Going out into all the world!

When you think of the Bahamas, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Beautiful beaches? Crystal blue water? Relaxation?

While most view the Bahamas a place for fun vacation getaways, did you know that Converge has been planting churches here for more than 31 years? Some of their primary established churches are Heavenly View Ministries, Best Life Faith Center, World of Life Ministry International, and many more. Most of these churches were affiliated with Converge before the 2019 hurricane, with one additional church added during the hurricane and the hope to affiliate another six congregations soon.

After the island of Grand Bahama was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2019, many houses, hotels, businesses, and churches are still in need of repair. The Covid-19 pandemic further weakened the island due to a tremendous drop in tourism, which is the primary driver of their economy. Many Converge Churches, along with non-Converge churches, helped through the very dark days of the hurricane. They provided a hurricane relief fund that supplied food, shelter, medical help, and rebuilt houses and churches. The pandemic has slowed their work because of lockdown and restricted travel. Things are slowly starting to open again and one of the churches, Word of Life Ministry International, just made enough repairs to open up live services in their building. They still have much to rebuild, but they are open for in-person services and are reaching new people each week.

On Converge’s recent trip to the Bahamas, Garry Rohrmigher, Brian Moak, Danny Parmelee, Ernie Cabrera, and Raoul Armbrister held a training conference to help support and encourage the local pastors. This was held at Raoul’s training center at Karazim Ministries International in Freeport, Grand Bahamas. The training center was full and the pastors were eager to learn and grow. We were able to preach at five of these churches during their Sunday services and had over ten churches represented at the training.

Currently, Converge has nine affiliated churches in the Bahamas with the hope to affiliate six more. Converge leaders are now planning a vision trip with key pastors who are interested in their churches helping with the ongoing work in the Bahamas. One of the goals of this vision trip is to set up mission trips with these churches that will involve partnering with the established churches in the Bahamas. They will rebuild church buildings, hold VBS for children, offer training for pastors and their leaders, evangelize among the communities, and more. These trips will be customized to match the time, talent, and treasure of the short term missionaries with the need and opportunities available so that these trips are mutually beneficial for all involved.

Please pray for each of the churches who have been severely impacted due to the hurricane and still haven’t been able to rebuild completely. Please also pray for the partner churches who have the resources to help them rebuild and impact their communities. The possibilities of expansion in the Bahamas are good. Converge has the opportunity to affiliate a number of churches there and help them grow and plant churches on different islands in the greater Caribbean area and beyond.

Defining Moments…Examples to Follow

Twenty years ago this fall, Converge MidAmerica experienced a breakthrough moment in launching four church plants within five weeks of the attacks at the World Trade Center on 9-11. Up to that point, this had never happened in the history of Converge MidAmerica.

NorthBridge Church in Antioch, IL, launched September 16th under the leadership of Mark & Michelle Albrecht. Christ’s Church of Wrigleyville, in Chicago, IL, celebrated the restart of this historic church on September 16th under the leadership of Dave & Tiffany Gwartney. Both churches celebrated their starts just 5 days after the attacks. Dave told me that they opened the doors of this historic church blocks from Wrigley Field, and people came in just to pray throughout the week.

On October 14th, Heartland Church in Fishers, IN, was launched under the leadership of Darryn & Loree Scheske and Crosswinds Community Church by Mark and Jill Savage in Bloomington, IL.

Three of these churches are still strong, healthy, and engaged in missions and church multiplication. Crosswinds had a tremendous ten-year run but had a difficult transition after the founding pastor left, which eventually led to the church closing its doors in December 2020.

NorthBridge Church is a daughter church of Faith Baptist Church in Grayslake, IL. It grew quickly. Within six months, they commissioned Richard Wollard to start Meadowland Church in Johnsburg, IL. Mark Albrecht became a leader in our church planting movement. He was involved in coaching, training, and leading our multiplication efforts in Northern Illinois. Northbridge Church started three daughter churches: Meadowland (2002), New Hope (2009), and Connection (2016). They have been a part of starting two granddaughter churches in helping Meadowland launch Redemption Church in 2015 and New Hope launch Casa de Oracion the same year. All of this happened along with adopting Real Hope Church in 2019 and Anchor Church in 2020.

Christ’s Church of Wrigleyville (the first Swedish Baptist Church in Chicago) started strong. It transitioned from the leadership of Dave Gwartney to Josh Taylor in 2008. They instantly became a multi-site church as Josh, their daughter church’s pastor, became their pastor and joined the two churches together to form Missio Dei. Missio Dei is now a unique multi-congregational model with four locations and is working on its fifth this year. They have also adopted and funded many church planters and mission partners over the years.

Heartland Church was pioneered by the Scheske’s who moved their family to Fishers not knowing a soul before they stepped out on faith to follow God’s calling. Through the hard work of community networking and personal evangelism, they saw many people come to Christ and gathered this group together in a small bible study in February of 2001. They held their first baptism service before they held any public worship service. Together with the assistance from our regional office and a generous business owner, they launched full-service daycare before they held their first public worship service. They grew quickly through their evangelistic efforts and community involvement. Darryn Scheske also became a movement leader through coaching, training, and leading multiplication efforts in Indiana. Heartland helped start Indy Metro (2004) by sending people and finances to launch this church in downtown Indianapolis. They have adopted and funded most of our Indiana church plants. They have most recently come alongside our first Ethiopian Congregation planted by Pastor Getachew Tegegne.

For 20 years, I have watched Mark and Darryn grow solid and vibrant churches with a thankful heart. They see lives changed in their communities, churches planted in our region, and the world touched through their extensive mission efforts. Each of these churches has given millions to church planting, church strengthening, and mission work. They each, as pastors, have given their time to serve in significant roles on both our regional and national boards. Their churches have become modern-day examples of the ancient church of Antioch. Their churches not only reached their communities (Acts 11:21) but became key players in reaching the world through church planting (Acts 13:1-3).

These men and their churches serve as great examples to emulate and strive for because “The Lord’s hand was (and is) with them…” (Acts 11:21).

For God’s Glory!

Located in Sterling Heights Michigan, Hope Arabic Church was launched in November of 2014. The church began from just 27 people attending the first service to 247 people attending right before the lockdown last year. Hope Arabic Church exists to reach Arab refugees, Muslims, and those from the Middle East. God has given them a vision to eventually launch even more Arabic churches in multiple locations and cities.

Because they don’t have their own building, they have had to move from place to place and constantly shift their service times. For any church, but especially a middle eastern church, this is not healthy. Their dream is to have their own building so they can serve their people better and use the building not just for worship but also as a community center.

The church just held its 6th annual Live Free event. This year they decided to try something new and encouraged the community to come without any fear of indoor restrictions. They had big tents for adults and kids, and almost 1900 people showed up! Some Muslim families attended the event for all three nights. Many of them decided to accept Jesus Christ and some of the families also came to the regular service last Sunday. A Muslim man attending the event had many questions about Christianity and, despite his questions, he decided to follow Jesus! He came back later wanting to volunteer and give out the church’s flyer to his friends. Three TV satellites also broadcast the event worldwide, which allowed Hope Arabic Church to reach millions of Arabs and those living in the Middle East.

Hope Arabic Church is asking their brothers and sisters to pray that God would open the doors and provide them a building to serve more people. Please pray that God will provide for all their financial needs. They also ask for you to prayerfully consider partnering with them and supporting one of their outreach events or ministry by prayer, training, or support. Despite the challenges of finding a building for worship, they can already see how God is using them for His glory.

For more information on Hope Arabic Church, click here!

God is changing lives in Mexico!

On a recent trip to Mexico, Jessy Padilla and Ernie Cabrera had the opportunity to experience how God has been at work through the local church in Los Luz and the surrounding community.

Pastor Jessy Padilla of Iglesia Emanuel has had a vision for over 20 years to plant churches in Mexico. In October of 2016 he and Pastor Santiago Patlan planted Iglesia Baptista Torre Fuerte in Los Luz, Michoacan, Mexico. Pastor Santiago and his wife have been serving as missionaries in the area for over 17 years. The church is in a metal building located on 7+ acres. Several Converge churches raised money to help build this structure with the help of Torre Forte in Los Luz and its members in the surrounding towns. The church is also blessed to have a new associate pastor, Julian Aguila, who is helping them grow to the next level. Just out of school, he is young and ready to challenge and reach the youth in the community.

On this trip, Ernie and Jessy had meetings with Santiago and Julian about affiliating with Converge. They are very interested in affiliation and with The Timothy Initiative training that is currently being implemented in Mexico. We talked about what it means to be part of Converge and how we can partner with each other for the gospel. We also connected with other churches who might be interested in Converge and the TTI movements for other trips. There are currently zero churches affiliated with Converge right now in Mexico. Jessy and other Latino pastors have hoped and prayed for the opportunity to affiliate churches in Mexico but there has been no pathway for them to do so until the merger of the Southeast in November of 2020. There are currently three potential churches in the process of affiliation with six more who might be interested. We hope to affiliate at least 8-10 total churches and create critical mass so we can start Converge Mexico. We will partner with the churches interested in TTI and then begin planting micro-churches, strengthening them with the partnership and help of Converge churches and pastors. We are planning a Vision Trip in the near future to help foster the right connections with Converge Churches and also have some short-term mission trips planned in 2022. Our team is looking forward to connecting with even more additional pastors from other churches who already have some connection to Converge churches or pastors and invite some of them to join us.

Please pray for Iglesia Baptista Torre Fuerte. You can pray for more workers for the harvest and that people’s hearts in the community would soften towards the gospel. The Roman Catholic Church leaders in this community have stopped some of the local people from participating in the VBS and other outreach events put on by the church. They also need another younger pastor to help lead their youth program and to evangelize in the community by developing programs like soccer to connect with the local youth.

The possibilities of expansion in Mexico are endless since it is connected by a large landmass to the continental United States. It is one of our biggest trading allies and the number one retirement country for US expats. We have the potential to build a movement in Mexico that could be self-sustaining and fuel our mission work throughout the Caribbean.

To learn more about hispanic partnerships, you can visit https://convergemidamerica.org/hispanic-ministry/ or you can send an email to Jessy here.

God never stops working!

On a recent trip to Haiti, the president of Converge, Gary Rohrmayer and the vice president of church partnerships, Ernie Cabrera, had the opportunity to experience for themselves what God has been doing there.

After stopping at one of the local church partners, The Tabernacle, Gary and Ernie met with the current pastor, Dr. Jephthe Lucien, who left his role as the leader of the Jerusalem Baptist Mission to succeed the founding pastor, Pastor Ecclesia, who passed away last year. The church is doing well despite the change in leadership and the pandemic. One of their greatest needs involves the completion of the roof at The Tabernacle. A large building that looks a little like a colosseum, it has a large open area in the center where people can gather, praise, dance, and worship together in front of the podium. They need to raise $125,000 for the new roof.

The ministry at The Tabernacle is thriving! They have implemented disciple making training with our Converge Caribbean Missionary Steve Storkel and have seen over 300 new professions of faith in this church in just 2021 alone.

Gary and Ernie met with many of the Converge pastors of Haiti with over 60+ being able to come from all over the country. They met at The Tabernacle for this meeting and training. There are currently 150 churches in Haiti that have been fully affiliated with Converge with two more groups in the process of affiliating. One group has 20 churches and another has 10 churches. When Gary and Ernie were in Cap-Haitien they were able to meet with the leaders of these two networks. They are looking forward to finishing their paperwork and getting them affiliated with the Converge board.

Gary Rohrmayer said of the trip, “We have some high-caliber pastors and leaders in Haiti! I could not be more excited about the future of starting and strengthening churches in Haiti and beyond.”

Special note: Converge MidAmerica has established an emergency Relief Fund to assist Pastors, churches and our network partners to provide immediate relief to those effect by the earthquake this weekend. You can give to the Converge Caribbean Relief Fund here.

“We look for the ones that aren’t churchy”

By Ben Greene 

Shortly after walking out of the Atlanta Transitional Center, a man who finished his prison sentence called Converge pastor Dennis Spears.

“Hey Pastor D, how you doing?” the man asked Spears, who started World Shakers Church. “I’m out. I made it out. I’m going to stay the course; I’m going to church.”

Spears didn’t recognize the phone number, but he knew the man. The pastor of a new Converge church said encouraging the man’s personal transformation was a huge reward.

Every worship service at the facility required toting in musical equipment, setting up for the service and then taking it all down again.  However, God does something in the 75-minute worship services for the men serving prison time.

Dennis Spears

“We’re here to give, not to receive,” Spears said. “We’re anxious to get back out there and do that again.”

The phone call showed why the team from World Shakers who serve inmates with worship services and friendships must continue.

“His mind was renewed,” Spears added. “His mind was changed.”

Pastors’ struggles reveal World Shakers’ purpose

Spears and his wife of 21 years, Lakesha, co-pastor the church, which launched June 13.

Spears spent two years in a federal prison after a “stupid decision.” He was married and had one child when he went to prison. Incarceration stressed his marriage to the breaking point.

But God redeemed the prison time, transforming Spears like the man who called the pastor from Atlanta Transitional Center. Plus, Spears discovered a ministry focus that guides their church.

Related: Fistfight helps start Converge church; unity sustains it

“Our ministry has always been strongly passionate about the cast-outs, the rejects, expressly those who’ve been incarcerated,” he said. “Our ministry is called to the people who feel like they can never be completed.”

That includes men, women, boys and girls who don’t have a father figure. Same for those who made a wrong decision once or have several kids and don’t have a husband.

“We want to make sure those people know there can be a success story coming,” he said. “That’s why our mission is to love, live and lead like Jesus so he can reach them through us.”

Spears loves when people come to worship, joking that the building will catch on fire because they are so far from God.

“We look for the ones that aren’t churchy,” he said. “When God takes their situation and turns it around, they’ll have that same type of commitment and devotion to him” that Spears developed.

“We’re the Bonnie and Clyde of the gospel”

Since the pandemic started, World Shakers has rented a public park pavilion for worship services. There’s plenty of parking, shelter and it’s easy to invite parkgoers into church life.

People worshiping in a pavilion

He and Lakesha want every believer to understand God has the same mission for all people. Every person who knows Christ as Lord is a partner with equal responsibility to go and make disciples who make disciples.

“We’re carrying out the work that was passed down from Jesus and the 12 [disciples],” he said. “That alone means you can be part of this movement.”

Before Dennis and Lakesha started the church, people told them how their character and faith changed families and workplaces. As they prayed about the church’s name, God said to Lakesha he would use them to shake the world up.

“We’re the Bonnie and Clyde of the gospel,” Dennis joked. “It’s just who we are. The Lord has showed us that when he calls us to a place, we go there with the expectation that the orientation of how things were will not be the same when he gets finished with us.”

World Shakers has an early commitment to youth

Darius Lewis, who serves on the youth leadership team, said World Shakers prioritizes openness to God and people. That’s critical because Gen Z youth need people they can go to with any questions.

“We’ve got to have an open-door policy for the people of the church, so they get trustworthy mentors who give biblical advice about things,” he said.

Family gathering

People responded to Lewis’ hard questions in his youth by saying, “That’s what the Bible said, and that’s it.” That won’t work for Gen Z, he said.

“They are a very intellectual group, and they’re not just going to do something because you said so or because the Bible says so,” he added.

“The cultures are starting to blend”

Lewis said people from World Shakers, a primarily Black church, often connect with another church that is mostly white. The two churches have gathered online to talk about differences and multicultural Christianity.

“The cultures are starting to blend,” he said. “We want to make sure that we’re being the body of Christ, which is all God’s people.”

Spears explained the value of being open to a multicultural congregation by pointing to Gwinnett County and Lawrenceville’s demographics. There are people from Haiti, the countries on the African content and people from India, he said.

Moreover, he said some people are NFL players living in the town 45 minutes northeast of Atlanta. Others have never moved out of the trailer park where they grew up.

“What are church clothes anyway?”

The day before the church’s first service, the team handed out 120 bag lunches at the park. When inviting people to the next day’s service, they welcomed people to show up for church just like they show up to the park.

“No church clothes needed,” Spears said they told people. “What are church clothes anyway?”

A major emphasis of Converge for the next several years is seeing churches open their front door. This means offering a culture and activities that make it as easy as possible for people who don’t follow Jesus to love him and join his community.

Spears is excited, saying things are the best they’ve ever been for serving the Lord. He planted another church before. Before that, he served 12 years as a volunteer, then a paid worship leader and finally, an assistant pastor in Wisconsin.

A missed flight offers the Spears a massive opportunity

A cousin from Wisconsin traveled to Atlanta but missed his flight out. Then, the cousin bumped into the Spears’ family around town. The cousin ended up staying with the Spears until he could make another flight.

That’s when the Spears learned their cousin was connected to Epikos Church, a Converge Great Lakes church in Wisconsin. The cousin invited them to the Unleash conference at a time when ministry had been draining. There, the Spears saw a vision of what ministry could look like.

“We saw a multicultural fellowship of people that didn’t ask me what denomination I was part of, who I know, where I came from,” he said. “We just worshiped together, prayed together, praised together. It just felt like kingdom, and that just really resonated.”

Next, Ernie Cabrera, then executive minister for Converge Southeast, reached out to the Spears and started coaching them. Cabrera has planted three churches and now serves as vice president of church partnerships for Converge MidAmerica.

The Spears then participated in Converge’s Church Planting Assessment Center. They were approved, so Converge began sharing resources and coaching them on how to start a church.

“Converge gives you the framework,” he said. “Converge did a great job of opening areas of my mind and giving me new and better ways of traveling down this road.”

Before Converge, Spears and his wife once faced an excruciating decision: Would they save their home or the church building? Now, Spears has wisdom for how the church can be a self-sustaining entity.

Starting the church at a park pavilion is way different than starting a church in a hotel ballroom or ministering at an existing church.

For starters, right around the worship service, people rode bikes, kids played in wagons and people exercised on a walking trail. Even so, these same people had a serendipitous moment to draw near to the Lord in worship.

The new church has invested in sound equipment for this very reason. Just like they did for the ministry they hope to restart at Atlanta Transitional Center. World Shakers believes God does something when people can join in worshiping him.

Are you interested in being part of what God is doing through church planting? Learn more about how you can be part of the Converge MidAmerica church planting movement here!

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

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.

Throughout the capital campaign process, Mercy Road and its leadership felt supported through the wonderful coach Converge provided in Bryan Moak. Bryan was not only knowledgeable but a joy to be around. Mercy Road found a building that was perfect for their church plant. Even though they had some money in savings, they would have had to drain their account for a down payment to qualify for a bank loan. Converge MidAmerica stepped in and loaned them $250,000 to purchase their building which included available funds to remodel the sanctuary. The goal was to raise enough money to pay off the building, tithe a gift towards church planting and have extra money to launch ministry forward for the next decade at Mercy Road. They are more than half way to their goals and while they may not have extra funds for the next decade of ministry, they believe that God will provide all they need to do His will in the years to come.

Mercy Road embarked on a capital campaign so that they could pay off the loan within 5 years. There was always a possibility that their people would not be willing to pledge and get on board, but Mike had seen their church body rise to the occasion in the past when generosity was called for so he was quite hopeful. He also believed that God had provided this building for them through many specific answers to prayer, so he had very little reason to doubt God’s provision through the capital campaign.

Mike has been encouraged by two things about Converge. For starters, they have a lot of experience with coaching campaigns in the past. Secondly, Mike has recently seen Converge adjust and adopt their campaign strategy according to the needs and size of the local church being coached. A partnership in planning between the campaign team and coach is a recipe for success.

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 their 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 have seen 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 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.

Praise God that Mercy Road is an example of the wider body of Christ working together for the sake of the gospel!

Is your church ready to start the Capital Campaign journey with Converge? For more information, please contact Bryan Moak, Vice President of Church Strengthening for Converge MidAmerica or visit our Capital Campaigns website.

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!