Most pastors don’t have a criminal record or past addictions to drugs and alcohol. Yet, Michael Beck, Pastor of Wildwood United Methodist Church (UMC) in Ocala, Fla., struggled with all of those things. However, God met him in his brokenness and transformed his life into a message of hope, healing and ministry.
Now, he uses that brokenness to transform his congregation and community for Christ. At the time of Michael’s appointment five years ago, Wildwood UMC was declining. Michael sought to breathe new life into the service by starting a ministry to reach the addiction recovery community. Because of his past, others in the recovery community feel welcome in his congregation.
He and his congregation started engaging the community with revitalization ministries, meeting people where they are to share the Gospel and not wait for them to walk through the church doors.
“It’s more important to be the church and reach people for Jesus and offer them the grace of God where they are,” Michael Beck, Lead Pastor of Wildwood UMC, said. “They won’t come to us, so we have to go to them.”
To do that effectively, he and his church have started several ministries as part of the Fresh Expressions Movement. These include Burritos and Bibles, a Bible study that meets weekly at Moe’s Southwest Grill; addiction recovery programs; jail ministries; prayer walks for racial reconciliation, and Tattoo Parlor Church.
Each month, Wildwood UMC holds a service in Fat Kats Artistry, a tattoo shop, in Ocala, Fla., to share the Gospel and Eucharist with customers and regulars. Michael leads a Bible study in the front, but at least one person is in the back getting some ink. Tattoo Parlor Church has two rules of engagement. If you get a tattoo, it must be a faith-based tattoo, such as the cross-and-flame logo of the United Methodist Church, and you should bring a friend with you.
For Michael and those who attend, these tattoos are an outward expression of an inward grace.
“It’s a tool that people will ask you about and you can tell them about Jesus,” Michael said.