Neutralizing the Fear Factor in Evangelism

by David Neufeld.

Of all the things a pastor can ask a church member to do, which is the scariest? Teach a Sunday school class? Sing a solo? Become the church treasurer?

The worst, according to many, would be this: Lead someone to Christ. “Well, Pastor, I’m not sure I could do that without messing up. I wouldn’t know what to say…”

In the small town where I serve, we’ve tackled that “fear factor” through a unique, no-risk approach. As a result, dozens of people in our congregation are willing, even eager, to guide enquirers to the Saviour.

This is happening, mind you, in a very tightly knit community of just 800 people on the Canadian prairies (with an additional 3,000 in the rural area around us) where everybody knows everybody’s business, and social conformity is strong. Stepping out to do something bold is not the habit here. We have five local Mennonite churches, one of which I grew up in. It’s easy to assume that evangelism is for somewhere else; after all, everyone in our town must be saved already. Just settle back in your church pew and sing the old gospel song “Hold the fort, for I am coming.”

Easy to Try
Several years ago, Campus Crusade for Christ announced a program called “Power to Change” for Manitoba. The province would be blitzed for several weeks with billboards, TV advertising, and TV specials–all carrying a phone number to call for spiritual help. This would require setting up a bank of phone counsellors in Winnipeg, just forty-five minutes from our town.

I promoted this opportunity with a passion in our church, encouraging everyone to take the training. Many people caught the vision. We went as a group for two nights of classes that taught how to share your faith over the phone in three minutes or less.

When the “Power to Change” publicity hit and the phones started to ring, our people found out how easy it was to guide a caller to salvation. The person on the other end of the line was already primed. Excitement began to rise as our people labored together to bring in the harvest. At the end of the evening, some people could hardly be torn away from the phones. The joy of leading someone to Christ was a real high.

In those days, the technology was not random; incoming calls always went to Phone 1 in the bank, unless that line was busy, then on to Phone 2, or Phone 3, and so forth down the line. One man around age 30 in our group, who ran a welding shop, soon figured out the system and would actually hustle to get the Phone 1 seat, so he could be busiest throughout the evening!

We were a little disappointed that no calls seemed to come from our rural area, the so-called Bible Belt of Canada, but we rejoiced in counselling dozens of callers from Winnipeg and other places across the province. As a pastor, I couldn’t help smiling as I watched everyday people from my church enthusiastically sharing the gospel over the phone.

The Graham Connection
While working at the “Power to Change” phone center, we met a lady who told us about another opportunity with an even larger reach: a Billy Graham call center in Winnipeg. This operation would field responses to TV specials that aired all across North America.

We agreed to come and check it out. When our busload of 45 people from out in the farm country rolled up to a large Winnipeg church for the first night of training, the organizers had to find a larger room! We soaked up the instruction for three hours that night and were intrigued with the 300-page manual each person received. It included everything a person would need to counsel someone on the phone, including an extensive index in the back that covered everything from doctrinal questions to personal crises.

We soon challenged the other churches in our community to come on board with us and be a part of this ministry. Then just over a year ago, the Billy Graham ministry decided to implement smaller centers outside the major cities. All you needed to qualify was the ability to manage a minimum of six phones, so we jumped at the opportunity.

We found a local business in Grunthal that already had five incoming phone lines. They offered to buy another one so we could use their facility in the evenings. In January 2005, our tiny town became just the third Graham call center to operate in Canada (alongside Winnipeg and Calgary). The Billy Graham organization runs week-long fleets of telecasts across North America some eight to ten times a year. That means we’re needed to take calls from viewers all over the continent. (The ministry pays the phone bill.)

Our people are so excited about this means of evangelism that they can hardly shut up. They are ready at any moment to lead their friends to Christ, because they already have the experience. I watch their faces absolutely glow at the end of the night when they have led someone to Christ. They are fully equipped and enthused to help anyone to the foot of the Cross.

One woman found herself on the line with a caller from somewhere in the States who was seriously contemplating suicide. The man did not want to go on living any longer. Our counsellor quickly flipped to the suicide-prevention pages in her manual and kept him on the line for half an hour. She not only talked him out of ending his life but even managed to lead him to the Lord. Talk about a thrill!

During the January 2006 run, we were open six nights and handled 183 calls. Of these, 44 prayed to receive Christ for the first time, 18 received prayer for assurance of salvation, 34 rededicated their life to Christ, and 87 had other needs that were prayed for. Workers have been taught never to end a call without praying for the person, so our people learned to pray out loud and in every situation.

Labourers for Today’s Harvest
A Franklin Graham Festival is scheduled for this fall in Winnipeg. This will push our people a step further, to do face-to-face counselling. I’m going to urge as many as I can to take the “Life and Witness” classes in preparation for the festival. There they will help at the public invitation and also do follow-up with friends they bring to the event.

We are praying with anticipation for a great harvest. I fervently believe that church growth should come from more than just the cradle! That’s the main source of growth in our rural area-but I want to see teenagers and young adults and older adults come to Christ as well.

Jesus said once to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:37-38). I hope, with God’s help, to be able to say that at least in my community, the workers are many. I am convinced, as a pastor, that it is my responsibility to equip the labourers, and He will empower them by His Holy Spirit to help bring in an end-time harvest.

David Neufeld is pastor of Grunthal Abundant Life Fellowship in Grunthal, Manitoba.

How to Develop a Servant Culture in Your Church

by Paul Vallee.

Charles Simeon was only 23 years old and had not yet finished his degree when he put his name forward in 1782 to be pastor of Cambridge’s Holy Trinity Church. Amazingly, he was given the parish.

The congregation, however, was less than pleased in the beginning to receive this blustering minister, who insisted that “Christians” be truly saved by grace and live lives more closely conformed to Christ. They distrusted his ivory tower background, as they were largely working-class families, or more bluntly, in Simeon’s words, “very poor church folks.” They were wary of his fervor.

Opponents harassed Simeon by locking the family owned pews, forcing those who wished to hear the new minister to find standing room as best they could. When Simeon brought in benches to accommodate them, church council members tossed them out into the churchyard. This kind of open opposition went on for 12 years.

Simeon, however, was undeterred. He determined to provide the Cambridge undergraduates with decent training in theology and pastoral ministry. In 1790, he began holding informal seminars for ministerial students on Sunday evenings. In 1812, he instituted weekly “conversation parties” in his room, essentially theological and pastoral Q&A sessions. By 1823, some 40 students were attending. By 1827, the number was closer to 60, straining the room’s capacity and keeping two servants busy distributing tea. Along the way, the eager participants acquired the labels “Simeonite” and “Sim,” which they wore as badges of honor.

Of the undergraduates Simeon trained during his 54 years at Holy Trinity (his entire ministry career), some 1,100 became effective as distinguished parish ministers, chaplains and missionaries. (To read more, see “Simeon’s Brigade” by Chris Armstrong in the Summer 2003 issue of Leadership Journal.)

Simeon proved to be an example of what D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones pointed out in his book Christian Unity: “It is only as we who are in the Church have a right view of the Church that she will begin to function truly [properly].” (Published by Baker, 1980; see p. 197.)

What Is Ministry All About?
Like Charles Simeon, we in Christian leadership must not see ourselves as responsible for doing the ministry as much as preparing God’s people to do the ministry. It’s our responsibility as leaders to identify those whom God is calling and develop them into mature and trained workers in the work.

Getting people to serve in ministry is a means to a greater end, not the end in itself. The real goal is to build the people into the image of Christ. Anything less is failure, regardless of how many people are attending or how much money is being generated. The end result is that people come to a place of spiritual maturity.

The familiar text of Ephesians 4:11-16 spells this out in accurate terms. It is the essence of building a servant culture in a church.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, [gifted leadership from Christ] to prepare [other translations use the word equip] God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Five key concepts emerge from this text:

1. The PERSONNEL that Christ Employs
God has always chosen to use people to accomplish his purposes. That is his contribution to the equation. As Christian leaders we need to see ourselves as God sees us. We are God’s gift to the sphere of ministry we are currently serving. It’s not just what we do, but who we are as a person that is critical to the health of the ministry.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…”

Notice that only “some” were given as one kind of leader, and “some” were another. Not all of us are apostolic, nor prophetic, nor evangelistic, nor pastoral, nor have a teaching ministry. We are not all things to all people. We need others to fulfill the ministry.

Church ministry, I’ve come to believe, is a lot like parenting. And it’s getting harder all the time, because more and more people are coming into our churches in a more broken state. This calls for great leadership.

2. The PREPARATION that Christ Employs
What did Jesus have in mind for us leaders to be doing? What does he expect of us? In other words, what constitutes a biblical ministry?

Verse 12 puts it clearly: “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

This is a lot more than just giving people skills. It goes far deeper. Paul Stevens writes: “There are actually four Greek words which are used in the New Testament to describe the equipping task: The first is artios, a noun which means complete or sound. The second is katartismos, a noun used once in Ephesians 4:12 where it means preparation. This most closely resembles the dictionary meaning of equipping – “make ready or competent for service or action. Third is katartisis, a noun which means being made complete. Finally there is katartizo, a verb, which means to put to order, to restore, and to prepare. Equipping is first repairing something and then preparing it for something even better” (Liberating the Laity, IVP, 1985, pp. 111-113).

What a picture-the Good Shepherd drawing in the broken, the maimed, the bruised, the lost. The initial need is to be repaired, restored to the created purpose of God-to be in his image. Yet God not only restores, he prepares us for a new sphere of service. Katartismos had its history as a medical term in classical Greek. A Greek doctor would “equip” a body by putting a broken or dislocated bone back into its correct relationship with the other members of the body.

The equipper is also like a fisherman mending his nets in preparation for another night’s work. This literal use of the verb katartizo has the double meaning of undoing the harm and damage done by previous service and preparing the nets for future service. Equipping is putting believers in proper relationship to their service. This preparedness refers to disposition and heart readiness as much as to training and information.

We find in the Septuagint the following usage of katartizo: “They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations”(Ezra 4:12). This is but one of several places where katartizo is used to describe the work of picking up fallen stones and putting them back into an ordered state. Thus, equipping is putting believers into their correct order. It is harmonizing them with what they once were, what they were created by God to be.

Another meaning of katartizo is to create or to form. It suggests the image of a potter fashioning clay. Equipping is building into people what they need to function effectively as servants of God in the church and in the world.

Jesus said once that “everyone who is fully trained [katartismenos] will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Jesus did not train the Twelve in school; he lived with them. Equipping is an imitation process in which we fashion people into the image of Christ.

Equipping Steps
How do we go about equipping God’s people?

a. The first step is prayer. You cannot read the book of Acts without seeing the correlation between what was occurring and the prayers of the church, its leaders and its people. Threatened by the tremendous growth and demand of ministry, the apostles said they simply had to “give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). The right priority in ministry caused the church to flourish.

b. The second element in equipping is the need to use the Word of God. We need to be in the Word, preaching the Word, and developing a biblical worldview. Listen to the apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy, whom he had sent to address some incredible difficulties in the church at Ephesus. “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). Today, what are we devoting ourselves to?

He repeated this urgency again in 2 Timothy 4:1-5. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

c. We need to call individual people to service. How many churches make general requests for help, either through written or verbal announcements, and then wonder why it’s so ineffective. Most of the people we want don’t respond-and those who do respond end up creating more problems than bringing solutions to the ministries!

Jesus gives us a picture of how important it is to select the right people for ministry. Before he made the critical decision of who would be his apostles, he spent an entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12-13). He then “called to him those he wanted, and they came to him” (Mark 3:13). We must be more selective in those we ask to serve with us.

d. Then we must be willing to train them. Too often we send underdeveloped people to do the work of the ministry. This leads to dissatisfaction all around.

Possibly the most critical and far-reaching element of Jesus’ ministry occurred with twelve men. A. B. Bruce, in his classic book The Training of the Twelve, says that if we were to look through the gospels, we could distill it all down to just 33 or 34 different days of activity. So what was Jesus doing the rest of the time? One answer might be that he was engaged in ministry to other multitudes and individuals not mentioned here. But Bruce contents that Jesus’ primary focus was on training his disciples. Knowing that his time was short, Jesus was about to entrust the leadership of the ministry to them. They in turn were going to have to multiply the ministry by training others.

Paul spoke about this powerful principle in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” This one short verse contains four generations of leaders: Paul – Timothy – reliable men – others. This is the key to an enduring ministry that reaches beyond our lifetime. This is what allows us to grow beyond our own present limitations. Most ministry today is limited by what we ourselves can do, because we have never discovered the principle of working in and through the lives of others.

e. We must have a biblical conviction that training people is the core of our calling as Christian leaders. Training people requires much time, patience, devotion and perseverance. It takes time to develop others. Often the church today lacks patience on the part of both leaders and followers. We’re like little children who plant seeds in a garden today and want vegetables tomorrow. It doesn’t work that way.

In our impatient, pragmatically driven ministries today, we have to stick with the work of training, even though it is difficult. I’ve made it clear to all our staff at our church that if they are not willing to do the long, involved work for training others for ministry, then this is probably not the place for them, and they need to look for another church. We cannot avoid this work.

f. We must model serving before others. We only produce what we are. People rarely rise above their leaders. As Jesus pointed out, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

3. The PURPOSE that Christ Expects
What is the reason for all this attention to equipping the people of God? Ephesians 4:13 spells it out: to “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Our goal is to bring God’s people to spiritual maturity. This is the “why” of ministry. It helps us keep the bigger picture before us. We want to create a serving culture because ultimately that’s the means of helping God’s people mature.

It’s not about building our organization, our ministries. Folks, it’s not about us. If our goal is simply doing “the ministry” as a profession, it becomes an idol. True ministry is about developing the people.

It is possible to grow a church but not grow the people. You can have all kinds of great programs, but the people themselves are really unaffected. The church is not an administrative structure, a building, a ministry: it’s the people. What are we doing about the people?

Eric Swanson, in an article in Leadership Journal (Spring 2003) tells about surveying his church to see if people saw a relationship between ministering to others and spiritual growth. When he asked, “To what extent has your ministry or service to others affected your spiritual growth?” 92 percent answered positively. None responded that ministry had a negative effect on their spiritual growth.

Sixty three percent indicated that service was equally significant in their spiritual growth compared to other spiritual disciplines, such as Bible study and prayer. In fact, 24 percent said ministry to others had been “a more significant factor” to their spiritual growth than Bible study or prayer.

Meanwhile, more than half (58 percent) of those who were not actively ministering to others felt either “not satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their level of spiritual growth.”

People who are being equipped to serve will grow up.

4. What Is PRODUCED as a Result of Equipping for Service
When people are brought to spiritual maturity, one of the results is stability in the congregation. “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).

We are living in a time of great instability. Part of it is simply the tremendous rate of change in our world. But the other reason for the growing instability in our society is the immaturity of people. This unfortunately is also true in the church. Here in North America the church today is a mile wide and an inch deep. We lack depth of character and development.

And that explains our constant struggle to find people to serve. We live in a consumer culture. People expect service rather than being willing to serve. This is a sign of spiritual immaturity. Christians have a cultural worldview rather than a biblical worldview. Is it any wonder that our churches have so much carnality, compartmentalization, selfishness and sinfulness? The enemy has worked at destroying the foundation of biblical truth, and as a result all kinds of false teachings come to banter God’s people about.

Have you ever thought about the Day of Pentecost and how “seeker-UNfriendly” it was?! The observers scratched their heads and wondered what in the world was going on. They even made up their own erroneous explanations (drunkenness). Peter had to explain the phenomena before he could evangelize. Yet what was begun on that day was right in line with the Spirit of God. It ended up changing the world.

In D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s book The Christian Warfare, he analyzes the nature of a cult or counterfeit in contrast to Christianity:

–A cult has no direct relationship to Scripture. It appeals to other authorities beside the Bible, or to the interpretation of the Bible in light of other authorities.

–Cults appeal to the practical and subjective, whereas Christianity begins by declaring truth, followed by explanation and practical application. Here is where we must pay close attention. In a sincere desire to build churches today, we can easily move to the pragmatic (what works) and to the subjective (what we experience). But once we do that, we lose sight of the objective standards of Scripture. We trade short-term gains for biblical truth. And when the storms of life hit, that which we have spent so much time building comes crashing down.

–Cults negate the work of the Holy Spirit.

–There is a lack of humility as the end product in the recipients’ lives.

–The teaching is in reality a rather simplistic formula that will address all kinds of problems (a form of reductionism).

–Cults promote answers that are instantaneous. They are nothing more than a shortcut toward spiritual growth (a false premise).

–They start with a person’s needs, rather the knowledge of God.

–Finally, the cults communicate a distorted Christology (they deny the person and work of Jesus Christ).

Equipping people for biblical ministry, on the other hand, leads to long-term stability and health.

5. The PROCESS that Christ Employs
We are not left to our devices to come up with human strategies for equipping God’s people. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4: 15-16).

God’s Word is the instrument for bringing God’s grace, truth and wisdom to God’s people, so they will develop and mature. I appreciate what John MacArthur has written in his Ephesians commentary regarding these verses:

“The power for being equipped and matured into lovingly authentic proclaimers is not in believers themselves, in their leaders, or in church structure. The Body receives its authority, direction, and power as it grows up in all aspects into Christ. This does not negate the efforts of believers, as proved by the phrase ‘by that which every joint supplies.’ That is to say, the joints are points of contrast, the joining together or union where the spiritual supply, resources, and gifts of the Holy Spirit pass from one member to another, providing the flow of ministry that produces growth.

“…The growth of the church is not a result of clever methods but of every member of the Body fully using his spiritual gift in close contact with other believers. Where His people have close relationships of genuine spiritual ministry, God works; and where they are not intimate with each other and faithful with their gifts, He cannot work. He does not look for creativity, ingenuity, or cleverness but for willing and loving obedience.”

Too often we think that what we need in our churches are just “more volunteers.” What we truly need–and must build–are mature servants of Christ who are equipped to do the work of ministry.

Paul Vallee is senior pastor of Living Stones Church, Red Deer, Alberta.

New Wine, New Song

by Brent Hanson.

I don’t fit the profile of most church planters. My personality is naturally introverted. I am not a person who is known for boldness. I tend to be soft-spoken. I did not have much speaking experience when I started this effort.

We didn’t plant New Song Community Church the way the experts say you should. No mother church gave us our start. We didn’t have a huge group of supporters. Churches and pastors in the Fellowship were certainly helpful, but we are hundreds of miles from the nearest FCA church in the United States.

I say all this to confirm that our church is God’s work, not man’s. I have made many mistakes over the past decade, but God has been faithful and taught me some important lessons. Here are four of them.

Follow God’s Calling
Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Mark 1:17, NLT).

For a full year before Debi and I moved back to our home area of metro Detroit, God had been confirming his call to me night after night on my prayer walks through his Spirit, his Word, and circumstances. We arrived with a new baby and only a modest teaching job at a Christian school. But we believed God could somehow use us to reach people for his kingdom.

I definitely advise against trying to start a church without a clear call from God. That calling will be tested many times-not only by circumstances but also by people.

I remember a conversation with a church planter several years ago. “I’ll see how it goes,” he said. “If it’s too hard on my family, then I’ll have to reconsider.” His church failed within a year. We did not start New Song with that mindset. We knew God had called us. So whether we had two or 200 show up, we were not going to quit.

The calling helps you persevere in hard times. The calling helps you keep going when others quit. It was the calling that kept the apostles going as they faced great difficulties.

Trust Character Over Talent
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2 NIV).

Oh, how I have learned this lesson! New church plants, I think, are a magnet for every kook, church reject, and control freak close by. However, no matter how talented or capable someone may be, it is never a replacement for character. I have learned to test someone’s character for a period of time before entrusting them with leadership. I watch to see if they have manipulating or controlling tendencies. I want to see if they really have a servant’s heart. I watch for any sinful tendencies.

When New Song first began, I had an associate pastor whom I had known for several years. We had some minor disagreements at the beginning. Then as time went on, I discovered something more sinister at work. This couple had designs on the title of senior pastor. They did their best to capture people’s hearts and minds. They constantly did things to undermine our leadership. They even joked to us, “Don’t worry, when you guys leave, we’ll take over the church”-even though we had made a lifelong commitment to New Song and had no plans for leaving.

I thought of confronting the matter directly, but I was concerned that it might result in a church split. So I began to pray, “God, either change them or cause them to go.” Within a year, they left.

As is always true, mistakes you make in leadership reproduce themselves in those underneath. For the next three years, people who were under this couple’s leadership slowly left. I am thankful to say that the church never split. We continued to grow, but it was only by God’s grace. God covered for me. Through that experience, I learned the importance of having trustworthy associates.

A structure is only as good as the people in it. I believe it’s better not to have a ministry at all than to have a ministry led by an untrustworthy or borderline person.

Keep Loving and Reaching
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 NLT).

Two things are sorely lacking in many of our churches today. One is love. A church very easily becomes inward, forming cliques and different camps. This can happen in a church plant, too. The initial group of people becomes comfortable with what they have and forgets about the world around them.

True Christian love always leads to outreach. There are a number of different formats, of course. Obviously, personal relationships with unbelievers are the best way to acquire new people. Other methods include service events for the community, outreach evangelistic events, and outreach mailers.

Too many churches give up too easily in this area. We have consistently invested in reaching out to our community through mailers and other methods, seeing steady results. Whatever method you use, don’t give up on loving and reaching out. It will be the key to the future of your church. It is well worth the investment.

Pray and Believe
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matt. 21:22 NLT).

I believe in the power of prayer and faith now more than ever. The sad truth is that a church can attract a lot of people without having much faith, because it is simply a group coming together for socializing and entertainment. That is not what God has called the church to be.

Church is meant to be a place of life transformation. That is why I look forward to the testimonies we send out every month in our “New Song Connection.” It reminds us all of what New Song is about-lives being changed from darkness to light, from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of God.

Dependence upon methods will lead only to a human work, but prayer and faith will open the windows of heaven for God to do something powerful in the church. When we moved into our new building, we committed to a weekly prayer and praise service that lifted up the needs of our church, our community, and our world. It has been awesome to see how God has worked. As we have prayed together in faith for God to move mountains, he has responded with his omnipotent power. Every week we hear different testimonies about how God has answered, delivered, and saved.

My prayer is that more FCA leaders will respond to the call of God to plant churches in Jesus’ name. He has used me in spite of my many weaknesses. I know God can use you as well.

Brent Hanson is senior pastor of New Song Community Church, Wolverine Lake, Michigan, a former FCA Church which began with 12 people and has grown to several hundred.

Busy Hub on the Prairie

If you think not much happens over the winter in Manitoba’s small prairie towns, think again. Abundant Life Fellowship, the FCA church in Grunthal (pop. 900), more than doubled its worship seating from 250 to 550 recently, adding a total of 15,780 square feet of space–the town’s first church construction in many years.

“Our vision is to make a difference in this community,” says Pastor David Neufeld, “which is why we built this auditorium to also function as a gymnasium or a banquet hall. For example, we have changing rooms with showers for athletic events; we’ve also got a large commercial kitchen with a walk-in cooler. We fully welcome the community to make use of this facility.”

Outside groups will have to work around Abundant Life’s own busy schedule, however. Its preschool operates Tuesdays through Fridays and serves 60 children. The Good News Daycare is licensed for 96 spaces and employs 24 staff. On Monday nights, an “Elevate” program sees up to 50 students and teachers getting together for free guitar and drum instruction. Tuesday night is “Alpha Night,” when adults come for a meal and an introduction to forming a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Then on Wednesday night, Awana groups take over, with 100 three-to-eleven-year-olds playing games and learning the Bible. Thursday night is for junior youth (grades 7-9), while Friday night is for senior youth (grades 10-12), led by youth pastor Carter Krahn.

“The entire project has cost nearly $2.1 million,” Neufeld explains, “and as we move into this space, more than half of that amount is already paid off. We are excited to meet the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of this area, helping people find hope, life, and freedom in Christ.”

For more information, go to:

And The Two Shall Be One

Sunday, January 9, 2011 marked the culmination of a unique merger of two FCA churches in Madison, Wisconsin. Lake City Church (founded in 1927 and known in early days as Madison Gospel Tabernacle) joined with Mad City Church (started in the late 1990s with an “alternative” flair) to become, simply, “City Church” ( Mad City’s Tom Flaherty is the new lead pastor, while Lake City’s John Ruck becomes pastor for business administration.

This is “a journey that began a couple of years ago,” said a late-December news release, “but began in earnest last fall when a Word from the Lord was presented to the lead pastors of both churches. The defining moment of our journey was at a meeting” when the two groups of elders and ministry staff thoroughly aired the question, prayed together, and voted to go forward. It concluded with a foot-washing ceremony.

The two congregations first began worshiping together at the start of the Christmas season, using Lake City’s building (Mad City Church had been renting a high school). The full public debut, however, was not rolled out until this past Sunday. Dr. Brian White, now a professor in Michigan and one of the external overseers whom God used to bring the original prophecy to both churches, led in a dedicatory prayer. Pastor Tom Flaherty then preached on the first of City Church’s four core values: “Come as You Are,” based on Matthew 11:28-30 and Galatians 5:1. A number of people, including first-time visitors, responded for salvation at the end.

Afterward, a free lunch was served in the gymnasium to some 465 people. The benefactor was the local Noodles franchise, which provided all food and service in exchange for publicity and a requirement that the meal be used as a fund-raiser. Some $1,700 was donated by those who ate to underwrite an upcoming youth group outreach to inner-city Chicago.

“Whenever you bring two families together under one roof,” John Ruck wrote in the news release, “there will be challenges, there will be growing pains, there will be resistance to change. We ask that you join us in praying that City Church will be a testimony to our community of God’s love and will bring Him honor and glory!”

Tom Flaherty says, “We have an amazing team here, utilizing gifted leaders from both former congregations. There’s an atmosphere of hope and expectancy. We are all looking forward to what God will do among us.”

To read local newspaper coverage of the merger, click here.