Earlier this year God gave us, we believe, the vision of GROWING WITHOUT GROWING. This means that not growing is not a Biblical option. "The Lord added to the church daily as many as were being saved" (Acts 2:47) - this remains the heart-cry of faithful churches, even during lean seasons. So not growing is not an option. But building bigger and bigger sanctuaries or multiplying worship services indefinitely is not the only way to handle growth.
We do not condemn these models. In fact, we have already used them. We built a sanctuary in 1991. And we have two services now and have had three in the past. But our sense now is that in the long term we should try to hold the worshiping attendance between 2,000 and 2,500 - not by not winning new people, but by sending people out from us in waves regular enough not to expand at this site beyond the ($9 million) building plan of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION.
We hope that when the new, large gym/incubator/multipurpose room is completed we can have a third worship service there on Sunday morning, perhaps simultaneous with one of our present services, so that this would become the core of a new church to be sent out every ? ? ? months or years.
In the meantime, God seems bent on pushing us into this vision, ready or not. Our first "birth" was really a renewal of an existing church, Grace Richfield. A wonderful partnership between us developed in recent years. Early this year they and we agreed that we would send a pastor (Rick Gamache) and as many of our people as would be willing to go. About a hundred went. The transition was made in April. I visited this "new" church twice during my writing leave, and was mightily encouraged. I still encourage you to visit and consider it as your home at 71st Street and Nicollet.
Now a different model of "birth" has risen. The Pilgrim's Sunday School Class has dreamed of becoming a church for a long time. They dream of a cell-based model where the cell-life of the church is the top priority over all programs and services. Cecil Smith (a deacon at Bethlehem) and Russ Greg (one of our elders) are the leaders and about 40 people are committed to going out with the new church. They have chosen the name SOVEREIGN JOY FELLOWSHIP.
So here we go again. And I am thrilled. It is really working. God is bringing people to himself and to us, and God is sending people out from us. What do we want to see happen? The key is God's calling out a group of you large enough to make a new church viable and to alleviate some crowding here, especially when Fall comes.
What could you do?
1. Ask God earnestly and honestly if this is his time for you to do something radical for the sake of the Kingdom. Should you be among those who go with SOVEREIGN JOY FELLOWSHIP?
2. Attend one of the information sessions to ask your questions or just listen: Sunday, July 2, 9 a.m., Fellowship Hall; Wednesday, July 5, 7 p.m., Chapel; Sunday, July 9, 9 a.m. Fellowship Hall.
3. Attend the new Saturday evening worship service they are starting, July 8 at 6 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall.
I would be really happy if God led a hundred people or more to say yes to this vision. Cecil and Russ have my high recommendation. They share our theology, with God himself as the highest value and his supremacy as the passion of their lives.
We dream of wonderful ongoing relationships with the churches that God gives birth to. The thought of big "family reunions" or "old soldiers gatherings" makes my spine tingle with joy.
Encouraging you to dream,