The Story was started by Xavier Brasseur in October 2017 as a small community church that gathered in Lithia Park. The church was originally comprised of 15 to 20 close friends and family. As word spread The Story grew to fill the Ashland Community Center with 150 people. Within another few months they expanded again and moved to the Christian Church of Ashland located at 318 B Street in Ashland, with a few hundred people. The building was donated to The Story and is now their permanent home in Ashland. An additional $200,000 was contributed by an anonymous donor to install a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system. Currently the church is hosting two Sunday gatherings at 9am and 11:15am with around 400 people attending, and it is continuing to grow. I spoke with Xavier Brasseur to learn more about The Story.
Hello Xavier. Welcome and congratulations!
Thank you so much! I’m so excited to be back in my hometown and it’s been rad to see so many people from the community coming out to support what we’re doing.
Yea, I really believe that Ashland was ready for a fresh approach to building community and growing spiritually. From day one we wanted The Story to be a safe place where people could be loved and valued regardless of their spiritual beliefs and background. It’s been rad seeing so many people who typically would never go to a traditional church feel comfortable stepping through our doors and seeing them leave excited to come back the following week.
Xavier, to begin with, can you please tell us a little bit about your background?
I was born here in Ashland (on my living room floor) and moved all around the Rogue Valley throughout my childhood and teenage years. After high school I decided to go to Bible College in Hawaii, and after finishing up my biblical education I went straight into full-time pastoral ministry at the age of 20. For the past 10 years I have worked at various churches and had lots of amazing opportunities to travel and teach the Bible all over the world.
Why did you start your own church?
I wanted the freedom to create a new type of church culture that explores creative ways of reaching and engaging new people. A lot of churches have failed to adapt and change as culture has progressed and so I wanted to create a church that actually engages the culture with a fresh approach. My desire to plant a church specifically in Ashland came after realizing how huge of a need there was right here in our community. There hasn’t been a new church start up that has actually stuck around in Ashland for over 30 years. I wanted to contribute to this amazing community and felt the best way that I could do that was by starting a new church that welcomes and invites everyone right where they are.
As a kid I remember wanting to grow up and be a daredevil or a hair stylist…lol. It wasn’t until I had my first opportunity to teach while I was in Bible College that I began to realize the profound impact that I could have on the lives of so many people through teaching the Bible. From then on I continued to take every opportunity I had to grow in my craft. Overtime as I saw people’s lives being transformed, it became more and more clear that this was how I wanted to invest my life.
I am curious to know what you think you have hit on that has created this dynamic growth at The Story?
We’ve been very intentional about creating a culture that makes every person know they have been thought of from the moment they walk in! The energy, music, excitement, and people who genuinely want to hear your story make the environment feel so warm and welcoming. One thing I hear people say every week is that they love getting to hear other people share their stories and they love how many people are interested in hearing their story. We all speak the language of story and we all want to share our stories and experiences with others. We have worked hard to create a culture where every person has a voice and leaves feeling valued and connected. People also love the intentionality that we put into creating an aesthetically beautiful environment. We believe that God created a beautiful world and we want the environment we create to be a reflection of His creative beauty.
Our vision from day one has been to see The Story of Jesus transform the people and the city of Ashland. Seeing this vision become a reality starts with helping people discover the story they were created to live through a personal relationship with Jesus. We’re all looking for a story to be a part of and we want people to know that there is a place for them in Gods story.
The Story is really so much different than your normal church… in fact you didn’t even want the word “church” to be in the name. Please say more.
I know lots of people who have had a lot of negative experiences and have been really hurt by other churches in their past. When people think of “church” a lot of times it comes with a lot of baggage. I didn’t want people to see us as just another church that is going to treat them the same way they have always been treated or make them feel like they had to act, talk, look, or dress a certain way to come here. We wanted our name to be an expression of what you will find when you come here, a place where your story is heard.
From the moment you walk in you are greeted by people who are excited to see you. As you walk up the stairs into the main gathering space you may think you have come to the wrong place because of the loud EDM music that is pumping though the sound system. You then notice that everyone around you is drinking coffee and eating muffins and other breakfast snacks, and so you head downstairs to get in on the action. When you arrive downstairs you discover a beautiful space where everyone is hanging out and sharing stories! After meeting some new people you head back upstairs with your fresh cup of Case Coffee before the band comes out on stage! As the band comes out the electric blinds come down over every window in the room making it pitch black, and the stage gets lit up from every angle! The band is progressive and the music is loud and engaging. After the band finishes there is a break where you get to connect and build community with those around you. After that a person from the community comes up on stage and shares his or her story with everyone. The level of transparency and vulnerability that people share with is incredibly inspiring. I then give a teaching from whatever series we are currently going through, and at the end of the teaching we take some time to just be silent and create space for people to personally hear from God. After the gathering we encourage people to hit up the selfie wall to share their stories on social media, and to stop by the merch table and grab some new swag! People hang out after the gathering and just enjoy the community and the vibrant environment.
Xavier you have been really mindful about not creating a church culture that would turn people off. Please say more.
I think a lot of people are turned off by the idea of church because a lot of people in churches have the mindset that they are better than everyone else. When new people step into an environment like that it turns people away really quickly. We believe the church should be the safest place for all people to be able to come and find a sense of belonging. Others are turned off by the idea of church because it feels so boring and irrelevant. I hear new people at The Story all the time say, “I didn’t know church could be so cool” and “this is exactly the type of church I have wanted to find.” We are really trying to help people be able to see church through a new lens and experience church in a new way.
That’s a long story, but I’ll give you the shorter version of it. When we were meeting in the Ashland Community Center we were keeping our trailer with all our supplies in the parking lot of The Christian Church of Ashland. One Sunday when we were dropping the trailer off the members from the church were in the parking lot and asked how everything was going with our new church. We told them about how it was growing a lot and how we were looking for a larger space. They told us they wanted to give us their property because their church had been slowly declining for a long time. Six weeks later after lots of weekend work parties to clean up the building, we permanently moved into our new home on the corner of 2nd and B Street.
You also then received a state of the art sound system – which cost $200,000. Wow!
Yeah, we were pretty stoked to say the least! An anonymous donor who loves the music we are putting out gave a $200,000 donation so that we could get a world-class sound, lighting, and production system. Since then we have really stepped up our level of excellence with the music we play every week. Some people come every week just because of how much they love the music. For me, personally, the music is my favorite part of what happens every week at The Story.
It has definitely come as a huge surprise and a huge blessing. After moving back to Ashland to start The Story I never anticipated that after just 1 year we would be in our own building with multiple gatherings reaching as many people as we are. I knew the community was ready for something new but am still in awe every week at what God is doing through The Story.
Xavier, tell us about the transformation that you see happening at The Story.
New stories of how people’s lives are being transformed are happening every week. Some of the highlights have been a homeless alcoholic coming in off the street and getting sober, a transgender individual who had never been to church finding the type of community they have been searching for, an individual struggling with heavy depression and suicidal thoughts finding new purpose for life, people from many various religious backgrounds coming back week after week because of the love they are experiencing, people who have been hurt by the church in their past finding a place where they really feel like they belong, and lots of people wanting a deeper sense of community finding meaningful relationships.
One of our cultural values is to create a culture of artistic and aesthetic beauty. We have a lot of really gifted artists, musicians, designers, and creatives who want to use their gifts to create an environment at The Story that engages the community. We are also in the process of planning a summer conference for creatives to come and grow in their skills as well as share ideas and build community with other creatives.
You shared that you are actively meeting with pastors from other churches all around the community and they are excited for you. Please tell us more.
Right when I moved back to Ashland to start The Story I found out that a group of pastors had been regularly meeting on Thursday mornings for almost 30 years. The first time I went to check it out I felt so welcomed and all of the other pastors were so excited for me (a young new guy) to be starting a new church. Most of them have been pastoring different churches in the community for over 20 years, so I was so excited to get to learn from all their wisdom and experience. The truth is we all share the same heart and the same vision; we want to see people find freedom in Jesus.
What are your hopes as it keeps going? How can our readers participate?
As we continue to grow the number of people who leave here every Sunday, our hopes are that they will go out into the community and share the love and grace they have experienced here with their schools, with their co-workers, in their neighborhoods, and with their friends and families. We believe that every person at The Story is an active participant in bringing Gods love to every person in our community. If this sounds like something you would like to be a part of we would love to see you on a Sunday morning.
If you live anywhere in the Rogue Valley we would love to invite you to come and join us. But for those who are unable to make it you can check out our podcast on iTunes by searching “The Story Ashland.”
Xavier thanks for doing your part to build and grow a strong and healthy community here in Ashland, Oregon!
I love this community so much and I am so grateful for all the love and support we have received from so many people. We’re looking forward to many more years of continuing to build a culture where people can come and find a sense of belonging and be loved unconditionally.
The Story Ashland
Sunday Gatherings 9am / 11:15am