Dear Fearless Follower,
Each year, as our ministry season ends, I get to write a letter telling you what God has done through our, NOW, three churches and where we are going as we head into our 2017-18 ministry season. The Lord has done some truly amazing things over the past year and now is leading us… well let’s just say, it makes my heart beat fast both with anticipation and a little fear with the opportunities we have before us (we will definitely be depending on the Almighty).
The statistics on the card capture a little of what God has been doing in and through us, but by far the biggest advancement has been moving from one to three churches. With the birth of Cultivate (last October) and Third Coast (in January) we have tripled our locations and potential impact. When I tell other pastors and church leaders how we have replicated in such a short time most of them can’t believe it!
Growth is both exciting and hard. The excitement is palpable as we hear about people finding a church home in Hamilton and Saugatuck who were unchurched and wouldn’t have come a church in Holland, or hearing about salvations and baptisms happening in three locations, or seeing the amount of volunteers grow exponentially to serve and take ownership of their church ministry. Isn’t this exactly what Jesus had in mind when he commissioned us to go into the world, to make disciples and to teach them to obey all things?
But, to be honest, it has also been hard. Sending or being sent means that people you’ve gone to church with for years will not be worshipping with you. I realize how many people I miss when at our joint Good Friday service I saw so many Cultivate and Third Coast friends back in the Ridge Point auditorium to worship. The decentralization has also taken a toll on our attendance at Ridge Point, which of course, should be expected as we send 300-400 fearless followers out to pioneer new churches. Still, we all like it when our services feel full.
Planting churches is also stretching us financially. This, too, is to be expected when, with roughly the same amount of givers, we are supporting three churches instead of one. For the first time since I’ve been at Ridge Point we have had to cut back our budget mid-year.
In light of the challenges we are facing, you may wonder if the elders, directors or staff are regretting our adventure in church planting. The answer is a resounding NO! We know God has called us to this and we believe that the fruit we have already seen in our churches is only the tip of the iceberg of what is to come.
So, what is the direction for next ministry season? We believe that all three churches need seasons to grow numerically, financially and in ministry development. We will still reach outside of our walls with the love of Jesus, but we have no plans to plant a Network church this year.
Dan Seaborn has agreed to teach three 2-week series that will be an outreach to our communities and also support or launch life-situation ministries in our churches (students, singles, parents, divorce, marrieds).
We will continue to develop our young leaders through our residency program (entering our third year). We will continue to develop our young teachers. (Hasn’t God blessed us by giving so many?) We are also planning to supplement Rooted and Life Groups with an organic discipleship ministry that will involve hundreds of you.
There is more I could say about missional initiatives, our partner ministries and our international ministries, all of which we have great plans for, but I must now land the plane!
As we enter the final weeks of the fiscal year (which ends June 30), we are running about $240,000 behind budget, between all of our churches. Our expenses are projected at $3.1 million and our current giving trend would land us at about $2.86 million.
It is important to close this gap for two reasons. First it will keep us from dipping into savings to cover the short-fall. Second, and more importantly it allows us to write a budget to pursue the goals, including the ones mentioned above, with a strong budget (we write annual budgets based on the previous year’s income).
Would you prayerfully consider a special fiscal year-end gift? This is a large number but collectively we can meet this challenge and corporately experience the blessings God always gives with our investments. Please take some time to review and pray through the enclosed card and consider what God might be asking you to give.
The Lord has given us a fantastic year, but we know that the best is yet to come!
I love being your pastor,
Senior Pastor, Fearless Network of Churches