Attending worship services in the waiting area of an automotive service shop is unusual, but members of Restoration Pointe Church of the Nazarene have taken a liking to it.
“I didn’t know if it was for me, and I was hesitant about attending at first,” Mary Chastain said. “But once I was here I immediately knew it was a good fit.”
“The atmosphere is fine, it’s quaint,” Jim and Sonja Robinson said. “We love it. We are common people meeting for a common cause – that being to meet the needs of the community.”
The church is housed in Gateway Automotive, 7408 Madison Ave., where chairs are rolled out to the north end of the large and welcoming waiting area before the 11 a.m. service, which is preceded by coffee and doughnuts.
What’s the tie between the church and a shop that specializes in engine diagnostics, brakes, exhaust, heating and air conditioning?
Well, Gateway Automotive is owned by Rusty Mobley, a 20-plus year mechanic who serves as the church’s pastor. The name of his shop comes from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, where he lived until moving to Franklin Township about two decades ago.
“I’ve always wanted to own a repair shop,” he said. “I’ve been passionate about cars since I was 5. I got into drag racing in high school and helped build high-performance street cars. I raced legally on drag strips ... and there were the occasional street races.
“When God called me to start my own church, the two kind of went hand in hand,” said Mobley, 38, who opened Gateway Automotive a year ago and started his church last Easter. He is assisted in the shop by his wife, Tanya, and daughter Lexandra, 19, when she is home from college. The Mobleys also have a son, Louis, 13.
“We had about 15 people at that first service. We have grown to 25 members. We have unique challenges in growing because we are not an established church. We might appeal to those who may not go to a traditional church building. We are evolving and trying to figure out how to reach out to the community and meet its needs. We have hosted a family funeral meal and birthday parties.”
Previously a pastor on staff at Southside Church of the Nazarene in the 2400 block of East Thompson Road, Mobley is working to become an ordained pastor. He recently returned to his old church to give the members an update on Restoration Pointe. “I still am still close to the staff and the members, and they were glad to hear how things are going.”
Mobley, who said he is having more fun in ministry than ever, draws inspiration for his 25- to 30-minute sermons from the Bible. “The scriptures speak to me about what to preach. I like talking about compassion and how to apply the Bible to our lives. I normally have a manuscript that I follow so I don’t get sidetracked. But I didn’t have a guide today (Sunday) and got off topic a couple of times,” he laughed.
“When people leave here, I want them to be closer to God.”
The Robinsons said Mobley’s messages are spot-on. “Rusty is full of compassion for the community and the homeless. He is good with younger people. If you need him to comfort you, he will be there for you. And we like the Sunday night (6 p.m.) Bible studies.”
Chastain noted that the pastor’s kindness draws people in. “Rusty has the ability to get down to everyone’s level and talk to them. He’s been a great mentor to my son, Bobby.”
Because Mobley has enough space to easily seat 100 people at his services, he has no plans to build a big church. It has always been his intention to keep the auto shop and the church as one entity.
In fact, some of his customers have attended services.
Restoration Point’s website points out that it isn’t an impressive church. We aren’t fancy, and don’t desire to be, it says. “We are chasing a different kind of faith – a lived-out faith. A faith that reaches into every part and moment of our lives. A faith that moves us closer to our neighbors. A faith that acts like Jesus’ faith.”