Help for Arizona From Distant Lands

More than a dozen FCA churches across the continent share credit for helping to launch a new congregation in the Phoenix suburb of Avondale.

“Six months ago, we started Coldwater Church,” says founding pastor Chris Wotherspoon. “Sunday morning attendance is now as high as 40, and we continue to be blessed by God’s overwhelming mercy and grace. We are thankful to all the churches, pastors and advisory boards that have expressed faith by partnering in a new work like ours.”

Leading the way with financial support, as well as sending a Launch Team, has been Moreno Christian Assembly in Southern California, where Wotherspoon previously served on staff. Meanwhile, Philadelphia Church (Seattle) sent a team in July to put on a three-night Kids Extravaganza that built to 67 children on the final night, more than half of whom were entirely new to the church. Two Rivers Church in nearby Gilbert, Ariz., donated a cargo trailer to help the new church transport its equipment back and forth to the school where it rents space. Other start-up funds came not only from California (Westminster Christian Assembly, Valley Christian Assembly, South Bay Christian Fellowship) and the Pacific Northwest (Park Ridge Chapel, Sonrise Chapel) but as far away as the Upper Midwest (Bethel-St. Paul, Duluth Gospel Tabernacle, Capitoland-Madison WI, Rock Church-IL) and even the New York area (Gracepoint, Smithtown, Bricktown).

Volunteers from near and far have been put to work in the Arizona heat, passing out free water bottles that promote Coldwater Church. The name carries overtones that are both geographical (the Agua Fria River—“cold water” in Spanish—runs nearby) and metaphorical. “We’ve taken Proverbs 25:25 as our theme verse,” says Pastor Wotherspoon. “It says, ‘Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.’ Some who have received these water bottles have come to visit our church and turned into regular, committed participants.”

The church is now beginning home fellowship groups. Two teenagers got to attend the FCA youth camp at Sa-Ha-Le this past summer. “God is good!” says Pastor Chris. “We continue to receive encouraging texts, emails, cards, notes and prayers from across the Fellowship as we push ahead in this new venture.” For more information, go to: http://www.coldwaterchurch.com

No Room at the Inn

After a year’s warm-up, the satellite congregation of Christian Life Church in Mount Prospect, Illinois reached full orbit on September 14, when Sunday services began an every-week schedule. Its location for now is at Comfort Suites on Randall Road just off the Illinois Tollway west of Elgin, although attendance is already pushing Pastor Daryl Merrill II and his staff to start looking for a larger school or theater to rent.

“We started once-a-month services a year ago, plus home meetings,” he explains, “at the request of several families who had moved out from the inner suburbs in search of more affordable housing. We decided early on that we would not try to spin off a ‘daughter church.’ Instead, we would adopt a strategy of ‘one church, two locations.’ Both campuses have the same pastors, the same elders, a unified budget. I even preach the same message each week in both places.”

What this now means is that weekend services occur in Mount Prospect at 6 p.m. Saturday, 8:30 a.m. Sunday, and 10 a.m. Sunday. Meanwhile, Randall Road is setting up for an 11:30 a.m. service. As soon as Pastor Daryl finishes preaching the last service in Mount Prospect, he jumps in his car and drives 45 minutes west for the satellite service, arriving as the worship time is already underway.

On the inaugural attempt a year ago, things got off to a scary start when an associate called him on the road to say, “We have a problem. I’m here at the hotel to set up, and some other group is using our room!”

A scrapbooking convention had been supposed to clear out by 10 a.m. that Sunday-but was still in full swing. The hotel manager couldn’t get them to leave. He came on the phone to apologize. “I’m terribly sorry, Reverend,” he said. “I’ve told them to pack up, and they won’t. Do you want me to call the police?”

“No, no-don’t do that,” Pastor Daryl replied. “Is there any other space we can use? This is our very first Sunday service.”

“Not really-unless you want to use the lobby itself,” the man answered. “You’re welcome to it. Again, I apologize.”

Soon, chairs were arranged and the portable sound system put in place. It felt odd to begin a church service in the middle of hotel guests coming and going to the breakfast bar. Pastor Daryl felt even more queasy about delivering his sermon, which that week happened to deal with overcoming sinful attractions, particularly pornography.

But as the time went along, more and more passersby stopped to listen. One of the hotel maids stood watching for a while, then scurried away to get her co-workers to come join her. That day produced more new contacts than a conventional service would ever have achieved. By Monday morning the phone was ringing with people wanting to know more about this new church start-up.

“We’re excited about what God has in mind for this far-western edge of the metro area,” says Pastor Daryl. “In fact, we may do this at a third or fourth location in the future. I’ve asked all our core members in Mount Prospect to come out and visit Randall Road at least once, just to catch the vision. We want to build momentum for expanding God’s reach throughout the northwest suburbs.”

For more information, see http://www.christianlifechurch.org.

Guitar Church

Wish you had more guitar players on your worship team? An FCA church in Red Deer, Alberta, has opted to do more than wish. They decided to grow their own musicians through a 10-week training club called “Guitar Church” that meets for two hours on Saturday mornings. And in the process, they’ve created a unique outreach to the community.

“Ages vary from 12 to 67,” says Tom Cameron, worship pastor at Living Stones Church. “We get everything from goth rockers to country ‘n western retirees. They all just want to learn to play better. And we show them how to use their ability to worship God.”

The program is now moving into its third season and attracts as high as 100 learners at a time. Occasionally, big-name players are brought in to give special instruction, such as Doug Doppler (the real hero of the famous Guitar Hero games), Jay Calder (Canada’s equivalent to Phil Keaggy), and in the near future, Glenn Kaiser of Rez Band fame from Chicago. When Rick Derringer (“Hang On, Sloopy”) came to teach last May, four people in the audience gave their lives to Christ that day. The local newspaper carried a feature on Derringer’s 1997 conversion; see
http://www.albertalocalnews.com/reddeeradvocate/lifestyles/Guitar_warrior.html

The Guitar Church program is available to other churches as well. Visit http://www.guitarchurch.com for details. Another FCA church in Alberta, McMurray Gospel Assembly, has already signed on to start its own club this fall.

“This effort has definitely brought people into our church,” says Living Stones Church senior pastor Paul Vallee. “It’s a great way to connect with today’s population.” Tom Cameron adds, “Guitar Church is a method of felt-need evangelism. In our culture today, if Guitar Church can be seen as a fishnet, we have seen it catch lots of fish for God.”

Photo: Guitar Church learners surround guest clinician Andrew Bartley (bottom center in light shirt) and host pastor Tom Cameron (black t-shirt with guitar, to Bartley’s left).

New Name, New Facility for New City, New York

Gracepoint Gospel Fellowship is the new name for New City Gospel Fellowship, located 30 miles up the Hudson River from midtown Manhattan. And Sunday, September 14, 20 they dedicated a new 29,000-square-foot building as well, to accommodate the growing congregation.

“We’re no longer just a New City church,” says Senior Pastor Carl Johnson. “Our people come from all over Rockland County as well as Orange County, Westchester County across the river—and even Bergen County in New Jersey. So rather than have a geographical name, we wanted to convey something of what the church stands for. Our focus is to be a place where people encounter the grace of God.”

The new facility is multipurpose: it can seat more than 1,000 for worship, or it can be turned into a banquet/fellowship space, or even a gymnasium. (Sunday attendance is currently around 1,200, plus an additional Saturday night service.) Total cost for the structure was $8 million, not counting land cost. A few years ago, the church was able to purchase 43 acres that adjoined its present property. The new building connects to the original structure, which includes offices and a K-6 Christian school. The smaller sanctuary will now be used for weddings and other auxiliary events.

The keynote speaker for the dedication was Dr. David Midwood, president of Vision New England, a regional movement for evangelism that involves some 80 denominations. The church’s music department performed an original composition for the special day, and the crowd rejoiced in anticipation of what lies ahead. The surrounding community is invited to an open house on Saturday, October 4, 2008. To see pictures of the facility in use, go to: http://gracepointgospel.org.

Small Town, Big Sound

More than 1,600 gospel music fans showed up in the tiny town of Floyd, Iowa (pop. 360) the weekend of September 5-6, 2008 as Gospel Lighthouse Church held its free outdoor festival in the community bandshell. Lawn chairs and blankets were spread far and wide to hear more than 25 groups from 12 different states as far away as Texas and Oklahoma.

“We began this event back in 1995, and it has grown every year,” says Pastor Paul Phillips. “On the weekend after Labor Day, we start at 10 in the morning and go till 10 at night, with just an hour break for lunch and dinner. Otherwise, it’s one group after another, giving their song and testimony in 20-minute segments.”

This year on Friday night, rains forced the event into a nearby gymnasium, cutting the crowd to 500. But listeners were back in full strength on Saturday, when the weather was great.

A Michigan singer named Brett Bromley of the group Northern Edge said about this inspiring event, “Everyone walking by, whether they know Jesus or not, gets to hear about him.”

To see a full schedule, go to the Floyd Lighthouse website and click on “Music,” then “2008 Gospel Sing Groups.”