California church plant helping transform Oakland into Christlikeness

California church plant helping transform Oakland into Christlikeness

by
Daniel Sperry for Nazarene News
| 21 Jul 2023
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Eikon

For the first time in decades, downtown Oakland, California, has an English-language Church of the Nazarene. Eikon Church of the Nazarene began in 2020 and has radically impacted the East Bay region of northern California.

John Huddle is the plant pastor, and the name, Eikon, is based on the Greek word meaning likeness or image. Huddle had been dwelling on the term for a long time and how it relates to one's image in Christ.

"We are created in the image of God," Huddle said. "What if that was your first proclamation? What if when people connected with you, they connected with the reality that they were divinely made, divinely created?"

In 2019, Huddle was a bivocational minister in Los Angeles while working full-time with World Vision as the national manager for church engagement. That year, Huddle and another associate met with Northern California District Superintendent Albert Hung for lunch. As they walked to their cars in the parking lot, Hung told Huddle he had wanted to talk to him for nine months.

As they talked, Hung asked Huddle to plant a church in the Bay Area, California's second-largest metropolis of three major cities: San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. Hung specifically had Oakland in mind, which hadn't been home to an English-language congregation for decades.

Huddle felt comfortable living in Los Angeles amid what he characterized as a great season of ministry, but he promised to pray about it.

"That night, I was wrecked with vision," Huddle said. "I had sleepless nights." 

Two months later, the two reconnected and Huddle shared everything he felt God had been placing on his heart since their parking lot conversation. The idea was to launch a church that did not center its identity and schedule around a singular church service but around service to and for its community first. 

"What if we planted a church not out of a church service but out of a church doing service?" Huddle said of the vision.

The church has five different ministry operations with two facilities: one in downtown Oakland and another nearby Hayward. The Hayward facility is a hub for multiple points of distribution (PODs) around the Bay Area. The hub receives multiple shipments each week of new or like-new items from a retail store chain that have been returned and can't go back on shelves.

The PODs are located within existing churches, schools, or even other ministry points. The sites are part of what the church calls Infinite Christmas. Each month, there is an Advent-style reflection and preparation for the outpouring of God's love on someone's life. Through the PODs, the church hopes to give equitably and honorably to those in the community who are in great need.

The location in downtown Oakland places Eikon in a desired location to carry out its vision of leaning into spaces of tension, places where ministry might be difficult due to language or financial barriers and maybe even contempt for the church. The facility includes a POD, a music ministry with a recording space, and an event space. 

The congregation is also building a network of organic churches and life transformation groups for people connected with the ministry who seek Jesus. The church also hosts the YES Program, an educational summer program for kids that teaches them environmental sciences through the lens of faith in God. Through another project, church members are helping California State University East Bay build tiny homes for students, as 10 percent of the student population has shelter instability.

For Huddle, these areas of focus in Oakland and beyond boil down to the proclamation of the gospel by making sure residents’ spiritual and material needs are met.

"We proclaim the gospel through our words, our deeds, but we also proclaim it through our commitment to the fullness of life," Huddle said. "When we're committed to the fullness of life for someone, that proclaims the gospel."

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