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The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

Rise Up


Started by Bethel students last spring, Rise Up offers a unique church experience in North Minneapolis.

By Meckenna Woetzel | For the Clarion

The Story

“It’s quite a God story,” Bethel senior Chris Auer said, as he recounts the beginnings of Rise Up, a hybrid Bible study and church worship experience located in the heart of North Minneapolis.

Rise Up’s story begins on the peak of a mountain in South Africa. During J-Term of 2016, Auer headed to the South African coast with his best friend, Taylor Williams, a Bethel grad of 2013. They had no plans.  Just a flight and continued prayer that the Lord would lead them where they needed to go.

While hiking on top of a local mountain, Auer distinctly felt the Lord calling him into ministry.

For Auer, Christian ministry was “left field” in the grand scheme of his mechanical engineering degree. But the vision was clear: Rise Up was to be a place for young adults to engage in a community that cultivated and enriched a personal relationship with God regardless of past experience with the Church.

May of 2016, Rise Up began to meet in Blaine, Minn. However, Auer believes God had given a vision of an urban church – diverse demographics, religion, race, gender.

“Because of our social division, it is so much more important for a church body to be multi-cultural,” Auer said.

Auer started reaching out to churches in Minneapolis, asking if they would be willing to house Rise Up. Pastor Paul Robinson of Grace Outreach, a new multicultural, multi-generational church in Coon Rapids, recommended Auer reach out to Community Covenant Church. As the oldest multicultural church in North Minneapolis, Community Covenant Church responded to the vision for Rise Up.

After the first meeting with Pastor Luke Swanson, Auer was handed a key to the church. Community Covenant Church left everything they had at the disposal of Rise Up, whatever they needed.

The Layout

Bethel graduate Jonah Venegas began going to Rise Up when the church drew only 10-12 people.

“That first night was really different, and not in a bad way.”

At the beginning of the service, Auer reads Rise Up’s mantra: “We say any right or wrongs that you have built up in your head in terms of church, any systematic views of how the Church works, leave it at the door. We want to celebrate your uniqueness. Worship, read Scripture, and pray the way you were made.”

“We say any right or wrongs that you have built up in your head in terms of church, any systematic views of how the Church works, leave it at the door. We want to celebrate your uniqueness. Worship, read Scripture, and pray the way you were made.” –Chris Auer, Bethel senior

A worship band typically leads the twenty or so people who attend on Thursday nights in worship, and although there are a lot of Bethel students, several attend from the community as well. The worship feels like a traditional new-age church experience with a little extra Southern Gospel singing, but once the final chord reverberates in the Community Covenant Church sanctuary, Rise Up transitions into an evening of something entirely unique.

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“We want to celebrate your uniqueness. We want you to worship the way you were made,” Chris Auer said. Photo by Jonah Venegas.

During the Bible Study portion of the night, a chapter or section is read aloud from the Bible (Rise Up spent the last six months going verse by verse through John). The floor is then opened up. Anyone can speak. Usually this is followed by a few moments of silence before people start to voice their ideas, questions and observations. With the guidance of Auer and a pastor of Grace Outreach, the Gospel is presented simply by sitting and talking with others.

For Venegas, the service was entirely different from other church experiences.

“(At other churches, you) show up for church, and it’s all prepared for you, and you’re there to just listen.”

At Rise Up, the idea is that the Spirit can speak through anyone. With this layout, Auer hopes that Scripture will come alive through fellowship and dialogue.

“People at our age don’t want to [necessarily] be preached at for 45 minutes,” Auer said. “We wanted this to be a place where people could have their voices heard. They could express their opinions, concerns, or ideas, and we could discuss it in a safe place. The church can, a lot of times, get to be one person sharing their ideas and everyone else listening and going home.”

Rise Up periodically exchanges this Bible Study for a time called Cultivate, a teaching time on a topic specifically requested by the group. These are often topics and ideas that the church body shies away from.


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“People got really vulnerable, really quickly with the things they were willing to ask for prayer about,” Jonah Venegas said. Photo by Marissa Lister.

After the Bible Study or Cultivate portion of the evening, Rise Up spends close to 45 minutes in prayer.

“God’s really been showing our younger generation the power of prayer, praying in the Spirit, and the power of laying on hands, too,” Auer said.

Each person asking for prayer that night is surrounded and covered in hands and bold, Holy Spirit prayers. The room swells with tears. Several people from Rise Up recount miracles and healing, both relational and physical.

With this mentality, the Rise Up community prays big prayers. The atmosphere feels almost radical as believers come together ‘on fire’ to speak truth over lives while also touching hearts and trusting God.

According to Auer, the millennial generation has more capacity to love, but also more distractions. For many, Rise Up is a community that is ready to cultivate revival.

The community of Rise Up takes little credit for the work God is already doing. Instead, they see themselves as empty vessels, anticipating the filling of the Holy Spirit every single week.

The Impact

Sophomore Brittany Waknitz smiles as she discusses the impact Rise Up has had on her faith journey. Because of the support and encouragement of this community, Waknitz was baptized in November and has found many close friendships in the group.

“(At Rise Up), there is this assumption that you are loved,” Waknitz said.

Waknitz sees Rise Up seems to be an authentic community where people are free, no matter who they are or where they come from, to join others and just sit in the presence of God.

Originally, Venegas was quite skeptical about Rise Up’s approach to relationship and prayer. In the past, he had not felt welcomed or comfortable at church, and he carried this mindset and background to Rise Up.

“When I came out (as homosexual) during my junior year of high school, I was on hospitality team and worship team [at a church]. And though they didn’t tell me outright that I couldn’t (participate) anymore, that was definitely the atmosphere and environment they created.”

Yet, for Venegas, Rise Up has met him where he is at. They brought him onto their marketing and worship team. He was even baptized last fall.

“Who I am (at Rise Up) isn’t limited by all these components that go into who I am,” Venegas said.

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“With all the division and hate that’s going on, God’s been showing me that we need our generations to rise above that,” Chris Auer said. Photo by Rise Up.

Auer smiles, “We want everyone to know that you belong at Rise Up, because you belong to Jesus. You are loved at Rise Up because Jesus loves you. He doesn’t want perfect. He just wants your heart.”

For More Information…

Follow their Facebook and Instagram: @riseupmn

Visit on Thursdays at Community Covenant Church @ 7:30 pm

Looking for a home church on Sunday mornings? Many students at Rise Up attend Grace Outreach, their partner church, on the weekend. Feel free to check them out here.

For questions contact Rise Up at (952) 769-7324 or by email at [email protected].

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It does not matter who you are, where you come from, or what your background is with the Church, we will love and accept you no matter what,” Jonah Veneas said. Photo by Brittany Watnitz.
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