By Felicia A. Petro/Allied News Senior Reporter
GROVE CITY —
Antioch Overflow Experiment has been growing in homes, the local coffee shop, on campus and in other hems and hedges in Grove City.
It is raising money in the hopes of purchasing a building to use as a training center, said Brad McKoy, a borough resident who heads up AOX with his wife, Adriane.
AOX is currently one of five "hubs" in the nation for Student Church Planting eXperience (www.scpx.org). Each hub hosts summer programs to train college students about how to be missionaries in their ordinary lives - as well as overseas - live in community together, and plant "simple churches," added McKoy, who is an elder with SCPX.
"We train students to be the church, not just be part of an organization," he said. "We believe the church is more than a building or a meeting, although there are really great churches in buildings. We have conventional churches that partner with us in reaching out to specific campuses."
Simple church is a natural element of SCPX's vision.
In Grove City, the McKoys open up their small living room at their home at 130 Grant Street on Sunday nights for services and "breaking bread," McKoy said.
Creativity is encouraged. For example, individuals are free to bring their own instruments to play during worship, such as hand drums and violins. McKoy leads worship on guitar.
The house meeting primarily draws college kids but anyone is invited. The meetings have grown so much, an AOX training center to accommodate the growth would seem to be a solution.
But McKoy would rather see a new simple church branch off and multiply in the community from his home meeting to reach people uncomfortable with entering a church-style building, he said.
For almost a year, AOX has held another service called "Worship in the Grove" at Beans on Broad at 141 S. Broad St. once a month.
McKoy calls them "family reunions" since members of other AOX simple churches in the region attend for fellowship, along a mix of people from the Grove City area.
The open service is "kind of a 'church in the round,'" McKoy added, with up to 90 people attending now. Once, so many people brought drums "we couldn't hear anything else and we had to ask people to take turns," he said.
Another simple church meeting is held by students at Grove City College during the week.
"I feel we've seen a lot of growth because people are hungry to see the basics of scripture lived out," McKoy said.
AOX doesn't believe its vision is new, but ancient.
Members want to live like the early Christian disciples but with a modern bent, and see "church" as an everyday experience, McKoy said. "The main thing is the Gospel. We're not trying to become the next big thing."
Antioch is named after an ancient city that was the chief center of early Christianity. In the Bible, Antioch is mentioned in Acts 11:26, stating that it's where the first disciples of Christ were called Christians.
The SCPX concept began in 2008 under its original name, Student Church.
So far, about 500 students have come through its programs, learning "that their identity is not in their performance, but their value and worth is because they belong to their Heavenly Father," McKoy said.
Members on campuses and in communities nation-wide "care more about living out of a healthy heart, and they are given permission to live out their dreams to completely follow Jesus," he added.
"They follow Jesus together, walk in community together and reach people who don't know Jesus together."
One student in Pittsburgh learned through SCPX that she could pursue music while pursuing her faith. "Until we taught her Psalm 20, she didn't see how that would be profitable for God," McKoy said, but the blend has opened up big doors, including television appearances.
McKoy sees it as an organic result of a person using her talent, knowing she has the full blessing of God to be both creative and spiritual in it.
AOX is overseen by Antioch International Ministries in New Wilmington, under long-time local pastors Jim and Jan Erb. It fits perfectly with the Erbs' history as leaders in the "Jesus movement" of the 1970s, when youths - particularly hippies - converted to Christianity, became "Jesus freaks" and sought to live as modern-day disciples together.
The Erbs were instrumental in the famous Jesus Festivals that were held at a farm in East Lackawannock Township. They bring in "a multi-generational component" to AOX, McKoy said. "When you try to live out in community, it's not just 18- to 20-year-olds."
The local AOX hub is still very young, however, with 20-something elders Carl Catedral, Jessie Marquis and Gabe Gordon teaming up with the McKoys and Erbs.
The McKoys have been married 13 years. Adriane has worked in education and home schools their daughter, Abigail.
Their vision for college ministry began when McKoy, 37, worked as a pastor in North Carolina for seven years and took a team of students to low-income neighborhoods to do service projects.
The response was wonderful and life changing. "For me, I didn't want to try to keep the life of the church confined in the building anymore," McKoy said.
That summer, in 2001, McKoy visited his family in Beaver County and saw kids hanging out on the streets of Ellwood City with nothing to do, he said. After going back to North Carolina, "I couldn't get this area out of my heart."
The McKoys move to Ellwood and planted a simple church, and learned that western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio has "over 80 four-year schools within 100 mile radius," McKoy said, which is the most densely populated in the country.
The McKoys did a prayer tour of college towns and campuses in 2008, stopping last in Grove City, where they spent time at what is now Beans on Broad.
Although weary from their tour, the last stop became the prophetic basis of their future work.
After praying and meeting with new people, McKoy realized that Grove City was open to creativity in business and the arts, he said. "We sat in the coffee shop and thought what it'd be like to collaborate and do music and art."
McKoy also believed the town would come to be a hub "where people were drawn to God's presence for worship and prayer, then equipped and sent out to live the kingdom of God," he added.
They found that their vision coincided well with William Penn's, the founder of Pennsylvania, who saw the state as a "holy experiment" for missionary work, and "the seed for the nations," McKoy noted.
Two years ago, local friends invited the McKoys to use Solid Rock Assembly of God's building at 145 S. Broad St. on Friday nights to start their vision in Grove City. The family moved to the borough shortly thereafter.
With a need for larger training space, AOX is asking interested parties to help support its vision to purchase a building in town.
Across from the McKoy house, AOX also rents a duplex where elders and church members live to support and encouraged one another in their faith. The McKoys are thinking of renting another home on Grant to grow the community.
"We are really excited because we see how this has been an unfolding thing, the whole vision," McKoy said. "This is part of why we moved here. We're not sure how it was going to unfold but it's exciting to see that the things God put on our hearts is happening."
The next Worship in the Grove will be held at Beans on Broad at 6 p.m. Jan. 29. For more information about Antioch Overflow Experiment, call 724-264-5444 or visit www.aoxnow.com.
Published Jan. 7, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.