For example, LTC gave away hundreds of items of clothing during an event at a park the weekend before Thanksgiving.
“Testimonies flow out of our volunteers as they are used by God and stretched by Him,” Bryan says. “People are learning that being a Christian is less about a Sunday service and more about a Sunday-through-Saturday lifestyle.”
Considerable ministry goes on outside the spotlight. When an older woman shared with a clerk that her family couldn’t afford any food, she left with a large bag of groceries without having to pay. A single woman still trying to furnish her home after being homeless for a year received a couch without the customary delivery charge. LTC also provided items for a yard sale so kids could attend summer camp, raising $1,450 in one day.
“That sort of thing happens all the time,” Bryan affirms.
Observes Matt: “Most businesses celebrate making a profit. LTC celebrates influence. We’re representing Jesus in a new way by being generous, accepting and kind.”
More is ahead. Both Matt and Bryan envision LTC branching far beyond Culver City to other areas of metro Los Angeles, and even other states. Matt says this experience has taught him a valuable lesson: Vintage Faith needs to be a church that dreams for the miraculous.
“Early on, we committed to dream big, scary dreams, dreams that only God could fulfill,” Matt says. “When we hear about the good things happening through the store, we are reminded that God made this happen. This fuels our worship and invigorates us to keep dreaming.”