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president from the
NUMBER 5 EDITOR Bob Putman
DESIGNER, PRODUCTION MANAGER Pam Nelsen
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Fran Anderson Point (ISSN/1546-3257, USPS#517-620) is published quarterly (with a special edition in December) by the Baptist General Conference, 2002 S. Arlington Heights Rd., Arlington Heights, IL 60005.
When I was in my 30s I was senior pastor of a Minnesota church that planted a daughter congregation in a neighboring community. For a year I served the parent church and the newly launched church plant. After two services at the established church, I would drive 10 miles to the school auditorium, where the church plant team had already started worship, arriving in time to preach. It was so much fun. I caught the church planting bug. Leading established churches to health and ministry effectiveness is my first love. But through this experience I developed a passion for multiplying congregations that transform lives through the power of the gospel. Dee and I have the rare privilege of spending time with church planters in communities around the world. Most are couples with a shared commitment to see God birth a vibrant church unique to its setting. Church planters are a special breed. They pass a stringent Assessment Center, raise most of their support, connect with people to establish a launch team and wear a hundred different hats to see something emerge from nothing through the Spirit’s power. Over the past 10 years the number of new disciples baptized by Converge churches has more than tripled. One reason for this increase is the number of new churches planted. That is why we are passionate about multiplying Jesus-filled disciples and churches. You will enjoy this issue of Point. Good stories always inspire. These stories of planters will move you to pray and find ways to help new churches succeed.
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Jerry Sheveland President Converge Worldwide (BGC)
How I caught the bug
4 Am I a church planter? 14 The loneliness of leadership 20 Cameroon by chopper and 4WD
INTERVIEWS WITH FIVE CHURCH PLANTING COLLABORATORS
BY JOEL JOHNSON
BY IVAN AND SUSAN VELDHUIZEN
Coming to The Well
Connection Church social media survey Relief to Oklahoma tornado-affected families Virgil Olson with the Lord Connecticut church given $5 million property New books from Converge authors Who leads Converge Great Lakes?
on the cover Tone Benedict and his wife Missy are planting The Well Church in the Five Points neighborhood of Jacksonville, Fla. Tone poses in back of CoRK Arts District — 100,000 sq. ft. of former manufacturing buildings now housing more than 60 artist studios and a gallery of their work. PHOTO: MATT STEPHENS
How to reach us To add/remove your name from our mailing list, call 800.323.4215, M-F, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. EST Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org @convergeww Converge Worldwide convergeworldwide.org
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Am I a church planter? Is this in your future? Here’s how to know and how others answered. TOM NEBEL INTERVIEWS GREG McDONALD
It’s a goofy term — church planter — but one with biblical roots. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Cor. 3:6). In Converge Church Planting we look for people who have the capacity to start new works from scratch. What do church planters look like? Typically they are entrepreneurial and have a history of starting new things. I grew up near the shipyards in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. As a boy I made wooden boats from scrap wood, adorned them the best I could and headed toward the shipyard. When the work whistle blew at 3:30 p.m., I sold my boats to laborers there. It worked. I was from a family of entrepreneurs, and I found I could do things without a template. Church planters often have great relationship-building capacity with unchurched people. They mix it up at their kids’ schools, on the soccer field or at the health club. They care about evangelism and making Christ known. They can envision a favorable future. Build teams. Rebound from setbacks. Sometimes bristle at conventionality. Who do you know who might be church planting material? Send them our way. Or maybe ask yourself, “Am I a church planter?” We have a proven assessment process. We coach people well. And we try to manage the risks inherent in any new venture. We’ll take good care of them and you. I asked my friend Greg McDonald, a former business leader and now president of Converge Family Funds, how he got involved with Converge Church Planting. How has entrepreneurialism played a role in your history? I spent 30 years developing high-performance teams in the food industry as a principal owner in what started as a small, family-owned food sales and marketing company. We needed to reinvent ourselves many times. Through a series of two large mergers and three large acquisitions, my partners and I went from being a small regional sales and marketing agency to part of the largest sales and marketing agency in North America — employing more than 10,000 people. After I left the food industry at age 48, I was involved in creating three new businesses. Why the interest now in church planting? Seems an unusual shift. When I was 27 I had a radical encounter with Jesus. From that point on I considered myself a missionary disguised as a food broker. My employees, clients and customers were my mission field. When I left the food industry, I read the book Halftime, by Bob Buford. He got me thinking about transitioning from a life of success to a life of significance. Then Doug Fagerstrom called and described Converge Worldwide’s 2020 vision to start one new church every day. My heart skipped a beat, and I found myself rubbing my hands together, saying, “I could give my life to that.” Why would it make sense for someone to set up a personal ‘Family Fund’? The Converge Family Funds enable steward-minded followers of Jesus to donate money directly to start new churches. When your family, small group or business provides a catalytic gift of $12,500 or more for a new church, one of our 11 Converge districts also contributes, as do the church planter and the new congregation members. This method of multiplying donor/investor dollars enables Converge Worldwide to fulfill its purpose of multiplying transformational leaders and churches. The Converge Family Funds also offer donors/investors the opportunity to open a Donor-Advised Family Fund to direct monies for Christian 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations with no administrative cost to the donor/investor. What’s your dream for the future? To see a host of folks with a sense of urgency investing in the Family Funds — enabling us to achieve our goal to start one more new church in the U.S. every day. Tom Nebel is executive director of Converge Worldwide Church Planting. He resides in Madison, Wis., and Orlando, Fla. Greg McDonald is president of Converge Family Funds.
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Am I a church planter?
Worship. Eat. Live. Love. AN INTERVIEW WITH TONE BENEDICT
Tone and Missy Benedict are planting The Well Church at Sun-Ray Cinema in Jacksonville, Fla. We asked Tone a few questions to better understand the church’s unique core values and how they reach “the least of these.” Tell us about the Five Points neighborhood. It’s a pretty diverse neighborhood in Jacksonville’s Riverside area: a lot of hipsters, people in drug rehabilitation, rich and poor, people with million-dollar Victorian-style homes and others with $40,000 homes, ethnically mixed black and white, singles and families, homosexual and straight. Have you always had a burden for this kind of neighborhood? I want to be in a place that isn’t saturated with “Christians” and with people not so clean-cut. Here we have a lot of different belief systems. There are drum circles with people praying to something, but we want to see them praying to Jesus. I love the community feel. In Five Points you can walk to a restaurant, coffee shop or theater. You can meet people just by going for a walk. What’s the meaning of ‘The Well’? It’s an acronym for our core values: Worship. Eat. Live. Love. Worship is about loving God and others, living a life of worship. Eat is our community aspect: our Sunday barbecues, communion and getting into God’s Word. It shows us we need something outside ourselves to come into us and sustain us. Live is about living on mission in this community, being a blessing to it. Love means we serve “the least of these,” — people far from God or who have specific, tangible needs. How has God built momentum in your church? Jesse Bibbee is a big part of that. He attended The Well from the very beginning. Jesse is an activator. He stirs up people’s curiosity because of his life change and of what God is doing in him now. He has many relationships and has invited a lot of people he knows. (See Jesse’s story, pp. 18-19.) Our Well ladies are very involved at nearby Gateway rehab center. My wife Missy, Jesse’s wife Sarah and others initially visited the Center to have coffee and talk with the ladies. On the next visit our group thrilled the rehab women by painting their nails. Later our ladies brought them purses loaded with nail polish, cleaning supplies, new underwear, etc. Missy leads a Bible study there every other Friday night. I lead exercise workouts on Friday mornings. And on Sunday lots of Gateway people come to The Well. How has Journey Church-Jacksonville supported your start-up? They’ve been huge. I was an intern to (Converge) pastor Vic Cuccia for a year before launching The Well in my backyard last September (2012). Journey gives me a stipend every month, and one week they gave their entire offering of $10,000 to our church plant. Most of The Well’s initial attendees came from Journey and some brought neighbors. We now average 50 to 70 attendees on Sunday. Many newer Well people are from our neighborhood. With a wife and six kids, how do you navigate cookouts, message preparation, entertaining, discipling and visiting people? I try to incorporate them into what I’m doing, such as barbecuing with people I’m discipling. My gift is shepherding. I often visit someone at work. I do a lot of lunches and coffees. Missy homeschools our kids, ages 4 to 11. She also coordinates teaching children at The Well. Getting out there and engaging and loving people far from God is a normal part of our lives. I like Jesse’s saying: “Don’t talk about it — be about it.” Tone and Missy Benedict are planting The Well Church in Jacksonville, Fla.
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Am I a church planter?
The gospel on Oakland’s streets AN INTERVIEW WITH KIM EMERSON
Bernard and Kim Emerson are planting The Way church in Oakland, Calif. Earlier this year Kim’s dynamic testimony at the Converge PacWest women’s retreat “rocked the house.” We asked her about starting The Way. You and Bernard grew up at Zion Tabernacle Baptist Church, Oakland, Calif., where his father was pastor. What motivated you and Bernard to start a new church instead of pastoring an established one? As leaders we saw so many who were un-churched (never attended) and de-churched (had walked away from the church). God placed it on our hearts to try to reach them. In February 2012 we moved to Stockton, an hour drive to the east, to plant The Way. Statistics show that starting new churches is the most effective evangelism tool. Now you’re back in Oakland. What happened? Bernard and I both are employed in the San Francisco Bay area. Like us, many people who joined our group lived in Oakland and were commuting to Stockton. They were faithful and believed in our vision. We sought counsel from some wise and godly people: Bernard’s father, Alonzo; pastors Larry Adams and Dr. Michael and Rev. Twanna Henderson and Bernard’s former pastor, Dr. Dwight Perry, Great Lakes executive minister. They helped us seek God’s face in making the decision to return home. You minister in an inner-city neighborhood? Yes, very much so! Our meeting location is multicultural, a great environment with all kinds of people. They range from working class to homeless — a mixture of cultures and diversities. More than 20 languages are spoken in our immediate area. Who are you trying to reach, and what is your strategy? We try to create ministries to meet whatever is the greatest need. We want to be consistent in preaching the gospel and staying faithful to it, because we know the gospel is what changes lives. It melts hearts and mends what is broken in us. It is the only power that addresses the sinful nature of men. Without consistently sharing this good news, our efforts are no more than programs. They get old, but the gospel is timeless. PacWest’s church planting director, Paul Root, said you’re targeting a specific group: young men ages 15 to 30, helping them to become godly, responsible leaders in their households. Absolutely. In Funk Town, a very notorious neighborhood in East Oakland, we’re building our ministries around this core group as we continue to discover community needs. We want to start feeding and clothing programs. The first small group we started was Celebrate Recovery, for those emerging from drug and alcohol addiction. What have been your primary roles in the church plant? As a wife and as a mother of a son and four girls, I do whatever I can as we get established in church planting. That means being a secretary, a greeter, a barista (making lots of coffee) or doing whatever is needed. I spend the majority of my time praying God will help Bernard see the vision to fruition. On a spiritual gifts test I ranked high in “helps.” I definitely love working wherever the need is greatest: feeding, greeting and ministering through Celebrate Recovery. Kim Emerson and her husband Bernard are planting The Way Church, Oakland, Calif.
Explore your options at ConvergeChurchPlanting.org and connect with us on Facebook.com/ConvergeCP and Twitter.com/ConvergeCP.
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Am I a church planter?
Get out of church AN INTERVIEW WITH GEORGE BEDLION III
This third-generation Converge pastor stepped in to rethink and redirect an ailing multisite startup. The result: Whitewater Church, Puyallup, Wash., is a very different way to do church. Did your father (George II) or grandfather (George) plant a church? No, but Dad restarted one back in the ’80s. He’s now a great pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Puyallup. My grandfather is amazingly gifted relationally and influenced a lot of guys. In the 1980s, while pastoring on a mega-church staff, he and Grandma used to have 50 people over to their home — a type of missional community. So church planting wasn’t in your plans? Five years ago Bethany, where I was then leading youth ministry, started a satellite service, Bethany South, in an elementary school about eight miles away. Dad asked a bunch of members to attend there for six months. I began volunteering, doing whatever I could. About 400 people, primarily Christians, attended the first two services. As Bethany members completed their commitment, our church attendance dropped to 200, without a high ratio of conversions. In time the numbers dwindled to 30 or 40 people on a Sunday night. Nine months in, Bethany South leaders approached me. “We want to reach this area,” they said, “but we’ve got to do something different.” They asked me to take the lead. That sounds challenging. What did you do? I began full time at Bethany South (later renamed Whitewater Church). I saw I needed to remap our approach, shifting from trying to attract people to the church to getting out of the church and into the community. I wanted a Sunday service, but first I wanted to make disciples in the community. That meant we had to build friendships and lead people to the Lord. I began training people to engage others far from Christ. We held block parties, the first drawing about 150 people who never would have attended our service. Through those friendships we attracted people who were Christian around the edges and understood modern culture. After a year I wanted to see more conversions. Through my dad’s influence I realized if I didn’t lead people to Christ, no one in my church would. Beginning in 2009 and in the next 18 months, I led 50 to 60 people to Christ — Mormons, Muslims, Native Americans, atheists, disillusioned seekers and lots of ragamuffins — all with whom our community already was spending time. It was crazy. What did you personally have to change to shift into that mode? I had to trust the gifts God has given me: relating with people, conversations that help them think deeper, evangelism. I learned my time spent in the community is well worth it, so we’re not doing a lot of church programs. Instead, we teach people to hang out with those far from Christ and incorporate them into a community group where they experience life transformation. We now have six groups of 30 to 40 people that serve in multiple ways, such as providing community movie nights and holding fun events where relationships are catalyzed. WC Easter Egg Hunts can draw 300 to 400 people. What are you learning about becoming a missional community? First, “missional” is not a bumper sticker tag for our programs. We learned we must train people to be missional, building relationships with neighbors and others they’re not as comfortable with. We must listen and respond to real needs. Second, we learned to equip our leaders with the power of the gospel. Training them to create places where people belong before they believe doesn’t require a lot of funding or frills. It does require a process and some practice. Third, we want disciples who can make disciples, so we teach evangelism, not just have the pastor do it. Sometimes churches skip this process, but it is essential for true multiplication. John and Lauren Kelley are planting out of Whitewater. During their apprenticeship with us, they started leading people to Christ in their apartment complex, including the manager. Now those disciples are part of their missional community. It has been such a joy serving as a team alongside so many friends. We are seeing generations of discipleship. Several of us were involved in leading Samantha and her husband Ty to the Lord through a block party. This couple then helped lead Jason to the Lord, and he helped lead his friend to the Lord. Now she is helping lead another friend to the Lord. That’s four generations of discipleship. And Samantha and Ty have known the Lord for only a year and a half. My friend Rick told me: “I didn’t know this is what I was signing up for… but I couldn’t live any other way now.”
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George Bedlion III and his wife Sarah are planting Whitewater Church, Puyallup, Wash.
Whitewater Churchâ€™s strategy has resulted in numerous life transformations. Read a few of their stories at cvrg.us/fall 2013. fall 2013
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Am I a church planter?
Becoming less to become more AN INTERVIEW WITH KIM SWENSON
Pastor Kim Swenson came to Bethany Baptist Church, Schofield, Wis., in July 1999, when BBC was seeking to break the 200 attendance barrier and pay off nearly $500,000 in debt. Today BBC has more than reached its attendance goal, paid its debt and delivered $150,000 to help build a sister-church in Sumy, Ukraine. BBC also was instrumental in starting four neighboring Converge churches. This dramatic impact raised a few questions. You didn’t come to Bethany with a plan to plant churches and become a LEAD Team coach. How did that come about? Bethany owned 40 acres and had sold 36.5 before I arrived to pay down the mortgage to just under $500,000. I asked, “What were you thinking?” The leaders said, “We’re not interested in growing a large church. When we reach 250 attendees, we’re going to plant another church.” The vision set before I arrived has come to fruition. People now share an identity that says: What do we do here? One exciting thing is we plant new churches. Earlier, when I served at First Baptist Church, Roseau, Minn., I helped plant a Converge church in Warroad, Minn. I gravitate toward a new adventure, uncharted territory. I’m strategic by gifting. How did you erase the debt? Our goal was to change a line in our budget from “mortgage” to “missions.” Through a Mortgage to Missions challenge, we paid off the debt in about three and a half years. Over the past seven to eight years we’ve been investing the former mortgage payment into missions, partly for church planting. So your church of 240 planted four churches in six years? We planted New Day Christian Church, Weston (2006), and Grace Deaf Church (2008), which still meets in our building. The latter grew from our ministry to the deaf, and we were instrumental in helping them call and support a deaf pastor. Next we planted Journey Church, Merrill (2011), and Downtown Missions Church, Milwaukee (2012). When I say we, it’s not just Bethany but a cooperative effort of LEAD Team churches. How did God bring you to this outward-mindedness? I think every pastor has the desire to build his church, because it’s the one he works in. You have to surrender, to say, “It’s not about building my church. It’s about building the Church.” And then you step out in faith and do that. You have to give up something of your ego and self. For me it’s exciting to realize the Church is expanding much more quickly than if I had tried to contain it within our building. Giving up people and resources to establish new works took a step of faith. What has this cost your church? A group of people left to help plant New Day Church, knocking us to below 200 attendees. The Grace Deaf Church plant dropped us to 175. My associate pastor and the church chairman and his family left to start Journey Church, reducing us to 150 to 160 people. Then about a dozen families pursued youth ministry elsewhere, bringing us to about 120 people. I wondered if the church would die. It dwindled to a few more than 100 attendees, with only six kids younger than age 8. The hardest thing was seeing people leave. We did a re-visioning emphasis to become more outreach-oriented. God stepped in, and over the past 18 months we’ve grown to 175 to 180 attendees, with about 40 kids under age 8. And we’re over budget in giving. God faithfully honors churches that plant churches. What’s ahead for the Central Wisconsin LEAD Team? Dan Mandigo hopes to launch The Edge Church for the heavy metal rocker crowd in Wausau next spring. The LEAD Team wants to plant a Hmong church in the Wausau area. The Plover area is also on our radar screen, and we’re talking with other potential church planters. Internationally, Bethany and Good News Church (Mosinee) are partnering to start The Pinnacle Church in the Philippines. In the end we are here to partner with God, so what’s next is really up to him. Kim Swenson is pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, Schofield, Wis. He is married to Vicki.
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LEADERSHIP BY JOEL JOHNSON
Ours was a “honeymoon” church plant
with great joy, growth and unity. However, 10 years after the launch, I experienced the loneliness of leadership and all the pain that accompanies it during my “season of discontent.” I was disillusioned by church members who once demonstrated love and loyalty, but were now expressing distrust and opposition. To my surprise, others joined them. Even people who were not directly involved seemed to keep me at a distance. Speaking to people about the fuller picture of the boiler-room dynamics could escalate the conflict, or hurt the reputation of people involved — many of whom were friends I loved and had journeyed with in ministry for years. My words could also be misunderstood and appear self-serving. I just needed to take the hits. I remained silent. The fallout left me personally exhausted and deeply hurt. I needed hope and a fresh leadership perspective in order to move myself and our key church leaders forward. Hope came from my wife Keri. The crisis enriched our marriage. Hope also came from the Lord one sleepless night at 3 a.m.
In Psalm 52, David is pressed in from every side: exhausted, angry, lonely and frustrated. He’s on a roll in his complaints about his life and circumstances. I could identify. Suddenly, his mood changes. A realization sweeps over David’s ailing soul, and he says, “But I am like an olive tree
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flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever…. I will hope in your name, for your name is good.” The words “I will hope in your name, for your name is good” jumped off the page. My soul was awakened by them. His name is always good, even when hard things are happening around me. I resolved to keep his name before me. My strength was renewed that very moment. Hope was rising. The fallout from this season also required fresh leadership. I found a compass to navigate this season through Paul’s words: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.... For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and selfdiscipline” (2 Tim. 1:6-7). I embraced the call of God’s Spirit to “fan into flame” the gifts he gave me, with humility, bold love and careful discipline.
Lessons Learned William Isaacs’ book Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together inspired the disciplines I utilized. It has transformed my understanding of meetings, counseling and leadership through crisis. Restore the art of thinking together. We often interact with relatively preset points of view. I have my side filled with my personal views and others have their side filled with their views. Each side can be a wall. Success means demonstrating humility and courage to go beyond “my wall” and over “their wall” into their world to gain understanding. Loneliness and isolation can be overcome through meaningful connection. The result of this intentional engagement of people and their ideas, feelings and convictions is dialogue that makes people feel heard and understood. Morale improves. Unity can be achieved. Hope rises. Creativity gets released. Engagement happens. Reality gets defined and right solutions get proposed. The building blocks that produce dialogue are listening, respecting, suspending and voicing.
LISTENING is the act of generously making space for what someone has to
say and to do so without resistance. Typically, we listen to our own axes grinding and to the thoughts in our head, not to what is being said. James instructs us to “...let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger...” (James 1:19-20, ESV). To listen means seeking to understand rather than to be understood. A fountain of wisdom began to flow as I stilled my inner resistance and opened myself to different viewpoints. Listening well disarmed the anger and isolation.
has to do with honoring others’ dignity and respecting their right to “be” and the legitimacy of their way of being. The apostle Paul urged the church in Rome to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10, RSV). Empathetic listening allowed me to show respect and honor, even if we couldn’t agree.
SUSPENDING means letting go of our belief we are right so that we gain
perspective. Suspension means putting our temptation to fix, correct or problem-solve on hold. A great deal of creativity can arise if we observe and acknowledge our thoughts and feelings as they arise, without thinking we have to act on them. We inquire into the problem itself. The apostle Paul urges the church in Philippi to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3-4). Loosening my grip on what I believed to be right allowed me to gain insight before recalibrating a new plan of action.
See more at cvrg.us/1ae1Hhn. Order from harvestbooks.org. Or call 800.323.3885.
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has to do with speaking with our genuine voice. Often we get up courage, walk into a conversation prepared to tell it like it is, and instead of a roar, out of our mouths comes a squeak. It takes practice, effort and courage to bring our genuine voice into a conversation. James tells us to be “slow to speak.” As I stepped back, thought about what I wanted to say and asked the “why?” behind the words, it opened the gates of dialogue. I also encouraged others, saying it was safe to put words to their feelings. It was necessary if we were to move into the future. Over time, healing happened for everyone. Joel Johnson is senior pastor, Westwood Community Church, Excelsior, Minn.
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Through November 1, 2013, the Fund is offering a $250 incentive for any transfer and/or rollover into an IRA exceeding $50,000. The offer and sale of certificates is limited to persons who are, prior to receipt of the Offering Circular, members of, contributors to, participants in or affiliates of Converge Worldwide (BGC) including any program, activity or organization which constitutes a part of Converge Worldwide (BGC), its district conferences, or its member churches or other persons who are beneficiaries or successors in interest to such persons (“Investors”). This shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any state in which such an offer, solicitation or sale is not authorized. The offering is made solely by the OFFERING CIRCULAR. The offering involves certain risks, which are more fully disclosed in the Offering Circular under the heading “Risk Factors.” These investments are not FDIC or SIPC insured. In the event the Fund exercises its right to redeem a Certificate prior to maturity and upon 60 days notice to the holder thereof, payment of the outstanding principal and interest will be made to the holder to the date of redemption, rather than to the Certificate’s maturity date.
To learn more about the Cornerstone Fund
visit: cornerstonetoday.org email: email@example.com call : 877.228.8810 fall 2013
| point 17
Coming to The Well
It took a women’s softball team, backyard cookout, biker’s coma, answered prayer, redemptive conversations and people living out Christ’s love to open this 35-year-old’s heart to the gospel. BY JESSE BIBBEE
I grew up in a holiness church. As a teenager I began to question what I believed and to rebel against legalism and church politics. I enrolled in our denomination’s university and found it structured by rules. You had to be in bed at a certain time, couldn’t have girls in your room or be around them, let alone drink beer.
I ran in the opposite direction — partying and living for myself, clinging to the only thing I felt I could trust. I wanted no part of church. After a few years I couldn’t afford tuition. On top of that, my lifestyle and personality weren’t jiving with the school’s conduct code. So I left and rebelled against everything. From age 21 it was game on for me.
First Church of NFL Sunday In October Sarah and I will be married nine years. She was raised Irish Catholic and confirmed but did her own thing. She’s the office manager of a printing company. A few years ago Sarah began playing softball with girls from work. Some urged her, “Come
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check out Journey Church” (a Jacksonville, Fla., Converge church plant started in 2007 by Vic and Roxane Cuccia). Sarah did and made good friendships with genuine people. I saw Sarah change as she attended Journey: more patience, understanding, love and joy. She was processing things. She kept inviting me to attend, saying it wasn’t like “church.” I said, “That’s your thing. It’s not me.” I was big on going to the Jacksonville Jaguar games on Sundays. That was my church, and I regularly said so.
Cookout and a coma One day pastor Cuccia invited us to his house for a cookout with some Journey families. And I started meeting people. When I finally went to Journey, a guy said, “Hey, how you doing? My name’s Tone. Let’s get together for coffee. I’d like to know where you are in your journey.” I thought, Who is this guy? I’m not on a journey. I’m just here with my wife. I blew him off completely. It was my first contact with Tone Benedict, then Journey’s church planting intern. Last September Tone began The Well Church by holding Saturday night cookouts in his backyard. I attended because I’m all about a good cookout. Sarah and I hung out with Tone and his wife Missy. In our conversations I saw they were genuine. Interested. We kept coming to The Well. One night Sarah and I were among the last people there, helping clean up. Suddenly Tone asked, “Where are you?” “I really don’t know.” I didn’t think about God a lot. I believed in a distant, uninvolved creator. I figured I had enough to go on. But Tone and I and some other guys started having conversations, and I began thinking about God stuff. Then in October my good friend Wink became very sick with a massive blood infection. His roommate called me, shaken, and said, “Man, he’s in the hospital, and I don’t know if he’s going to make it.”
At the hospital I found Wink in a doctor-induced coma to save his life. Antibiotics had shut down his kidneys. Wink’s a big dude, a biker with lots of tough-guy friends. One guy said, “Bibbee, I’m not a religious man, but you are. You gotta pray for him.” “I’m not religious,” I replied. But he insisted I pray. As I cried out to God with tear-filled eyes, I saw this big tattooed guy crying too. Stuff started happening only God could do. Wink came around. It was a whirlwind week. I ran back and forth from work to the hospital and had long talks with Tone about the reality of God, who Jesus is, the power of grace and God’s love. God revealed himself to me in a very real way. He answered my prayers. I began reading the Book of John. In verse 6:30 the crowd asks Jesus, “What [miraculous] sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?” It was as if an audible voice said to me, “Will that do?” Wink recovered. I got it.
Genuine people, God-sized impact Afterward, every song or sermon cut me like a knife, revealing what was inside. I felt the Spirit of God changing me and filling me with joy I hadn’t known my whole life. It’s so fresh. Everything’s brand-new. I wanted to know this Jesus better, so I started a Bible study at my house. I would invite guys, build a fire and encourage them to bring beer. We would talk about things in the Bible. Later we studied Ephesians and 1 Peter. The study ran its course, but through it people began attending The Well — most hadn’t even come to the study but were interested in what was happening. First were friends from a band I play in. Then Wink brought former stripper friends from the Solid Gold Club. During one service there were 20 or 30 people I had known before The Well. I thought, How did this come about? It was by grace. Sarah made great connections with Gateway Rehab Center, where she met with women for coffee and just loved on them. On Easter she was baptized at The Well. Now I feel called to a new trajectory of serving God. I’m helping at The Well, going deeper into the Word and waiting to see where God leads. Tone’s genuineness brought me to this — and tied other people into it. He’s an awesome mentor and friend. Like family. Jessie Bibbee is parts manager of Cycles of Jacksonville, Fla., and attends The Well Church, a new Converge Southeast church plant. fall 2013
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by chopper and 4WD
O BY IVAN AND SUSAN VELDHUIZEN
On a whirlwind trip in April, we spent seven
days with our 10 Converge missionaries in Cameroon. We visited all our sites, thanks to Cameroon field coordinator Doug and Stephanie Lewis, who planned our trip and arranged helicopter transportation to three remote locations. What an incredible experience and an amazing team. We are blessed to have these quality individuals in such strategic roles, using their spiritual gifts. They help us accomplish our mission of multiplication, transformation and building up Christ-followers to lead his church. We admire them, thank them and applaud them. Here are a few trip snapshots:
On Tuesday evening the Lewises greeted us at the Yaounde airport. Then at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday Wycliffe pilot Eric Wolfe flew us to Takui, a rural area among the Fulani people, mostly Muslim cattlemen. Here we visited the Lewises’ veterinary hospital and church plant ministries. Doug treats the Fulani’s livestock (4400 cattle in 2012) and trains the cattlemen in best practices, helping them raise good herds and earn decent incomes. He also mentors two pastors of a small, humble church in Takui and disciples new Fulani believers. Only about 100 Fulani are known Christ-followers. Stephanie leads weekly women’s Bible studies, attended by many unbelievers, and is field treasurer. It was fun to see the many relationships the Lewises have built and the warm acceptance people show them. On the last day of our trip, the Lewises took us to Yaounde to tour Rain Forest International School, a Christian secondary school where they served for a year as hostel parents.
On Sunday afternoon I (Susan) went with Ellen and Thom Schotanus and Stephanie Lewis to visit a Fulani family. A student Ellen had taught had given birth recently, and the Schotanuses were bringing their gift: a water filtration system because contaminated water had made a family member very ill. To reach her mountain home we traveled in Thom and Ellen’s Toyota 4WD pickup. It seemed we drove on boulders more than on the road — so rocky we flew around in the truck. When the vehicle could go no higher, we climbed the rest of the way. The family invited us into their modest home, a dark one-room clay hut with two beds. They all were so welcoming and were thrilled to get the water filtration system. We usually don’t think of general contractors as missionaries, but Thom has applied his expertise, skills and ingenious ability to find solutions to help Mingo Baptist Hospital become a major health care factor in Cameroon — a wonderful light for the glory of Christ. He supervises 200 to 250 construction and maintenance workers on the hospital compound and leads projects to provide clean water and reliable electricity. Ellen started a primary school 10 years ago and at present is the reading teacher for 50 kids in grades three through six, besides managing the school library. She also teaches five secondary school classes and tutors two adults and 12 to 13 kids. Thom and Ellen are loving people, greeted by all with hugs, hearty handshakes and high fives.
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Cameroon personnel needs Doctors: specialists, also general surgeon for Banyo Hostel parents: RFIS in Yaounde Secondary school teachers: RFIS Director of education for a Life Abundant Program: training village health workers Teacher for vocational school Seminary teachers Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 407.563.6086.
BANYO, CAMEROON Wolfe helicoptered me (Ivan) to Banyo, where two amazing Converge missionar-
ies, Dr. Jim Smith (75) and his wife Ina, serve. They represent Christ so well. Twelve years ago, after Jim retired from a medical practice in the States, they decided to give two years to missions in Cameroon. When they arrived in Banyo, the ministry was a bush clinic. Under his leadership it has become a full-fledged hospital. The Smiths absolutely love what they’re doing. They are rare and godly people, totally sold out to serving the suffering people of Cameroon and honoring Jesus. Like the Lewises, they are surrounded by Muslims. When patients come to the hospital, they receive medical care, along with a gospel witness, follow-up and much prayer. The property also houses a Christian radio station, led by a former Muslim. I asked Jim, “How long do you plan to keep this up?” He said, “If the Lord gives us health and strength, 10 to 12 more years.”
MBINGO, CAMEROON We were so impressed by the Mbingo Baptist Hospital compound. Started some 60
years ago as a leper colony, it has grown into the Mayo Clinic of Cameroon. People come from across the country for health care and for surgeries by Dr. Steve Sparks. Late on Sunday Steve invited us to watch an operation on a 2-day-old girl born at 31 weeks. After birth, her abdomen had swelled, and without emergency surgery Steve knew she would be dead in a day. We put on scrubs and prayed. The surgical team, led by Steve (above), discovered that half of her stomach was dead. They cut away the dead part, reconstructed the stomach and reattached it to the esophagus. Sadly, she died two days later. Losses are heartaches surgeons face daily, doing their best to save lives. Steve mentors resident practitioners from Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Zambia. The hospital performed 5000 surgeries last year and is remodeling to maintain 10 operating theaters. Suzanne manages a hospital guest house and homeschools Joey, the Sparks’ 10-year-old. Tim and Amy Moline serve at Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary in Ndu, helping raise a new generation of well-taught and Spirit-filled pastors to start and strengthen churches in Cameroon. Christianity there is hampered by religiosity and syncretism (combining religions). Vibrant, healthy, godly pastors well-versed in the Scriptures are needed. Tim serves under Cameroonian leadership, teaching New Testament, counseling and practical pastoral courses. The seminary president and vice president could not say enough wonderful things about Tim and Amy and their contributions to and leadership in the seminary. We are so proud of them.
Wilondja and Shirley Masongezi will soon join the Cameroon team, planting churches through evangelism and discipleship. Ivan Veldhuizen is executive director of Converge International Ministries and married to Susan. fall 2013
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NUMBERS Converge churches using social media
Social media have become an essential part of how we communicate. Itâ€™s no surprise churches struggle to become part of the digital conversation. Read more about these key findings from a late-2012 survey of Converge churches and their implications at cvrg.us/fall2013.
Reported by Peggy Kendall, Bethel University professor of communication studies
senior pastors regularly use a
Date a Converge delegation signed a Ministry Covenant in Riga, Latvia, with the Latvian Baptist Union and the Baltic Pastoral Institute to collaborate in expanding Latvian church planting and developing leaders.
personal Facebook page
15% churches have a social media platform
53% churches maintain a regular blog
Amount Converge World Relief sent to Moore and Shawnee, Okla., to assist families affected by tornadoes in mid-May. Funds went to Christ in Action, Texas Baptist Men and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. MAJ. GEOFF LEGLER , OKLAHOMA NATIONAL GUARD
298 Average worship attendance in Converge churches, although 68 percent have fewer than 200 attendees.
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churches have a Facebook page
designed especially for the church The Table Project
MORE ONLINE... New books from Converge authors Read online summaries of A History of Dartmouth Bible Church: The First Fifty Years, by Neil C. Damgaard, and Last Words: Make Disciples!, by James Devine: cvrg.us/fall2013.
churches use Twitter
The Shevelands visit European teams President Jerry Sheveland and his wife Dee visited Europe the first two weeks of July, meeting with many Converge personnel who minister there. July 2-5 they met with Converge’s four-member Spain team. They then participated in the International Baptist Convention’s Summer Experience 2013 conference in Switzerland. There Jerry taught a model of discipleship based on his and Dee’s Come & Follow Bible study. Finally, they traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, to visit church planters Bob and Carol Marsh and Converge International Fellowship, the Englishspeaking church the Marshes are planting.
Virgil Olson with the Lord Virgil A. Olson, 96, died June 4. He pastored Dalton Baptist Church, Muskegon, Mich., and while serving there married Carolyn Nelson in May 1942. They then pastored Emerald Avenue Baptist Church, Chicago, before he became registrar and professor of missions and Christian history at Bethel Seminary (1951-1968). He then served as vice president and dean of Bethel College (1968-1975) and later as executive secretary of BGC World Missions (1975-1981). Carolyn died in February 2002, and Virgil married former missionary to China Alma Bjork in May 2004.
Help map Unreached People Groups in your city USA People Groups, a collaborative fellowship, launched a data-gathering project to collect and distribute vital information about unreached people groups within the States. Individuals who enjoy interacting with people from other cultures, exploring new city areas and making new friends please contact Converge project coordinator John Baxter. Call 407.563.6091, or email email@example.com. Also visit USAPeople Groups.com.
Connecticut church given $5 million property This spring a local couple gave 11-year-old Valley Brook Community Church, Granby, Conn., an 85-acre estate (pictured below) valued at $5 million, including a 30,000-sq.-ft. equestrian center and 3000-sq.ft. home. Plans call for creating a worship center and gymnasium in the arena and converting the stable into classrooms, nursery, bathrooms and a kitchen. VBCC founding pastor Clark Pfaff said, “For 13 years we met in schools. In May 2012 we began to pray for a God-sized gift so that we could build our ministry home. When their therapeutic riding center program ended, the couple contacted us to see if VBCC was interested in the property.”
Who leads Converge Great Lakes?
Drs. Dwight and Cynthia Perry serve Converge Great Lakes district, which includes Wisconsin and Northern Michigan. Dwight has served as executive minister since October 2004. He wakes each day to the passion of seeing church leaders built up, equipped, encouraged and resourced for the kingdom — especially in the AfricanAmerican community. The Perrys met as students at the University of Illinois-Champaign and married in 1979. They have four children, all living in the Madison, Wis., or Chicagoland areas. Dwight came to know Christ as Savior in 1973 through the Navigators. Cynthia received Christ as a child but rededicated her life to him through the Navigators in 1974. Dwight enjoys coaching football, time with family and watching a good action show such as 24. Cynthia enjoys studying God’s Word and proclaiming it in as many settings as the Lord allows. She is a “Zumba fanatic.” Both enjoy long walks and reading books they discuss on their weekly date nights. The Perrys ask us to pray God would continue to use them as broken, dependent vessels for his glory, especially in encouraging and equipping pastors and ministry leaders for kingdom purposes. Pray CGL churches will be strengthened and new churches started to the glory of God. By Donna Fagerstrom, staff writer
| point 23
Attend our annual conferences to start and strengthen churches
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Join us at Transform Network Gatherings 2014, where youâ€™ll nd opportunities to CONNECT with other leaders in similar situations that we know will IGNITE new ideas and strategic thinking to TRANSFORM your ministry.
NXT is the theme of Ignite 2014, the Converge event that brings together hundreds of church planting leaders to share the best church planting practices of our movement. NXT will challenge us to think about those who will come after us, the next generation of church planters.
This is one event with separate network breakouts for pastors and leaders throughout Converge. Enjoy peerpa to-peer discussions, participant-set agendas and interactive facilitation by experienced pastors and leaders.
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Consider investing in and bringing to Ignite 2014 the next generation of church planters by purchasing registrations for one, two or three people you are (or should be) coaching toward church planting. Register now.
Published on Sep 5, 2013