This Changes Everything: How Love Overcame Fear in Creating a Culture of Generosity

By Darryn Sheske

I’m sure the biggest leadership mistake I made in the first three years of planting Heartland Church was to avoid teaching about money. I’d heard one of the top complaints of non-church goers: “they’re always after my money.” I vividly remember my response strategy at the time: “I’ll only bring up money when it’s absolutely necessary.” As a result, I avoided any teaching about what the Bible has to say about money, and I gave the standard offering apology every week.

The few times I taught on money occurred when giving was low or there was something the church needed to accomplish. The results were predictable. The people intrinsically sensed the message was about me, not them. I was actually reinforcing the stereotype.

God was merciful during those early years while I was blind to this leadership blunder I was making. As the church faithfully tithed on every dollar we received, God kept his word and we never missed a bill. But the Holy Spirit revealed to me that for three years, out of fear, I had not helped the people I pastor in the area of their greatest need.

We know the stats on failed marriages. Most of the conflict in the home is about money. The majority of people who come into our churches are one paycheck away from being broke. Bankruptcies are at an all time high. People are struggling to survive under a mountain of consumer debt. No one has taught them how to take control of the money God has given them to manage. They think they will never be able to accomplish their plans, hopes and dreams. They are actually longing for clear help and guidance from someone they trust about finding the path toward debt freedom.

It was love that led me to get up and repent to my church one Sunday morning. With tears in my eyes I told them how sorry I was for not teaching them God’s Word, in the area of their greatest need because I had been afraid.

I began a new series on the total stewardship of life. We set up financial learning experiences. We’ve taught Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. A great new resource that is really helping us is www.iwasbrokenowimnot.com. Now I teach fearlessly about how putting God first and generosity is the key to blessing. When you love people like this, people know this is something you want FOR them not FROM them. There are no more offering apologies. You don’t have to apologize when you’re helping people so much.

Today we are experiencing a culture of generosity and financial blessing and freedom.

Love casts out fear. Love people well by helping them take control of the money God has given them to manage.

Darryn Scheske is the founding pastor of Heartland Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. He also serves at the Director for Indiana Church Planting for Converge MidAmerica. Check out more from Darryn at his blog, darrynscheske.com.

Join us for the NextSteps Workshop!

One of the differences between a follower and a leader is that a leader knows what the next steps are for their organization. Even if they don’t know what the actual next steps are, they relentlessly search for ideas, advice and counsel to get their organization to the next level.

The NextSteps Workshop is designed for any church leader who embraces the missional lifestyle and the ideas and tools that build healthy church systems, allowing the church to actualize its values and achieve its mission.

Here are the systems we will cover:

  • Missional Leadership
  • Missional Vision, Values and Systems
  • Evangelism
  • Leadership Development
  • Spiritual Formation
  • High Impact Worship Services
  • Holistic Small Groups
  • Kingdom Advancement
  • Finishing Well

 

Missionally driven leaders get the job done! They always anticipate the next step the church needs to make to achieve God’s missional purpose through the local church. Knowing the next steps for your church is what makes the difference between a leader and a follower. Followers are looking for direction, but leaders are thinking about the next decision, the next hurdle and the next level for the organization.

We hope you will join us for the NextSteps Workshop on August 18-19, 2021.

You can register today!

God’s Love at Mercy Road

This month we are focusing on the ministry of Mercy Road Church in Redford, MI. Established on 10/10/10 at 10 AM, Mercy Road had a unique beginning as a joint effort of Presbyterians and Baptists. Mercy Road exists to lead people back into the arms of God and to serve the poor and oppressed in Jesus’ name. At the time, the pastor, Mike Gorr, was on staff as the youth pastor for Grace Chapel, an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Farmington Hills, MI. Their senior pastor had a vision for starting new churches throughout the Detroit Metro area and tagged him as their first planter. Because his theology is more baptistic, they reached out to Converge in 2007 as a potential partner. Converge provided the coaching and structure and a pay it forward grant of $25,000 for their church plant. Converge later loaned them money to purchase their own building in 2018 and coached them through their capital campaign. Praise God that Mercy Road is an example of the wider body of Christ working together for the sake of the gospel!

Mercy Road gets its name from the Prodigal Son story in Luke 15. Mike shares, “I’ve always said if I had just one chance to paint a picture of what God is like, I’d tell the parable of the prodigal son so that they might know that God is the kind of God who runs down the road to welcome home his lost sons and daughters no matter what they’ve done. We call that road the Father runs down ‘Mercy Road.’ It’s our prayer that God uses us more and more so that others might know His embrace on that road.”

Just before the pandemic, Mercy Road started Alpha for the first time at our church. Alpha is a ministry designed to reach those who wouldn’t typically come to church on a Sunday morning by providing dinner together, clear Bible teaching, and a safe place to explore life’s questions from a Jesus-centered perspective.They saw God open eyes, draw people closer to Him and even grow some of their own team with significant ministry responsibilities.

Mike and Mercy Road Church ask that you pray that God would show them more and more ways to serve the poor and needy among them in their community. They have been able to lead spiritual enrichment experiences (youth group) for a boys’ home in their community, and they are a go-to resource for the senior department in their community for the elderly who need a helping hand. Please pray that the Holy Spirit opens more and more doors to share the love and truth of Jesus with Redford and beyond.

NextSteps for Leading a Missional Church Webinars

NextSteps is designed for any church leader who embraces the missional lifestyle, and aligns the ideas and tools around building healthy church systems that allows the church to actualize its values and achieve its mission.  The NextSteps Series interprets the research from the Natural Church Development Paradigm by Christian Schwarz in a missional context.

Event Overview: There is a lot of buzz about the word “missional” these days. Some of it’s good and some not so good! Gary Rohrmayer in partnership with CoachNet presents the NextSteps free webinar series for pastors, church planters and leaders. In hopes of bring some theological and practical clarity to the issue of missional leadership and missional living.  Each webinar will bring some of the key missional principles found in the NextSteps for Leading a Missional Church manual.

Part 1– “Characteristics & Skills of a Missional Leader”   

Part 2–“Missional Alignment around Vision, Values & Systems” 

Part 3–“Healthy Church Systems”  

Part 4–“Need Oriented Evangelism” 

Part 5–“Empowering Leadership” 

Part 6–“Inspiring Worship”  

Part 7–“Passionate Spirituality”  

Part 8–“Holistic Small Groups”  

Part 9–“Gift-Oriented Ministry”  

Part 10- “Loving Relationship” 

FirstSteps for Planting a Missional Church Webinars

In a desire to get critical training materials into the hands of church planters earlier in the process, Gary Rohrmayer in partnership with CoachNet.org has provided a one hour, free, webinar through each stage of the FirstSteps Church Planting Process. Each webinar will bring some of the key missional principles found in the FirstSteps to Planting a Missional Church manual.

We will go through the Six Stages for Planting a Missional Church.

NextSteps for Leading a Missional Church Webinars

NextSteps is designed for any church leader who embraces the missional lifestyle, and aligns the ideas and tools around building healthy church systems that allows the church to actualize its values and achieve its mission.  The NextSteps Series interprets the research from the Natural Church Development Paradigm by Christian Schwarz in a missional context.

Event Overview: There is a lot of buzz about the word “missional” these days. Some of it’s good and some not so good! Gary Rohrmayer in partnership with CoachNet presents the NextSteps free webinar series for pastors, church planters and leaders in hopes of bringing some theological and practical clarity to the issue of missional leadership and missional living.  Each webinar will bring some of the key missional principles found in the NextSteps for Leading a Missional Church manual.

Part 1– “Characteristics & Skills of a Missional Leader”   

Part 2–“Missional Alignment around Vision, Values & Systems” 

Part 3–“Healthy Church Systems”  

Part 4–“Need Oriented Evangelism” 

Part 5–“Empowering Leadership” 

Part 6–“Inspiring Worship”  

Part 7–“Passionate Spirituality”  

Part 8–“Holistic Small Groups”  

Part 9–“Gift-Oriented Ministry”  

Part 10- “Loving Relationship” 

Next Steps Orlando

This past week 27 pastors, church planters, and church leaders came together to learn about Next Steps for their church. Bryan Moak kicked things off with a high-energy training on organizational systems and structures. Chris Highfill had the group roaring with laughter even while covering the serious subjects of outreach and evangelism. By the end of his talk, he had us in tears as he shared some personal stories of reproducing disciples. 

I then had the opportunity to share with everyone the areas I’m passionate about: leadership development, small groups, and missions. Gary closed out the whole training with some Yoda-like wisdom on staff transitions and finishing well. 

Besides all of the training and content, one of the greatest takeaways from these two days was the relationships and side conversations that happened over breaks, lunches, and dinners. I have no doubt that many of the truths we all learned will be implemented and have a multiplicative impact in our churches. 

Feel like you missed out? You did! BUT, you still have an opportunity to experience this same event in Chicago on August 18-19, 2021. 

Click here to register: https://convergemidamerica.org/next-steps-to-leading-a-missional-church/

Tending the Orchard: A Capital Campaign Story

This month’s highlight is on The Orchard Church in McHenry, Illinois. Established in 1994, The Orchard’s vision has remained the same throughout the years it has existed: Making Fully Functional Followers of Jesus; Rooted in Hope and Branching Out to the World.

One of the most recent goals for The Orchard Church has been the Tending the Orchard Campaign. As Scott Swanson transitioned from Pastor of Family Ministries to Senior Pastor in April 2018, the church had nearly $720,000 in mortgage debt. After prayerful consideration and a series of focus group meetings to gauge the pulse of the congregation, they kicked off the campaign in March 2019. At that time the church had $717,000 in mortgage debt, scheduled to be paid off in the summer of 2041. They have seen God’s generosity in amazing ways during this time as people have faithfully given above and beyond their normal giving. The church has also been able to redirect money in their regular budget toward the mortgage as well. At the last Tending The Orchard update in late May, Pastor Swanson was able to share the current balance with the congregation…$99,820, which means over $600,000 was paid off in just 27 months!

There is a very real possibility they will finish the campaign before the March 2022 end date! During this time, the church has not stopped engaging in ministry opportunities, but has actually INCREASED their mission support…adding new missionary partners, Lee and Regina Bloch in Brazil, as well as increasing support to Real Love Ministries International, a ministry they partner with in Haiti. The Orchard has also begun the interviewing process to bring a second pastor onto the staff.

Please pray for wisdom as The Orchard seeks to fill this associate pastor position. They also ask for wisdom and direction from the Lord once the Tending The Orchard campaign is complete. How does God want them to use the financial resources available now that they will have no mortgage payments? Should they do some additional buildout on their current building? Should they continue to increase their missions partnerships — locally and afar? Should it be used as seed money for a future church plant? There are many options and choices to make, but the leadership and members of The Orchard desire above all else for God to use it for His Purpose and His Glory!

You say you want a reformation…

I am seven years into my first tenure as a senior pastor. The congregation I am blessed to serve in that capacity consists of roughly 300 souls near the urban center of Grand Rapids, MI at a location that has been occupied by their forebearers since 1892. There was a time when I was in seminary and dreaming of planting a new church (you know, one that would avoid all of the mistakes of every other church and implement all of the pristine principles of belief and practice I was being taught) when I would have laughed at the idea that this would be the kind of church I would find myself serving. Yet, as anyone who has served as a pastor will tell you, the call and gift of God to minister among the people of Jesus is irresistible. The delightful gifts from God that are the members of Berean Baptist Church have truly become my people over these past 7 years. We have loved and laughed and lost together over these past seven years.

So it was no surprise when our church first used the NCD survey that “loving relationships” showed up as one of our strengths and that it also ranked high four years later when we took the survey again. What both of those surveys revealed, however, was that our strength can also be a weakness. As a historic congregation with multiple families tied together going back generations, it can be hard for newcomers to really integrate and become part of the community, unless they are a hardy sort. We were able to identify that we struggled with having a truly outward focus versus an inward focus as a congregation.

When Bryan Moak shared the Church Unique tool following our second NCD experience it seemed like an ideal vehicle to help us have some of the conversations around that dynamic. Over the past year, the pandemic and lockdown notwithstanding, we were blessed by his leadership to take us through that process. It has raised plenty of tense questions as we have had to take a hard look at where this church is and honestly evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. It is easily the most difficult and exciting work I have been a part of in the past seven years.

The exciting part is to be able to dream and envision, not in the idealized abstract I entertained in seminary, but in the concrete reality of this congregation what could happen if we invested ourselves in the process of growth and change that NCD and Church Unique facilitate. The difficulty is that especially in a year when we have been forced into so many changes already, change management is made even more complicated. There is a delicate balance to be maintained in bringing everyone along while not shying away from urging that necessary changes to see the best that God has for us. It is messy and scary but I really believe that if we are willing to lean into how Jesus would renew us as a faith community, the question will not be what did we lose, but rather what did we gain?

Marcus Little
Berean Baptist Church
Grand Rapids, MI

Why is church planting such a big deal?

Here are four simple reasons you can share with your church that will touch their hearts and give them a fresh perspective on the impact of church planting.

1. It is the work of Jesus.

Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it!” (Matthew 16:18) In God’s genius, he has chosen the church to be the primary vehicle for reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus. This is a mystery that baffles the whole spiritual world.

Paul writes, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:8-11)

Through the mystery of the church, the whole spiritual world (angels and demons) sees the brilliance of God’s redemptive plan. The church is a group of people who have been touched by the unsearchable riches of Christ. They have been called into a community of faith regardless of the racial makeup, social background, or sin-scarred lifestyle. They are a group of people who have locked arms together to carry the mysterious message of forgiveness by grace alone through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Church planting is the work of Jesus that glorifies God, extends God’s kingdom, and accomplishes God’s mission.

2. Opportunities are Everywhere!

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful…” (Matthew 9:37) On another occasion, he told his disciples, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35) I believe that God is in the saving business. 

Many of us know John 3:16, but what about John 3:17? Jesus said, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17) God’s desire for the men, women, and children of all races, backgrounds, and social standing is that they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. His desire is not measured by a simple wish but by the sacrificial commitment of sending his Son, Jesus, into the world. God’s saving desire is also revealed in the Holy Spirit’s work of convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-9).

It is easy to be skeptical these days. Statistically, the church here in North America is declining at an uncomfortable rate. And yet, Jesus, dealt with his own skeptical and even cynical disciples who were culturally trained to despise their neighbors, the Samaritans.

He told them to “open their eyes!” for he knew the Father’s love for them. We need to open our eyes today! Because you never know when God will do something spectacular like using a wayward woman to reach a whole city of despised people who they thought were hopeless.  Why is church planting a big deal? God is still doing big things beyond our limited faith.

3. It is the most effective way to fulfill the great commission!

Jesus commissions his true disciples to be focused on the task of making new disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). Yet recent surveys reveal only 8% of regular church attendees believe that sharing their faith is “very important.” This means that 92% believe it is not relevant. This is why only 3 out of 4 Christians (75%) seldom have a “spiritual conversation” with anyone. [1]

There is a natural entropy towards outreach that happens when a new church gets older. Surveys reveal churches older than 10 years take 89 attendees to reach one person for Christ. Even in relatively young churches who are 3 to 10 years old, it takes 7 attendees to reach one person for Christ. New churches from 0 to 3 years old only take 3 attendees to reach one person for Christ.

Even though evangelism is at an all-time low in churches, church planting is still the most effective means of seeing the gospel advance around the world.  

Why are new churches more effective at evangelism than older churches? It’s in one word: survival. If a new church is not focused on reaching new people with the gospel, that church will not be around very long. Once, in a group of pastors, I asked them how many would lose their jobs if they did not reach one person with the gospel this year. None of them said yes. They knew they would not lose their jobs as long as they were caring for their members.  In a church plant, evangelism = survival.                   

4. Someone started your church!

Yes, if you are meeting and gathering with other believers today, this means that God planted a vision for a new church in your community in the heart of a leader who saw the need, embraced the opportunity, and made the sacrifices to see your church started. This was 160, 130, 100, 50, or 20 years ago for some of our churches. Do you know the name of the church planter who started your church?  It is incredible how often we forget to remember the pioneers who made the very existence of our churches possible.

On this church planting weekend, I hope you will take the time to remember the pioneers who started your church because today you are enjoying the labors and sacrifices of others. Scripture teaches us: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)

Join us for our Nationwide Celebration of Church Planting this weekend.

 

[1] Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age, Barna Group, 2018

The History of Converge & St. Croix

On December 3, 2020, Pastor Will Woods celebrated his 51st year as pastor at Altona Baptist Church on St. Croix. Last week, our Converge MidAmerica team caught up with Pastor Woods as he reminisced on the history of Converge churches on the island. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

Q: Pastor Woods, how long have you been involved with Converge MidAmerica?

A: Well now, that goes back to 1973/74 when I first met Clif. I was living on St. Croix and was working as the pastor at Altona Baptist Church when Pastor Clifford Bubar arrived. He was a missionary from Maine who was sent out by the Baptist General Conference* (BGC) to plant churches on the island.

He and I got to know each other over the years, and he encouraged me to consider becoming part of BGC as my church was growing. By 1975, Altona Baptist Church had grown to the point that we needed to consider expanding but, at the time, we didn’t have the financial means to fund an expansion ourselves. We joined the BGC in 1976, along with the other Baptist churches on the island and, through BGC, we received a loan that enabled us to buy a new property and build a new church.

Over the years, through the presence of BGC, we were able to set up four Baptist churches on the island – one for each side of the island – north, south, east, and west.

*The Baptist General Conference later changed names to Converge.

Q: Aside from financial support during your church’s expansion, what other support and resources did you receive from Converge?

A: The financial support was a big deal because it enabled us to reach more people. Our church grew because of the new facilities. Over the years, Converge has also supported us by sending speakers with training and teaching for church strengthening. Local pastors in the Converge networks have also had increased collaboration to coordinate our ministries and evangelism on the island. And one other highlight has been when other Converge churches have sent mission teams to St. Croix. We’ve had teams from churches as far away as Michigan and California. Whether they were helping with Vacation Bible School or working on repairs, these trips have been a great support to our church and a great way to build fellowship.

Q: What words of encouragement would you share with new church planters?

A: I have two things I would say to new church planters. The first is be sure of your calling (*Pastor Woods laughs*) and the second is this – be faithful to God.

Q: How has COVID affected the churches on St. Croix?

A: Like churches across the globe, distancing and masking has been a challenge for our churches. Currently, we still have around 30-35% of our congregation not able to attend in-person. But we have maintained our fellowship, and we are especially grateful for our connection with the Converge MidAmerica team as we think about coming out of COVID even stronger than before.

Q: Give us a window into what you see down the road for the churches on St. Croix.

A: I think that with the support of Converge MidAmerica we are looking forward to strengthening our current churches. The expertise and training from Converge is going to build up our members and we are looking for opportunities to expand to plant more churches on nearby Caribbean islands.

Q: Any closing words to our Converge family?

A: Please continue to pray for us and all the pastors on St. Croix as we work together with MidAmerica…and make a trip to the Virgin Islands to hear from us and share and to see what we are doing!

Chapelstreet Church: Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry

This week, we’re excited to highlight one of our partner churches in Geneva, IL: Chapelstreet Church.

Chapelstreet Church has been a Converge MidAmerica member for many years. In 2000, they opened a small food pantry called Shepherd’s Heart to help address food insecurity in the community. What they didn’t know is how God planned to grow their humble, two-shelf closet into a sprawling community care center.

When they started offering free food to their Geneva neighbors, they gave it with no stipulations: you didn’t have to be a member of the church, or even a believer in Christ, to receive help from the pantry. Their only expectation was that the Lord would give them opportunities to share Jesus with those they served. The first year, Shepherd’s Heart saw on average 70 people per month, praying over them and sending them out with nonperishable items, hygiene products, and an invitation to return each week.

But, they knew there was more to hunger than just a lack of food.

“We didn’t want to be just a band-aid.” Erin Wise, Director of Shepherd’s Heart, explained that it didn’t take long to realize the need was far greater in Geneva than just hunger. They set to work creating teams of volunteers who could walk alongside these citizens, equipping them with skills and resources to get back on their feet.

Among these are a Budgeting Team, Compassion in Action Team, Job Coaching Team, Legal Clinic, and Master’s Hands Ministry. Anyone who sets foot in the door at Shepherd’s Heart has access to these resources.

Today, 21 years later, Wise reports that the pantry serves over 1,400 people per month. “The numbers have really gone up and so has God’s provision,” says Wise.

Shepherd’s Heart now operates out of space about 20 times the size of that little closet, with more volunteers, and more opportunities to share the love of Jesus each week.

If you would like to partner with Shepherd’s Heart, please visit their website where you can find information about their monthly donation program and how to volunteer.

Casa de Oracion: Celebrating Our New Space!

We are extremely thankful for the purchase of a building for our church. God has provided in a wonderful way!

It’s been six years since we started Casa de Oracion. We had a rough start with the loss of a young member of our team. We used three buildings during these six years— our beginning at New Hope Christian Community, three years at The Stadium, a building of The Chapel Grayslake, and the last two years at Westlake Christian Academy—part of which we ended up recording a live feed from New Hope because of the pandemic.

We give thanks to God for the faithfulness of our members and the generosity of the churches around us. Several churches offered the use of their building, sent financial support during the pandemic, prayed for us, and encouraged us to keep moving forward. We are thankful to God because in two months we were able to raise more than $100,000 for the down payment of the building, mostly from our own members, but also in part from generous offerings from other churches and friends.

After a month of hard work, last week we were able to celebrate the inauguration of the building. Several pastors from Converge MidAmerica were present sharing the word and praying for us. Pastor Danny Parmelee, Vice President of Church Planting, was also among us blessing our congregation.

Thank you Converge for your great support! God has used this network of churches greatly to bless us and push us forward. Glory be to Him forever!

_______________________________

Estamos muy agradecidos por la adquisición de un edificio para nuestra iglesia. ¡Dios ha provisto de una manera maravillosa!

Han sido 6 años desde el inicio de nuestra iglesia, Casa de Oracion. Tuvimos un inicio difícil con la pérdida de un joven de nuestro equipo. Llegamos a usar 3 edificios distintos durante estos seis años, nuestro inicio en New Hope Christian Community, tres años en The Stadium edificio de The Chapel Grayslake, y los últimos dos años en Westlake Christian Academy, parte del cual por la pandemia estuvimos grabando videos en el edificio de New Hope.

Damos tantas gracias a Dios por la fidelidad de nuestros miembros y por la generosidad de las iglesias que nos rodean. Varias iglesias ofreciendo el uso de su edificio, mandando ofrendas a nuestra congregación durante la pandemia, orando por nosotros y animándonos a seguir adelante. Damos gracias a Dios porque en dos meses pudimos reunir más de $100,000 para el enganche de la compra del edificio, en gran parte ofrendas de nuestra propia congregación, pero también ofrendas de otras iglesias y amigos.

Después de un mes de mucho trabajo, el fin semana pasado pudimos celebrar la inauguración del edificio. Varios pastores de Converge estuvieron presentes compartiendo la palabra y orando por nosotros. El pastor Danny Parmelee, Vicepresidente de plantación de iglesias de Converge, también estuvo entre nosotros bendiciendo a nuestra congregación.

¡Gracias Converge por su gran apoyo! Dios ha usado en gran manera a esta red de iglesias para bendecirnos e impulsarnos a seguir adelante. ¡La gloria a Él por siempre!

Cristina Di Stefano

Casa de Oracion

Adapting Our Church in the Pandemic

Grace Bible Church has been a part of Converge long before I became the pastor as they were founded and led by the late Pastor Rod Walker. I became pastor in March 2020 right at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown. Thankfully, Converge MidAmerica has been there for me through prayer, encouragement, extremely helpful seminars, and personal visits by Bryan Moak and Gary Rohrmayer.

We are serving our local communities through praying for our community. We provide prayer request forms for them to submit. We do prayer walks through the community to engage them through prayer. We have partnered with our local Urban League to provide food for families who are hurting because of job loss. We also have a civil servants’ day where we honor and encourage our first responders and other civil servants.

The pandemic hit our communities very hard, and we had to shut our live services down and go to virtual services in March 2020. We provide a livestream via Facebook for our Sunday morning service using a “skeleton” crew. We also transitioned to virtual Zoom meetings for our Bible study and Children’s Ministry.

We have been doing live services this year with a limited capacity, socially distanced seats, masks, and temperature checks. In order to keep many of our older members engaged, we started a front porch prayer ministry where myself and an associate pastor go to members’ homes and pray with them and encourage them on their front porches.

Please pray with us that God would keep us focused on the mission of “loving God, loving people, and making disciples.”

Pray that God will bless the partnerships we have with our community to expand ministry beyond the walls of the building.

Pray that God would continue to give us innovative ideas and methods to expand our reach to be the salt and light throughout St. Louis, MO.

Ulysses Ross III
Grace Bible Church
Florissant, MO (northern suburb of St. Louis, MO)

Defining Our Next Steps

When our church celebrated our one-year anniversary, I realized that we were actually going to make it as a church.  We had all the things going that a healthy church seems to have from outside appearances.  We had weekend worship services, children’s ministry, outreach events, small groups, and a few other teams in place that were needed to be a church. However, we knew there was something missing.  We were great at gathering people, but honestly, we stunk at defining clear next steps for growing in Christ. 

Next Steps to leading a missional church was an event that we attended when Grace River was 18 months old, and this event changed everything for us. We learned about how to create and execute 8 healthy systems to make our church thrive.  It was these systems and the Natural Church Development Survey (NCD) that enabled us to take this next step as a church.  

We didn’t see a harvest of people meeting, knowing, and following Jesus until we started really focusing on the systems that would make our church healthy.  What I didn’t know back then is God wanted to grow our church way more than we did.  He was just waiting on us to have the systems in place to help make disciples.  If you are looking to remove some barriers and make the practical changes necessary to impact your community for Christ, Next Steps is for you!

Chris Highfill
Planter and Lead Pastor
Grace River Church, St Peters, MO

In the last 2 months, Grace River Church has had 6 baptisms and 7 people have accepted Christ.

5 False Assumptions Stopping You From Planting a Church

I’m so excited that our Converge churches all around the United States are taking a weekend this summer to highlight church planting. If you haven’t heard about Church Planting weekend, you can learn more here. If you have any questions or want help highlighting church planting,  please email or call me, and I’d love to help your church.

With that said, I want to dispel five false assumptions that I often hear when I invite churches to consider church planting as part of their church’s mission and vision.

False Assumption #1: We won’t have enough money to get involved in church planting.

Church planters raise their own financial support just like most missionaries do. There are some churches that are able to financially support church planters and others that can’t support with a lot of money. Even churches with very small budgets and little money to give can be effective at supporting and sending out church planters. Don’t let your budget size or budget margin prevent you from considering getting involved with church planting.

False Assumption #2: We don’t have enough expertise to get involved in church planting. 

You don’t need to know a thing about church planting to send out a church planter. That is what our district is here for. We exist so that we can come alongside you and help you through the process. Your heart and desire to multiply is what is important, not your knowledge of church planting. 

False Assumption #3: If we plant a church, all of our good leaders will leave and we will implode.

It is true that you may have some leaders leave. This is always a difficult thing, and I don’t want to minimize the fact that sometimes you have to sacrifice hanging onto leaders when you plant a church. But the amazing thing is that God always seems to replenish leaders and fill the gaps of responsibilities. Many times, it takes leaders leaving for a new group of leaders to be raised up. 

False Assumption #4: If we plant a church, our numbers will dwindle.

Similar to the above, the fear of losing leaders or people from the pews can be fear-inducing. However, we see in scripture a sending mentality, but there can be those weeks where you feel the loss of those sent off. It always seems to happen that God blesses the sacrifice and generosity of giving people away. Churches that are willing to operate in this way often see an overall growth in their church when they are involved in church planting. I believe this happens because you demonstrate to your people the concept of mission, sacrifice, and generosity. This ultimately is the gospel in action, and it stirs the whole church to be on mission.

False Assumption #5: We don’t have anyone in our church who is ready to be a planter

How do you know? 🙂

We Are Sold Out for Church Planting

The number one reason we should be sold out to church planting is the Glory of God.

 

Yes, church planting is the central vehicle for achieving God’s mission.

Yes, church planting is a critical strategy in fulfilling Jesus’ great commission.

Yes, church planting is critical to establishing ongoing mission posts throughout the world.

Yes, church planting is a natural by-product of a healthy, multiplying church.

 

Every one of these reasons motivates me in some way or another. Still, the number one reason church planting inflames my heart is that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ has captured my heart.

 

God revealed his truth about his Son deep within my soul over 40 years ago and continues to reveal himself to me every day. I am passionate about church planting because I am passionate about God. My zeal for God drives me to be a part of what he is doing in this world. If God is on a mission, I want to be on a mission.

 

If the foundational motivation for church planting is the glory of God. Then what is the glory of God? One author describes the glory of God as the afterglow of God’s holiness. Because man cannot stand in the presence of a holy God, God gives a glimpse of himself through his glory. Through his supreme plan, he chose to use the church as his chief instrument. His glory is manifested throughout the world today.

 

Three times in Ephesians 1:3-14, we see how the church is “the praise of his glory.” 

 

  • The spiritual blessings we experience in Christ exalt the glories of God’s grace (v. 6), 
  • The supreme hope we have in Christ brings unceasing praise to the glory of God (v. 12). 
  • The divine security we possess in Christ creates “…praise of his glory” (v. 14). 

 

Churches in the small villages of Haiti, along with churches in the rural areas of northern Michigan, reflect the glory of God. Churches in our major urban centers, as well as churches in the sprawling suburbs, all have one thing in common…they are bringing praise to the glory of our God. 

 

Therefore, planting new healthy churches is a means of seeing God’s glory spread throughout the earth and proclaimed in the heavenlies (Ephesians 3:10).

 

In his book “Let the Nations be Glad!” John Piper reflects on the significance of God’s glory with all missionary endeavors. 

 

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.” He continues, “Worship, therefore, is the fuel and the goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because, in missions, we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory.” 

 

Every new church plant becomes a lighthouse of God’s glory. The afterglow of God’s holiness is reflected, manifested, and ultimately enjoyed! 

 

Let our passion for church planting be driven by a passion for God! May our zeal for church planting be consumed by a zeal for the glory of God! 

 

The glory of God is not only the motivation but the goal of God’s sovereign work among men. There is no more majestic theme, no more noble pursuit than the glory of God.

 

We are sold out to church planting at Converge because we are sold out to God and his glory! 

 

“To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

 

Join churches around the country as we celebrate church planting throughout Converge on June 5-6.  

Next Steps Training: Leading a Missional Church

NEXT STEPS TO LEADING A MISSIONAL CHURCH

Orlando: June 9-10, 2021
Chicago: August 18-19, 2021
One of the differences between a follower and a leader is that a leader knows what the next steps are for their organization. Even if they don’t know what the actual next steps are they will relentlessly search for ideas, advice and counsel to get their organization to the next level. NextSteps For Leading a Missional Church is designed for any church leader who embraces the missional lifestyle. It offers ideas and tools to build healthy church systems that allow the church to actualize its values and achieve its mission.
 

Here are a few questions we explore:

  • How will your leaders reproduce?
  • What does inspiring worship look like?
  • How do you sustain relational health in your church?
  • How can small groups serve the mission of the church?
  • Are your structures & systems functional?
  • How does one raise the evangelistic temperature of the church?
  • How does one handle a financial crisis? 

This two days workshop is designed for any pastor seeking to lead their church toward health and global impact.

Who should attend:

  • Church planters who have just launched their church or who are ten years old
  • Pastors who desire to take their church to the next level
  • Coaches who desire to know what’s new in church growth and church health
  • Restart Pastors who desire to lay a new foundation for a sagging ministry
  • Lay Leaders who desire to just want to be a part of the harvest

Cost:

The Cost is $90 and includes the Next Steps manual. Next Steps is open to anyone from any group, network or denomination. If you are a Converge Midamerica | Southeast | Caribbean church please email info@convergemidamerica.org for a coupon code for a significantly reduced rate.

It’s Church Health Month

For several years now, we have been declaring May is Church Health Month! In Converge, we are sold out to church planting as well as very serious about church strengthening.

We are convinced that scripture has a clear mandate on church planting as well as church strengthening. 

We believe that this is a both/and proposition and not an either/or competition.

Here is our biblical case for church strengthening.

In the book of Acts, we see the Apostles starting churches on their missionary journeys. Then we see them returning to those churches “strengthening the disciples” (Acts 14:22), “strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41), and “strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:22). The care of these infant churches was heavily on Paul’s mind as we see his thoughtful consideration for each church in the letters he wrote.

In Paul’s letter to Titus, we see a more detailed charge in how Titus was to strengthen the churches across the island of Crete. He writes, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished…” (Titus 1:5). Some commentators say that Titus could have been working with up to 100 churches on that island.

The phrase ‘straighten out’ (NIV) or ‘set in order’ (NASB) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It was used by first-century medical writers for setting broken limbs or straightening crooked ones. The root of this word is ortho, from which we get our terms: orthodontics and orthopedics. When you go to the orthodontist, he straightens your teeth to strengthen them. When you go to the orthopedist, he straightens your bones to strengthen them. Interestingly, both professions use braces to straighten our teeth and to mend bones.

Titus’ commission was to brace up the church by appointing godly leadership, teaching sound doctrine, and encouraging missional engagement.

Let’s take a look at how Titus was to strengthen the churches under his care?

  • He appoints qualified leaders in every town (Titus 1:5-16).
  • He sets forth healthy leadership qualifications (v. 5-9) and how to deal decisively with unhealthy leaders (vs. 10-16).
  • He makes sure that sound doctrine is taught throughout the church (Titus 2:1-15).
  • He promotes healthy thinking and healthy living (vs. 1-10), which is found in the gospel’s power and motivation (vs. 11-14).
  • He continually reminds God’s people how to live out the gospel in this world (Titus 3:1-14).
  • He reminds them to “be ready to do good” (v. 2), to “be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good” (v. 8), and “to learn to devote themselves to doing what is good” (v. 14) all for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel (vs. 4-7).

So what is a healthy church from Paul’s perspective?

  1. It is led by healthy leaders who are examples to follow.
  2. It deals with rebellion quickly and courageously.
  3. It promotes sound doctrine, strong orthodoxy, along with healthy orthopraxis.
  4. It is intergenerational and branches beyond social structures.
  5. It promotes the centrality of the gospel as the fuel for sanctification and mission.
  6. It does not talk about mission; it fulfills the mission of God.

One of our core convictions is that no leader should lead alone. I believe this also translates onto a corporate level that no church should attempt to achieve God’s mission alone. Our desire is to walk alongside our churches and to be a voice of encouragement. We want to be like that friend you can lean on, as well as that coach who calls his players to the highest level of their potential.

In light of this scriptural foundation, we are serious about church health. In an effort to promote healthy, missionally engaged churches, we have declared May as Church Health Month.

Why May? 

May is an excellent opportunity in a church’s ministry calendar to get a pulse on the ministry. While allowing enough time throughout the summer to make plans and strategic moves before their growth thrust in the fall. We hope we can serve you and your church in maintaining a healthy ministry focus that is gospel-centered and missionally engaged.

We are doubling our efforts on this topic because so many of our churches will be relaunching this fall. Check out the special discounts on Natural Church Development Surveys as well as coaching opportunities.

6 Ideas for Overcoming the COVID Giving Slump

God never estimates what we give from impulse. We are given credit for what we determine in our hearts to give; for the giving that is governed by a fixed determination."

Oswald Chambers
On Thursday, March 18, Gary Rohrmayer led a webinar on helping people experience the timeless truth of moving from impulsive and haphazard giving to systematic and joyful giving. Watch a recap of this 60-minute webinar and check out the accompanying resources on overcoming the COVID giving slump.

Welcome New Part-time Interim Director of Church Strengthening for Southeast Region

We are excited to welcome Kendal Anderson as the Part-Time Interim Director of Church Strengthening for our Southeast region.

Kendal has been a Converge pastor for 35 years, spending the last 15 as pastor of The Crossing Church in the Orlando area which he and his wife Sherry planted. His primary responsibilities will be pastoral care and coaching for our pastors at more than 80 Southeast churches. He will also be working with Bryan Moak, Vice President of Church Strengthening, to continue to expand the strategic and visionary focus of seeing our churches be healthy, gospel-saturated, and reproducing places.

We are thrilled to see what God will do in the weeks and months ahead. Feel free to send him a note of welcome at kendal@convergemidamerica.org.

Welcome aboard Kendal!