A Former Atheist Starts A Michigan Taekwondo Church

"What happened to my wife?" If you talked with Robert Bastien, he would tell you he asked this very question about his wife, JoAnn. When she began praying, reading Scripture, and attending church on a regular basis, he wasn't sure about the changes. You see, JoAnn grew up Catholic, but eventually stopped attending services. Not only that, she stopped believing God existed and began to live as an atheist.

Having relinquished her belief in God, she began to struggle with depression, was weighed down by the guilt of her sin, and became suicidal. After some time, not knowing where else to turn, she decided to "give this God thing a try." She found a Catholic church in which she knelt down and surrendered herself to God. Shortly after this, when she was reading John 1:14, her eyes were opened to the truth that this Jesus she'd heard about is God. And this one truth was enough to cause a 180 in JoAnn's life.

Her husband noticed the difference, but it took him about four years "to come around" and give God a try for himself. Family member after family member — from her mother to his brother and sister-in-law — came to faith in Christ through Catholic, United Methodist, and Nazarene congregations. Robert's younger brother and sister-in-law invited the Bastiens to attend Detroit First Church of the Nazarene with them. It was the decision to join with this congregation that proved transformative for the trajectory of their journey.

JoAnn served on staff at Detroit First Church for six years (2004-2010). During that time, she sensed a call to plant a church — but in her mind, it would be as an associate pastor, not a senior pastor. She was waiting for God to call someone else. Yet her desire to reach lost people would not go away. In 2010, she heard General Superintendent Jerry Porter talk about church planting and ask, "If you were going to plant a church, where and how would you plant it?" JoAnn already knew the answer to both of these questions and finally realized God was calling her — He wasn't waiting on someone else to respond.

So in 2010, the Bastiens started the church through their involvement in taekwondo! JoAnn and Robert's black belts provided multiple opportunities for relationships within the community. For so many area families that JoAnn and Robert met, they had an awareness of God, but they were standoffish. They did not choose to be connected with any church body. But through the ministry of the church with Taekwondo, the church blossomed to 60-70 people. The discipline and character building message of this ministry fit perfectly within the development of the new Plumb Line Community Church. Since 2010, JoAnn has served as lead pastor of this church in Livonia, Michigan.

Today tghe congregation is active in outreach and relationship building with over half of the things they're doing focused on the community. In addition to Sunday services and discipleship groups, they have adopted the local elementary school to help stock a school supply closet, they've hosted an egg hunt and Secret Santa events, Vacation Bible School, trunk-or-treat, and are really striving to, as Pastor JoAnn says, "live with our community." 

Another way they do that is by opening their building and serving food and drinks to those who play soccer at the neighborhood association right next to their property. They have launched a children's quizzing program to reach kids whose now unchurched parents might have traditionally sent them to catechism through the Catholic Church.

Plumb Line Community is currently launching into a new phase, which includes adding a new mid-week ministry using Ray Neu's Tell THE Story interactive oral Bible storytelling approach.

It is with a calling and vision from God to reach the unchurched, agnostics, and atheists of Livonia, Redford, and the surrounding area that Pastor JoAnn and her husband, Robert, have set out on this mission. They hope there might be others like Robert who can ask in reference to their loved ones, "What happened to them?" The prayer of the Bastiens and Plumb Line Community is that the answer would clearly point to the love and salvation of Christ.