SOMETHING'S COMING: A REPORT ON CHURCH GROWTH
BY BISHOP STEVE BREEDLOVE
I’m really about to either date myself, or nerd myself, or both, but here goes.
When I was a kid, the ultra-60’s musical, West Side Story (a.k.a., Double Knit Disco), was popular. Our family saw it about five times, so the music stuck in my mind. Occasionally, it comes back to haunt me. (Who will ever forget Jack Nicholson forcing Adam Sandler to sing “I Feel Pretty” in Anger Management?) A few years ago, our music pastor played the tune “America” in our office on YouTube. For the next month, try as hard as we could, none of us could dislodge that annoying tune from our minds.
One of the songs from WSS is “Something’s Coming.” Gratefully I don’t remember much of it – only one line: “Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is but it is gonna be great.” That’s a little how I see the next few years of growth in the Diocese of Christ our Hope.
Sally and I have the privilege of visiting a different church in our Diocese nearly every week. Everywhere we go, the unchurched, the unreached, and the next generation are on the minds of leaders throughout our family. There is a pervasive presence of possibilities and dreams in our Diocese, birthed by the Holy Spirit and nurtured by our life together. I am deeply grateful to be a part of such a movement. I ask YOU to join in praying this into reality.
There are specific, concrete places of Gospel expansion germinating and growing in our midst: New morning services in different areas of the city in Boston (Church of the Cross) and Brookland, Washington DC (through Church of the Advent and Church of the Resurrection) – effectively doubling the parishioners in these mother churches. New ethnic- and geographically-targeted parishes out of Redeemer-Greensboro and Christ Church-Winston-Salem. The Holy Spirit rapidly bringing together planters, launch teams, and finances for new works in North Carolina and Virginia. A cooperative effort with two other Dioceses to plant new churches in New York and Ohio. Curacy programs designed to send well-trained planters and launch teams for new works in or near Harrisonburg, Raleigh, Boston, Washington, and Winston-Salem. The unexpected moving, and taking root, of Holy Trinity-Chatham right on the shoulder of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. (As in Acts 16, God has said, “Go HERE, not where you thought you were going to plant!”) New churches growing in Parkersburg, WV, Apex, NC, and Bermuda Run, NC. Miraculous stories of new facilities for existing churches in Greensboro and Philadelphia.
Then there are stirrings: calls from people interested in works in New York City, Richmond, Hartford, Providence, and central Massachusetts. (We’ve concentrated prayer on New York and New England for three years: Do you think God may be answering our prayers?)
Recently a group of leaders gathered for 36 hours to discuss, discern, and pray about where God may be leading in the next ten years. Based on what we see happening, in the voices and dreams we are hearing, and from the heart God is giving our churches and leaders, it is easy to imagine 25-35 new churches in our Diocese by 2025.
We know without a shadow of doubt that “the heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). We believe that our plans will be altered by the Holy Spirit, for our good and for his glory. Nevertheless, we ask you to join us in heartfelt prayer:
By our policy of giving half of the funds received within the Diocese to church planting and mission, we expect to invest $5,000,000 in Gospel expansion in the next ten years. Pray that churches will be blessed, that they will be faithful, and that our commitments will be protected. Pray that, within this policy dominated by mission, the needs of the home office will be met by God’s radical provision for appropriate staffing and support.
We believe that we could legitimately invest another $3-$5M in seeding new works in the next ten years beyond what the churches will give. Pray for large and generous partners in mission from within our Diocese. Pray for fundraising and grants so we can respond to the stirrings from the field.
Pray we will be wise in listening to the Lord.
Pray we will be true to the Lord in passion for lost people.
Pray particularly that we will grow in ministering to, and planting churches among, different ethnic groups right within our own communities. We are particularly concerned that we do not represent the ethnic and racial diversity of the Body of Christ as well as we should.
Pray for us to be people through whom God calls, recruits, and trains, effective church planters for new works up and down the East Coast.
Pray we will continue to respond to other ways the Lord calls us to expand mission. Right now there is a growing interest in planting “parishes” in nursing homes, one of the largest unreached people groups here in the East.
Keep praying for the city-centers up and down the East Coast, especially New England, New York, and New Jersey.
“Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is but it is gonna be great” . . . Nice, but better than Bernstein is St Paul, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think . . . ” (Ephesians 3:20-21).