Grace Church is Battle Ready

This article was originally authored by NCD International.

Grace River Church in St. Peter’s, Missouri doesn’t sound at all like the kind of place you’d find bloody wars or even a mild display of combative tousles. However, Chris Highfill, the founding pastor, is a self-confessed very competitive man. He’s a fighter!

But of what value is competitiveness when your calling is to build the church? Is there any place for it when you are to be a re-presentation of the kingdom of God on earth? To be the face of Jesus to your community?

There is a place in the kingdom for fierce competitiveness. And this is a story of defining the enemy you’re competing against, working out how to fight the right battles, and how to win… Chris lightheartedly remarks that, when he was a Youth Pastor, he thought his peak challenge would be to order the right number of pizzas and keep a bunch of youth alert long enough to hear the name of Jesus. Now, as founding pastor of a 7-year-old church plant, he has a very different perspective.

In his Bible College days, he had flippantly cast aside that “irrelevant thing called NCD,” but he has come to appreciate the NCD process as a gift, as it has played a crucial role in defining, and battling, the right enemies (and pizza shortage with a mob of hungry youth is not one of them).

For Chris and his team, the NCD Church Survey process helps to define their collective enemy—it’s not other churches, other local pastors, certain styles of music, the entertainment industry, social media, the government…The enemy is their own weakness.

The NCD Church Survey reveals where salt and light are most potent within a congregation. Obviously, that means it also reveals where things are darkest and specifically where the light must be turned up.

Shortly after they officially launched their community, the team at Grace River sought to get a clear picture of what they were up against. Over the course of the last 5 years, they have systemically identified what opponent they were facing at any given time—at times it was apathy due to a lack of passion, at others, it was stuntedness due to a lack of gift-activation. Then they faced off. Time and again, they stared down their competition and beat it. Their health flourished, their numbers grew, new and more complex challenges emerged, and they had new battles to face. 

The competition is not a race to numbers or recognition but a race to greater health. 

When you have had such a rapid influx of people joining your church as Grace River has had, the temptation can be to feel you have “made it”—battle won, trophy attained. But to Chris and the team, that way of thinking is a certain path to unraveling. The tone Chris speaks with is more of sober-minded urgency to keep alert. Keep competitive. Keep clawing at barriers till they crumble and a new perspective and experience emerges. 

The drill is:

  • Identify your enemy
  • Face-off
  • Have a Win
  • Celebrate
  • Repeat


The team at Grace River seeks to keep the prize in sight—health first, and numbers will follow. As Chris declared, “We don’t just want to gather people, we want to grow them. We’re not chasing a number. If we’re healthy, we’re making healthy disciples, so we’ll grow.” 

Today’s battleground

Grace River now faces the challenge of making its inspiring, empowering, and effective training ground, every bit as much a place to call home. Fortress and family. Home trains. Home prepares. Home matures and makes you ready for the challenges and opportunities beyond your own front door, yes, and home also deeply connects. Home deeply knows. Home shelters. Home heals. Home comforts. Chris is very aware of the many in their community needing a place to call home. He, himself, was a spiritually homeless child. Though surrounded by churches growing up—with the largest of them just across the road from his house—he and his unchurched family never received an invitation to come, to taste, to see—or to be seen and be heard. Today, he sees himself in the faces of the many young families in his community needing such an invitation to be part of a vibrant spiritual family. And he and his team are driven to create such a place for all.

Battle for homeland

For the first few years, Grace River called a temporary tabernacle home. First, four people were in their lounge room, then the local school, then the YMCA. But as their numbers started to swell, it became clear their own story would be reminiscent of the people of Israel who exclaimed, “Where did all these people come from? We haven’t enough room!” (Isaiah 49:21) So, compelled that this was the right time, they went hunting for their homeland. And the story of their journey as a faith community to their own Canaan (a giant warehouse on a main road with plenty of room to grow) will serve to keep fueling their hunger and confidence to make this homeland a real home—a place of deep affection and connection, as well as an effective Boot Camp from which to send people out.

Every argument and every arrogant, weak, misplaced, or ignorant thought getting in the way of feeling even more “intimately at home” is what they will be battling in the next round …and they are intending to win. They’ve won battles before. And they know their current enemy. They know how to fight the good fight. And they know how to partner with the Commander in Chief.

As the New American Standard Bible says, “…we are destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Thanks, Grace River, for your allegiance to the King of Kings.

Thanks for keeping on in the fight.

Thanks for being a healthy expression of Kingdom competition.

Thanks for sharing your battle story.

May the joy of the Lord be your strength with every new challenge you face! 

Click here for more information about Grace River Church.

Interested in NCD for your church? Find out more about the NCD Church Survey here and sign your church up here.

Restoration and Resurrection

In September 2019, the unimaginable happened in the Grand Bahamas. A Category 5 hurricane sat on the tiny island with over 200 mph winds for two days, destroying and killing everything in its path. Although deeply damaged, Emmanuel Baptist Disciple Center itself SURVIVED. The local pastor, Pastor Israel Pinder, lost five family members from the hurricane, yet still faithfully serves his people amid his own pain. 

One of our Converge | MidAmerica | Southeast | Caribbean partners, Cecil Hollar, and a team from his church, Rejoice in the Lord Ministries, had the blessing of encouraging, supporting, and providing resources to the leadership at Emmanuel Baptist. Because of their partnership with Emmanuel Baptist, the team met with the youth and passed on a number of resources to church leadership. Much of Emmanuel Baptist’s congregation was uprooted after the hurricane when their houses were destroyed, so much of what Cecil and his team focused on was how to help the leadership reestablish their church after this devastating hurricane. Topics discussed included change that brings growth, spiritual gifts, and how commitment is the heart of the church and leadership. The team also met with 20+ church youth to eat, fellowship, and address the trauma they had been through due to the ramifications of the hurricane. They mostly wanted to talk about GOD with them, which was so encouraging to witness! 

Now the church leadership is even more prepared and able to more effectively serve their community than ever before. Worshiping on the final day they were there with the leadership and youth they met throughout the trip was powerful and moving. Some of the best news from this trip is that Emmanuel Baptist was able to finally rededicate their church building after almost four years, praise God! 

Plans are underway for future short-term mission trips to the Bahamas. Cecil and his team are working with Converge MidAmerica as they make plans for 2023 and hope to go every year as they continue to invest in their ongoing relationship with Emmanuel Baptist. 

Our God is a God of Resurrection and Restoration. We look forward to witnessing how He uses Emmanuel Baptist Disciple Center for His Kingdom and Glory! 

We invite all Converge churches to participate in partnership via Vision and Mission trips and financial partnerships. Your church can begin a similar relationship as Rejoice in the Lord Ministries has developed! Click here for more information on our Caribbean partnerships.

All Together: A Recap of our First Gathering

One of our values in Converge MidAmerica | Southeast | Caribbean is that no pastor would ever lead alone.

Although being a part of Converge allows you to lead alone if you want, we also want to make sure that this happens in spite of us, not because of us. One of the main ways we do that is through our Together Groups.

What are Together Groups? They are regional gatherings of pastors from church plants and existing churches that meet to encourage and pray for each other, learn from one another, and dream about how churches can be strengthened and planted throughout their region. We launched our first Together Group in Grand Rapids, MI in January 2018. Today, we have 20 groups in 8 different states (and the Bahamas) with over 200 pastors participating!

Praise God — because of His faithfulness and favor, we are well on our way to seeing that value realized.

October was an amazing month for our Together Groups. For the first time, we gathered our groups in 3 locations: Michigan, Illinois/Missouri, and Florida/Georgia for an event we entitled All Together.

We hoped we would see three things happen:

  1. We hoped to remind each group what is happening in their part of the region is being repeated throughout Converge MidAmerica | Southeast | Caribbean.
  2. We hoped to encourage each other that we genuinely are “Better Together.”
  3. We hoped to get some training on what coaching is and launch a new coaching system that will allow any pastor who wants to be coached the opportunity to get connected with someone to support them for growth in their work and call as a pastor.

Simply put, these three All Together gatherings accomplished what we hoped! At least 135 pastors and leaders met together including at least six churches that are “looking under the hood” to see what Converge is all about. We had 25 people sign up for our new coaching system.

You can sign up using the following link:

We were spoiled by the three amazing churches that hosted us. And best of all, we created stronger bonds with those we already knew and built new connections with others.

One pastor shared this: “I love that Converge offers opportunities for pastors to get together and be encouraged…I appreciate Converge’s heart for training, church planting, and dedication to church strengthening.”

If you aren’t involved in a Together Group, you are welcome to try it out. You can find the closest group to you by clicking here. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly at May God continue to move in our district as we start and strengthen churches for His Glory!

Bryan Moak, VP of Church Strengthening

Reaching More for Christ: Hope Arabic Church

In August, one of our Converge MidAmerica pastors Avdal Boktor, Lead Pastor of Hope Arabic Church, hosted the Evangelistic Live Free Festival for the first time ever in Windsor, Canada. Since 2016 God has put on his heart to reach out to Middle Eastern people in Windsor. There are over 60,000 Arabs living there, and they are praying for God to open doors so they can reach refugees and Muslims for Christ. Last August they held a Live Free event and 90% of the 400 attendees were unreached and unchurched Arabs and Muslims. For most, this was the first time they had ever heard the Gospel. Their team shared the Good News of Jesus with them and encouraged them to start personal relationships with God. 

Pastor Avdal trained a small group of kids, ushers, a welcome team, and a prayer team for this event. They were able to collect contact information from attendees to follow up with them and ask if they needed any counseling, visiting, or a Bible.

The most impactful moment was when an Iraqi man accepted Jesus as his Savior. His wife was a Christian, but he was not. Whenever anyone tried to tell him about Jesus, he would always tell them, “I don’t believe in God.” He accepted Jesus one month after the event and immediately invited Pastor Avdal and his wife to visit them and offered to open their home for a Bible study. Now he and his wife are attending the Sunday service, driving over an hour just to get there! 

Hear what Pastor Avdal had to say:

“After a week full of good news, God touched a lot of souls through the annual Evangelistic Live Free Festival. Thursday, August 25, 2022, was the first time [this event was hosted] in Windsor, Canada. The event was attended by more than 400 people including some families from an Islamic background.

The Lord touched many hearts, and we saw there is a clear need to establish an Arabic church among the Arab community, which exceeded more than 50,000 Arabs.

We need your prayers and support to reach more people for Christ, especially in the cities where there are no Arabic churches. Thank you and God bless you!”

Please pray for Hope Arabic Church on December 16, 2022, as they hold a Christmas event where they will give away toys for refugee kids. They are praying for God to open the doors for toy donations for this event and that God will transform lives and hearts with the Good News of Jesus. 


Revival and Hope for Hope Arabic Church

This past August, Hope Arabic Church in Sterling Heights, Michigan, held a large three-night outdoor event in tents for the first time in the church’s history. Over 1,800 people showed up.

Many of them were Muslim, and the pastors were able to share the gospel with them during these three nights. There were also millions of online viewers through three different satellites the church covered all across the world.

Many people accepted Jesus Christ during the tent revival! The church had one big tent for adults, and another tent for kids from 6-11 years. Hope used their current building to host kids aged 0-10 years and also for high school students.

In spite of the challenges of finding a building for worship, Hope Arabic Church can see how God is using them for His glory. Their team will start following up with those people who wrote their contact information on connection cards in the coming weeks.


Will you be in prayer for Hope Arabic Church and Pastor Avdal Boktor that they would see lives changed and that God would provide a new building for them to meet in?

God is at work at Mosaico!

God is at work at Mosaico Church! 

Mosaico Church is a church plant launched in July 2021 in Nashville, TN.

Pastor Ramiro Cruz gave Converge MidAmerica an update on the incredible things God is doing through his church.

“In the last month alone, we baptized 20 new believers who went through the baptism class and committed their lives to Christ. We are thrilled to see the Lord transforming lives and hearts for eternity.

The kids’ ministry at Mosaico is exploding! We have nearly reached capacity for our space and either need to go to two services or change locations soon. We are blessed to have around 175-200 kids every week. Unfortunately, the building we are in is constantly flooding at the front and back, along with leaking from above, which gives us another reason to move locations.

We worked all summer on a new discipleship path for plugging in new believers and walking with them to maturity in their faith. We are putting this path into practice starting in September. Our greatest challenge is that what works in Latin America doesn’t work very well in Hispanic churches in America, and what works for American churches doesn’t work well in the Hispanic community, regardless of the location. Our goal is to create something that takes culture AND context into consideration.

Every church has struggles and challenges, but we are choosing to celebrate the many victories and God’s constant faithfulness. Thank you for your ongoing prayers, support, and encouragement for Mosaico Church.”


We are grateful for this incredible growth as a testament of God’s grace! Please be in prayer for Pastor Cruz and his congregation as they seek to spread the Gospel in their city.

“It’s no judgment and all love.”

Written by: Ben Greene, pastor and writer

Men driving well-worn work trucks glance around in search of scrap metal as they move among the generations of Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood. They embody the work ethic and the community spirit of one of the Windy City’s most diverse neighborhoods.

Brandon Blessman, his wife, Rachel, and their children often see the scrappers circling their community. These are the kind of neighbors who wave and holler when they see familiar faces.

This family-oriented multicultural community mixes local ethnic businesses like Kabobi restaurant and Dulce de Leche Cafe with public schools and Chicago brick bungalows. The Chicago River gently curves around the north and east sides of Albany Park. Tall buildings are absent here, an architectural nudge toward neighborliness.

“It’s not fast-paced, it’s very family-oriented,” Brandon Blessman said. “A lot of people will stop and talk. As simple as it may sound, one of the things that attracted us was seeing multi-generational families with teenagers walking to school.”

Such sights compelled the couple to minister to the city they love. The Blessmans joined Missio Dei Church several years ago and started leading a gospel community in Albany Park. These believers intentionally emphasize what Blessmans calls “incarnational gatherings” as an alternative to more traditional Sunday morning services.

Now, two gospel communities of believers from other Missio Dei congregations have rooted in Albany Park. From there, a core team of church planters formed, paving the way for Missio Dei Albany Park’s first Sunday gathering in February, with Brandon as pastor of the congregation.

Pastor speaking 

Group of people at church 

A community that gathers people through the gospel

A few years ago, Dimitra Pietrucha visited a Missio Dei congregation with her then-boyfriend, Nicholas Glassburn. Now married, the two started connecting with the Blessmans’ gospel community, especially other young adults.

Pietrucha said she was eager to make friends, but she had experienced church trauma in the past. Moreover, she had a rough upbringing and struggled with addiction when she first met Missio Dei believers. Forming relationships with Christians stimulated nervous feelings.

“I was trying to get my life together and find people who could hold me accountable but also love me and not judge me,” she said.

Now, even after having problems while they were engaged, the couple is grateful for and confident in the love of God among their brothers and sisters in Christ.

“These people are like family,” she said. “I can literally bring anything to their attention and it’s no judgment and all love.”

Blessman said their vibrant neighborhood has a culture distinct from the other 76 neighborhoods of Chicago. But, beyond the warmth, many people still need more than a warm wave.

A community struggles with violence inside and outside churches

People in Albany Park are pained by the world’s brokenness when they hear of shootings like the Buffalo grocery store killings. On the Sunday after those shootings, Missio Dei Albany Park prayed by name for those affected in Buffalo. They also prayed by name for the victims of shootings in Chicago that same weekend.

“We pray pretty often that there would be peace in Chicago as there is in heaven,” he said. “The gospel is very much knitted together with the on-the-ground healing that God is doing in the world.”

Due to doubts or the harm many have experienced in past church experiences, a growing segment of believers are deconstructing their Christian faith. Blessman said these neighbors struggle with excesses of evangelicalism above and beyond the hurt and betrayal they’ve experienced from the church.

In the most challenging moments, a commitment to intimacy and Christ has always guided the church.

“It’s been challenging, but also beautiful,” Blessman added. “We think that Jesus is absolutely relevant and good in the messiness of life.”

Listening and love leading to spiritual opportunities

Missio Dei first met as a community of Jesus in Albany Park neighborhood in November 2018.

Since their earliest days, racial justice, human sexuality, conversations around poverty, the wealth-income gap and the segregation common to Chicago have all been open conversations.

“You probably wouldn’t come to a Missio Dei gathering without hearing about the very real things happening in the world,” Blessman added.

Such an approach generates spiritual opportunity along the way.

For example, the Missio Dei family includes some who identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Even in the midst of much disagreement around this topic, all feel not only welcome but truly included as integral members of the congregation.

“That’s such a tough nut to crack,” Blessman admitted. “We want to be a community where all are welcome at the table.

Sunday gatherings engage worshipers through liturgy, shared moments

Since they started Sunday gatherings, an emphasis on authenticity continued. For example, children are welcomed for who they are — bundles of energy with thoughtful questions that defy programmatic event planning. Nevertheless, the church prays a blessing over them each week during worship, after which the children are dismissed to their classes.

Another habit of Missio Dei is incorporating liturgical elements into their Sunday gatherings. For example, the congregation practices call and response, saying the Lord’s prayer, reciting the Apostles’ Creed and taking the Eucharist.

Group singing at church 

“The liturgical is really compelling to us,” Blessman added.

Blessman said these Sunday gatherings amplify the life of Christ to enrich gospel communities’ experience together. These aren’t Bible studies, he explains, but moments for the family of Jesus to be who they are. What may seem all a jumble is an adequately contextual expression of the people of God in and for Albany Park.

“If somebody asks how to get plugged in, the answer is pretty simple,” he said. “Come and learn how to be in someone’s living room and share your story and share in their story.”

That’s precisely what Blessman and others see in the Scriptures. He referenced the tax collector Levi responding to Christ’s invitation by throwing a party, so all his friends could meet Jesus. Likewise, Missio Dei is a church that invites people to belong while they learn to believe and live according to Christ’s will.

“lf somebody asks how to get plugged in, the answer is pretty simple. Come and learn how to be in someone’s living room and share your story and share in their story.” – Brandon Blessman


Through the congregation, Pietrucha and her husband are learning to serve Albany Park friends and acquaintances with commitment and compassion. They’ve offered formula to families with young kids and given people a ride when they needed it. But, to them, it’s not just doing something trivial just to volunteer but really making a difference for people near to them.

“This is something for me to give back to the community,” she explained. “With these experiences of helping real people and people who are struggling, I definitely feel God’s presence.”

The scrappers and the struggling find grace and faith

The fruit of the gospel communities ― and the Missio Dei vision itself ― have generated life change through Jesus.

One of the smartest guys Blessman knows, a recovering alcoholic with a Ph.D., chose to be baptized at another Missio Dei congregation and join the Albany Park core team.

Blessman said he’s seen the Spirit of God penetrate the man’s heart and his whole countenance changed. In addition, Blessman recently officiated the man’s wedding, a powerful testimony of trusting Christ through relapse, rehab and redemption.

Another woman in a gospel community has had deep struggles identifying and accepting certain church doctrine. This, Blessman said, was the result of hurtful experiences while growing up in church.

However, she keeps coming even when her beliefs aren’t as clear to her as they might be to others in the group.

“You guys are my faith right now,” she told the community one night. “I don’t know which of these doctrines I can say yes to, but I can show up. Showing up is my faith right now.”

Blessman said he’ll never forget that woman who believed by coming when she couldn’t believe by confessing.

A pivotal experience for Missio Dei Albany Park is regularly having meals together. Like the party of Levi, the tax collector, Blessman said people are gathering with Jesus in ordinary ways and learning to trust him, even when they’re not doing church as they expected. Moreover, he’s seen people share resources to pay rent or buy a car and unite in deep friendships.

“These last two-and-a-half years [of COVID] should at least shake up our imagination for what the church is supposed to be in the world,” he said.

Missio Dei’s core team is discovering what the church can be in Albany Park when they live among their neighbors with an appropriate posture.

Albany Park is a neighborhood for both Muslims and deconstructors. Here, among the young and old, the white and black and Hispanic, some love Dulce de Leche’s fusion of Latin-European coffee culture or Persian and Mediterranean restaurants. At the same time, others watch the world as they study, work and connect with their Chicago neighbors.

“In major cities, like Chicago, the world is here,” he said. “You can see the nations in one place, interacting and living together.”

Still, Albany Park isn’t just for the students and strugglers or even the friendly scrappers in their worn-out pickups. This community is also where the Blessmans believe workers are being sent.

“We’re really compelled by this idea of God being at work before we ever get to a place,” Blessman said. “It’s his mission. It’s his work. We’re joining God as he makes all things new.”

Converge’s 10 U.S. regions have committed to deploying 312 church planters before 2026. Read more inspiring church planting stories and learn about the goal to send out 312 church planters in five years.


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.

Step Up: Baptisms

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

This summer, God moved in incredible ways through The Heritage at the Hill event for the Sterling Heights campus at Freedom Hill Amphitheater in Sterling Heights, MI. Over 2,500 people came and experienced dynamic worship, games, giveaways, an amazing message, and 174 baptisms. This was the biggest baptism event in Heritage Church’s 22-year history! It was moving and powerful to see so many publicly declare their faith in Jesus. Baptisms continued the following week at our Imlay City campus event at Heritage at the Fairgrounds where 30 people were baptized. 

There were several impactful moments during the Heritage at the Hill event. A woman named Shae wanted to be baptized at Freedom Hill. The problem was that her bridal shower was that same day at 1:00 PM. She was so committed to taking her next step of faith that she was willing to be late to her own bridal shower! Her mother and other friends had a watch party while decorating the bridal shower venue so they could witness her baptism live. 

Dennis also shared his story with us. He stated, “I wasn’t aware of my need for salvation until my late 20’s. When I met my wife, she opened my eyes to the importance of giving my life to Christ and I was amazed at how my life could change when I started a relationship with God. In April 2014, I was saved. Although that was eight years ago, I realized that now is my time to step up and get baptized so I can show my friends and family that Jesus is my Savior!”

We love witnessing the Lord work in people’s hearts and draw them to Himself, and we can’t wait to see what God does next! 

The Beauty of Humility: Heartland Church

At Heartland Church, prayer is the vital foundation of their church and ministry. The congregation comes together for 21 Days of Prayer every January and August at the start of the new year and the start of the school year. They have witnessed hundreds of people joining in person and thousands online every day during their 21-Day events. They begin with a short time of worship, and then a short devotional time in God’s Word. This is followed by individual prayer time for about 30 minutes. Participants can pick up prayer request cards that people have submitted or walk to the walls covered in thousands of post-it notes and pick one. These are the names of people far from God, written on post-it notes by people who love and care about them. They then join back together for corporate prayer. This past season they “equipped God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” This mission was so impactful for their church body.

Although he had participated in 21 Days of Prayer individually since 2001, Pastor Scheske felt like God was calling him to help the entire church body focus on prayer. He realized that although he practiced this personally, he never considered doing it corporately with the church simply because it never occurred to him that others might want to come to pray at 6:00 AM. Inspired by a pastor he knew who was leading his church in prayer with hundreds of people showing up at 6:00 AM, Pastor Scheske took a step of faith and invited his congregation to join him in January of 2012. They have been doing 21 Days of Prayer twice a year, every year, since then. He shares, “There is something about being in a place where hundreds of people are hungering after God, and people of all ages and races together, seeking God. Grown men lifting holy hands without any division or controversy, teenagers laying hands on names of people on post-it notes on the walls–it is one of the most beautiful things to experience. This year we had many teenagers and children come out in the mornings. It was very moving to see.”


Pastor Scheske encourages pastors to take this step of faith with their churches and initiate a 21 Days of Prayer campaign: “There’s nothing more unifying for a church than praying together. It demonstrates that we depend on God. It turns up the spiritual fire in the church. Prayer is also one of the great ways to diversify a church–every culture prays and needs prayer. In a time of polarization and division, God uses corporate prayer to break down walls and unite hearts. People respond to the beauty of humility.”


Living Sacrifices

Our Story

B gave his life to the Lord in 2015. He lived in India for 3.5 years doing the work of the Lord with his family’s ministry. After returning to the US, he pursued ways to get involved with the local church, which led to many short-term mission trips. During one of those trips, the Lord confirmed his call to full-time missions and continued to open doors for that. Seeking formal training, he attended a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) Discipleship Training School, where he met K.

K’s relationship with the Lord began at the age of 12, and two years later, God began to stir her heart toward missions. Through high school, she went on a handful of short-term trips, which the Lord used to further confirm her call. She attended Grace College and graduated in 2015 with a degree in Intercultural Studies. After two years of serving in inner-city Indianapolis, the Lord led her to YWAM Kansas City for further training.

With their unified call to missions, they began their relationship after their YWAM training and got married in 2018. Since then, they have been serving locally at a church near Indianapolis, whose mission is to “lead, love, and launch” people out for the sake of the Gospel. God has been preparing them in a variety of ways for the overseas ministry to which He has called their family, and they are excited to join Him in reaching those who have never heard the Good News.

Living Sacrifices

“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

Since coming to know God, our heart’s desire has been to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him in worship. When God brought our paths together, we were committed not to conforming to the normal patterns of the world around us. As we have journeyed with Him, He has been transforming us and faithfully revealing His will.

When K and I got married, we prayed and asked God to guide our steps as we knew cross-cultural ministry was the direction we were headed. The Lord gave us a 5-year vision. We thought we would be going to India to join my uncle’s ministry—and so did my family—but the Lord had other plans. During our first year of marriage, we tried to get connected with my uncle and prepare for our eventual move to India, but the Lord kept closing those doors. We got to the point where we realized we were trying to move in our own power and not with the Lord, so we surrendered it all back to Him. A year later, the Spirit nudged us to take the next steps toward our goal of moving overseas. This time around, we knew we needed wise counsel in the process, so we approached our pastor and his wife for prayer and wisdom. Through that meeting, God directed us toward Converge and the Missionary Discovery and Assessment (MD&A).  

While attending the MD&A in November 2020, the Lord once again confirmed our call as a family to overseas ministry. However, He also spoke to both of us that India was not where He was leading us in this season. We felt His Spirit directing us to the Spice Islands Initiative and spent the next few months praying, fasting, and seeking counsel through God’s Word and mentors. We knew nothing about the Spice Islands, and my family was against us going there. Our faith went through testing so that, as the Word says, we “may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

As we have been preparing and partnership-building, we have experienced continual hardships in our families and household. The enemy does not want us to go, but as we continue to obey God and follow Him, He reveals His perfect faithfulness time and time again!

God has given us His heart for all peoples, and we are excited to follow Him to the Spice Islands for His glory. Countless inhabitants of these islands have never encountered the one true God. In light of this, the Lord has moved us to join a team of other believers committed to starting gospel movements among each of the 234 least-reached people groups within the Spice Islands Initiative in our generation.

Toward that end, our vision as a family is to cultivate a healthier and stronger faith, family, and fellowship among local believers, encouraging and equipping them to make disciples within their spheres of influence. We ask you to pray about how the Lord might be leading you to partner with us in this endeavor. God may be calling you or someone you know to join us!

Converge Caribbean Partners with The Timothy Initiative

At Converge MidAmerica | Southeast | Caribbean, we believe that the best way to fulfill the Great Commission is by making disciples who make disciples and planting churches that plant churches.

Converge Caribbean recently partnered with The Timothy Initiative (TTI) in training local leaders in Haiti and the Dominican Republic so they can equip Christians with the necessary tools, resources, and strategies to reach their country for Christ. 

The TTI training consists of eight “Training of Trainers” (TOT) sessions conducted quarterly over a two-year period. The first session was held from June 1-4 for over 100 Haitian pastors and leaders. This training is a shift from a pastor/church building-centered focus to a disciple/community-centered focus. The pastor then trains his “Timothys” and sends them out to make disciples who then make disciples of their neighbors, colleagues, and other people within their community. 

One group of pastors from Santiago traveled to Haiti for TOT 1. Tom Frakes trained Pastor Amos for over a year and during that time other pastors heard about the training and then began to train their believers to make disciples who make disciples. 

This past March Converge MidAmerica’s Missions Director, Steven Storkel, had the privilege of going to Haiti twice and the Dominican Republic once. He shares, “These trips were both very good and enjoyable, where I spent time meeting with groups of pastors, doing training, and answering questions. Most of my time was spent training these pastors in The Timothy Initiative material. These pastors are committed to a new way of doing ministry. This new paradigm of ministry is one with a focus on discipleship and teaching believers to be disciples who make disciples. There are four groups that I met with in Northern Haiti and one group in the Dominican Republic; all are Haitian pastors and congregations. Converge’s ministry in Cap-Haitian has been meeting for the past year and is the largest with about 25 pastors who are meeting and discipling 170 people. These 170 people have then gone on to lead 479 people to Christ with 225 of them being baptized and 338 of them being discipled by the person who led them to Christ!”

It is beautiful to see the fulfillment of Jesus’s words to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) before our eyes in Haiti and the Dominican Republic!

Perseverance for the Long Haul

This article was written by Rob Nash, a pastor at Sawyer Highlands Church. This article originally appeared on

Have you read that “The average pastoral tenure in a church is 3.6 years?”[i] Or were you aware that 38% of pastors have considered quitting full-time ministry this past year?[ii] How does a pastor persevere when the country has been ripped apart by division? How do we process those who have dropped out of the church in our hearts? How do we continue when our own family struggles with the demands of the church? How do we persevere in ministry over the long haul?

Dave Peterson is a great person to offer insight into our questions. I write that because he is retiring this spring after 42 years as the senior pastor of Centreville (Michigan) Baptist Church. Before Dave’s pastorate, Centreville’s pastors’ average length of service had been only a few years. But, of course, that says a lot; the church has been around for 170 years.

In 1980, Dave began his career with little experience, a wife, and a piece of paper saying he graduated from Bethel Seminary. He intended to stick around for a couple of years and move on like the 39 pastors who preceded him.

But God had other plans. His wife began to work at the library. He started serving on the school and library boards. Their family grew, and Dave fell in love with his church and community. He was all in.

He ministered out of his calling, not for the numbers. His church was small. He wasn’t pastoring for the salary or the parsonage either. He had to get another job teaching at the local community college.

Yet, God opened doors and poured out his gifts. People came to faith, grew in Christ, got baptized, and served.

Yet small-town ministry has not always been easy. Some members moved away, some passed away, some divorced, and some left the faith. That hurts when you have invested your time, energy, and prayers into people. But, ultimately, God is the one who builds the church, and the gates of Hell won’t prevail against it.

I have enjoyed getting to know Dave through a group of Converge MidAmerica pastors who come together around Converge’s vision and to start new churches and strengthen each other. He has shared with me his story of God’s grace and faithfulness and a bit of advice for us pastors:

What helped you persevere in ministry all this time?

“In reflecting on encouragement to persevere over the years, the Lord has repeatedly used 1 Corinthians 15:58 in a variety of ways as an encouragement to stand firm. It has been the word God has brought to my wife and me in times of discouragement.”

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

What has been the most influential book for you in ministry besides the Bible?

“Ten years into ministry, I read the book Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent and Barbara Hughes. It was powerful. Hughes laid a biblical foundation that numbers are not the best way to evaluate success. A more biblical way of determining success is dynamic prayer and the impact on the community. Whatever size of church you are, you can have both [of] those things.”

What would you say if you were to offer two keys to longevity in ministry to a young pastor?

“Expectations kill us. We get unreasonable expectations, and we suffer when they are not met. Instead, look to God for your expectations ― not human expectations.

Another piece of advice is to love the people. There was a time when people said don’t get too close. Don’t establish relationships. I think you should be genuine and honest with your people. You are going to be close to people. And one of the ways we could stay [in ministry] is because our people have reciprocated that [honesty and love]. Share in the heartaches.”

What advice would you give those who are considering rural ministry?

“Settle into the community. Be involved in the community. For a long time, you will be an outsider. People are all related, and you run into each other.” You will be in good company. Jesus was an outsider, too, ministering in big and little towns.

When it comes to bi-vocational ministers, what counsel do you have?

“Your other job needs to be seen as a secondary thing. Your primary responsibility is the church ministry and preaching. The church board needs to be in agreement with that. It can be a way to connect to the community. Life is becoming expensive. The alternative is to close [the church].”


I am so thankful for Dave and his legacy as a follower of Christ, husband, father, pastor, and community leader. His words are apropos.

The Apostle Paul, as he finished up his ministry, wrote some parting thoughts that relate.

Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Tim. 1:8–9).

Paul and Dave’s words challenge us. We must remember that we are not alone in our struggles. We are in this together. Let us thank God for the grace at work in Dave, Centreville Baptist Church, and Converge. And let us join Dave and Paul unashamedly pressing into our calling for God’s glory, the spread of the gospel, and our joy.

[i] Cook, Dennis C. “Three Point Six: The Tenure of Ministry (Part One of Two).” Church Music Today,, 18 Jul. 2011,

[ii] “38% of U.S. Pastors Have Thought About Quitting Full-Time Ministry in the Past Year,”  Barna,, 16 Nov. 2021,

Celebration Banquet 2022 Recap

“This is the best Celebration Banquet we’ve ever been to!” That’s the feedback I heard from countless attendees of the Converge MidAmerica | Southeast | Caribbean Celebration Banquet this year. Now, maybe that’s because we haven’t gathered in person for the banquet since 2019 due to the pandemic. However, I actually do agree with them: this year’s Celebration Banquet was the best one I’ve ever been to. In fact, there were so many things to celebrate together, that we made the decision to forgo a keynote speaker and focus on sharing all that God has done in our midst in the last two years.  We maxed out our capacity with 490 people.  While many from the Chicagoland area were there, we had people travel from 8 states and from the Virgin Islands to attend. And the attendees hailed from more than 64 churches in our district, which made our gathering a diverse variety of Christ followers who came from every kind of church context.

During the Celebration Banquet presentation, we shared that 20 Together Groups in 7 states have been meeting regularly, made up of over 200 pastors within our district. We also stated that 69 existing churches have joined our district to affiliate with Converge, and the ongoing ministry in Haiti and the Dominican Republic has seen 268 believers baptized in 2022 so far. Finally, since our last banquet, we have deployed 30 new church planters and awarded $642,100 in Church Planting matching grants. As we worshiped, ate and listened together, it was clear that the Lord is moving in great and powerful ways within our districts and among each other.

We hold a Celebration Banquet every year to give glory to God for all that’s happening within our churches. But it’s also a time for us to raise additional funding for this mission. This year, the extra funds are earmarked for Church Planting grants and Haitian and Cuban Church Planting efforts. So far, the Celebration Banquet has raised $158,000 and we hope to raise $200,000. If you or your church haven’t given toward this banquet offering and would like to give, please click below to donate.

The prevailing pastor award is given to pastors who have pastored a single congregation for over 20 years. This year’s recipients included Mark Albrecht of Northbridge Church in Antioch, IL, Jessy Padilla of Iglesia Emanuel in Waukegan, IL, Delbert Thompson of Bethel Baptist Church of Marion Oaks, Ocala, FL, Will Washington Woods of Altona Baptist Church in St. Croix, VI, Anthony Tyler of Higher Ground Community Church in Calumet City, IL awarded posthumously and accepted by his widow Marlene Tyler and daughters, and others.
Danny Parmelee shared that even in the midst of pandemic, we have had a record breaking number of church planters deployed. We are going to shift gears into an initiative called Home Grown, in which we will focus our efforts in raising up church planters from within our congregations.
Roberto Launched Casa Church in Memphis, TN on September 12 of 2021. Danny Flores is Roberto’s coach, and he helped translate as Roberto shared with us about how their church is growing. Roberto also shared an amazing story about a drug dealer and gang member who turned their life to Christ in his church.
Our Vice President of Church Strengthening, Bryan Moak, gave remarks about our Together Groups, as well as about the 99 recipients of the Minister’s Assistance Program, 40 completed NCD Assessments and 11 pastors placed into Converge Churches since our last banquet.
Robert Gentry, Pastor of High Hill Christian Church in High Hill Missouri, gave testimony about the remarkable healing and growth of his church after a difficult season of stagnancy and pastoral transition.
Ernie Cabrera, our VP of Church Partnerships, shared that 69 existing churches have joined our district to affiliate with Converge, and the ongoing ministry in Haiti and the Dominican Republic has seen 268 believers baptized in 2022 so far.
Mardochée Bellerice of The Ark Church in West Palm Beach, FL, shares his testimony of joining Converge Southeast and the benefits he has seen through partnership with our districts.
This year’s Celebration Banquet worship team, led by Abram Delgado, offered a powerful time of corporate worship that was both enthusiastic and reflective.

Here are a few more images from this year’s Celebration Banquet. Remember, it’s not too late to make a financial contribution to help us close the gap in meeting our goal!

Forty-Two Years of Grace: Finishing the Pastorate Well in Rural America

This article was written by Rob Nash, a Pastor at Sawyer Highlands Church.

In 1852

● There were thirty-one states in the Union

● Peter Roget’s first thesaurus came in print

● Uncle Sam debuted as a cartoon

● Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin

● Calamity Jane was born

● And Centreville Baptist church opened its doors


One hundred seventy years later, Pastor Dave Peterson will be retiring as the longest-serving pastor at the Centreville Baptist Church. He holds the record tenure with forty-two years of service.

When the Apostle Paul was facing the end of his ministry, he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 2:7). From all accounts, by God’s grace, Dave has done that.


In 1979, Dave graduated with a Masters of Divinity from Bethel College and Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. While studying, he served as a youth pastor and then as an associate pastor. Not too long after graduation, he applied to be the pastor of Centreville Baptist Church. At the time, Centreville had a booming population of 1200. The job came with a parsonage and a modest salary.

Dave interviewed, they offered him the position, and he accepted. He thought he would stick around for a couple of years and move on like the thirty-nine other pastors who preceded him. God had different plans. Dave and his growing family fell in love with the church and town. His wife began working for the library. Outside of his church engagement, he taught at Glen Oaks Community College, volunteered on the school board, and served on the Nottawa Township library board. Later, he became the president of each. After decades of service, he retired from those positions only to be asked to run for the Nottawa township supervisor. He did and won and continues to serve his town faithfully. He is a community leader, pointing people to Jesus wherever he goes. Dave is a shepherd through and through.


Vickie and Carl Davis have attended Centreville Baptist for thirty-two years. Vickie said, “He is a great speaker, teacher, and caring friend.” She recalled, “One time, a bat came down from the belfry and flew around during the service. It was flying right at Dave as he preached. We have a pulpit that sits up higher than everyone. So, Dave was the bat’s prime target. Dave would sway one way and then another as the bat flew at him. But, he just kept on preaching,” That is the kind of pastor Dave has been. He keeps on keeping on, no matter what comes at him.

Mike Eley has known Dave for thirty-eight years. In his mortuary business, he has relied on Dave to help families in crisis and heartache. “He was very good at getting to know someone [who has passed away] through their family and providing [them] a meaningful funeral service… Most pastors are willing to fill the role [of doing a service for a non-church person]. But they all don’t have the knack to make the funeral about the person.” Dave did. He did because he knew his Bible, related to people, and took the time.

Rodney Chupp, who worked with Dave on the School board for about eight years, said, “James 1:19 tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. That verse embodied Dave’s service to the school… Everything is pressure-packed these days. You want to get someone riled up, tell them something about their kids.” With Dave on the school board, “People felt heard. He had a real calming effect.”

It has been said that behind every great pastor is a greater spouse. Dave’s wife is no exception. Karen “is a jewel. She has a passion for the needy and underprivileged and the unborn. Her love for the unloved goes so deep,” says Dan Peterson, Executive Minister Emeritus for Converge MidAtlantic and the older brother of Dave.


Gary Rohrmayer, President of Converge MidAmerica, once said, “You celebrate what you care about.” We want to recognize what God has done through Dave. It is extraordinary. We need to hear more stories like Dave’s.

A majority of pastors don’t stick around for forty-two years. LifeWay research published the statistic that, “The average pastoral tenure in a church is 3.6 years.” In addition, Barna’s research recently revealed that thirty-eight percent of pastors have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year.

Dave’s longevity and success have not been because ministry came easy. He has taken his lumps along with the joys of conversions, baptisms, weddings, and church growth. People have left, passed away, and hurt others and him. Finances have been tight. He had to approach his board about needing to work outside of the church to supplement his income early on. Yet, God has been faithful and blessed him, his church, and his community, all the while. Ultimately, God deserves the credit.


Join us in thanking God for Dave, his family, and his church. Let us pray that God will help us persevere and remain faithful for the long haul. Pray also that God would bring a pastor to bless this rural community so that another couple of generations would come to know the love of Christ.

Why Participate in an NCD?

My name is Gary Ricci and I am the pastor of New Hope Christian Community Church. Our church was planted in 2009 in Round Lake, Illinois. I was the associate pastor of another church in a nearby town but often came into Round Lake. At the time, Round Lake had 50,000 people, no churches, and was a working middle-class city with a strong Latino presence. God called my family to serve there, and after the assessment and fundraising process, we launched in October 2009. The church has been focused on reaching our diverse community, serving the felt needs of our neighbors, and raising leaders to reach towns like ours. We have since grown to a substantial size, own a building in the heart of town, and are involved in various church planting efforts and mission works. I am the original church planter, currently serving in my 13th year as senior pastor.

Our church recently conducted an NCD (Natural Church Development), an assessment of your church’s health based on an international study of 1,000 churches in 32 countries that discovered principles of church health that are universally valid across cultures. The research findings confirmed eight quality characteristics, or eight systems, that keep a church engaged in God’s mission in a healthy manner. We felt that an NCD would be beneficial because we had hit a stopping place in our growth and were struggling to figure out our next steps in hiring and strategy. It was recommended to us by Converge. I had read the book about NCD and was somewhat familiar with it from my previous church.

The first NCD we did showed us that we lacked effective structures. At that point, we were 18 months old and had grown from our 30-person launch team to a group of about 120. Our systems of communication, pastoral care, and finances were particularly stretched. This led to us hiring our first administrator and developing a more cohesive financial team. It also gave me back 10-15 hours a week to focus on outreach and discipleship. Within six months, our church started to grow again. Two years later, we repeated the NCD process, which led to us hiring a worship director and a full-time administrator. Each cycle removed a blockade for growth for us and we grew from 120 to over 350. Our decision to conduct an NCD was worth it, not just because of the successful changes we made, but the confidence it gave us in our decision making. We now knew why we were making the choices we were making. We also learned that we can’t grow deeper or numerically without taking an honest look at how we function. We discovered that there were many “unspoken” things we were all thinking that needed to come to light in order for us to change them.

I would encourage other churches to participate in an NCD because it reflects the truth about what’s happening in your church in areas you might be blind to because of familiarity or history. NCD puts these issues on the table and gives you the language to talk about them and the confidence to take the next steps. I don’t know a church that wouldn’t benefit from it. Churches that take NCD need to remember that it is not a judgment of your church but simply information to help you as you seek God.

You can find out more about Natural Church Development or register for one here.

5 Ways to Practically Participate in Church Planting Weekend

Church Planting Weekend is an annual movement-wide celebration for Converge. During the first weekend in June (or any weekend between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day), take time during your services to share with your congregation about church planting and multiplication — what it is, why it’s important and why your church is involved — and your partnership with Converge. Here are a few ideas on how to highlight Church Planting Weekend in your church:

  • Invite a church planter.

Asking a church planter to come and speak at your church is a great way to celebrate Church Planting weekend. It gives a church planter the opportunity to share about their plant, and allows your church community to feel part of a broader movement of church growth in your region.  Feel free to contact me ( if you would like an introduction to a current church planter in our network.  

  • Share Our Church Planting Video.

Converge MidAmerica created a short video that shares the impact that being a part of Converge has on a new church planter. Given advance notice, we can customize the length of the video and even include a specially customized video specific to your church, with a video introduction from me.

  • Prepare a special sermon about church planting.

If your sermon calendar allows, consider highlighting the importance of church planting in a standalone sermon in your weekend services. We’ve even created a sermon outline and additional resources to help start the hard work of sermon prep for you– download your choice of three Word Document outlines under “Sermons” here.

  • Share about Church Planting on Social Media.

If it’s too late to incorporate Church Planting Weekend into your worship services, consider adding Church Planting stories and information to your church’s social media content calendar. We know how hard it is to continuously create custom content for social media, so we have graphics, videos and photos about Church Planting Weekend ready to post on the converge website.

  • Take a special offering.

Did you know that last year we awarded $515,100 in church planting grants?  We are only able to do this because of the generosity of our churches.  If you would like to take a special offering, we can help you think through how to do it. You can also use and share  this link:

We are here to serve you.  Let us know how we can help you celebrate Church Planting with us for this year’s Church Planting weekend.

God’s Faithfulness in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

This story was written by Billy Hardy at Leaf River Baptist Church in Illinois.

I began serving the people of Northern Illinois at Leaf River Baptist Church in July of 2019. As you can imagine, being a pastor for less than a year when COVID-19 hit caused a lot of uncertainty. Like almost every other church in the country, we were left scrambling to learn the best ways to do things. We had already begun an online ministry before Covid, so we were somewhat ready for that transition. However, not really–our tools and abilities were greatly lacking, but our desire and focus were on Christ every step of the way. We temporarily paused all in-person worship and small group gatherings like everyone else. We remained online only for 13 weeks, looking for ways to be a blessing to the community around us. During that time, we worshiped and fellowshipped together online, like most churches.

When we relaunched our in-person worship on Father’s Day 2020, there were 25 people in attendance. I will say that as the lead pastor, this was incredibly discouraging. However, I had been there before. In the first month I was the lead pastor in 2019, there were only around 40 people in attendance. Throughout the rest of 2019, God brought people into our doors, and the church grew to a regular attendance of approximately 75 people. When we reopened the doors after COVID, there were only 25 people–that was hard to see. I felt as though the work God had done previously was being torn apart. However, God never actually stopped working. You see, throughout the time that we were closed to in-person gatherings, we not only continued to reach our budgeted giving, but we SURPASSED our needed giving levels. After meeting in person again, our giving levels continued to grow, which allowed us to spend our resources in the areas that we felt were necessary–missions and external ministry. We were able to add missionaries to our commitments throughout this process. However, it was not only the giving levels that grew. God continued to grow the in-person attendance, allowing us to receive 13 new members in 2021 and leading most of our regular attendees to return to our worship gatherings.

With these new members, we grew back to our pre-Covid attendance averaging around 75 people again. There have, unfortunately, been a few families that have decided not to return to worship with us. Some of those families found themselves worshiping at other churches that they felt fit better. There have also been a few that have not returned to worshiping anywhere. We have seen that those who were not genuinely committed to church have since left the church altogether. While it is heartbreaking to lose families with whom we have built relationships, it is encouraging to see the depth of growth within the others who attend LRBC. These last two years have been a fantastic time of deepening discipleship within the life of LRBC.

Now in 2022, we are about to welcome a few additional families into official church membership. Covid has not been a fun experience, but we have seen God work within the life of LRBC and those that call it their home. The spiritual health has increased, the financial health has increased, and the community impact has increased. While there are churches around us that are suffering, even coming to a place of almost closing–God is blessing LRBC, and we don’t know why. Research shows that many churches are closing, and many pastors are retiring early or leaving ministry after the last two years. The social and political upheaval has been too much for many. However, I firmly believe that when we remain faithful as pastors (and believers), God will remain faithful to us in ministry.

How have you experienced the faithfulness of God over these last two years? We would love to hear about it! Send us a message here.

What God Can Do With Small Things

This story was written by Pastor Jerry Troyer at Eastport Baptist Church in Eastport, MI.

We are a small church located in northern lower Michigan. This past weekend we saw God do things beyond all we could have imagined. To a sold-out crowd, we hosted our 14th Annual Sportsmen’s Banquet. The crowd was almost three times our weekly average, but more important than the numbers was God’s Spirit working through this outreach event. At the end of the night, we had over 30 spiritual decisions! We had anticipated a harvest as we prayed and sensed God was up to something special. Let me share two of those stories:

The first person, James, wasn’t planning on coming to the banquet, but because his friend, a sponsor of our event, couldn’t come, he passed his tickets on to James. Totally a God thing! James committed his life to Christ for the first time after hearing a clear presentation of the gospel. I’ve got a follow-up meeting already scheduled with him. James is showing clear signs of being all in for Jesus Christ.

The second story is about a couple who has been coming to our banquet for years. We had invited them to church many times and sought to meet with them after every banquet, but they always refused to come or get together. We finally gave up asking, but we still kept praying for them. Unbeknown to us, God was working all that time in their lives. In January of this year, they sought us out and told us they were planning on coming to church. Totally a God thing! This time they followed through and have come every week since. They have also brought their friends to church along with them. We have plans to help them continue to grow in their faith journey.

When we started this outreach, we never intended it to grow this big or to have the impact it has had in reaching those who would never enter the doors of a church building. BUT we have a GREAT God! I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg of the harvest that is coming in this age. To Him be the glory!


Is God working in your church? We’d love to hear about it! Send us a message here.

The KINEO Center

Converge MidAmerica|Southeast|Caribbean is thrilled to partner with the KINEO Center, a ministry created just for pastors and church leaders. With so many pastors suffering from depression and burnout today, KINEO’s mission is to provide a way for pastors to find rest, recovery, and recalibration. They desire to see leaders become healthy in mind, soul, and body as they shepherd their local churches.

Read about one Converge pastor’s experience with The KINEO Center:

“In January, my wife and I went to visit The KINEO Center to meet Dan and Tonya White, and to see and hear the vision of the center. All I can say is ‘Wow’! From the tropical rainforest setting (which was stunning) to the accommodations to the hospitality from Dan and Tonya, we were thoroughly impressed. But the real win for Converge MidAmerica|Southeast|Caribbean is the intentionality of the Whites to help restore burned out and hurting pastors and families. I look forward with great anticipation to hear stories of our pastors and wives who saw new hope and vision for their families and ministries because of the work of The KINEO Center. I also look forward to church teams using the facility to dream together about the future of their churches. Finally, I can’t wait to hear from pastors who just had a great time vacationing in a great place, served by great people!”

Ministry life can be difficult and lonely, so the need for the support found in Kineo is vital for all pastors and the future health of the Church. We look forward to all that God will do through this vital partnership.

Find out more about the Kineo Center at

Let’s Dare to be Dangerous

Max Lucado wrote, “This my God is my prayer. Draw me from Your fire, form me on Your anvil, shape me with Your hands and let me be Your tool.”

Now that is a dangerous prayer. Dangerous prayers?! Can prayer be dangerous? Is prayer SUPPOSED to be dangerous?

Any encounter with a Holy God can be dangerous—not in a life-threatening way, but in a way that can be life-altering and soul-shaping.

All too often, we pray safe prayers: God, bless me. God, help me. God, protect me. God, heal me. God, provide for me.

Dangerous prayers are risky and life stretching. Dangerous prayers come out of a spirit of brokenness. Dangerous prayers are filled with boldness and daring faith.

My most dangerous prayers have come in moments of deep frustration and seasons of brokenness. I pray more dangerously when I need to experience God’s light in my soul, his power in my ministry, and his leading for the future.

Take Jacob, who wrestled with God out of incredible frustration and the paralyzing fear of meeting his brother Esau. He clung to God in prayer as a wrestler grappling with his opponent—and in the process, he was changed profoundly (Genesis 32:22-32).

Dangerous prayers we can pray:

  • Mark our lives. 

As Jacob was humbled physically, he was reminded that he was also changed spiritually (vv. 25, 31).

  • Change our identities. 

Jacob received a new name, which reminded him that his identity was in God and not in his birthright (vs. 28).

  • Draw us closer to You, God. 

Jacob came face to face with God. As God’s great mercy was revealed, Jacob experienced a more profound  sense of intimacy (vs. 30).

  • Impact the community of faith. 

This event in Jacob’s life was memorialized. It was done to remind God’s people of this important principle: When the leaders’ lives are radically changed, it always impacts the people they are leading (vs. 32).

Our devotional book “21 Dangerous Prayers: A 21-Day Transformational Prayer Guide” explores the dangerous prayers that God’s people have prayed for thousands of years. We have broken down these dangerous prayers into three categories:

  • Confessional Prayers – “Lord, Search Me.”

Confessional prayers allow God to breathe into your life. When you invite His holiness, righteousness, and glory to invade your being, God exposes your needs and any obstacles hindering your life and usefulness in His mission.

  • Transformational Prayers – “Lord, Break Me.”

Transformational prayers allow God to shape and mold us. They seek God’s sanctifying power, strength, and grace as we work out the gospel in our lives through confession and repentance. They seek God’s leading by submitting to His Word and surrendering to His ways.

  • Missional Prayers – “Lord, Send Me.”

Missional prayers align us with God’s purposes. They teach us to rest in God’s power and presence as we advance His mission and promote His Glory. They position us to be usable by God in any way possible.


With our 21 days of prayer, we created a three-day cycle of “Lord, Search Me” –> “Lord, Break Me” –> “Lord, Send Me.” During those 21 days, you will pray through this cycle seven times, creating a transformational rhythm that can make you into a dangerous disciple.

Max Lucado’s quote refers to God’s fire, anvil, and hands. He gives a vivid picture of a blacksmith taking something that is absolutely raw—and with great care and precision, making it into something beautifully usable.

The first step to being transformed by God’s purifying fire is to invite him to search us. To allow him into the depths of our souls and cleanse us with liberating forgiveness. The next step is to ask God to break us on His anvil. To surrender to his transformational sanctification that shapes, molds, and conforms our lives into the image of Jesus. The last step is for us to respond to God’s call with a willingness to be used as his chosen instrument in His redemptive mission.

This is our prayer for you: May God’s fire purify your soul. May God’s anvil shape and mold your life. And may you become a useful tool, ready to be used in the hands of the Almighty! Amen.

Want a sneak peak into this 21-day devotional? Read below for Day 1 of Dangerous Prayers:


Day 1 – Search me, O God!

Psalm 139:23 – Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 

There is no room for morbid introspection in the life of a follower of Jesus. Why? Because when we search our own hearts we can easily fall into self-deception. Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” He continues, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Only God is qualified to perfectly search our hearts. David’s prayer acknowledges God’s searching power, admits that we are so easily deceived, and humbly submits to God’s truth rather than our feelings or perceptions.

Find time today to be dangerous! Pray this dangerous prayer:

“Father, I desire to be the best in what I do today. So I ask You to investigate my life and examine my deepest motives. Cross-examine my thoughts and give me a clearer picture of myself according to Your truth. May Your glory be revealed in me and shine through me this day. Amen.”

*For more information on creating a Dangerous Prayer Campaign in your church go to For more information on ordering Dangerous Prayers for $1.00 go to We have limited number of books available at this price. Please email any questions.

Four Reasons to Disciple Your Church through 21 Day Campaigns, doing a focused four-week series on a specific topic can take your church to a deeper level. Converge MidAmerica’s 21 Day Campaigns are an opportunity for you as the pastor to lead your church to a deeper level of prayer, generosity, and evangelism.

Here are four reasons to lead a 21 Day Campaign in your church:

1. They focus your people on their daily relationship with Jesus.

One of the critical disciplines in discipleship is to teach your people how to have a meaningful quiet time. Teaching people to feed on the Word of God and to speak to God in prayer is essential to move them on the path of maturity. During a 21 Day Campaign, you will drive that principle deep into the life of your church and give them the tools to help facilitate this discipline.

2. They inspire spiritual formation in the key areas of discipleship.

You cannot manufacture spiritual growth, but you can create an atmosphere for spiritual growth. In reminding your people of the essential habits of discipleship–bible study, prayer, fasting, generosity, and evangelism–while giving them useful on-ramp tools, you will ensure your church is spiritually healthy and missionally engaged.

3. They rally the church around a focused theme.

The prophet Daniel, who was deeply concerned about his people’s spiritual condition, prayed and fasted for 21 days (Daniel 10:1-3). There are certain seasons in our lives when we need to give focused attention to our personal spiritual growth and the spiritual needs of our family, church, and community.

4. They help you drive the vision and mission of Jesus deeper into your church.

Leading your church through a 21 day campaign allows you to shepherd and lead the church in a unified way. Campaigns give you an opportunity to lift your church’s eyes to the high calling of the church in a practical way. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19-20).

I have said before, “The church is dying by assumptions!” We assume our leaders have meaningful devotional lives, yet they are spiritually drying up right in front of our eyes. We assume our leaders our getting into meaningful spiritual conversations, yet they have not shared their faith in years. We assume our leaders are tithing and growing in generosity. However, when a financial assessment reveals some of your leaders have no record of giving to the church in years, you feel deceived. 

Pastor, don’t let your church die by assumptions! Instead, bring focused attention to the essentials of discipleship.

Prayer – 21 Dangerous Prayers

Fasting – 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting

Bible Study – 21 Courageous Prayers

Generosity – 21 Days towards a Generous Life

Evangelism – 21 Days to Increasing Your Spiritual Conversations

Holy Spirit – Encounter: A 21 Day Fresh Encounter of the Holy Spirit

Bible Study – Cherish: A 21 Day Journey to Falling in Love with God’s Word

Spiritual Warfare – Victorious: A 21-Day Journey To A Victorious Prayer Life

P.S. All these campaigns can be done digitally.

Coping with Crazy-Good Growth When It Overwhelms

Growth can hurt as well as help.

Every pastor deals with the ups and downs of ministry growth and the anxiety that can come with it. Ralph Moore talks with Russ Shearer on the Thought Leaders podcast about his experience of rapid growth and transition as a pastor.

As a church planter, Russ and his team started out renting space for their church for years. After going through the ups and downs of the pandemic, their church started back with outdoor services at 50% of what they had been before. Just like many other churches out there, this took a huge toll on them. Despite all of this, they kept focusing on their mission, serving the community, and loving the people of their church and those around them as well. Nine months into the pandemic, Russ got a call from a fellow pastor asking to meet and talk. Little did he know that this pastor would offer Russ and his team a building for their church. This happened in God’s perfect timing because before they knew it, their congregation doubled from what it was at the beginning of the pandemic! With this influx of people, Russ quickly realized that they had to figure out how to physically and spiritually take care of the people coming to them with minimal staffing. This sudden growth became a catalyst for officially launching the church and its leaders and created a “perfect storm” of momentum to move things forward and point people to Jesus.

Russ shares some things to remember:

  • People are hungry for hope right now. Use this time of isolation and fear to point people to Jesus. People are longing for community and connection like they never have before.
  • Online churches are not working as well for younger people. The micro-church model elevates the idea that church still happens when believers get together and allows pastors to share in the care of their congregation with other leaders.
  • Teach on tithing and giving consistently so that your church’s financial growth is balanced with your physical growth.
  • Effective systems are important, but still encourage your leaders to continue to pour into others.


We hope this story will be an encouragement and help you better handle what to do when sudden, exciting, and unexpected growth happens. Want to hear more? Check out the Thought Leaders podcast @

Meet Barb Ehlers, Church Relationship Catalyst

We are thrilled to announce Barb Ehlers’ new role as a Church Relationship Catalyst for the US Engagement team with Converge International Ministries.

Barb Ehlers lives in the Chicagoland area and is married to Pat Ehlers. They have three boys: David, 32 (married to Franchesca with two girls, Leah and Audra), Jordan, 25, and Jonathan,19. She and her husband met at their church where she has been leading, coaching and mentoring in the Jr. High and High School Ministry for 25 years.

After serving as the Relationship Specialist with the Converge Cornerstone Fund for the past eight years, Barb has met hundreds of pastors and has come to deeply understand the unique challenges they face. Over the past two years, she has felt God moving in her heart and calling her to serve Him in a new direction. She is so excited to join the U.S. Engagement Team! She will help build strategic connections and greater awareness between Converge churches and their International Ministry Initiatives. She desires to walk alongside Converge missionaries and advocate for them with our churches and districts so they can confidently face the mission field using the gifts and passions God has blessed them with while helping others know and follow Jesus.

The U.S. Engagement team’s goal is to connect churches with global missionaries and their projects. They do this by helping coach churches on how to increase the impact of their mission through their free 2:10 FOCUS coaching process that is offered to any church interested. Missions is an extension of the local church, and the team desires to empower the local church to engage with global missions so that they can reach the lost for Christ here, near, and FAR just as Christ has asked us to do in the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission. By helping more churches engage in global missions, they will fully staff and fully fund 20 worldwide regional Initiatives with more than 400 missionaries by 2026.

If you would like to get in touch with Barb, she is still in her ministry partner development role and is praying that God will provide individuals and churches that feel led to be ministry partners with her financially and through prayer so that she can begin the work that she feels like the Lord has called her to. If your church wants to know more about the global work of Converge IM or how to become a ministry partner, please get in touch with her at or check out her ministry page at

A Heart for Missions: Willing Servants and a Creative Community

Temple Hill Baptist Church in Cadillac, Michigan has been doing a Missions Garage Sale at the end of August for several years. The purpose of the annual garage sale is twofold: provide affordable items for those in their community, and raise Christmas funds to encourage the missionary families they support. 

At the beginning of 2021, a few members of Temple Hill recognized that 2020 had been a really challenging year for most missionaries. Deciding they wanted to go above and beyond to bless the missionaries in Temple Hill’s care, they thought of a creative solution to provide more encouragement and funding for these missionaries who had sacrificed so much for the gospel in the previous year—a Missions Auction!

The Missions Auction would be different from the garage sale in that it would raise even more money by auctioning off newer and bigger-ticket items. Asking the Lord to bless their efforts, they began planning and asking church and community members to donate to the auction. Their goal was to raise $12,000, which would provide each of the 12 missionary families $1,000.

Although items didn’t come in as quickly as they had hoped, by the time of the auction the church and community had donated over 250 items for auction, twice as many as they had hoped for! The planners of the Missions Auction weren’t the only ones thinking creatively. Items for auction ranged from “a pie a month for a year,” to gift baskets, vacation rentals, and firewood. It was clear the church and community had used their resources and talents to contribute to the cause!

The Missions Auction was held online first, and then in-person. Less than 24 hours into the online portion of the auction, the church had already almost met their $12,000 goal! When all was said and done, they had raised over $28,000 for their missionaries—enough to provide each of their missionaries with $2,600-$2,800!

What an example of what God can do through a few willing servants and a creative and generous community of believers! How might you and your community use your resources and creativity to support missions this year?

2021 Year in Review

Before we hit the ground running in 2022, let’s take a look back at all that God has done in 2021 through Converge MidAmerica | Southeast | Caribbean! We are beyond thankful for the miraculous ways He has worked in the hearts of His people the past year, even in the midst of navigating all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. 

Here are just a few of the highlights: 

  • At Next Steps Orlando and Chicago, many pastors, church planters, and leaders came together to learn about outreach, missions, church systems, leadership development, and more. The relationships and meaningful conversations that came out of these events will last far past 2021. 
  • At Connect 2021, hundreds gathered in three locations around the globe in Geneva, IL; Orlando, FL; and Haiti for our tri-annual meeting. We experienced what God can do when we show up, advance on our knees, strive towards unity, grow in generosity, and realize that we are better together
  • In July 2021, our African American pastors and their wives gathered in Detroit for a time of fellowship and teaching. Pastors came away refreshed, supported, and encouraged from their time together. We hope to have more of these gatherings in 2022!
  • Our monthly virtual prayer gatherings were a powerful time of fellowship with our Father and each other. Converge MidAmerica | Southeast | Caribbean is nothing without the foundation of prayer
  • Converge churches came together to provide hurricane relief in the Caribbean and tornado relief in Kentucky. In the Caribbean, churches established a hurricane relief fund that supplied food, shelter, and medical help, and they rebuilt houses and churches. A similar fund was also used for food, shelter, medical help, and other needs due to the recent devastating tornado in Kentucky. This most recent fund exceeded our giving expectations and raised $27,719! Wow! It was encouraging to see so many churches step in and be the hands and feet of Jesus in so many ways this past year. 
  • Finally, our year-end giving campaign for the Minister’s Assistance Program went above and beyond what we ever imagined—you all gave $22,105 towards pastors and their families’ healing through counseling in 2022. A generous donor matched $20,000 of that total as well! Thank you for your generosity! God did more than we could have ever asked or imagined, and He did it through you.

We are trusting and believing that God will continue to do beyond all that we can ask, think, or imagine in 2022. We can’t wait to see how He will accomplish His purpose, and we pray that He will use all of us to share His hope and love in our churches and beyond!