Sunday, January 13, 2008

Jackson Church Planting

Last week (as I told you I would), I began contacting area pastors to meet with them about the possibility of joining us on a LEAD Team, whose purpose would be to jointly plant churches in Jackson County. I was able to talk with several, and even met with one already--Andy Merritt from rivertree community church. This is the new Wesleyan church plant that is meeting in the Plaza Cinemas on Wisner St. (you may have read the article about them in the Jackson Cit-Pat). They haven't even launched yet (their official launch is Feb. 10), but Andy was very eager to meet and talk about the common goal we have to reach this community with the good news of Jesus.

We had a great conversation and agreed that we would consider and pray about whether God would have us join together in this project. Here are some of the key things I learned about Andy and rivertree that are relevant to our own church and our vision:

  • Andy was formerly on staff at Trinity Wesleyan Church, and that church in examining the needs of the county was struck by the fact that there are 100,000 people in the County with no relationship with a local church. Does that sound familiar?
  • In trying to figure out how to meet the spiritual needs of the community, they discovered that church planting is the most effective way to reach people for Christ. That was the theme of my 2/11/07 post on this very blog--one of the five reasons we identified for pursuing this vision.
  • Andy's district superintendent is a big supporter and promoter of church planting. In fact, he had challenged all of the zones in the West Michigan district of the Wesleyan Church to plant a church in a three-year time frame. rivertree community church is a product of that challenge.

One of the things I was able to tell Andy is that the Wesleyan Church and the United Brethren in Christ have already teamed up before to plant a church in Michigan. Sunfield UB Church (Sunfield, MI) and Impact Weslyan Church (Lowell, MI) worked together to start a church in nearby Portland. The church launched on October 6, 2006. For more information, you can check out the UB website.

This week, on Monday I am meeting with Bob & Mary Wyatt from Hanover-Horton Christian Center. The Wyatts are heavily involved in the Jackson Emmaus community. Emmaus is an inter-denominational spiritual renewal movement with communities in every state and countries around the world. They also head up the Jackson County Intercessors, a group that has been strategically praying for the spiritual needs of Jackson County and for Jackson's churches for several years.

On Friday, I'll be meeting with Kevin Cherry, the senior pastor at Heart o' the Lakes UB Church in Brooklyn. HOLUBC was originally planted with families from our church (at that time our name was Gethsemane UB Church) who accepted a call to help reach the people in the Columbia Lake area, and Kevin is the nephew of our founding pastor Herb Cherry.

I sense that God is doing incredible things, and I think it is so exciting for us to have the chance to be a part of it. As far as I know, there are no other communities in which denominations are coming together to compose a LEAD Team for strategic church planting. Please pray for these upcoming meetings and for God's continued leading and blessing.

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