REPORT OF CHURCH EXTENSION DIRECTOR TO THE
102ND ANNUAL CONFERENCE, OCTOBER, 1985
Daniel G. Ziegler
The way of a fool seems right to him,
but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 12:15 (NIV)
Without consultation, plans are frustrated,
But with many counselors they succeed.
Proverbs 15:22 (NASB)
For waging war you need guidance,
and for victory many advisers.
Proverbs 24:6 (NIV)
Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
So a man's counsel is sweet to his friend.
Proverbs 27:9 (NASB)
This annual report of the state of the Church Extension Department, my seventeenth, comes at a point of transition from one goal period to another - the ten year "Design for Enlargement" period comes to a close as the portals open on the fifteen year WIDER HORIZONS era, which will come to a conclusion, should the Lord Jesus tarry, on December 31, 2000.
The Bible Fellowship Church, like a number of other evangelical denominations has been growing in recent years. We, as many others, have been planting new churches. In doing so, we have used many of the same methods as the others. We have learned from them in some areas. But in one respect our church planting methodology is different from all of the others - our emphasis on and firm commitment to the Church planting team. We will not send forth isolated church planting pastors into new territory; we are absolutely committed to teams as means of extending the Church.
When the Holy Spirit called into being the first intentional church planting ministry, Acts 13:1-4, He said, to the gathered leaders of the Antioch church, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them" (v.2). He created the church planting team.
The policy of sending teams to take the Good News into new territory had already been established by the Lord Jesus when Mark tells us, He sent the Twelve out on their first evangelistic tours "two by two" (Mark 6:7). In a parallel narrative, Matthew names the Twelve and clearly lists them in pairs (Matthew 10:2-4), just as the Lord grouped them. In Acts 1:13,14 Luke lists the Eleven also, except for Judas (Thaddaeus), clearly in pairs, only now between the Ascension and Pentecost, all of the pairs are different from the early grouping.
When Jesus sent the larger group of seventy-two (or seventy) disciples on their first evangelistic tour He also sent the "two by two" (Luke 10:1)
The reasons for sending evangelists into new territory in teams are spelled out in Ecclesiastes 4:8-12. In contrast to "a man all alone" (v.8), which he calls "meaningless - a miserable business", the Preacher says, "Two are better than one" (v.9) and, in effect, three are better than two (v.12). Why? Because,
1. Together the co-laborers can produce a greater return for their work than they can alone (v.9).
2. A colleague can help up (restore) his partner if he falls (v.10).
3. Co-workers can keep each other warm. "But how can one keep warm alone"? (v.11).
4. Fellow-soldiers standing together can defend themselves when they are attached; alone they "may be overpowered" (v.12).
Paul and Barnabas knew the text from Ecclesiastes 4. They knew of the precedent set by their Lord. They knew how pointedly the Spirit had directed them to go as a team. And they had come to appreciate the value of the team as they engaged in the hard work of church planting evangelism out on the frontier of the Gospel. So when they agreed to part company and go in different directions, it should not surprise us that each formed a new team - "Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus" (Acts 15:40) and "Paul chose Silas and...went through Syria and Cilicia..." (vv.40,41).
Soon Timothy was added to the Paul-Silas Church Planting Team (Acts 16:1-5). Later in the tour, when trouble arose at Berea and Paul's life was threatened, he went ahead to Athens while his partners continued the work in Berea. Distressed by the idolatry of that great and historic city, Paul preached and reasoned in the synagogue, at the marketplace and even in the learned society called the Areopagus. He was alone in his labor, "a miserable business!", and while a few individuals became believers (Acts 17:34), the New Testament does not even contain a hint that a church was formed in the great cultural center of the Greek World.
Still without his teammates, Paul went on to Corinth. "Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue trying to persuade Jews and Greeks" (Acts 18:4). The text gives no indication that there was any response. But, "when Silas and Timothy came from Macdeonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching...(and) Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized" (vv.5-8). Assured by the Lord that "I have many people in this city"(v.10), the team brought to formation a great church.
In a letter to that Corinthian church, Paul makes a surprising disclosure. He had gone to Troas with one purpose in mind, "to preach the gospel of Christ" (II Corinthians 2:12). When he arrived he discovered that "the Lord had opened a door for me". Knowing what we do about the apostle -- how he welcomed an open door for the Gospel (I Corinthians 16:8) and how he urged his friends to pray "that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel" (Ephesians 6:19) and "that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ..." (Colossians 4:3) and "pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored" (II Thessalonians 3:1) - we may be surprised that Paul walked away from that open door in Troas. Why? "I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-bye to them and went on to Macedonia" (II Corinthians 2:13). He had learned not to try to plant a church without a teammate.
To disregard and fly in the face of this weight of biblical evidence would be foolish for us and dangerous for the men whom we call to be church planters. We dare not do it. We must take the Gospel and plant new churches in new territory only by means of teams.
Church planting teams may be formed in a number of ways:
1. A nucleus of believers hive off from an established church or churches to form a daughter church.
2. A group of believers in a community come to the Church Extension Department and ask for help to form a church.
3. One or more "Aquila and Priscilla" (lay) couples form a team together with one or more organizing pastors.
4. Two or more church planting pastors form a team to plant one church.
The way this has usually happened in our experience is by a team of two or more organizing pastors being called to plant two or more new churches in target areas that are close enough to each other for the teammates to meet and work together on a regular, frequent basis.
Presently in the Department we have five teams functioning. The oldest of these is the Delaware Team, which has been meeting since 1976. Its purpose now is for prayer, fellowship and mutual encouragement. It meets every 4-6 weeks, except during summer. The team consists of Pastors James G. Koch, Camden, and William G.Schlonecker and Arthur J. Frisbie, Newark, DE and their wives together with the Raymond and Mary Dotts and Russell and Eleanor Ruch Aquila-Priscilla teams and the Church Extension Director and his wife. At times Pastor and Mrs. Roger L. Reitz, Philadelphia, and Pastors Richard E. Taylor and W. Neil Harding and their wives, Wallingford, participate. Meetings generally alternate between the two Delaware locations. After dinner out, the group returns to a home for a time of Scripture, pointed prayer and fellowship.
Each of the teams takes on its own personality and way of working. The Mid-Hudson Team, which has been meeting since 1977, presently includes James A. Wickstead, Poughquag; Dean A. Stortz, New Fairfield; Robert S. Commerford, Whaley Lake; Byron Widger, Wappingers Falls and the Director. The team meets during the day at about 2-3 week intervals. The meeting, which rotates among the four Mid-Hudson parsonages, includes a time of Scripture study, an intensive and detailed sharing and prayer time, discussion of a chapter of a key book on church planting and a business meeting. The latter is necessary because the team serves as a
Surrogate Board of Elders for the Wappingers and Whaley missions and because the team plans a number of joint activities by the four congregations such as Christmas Eve service, Easter season cantata, picnics, baptisms, visits to the area by missionaries and musical groups and two annual pulpit exchange Sundays. Luncheon at the host home provides a break in the meeting.
The Mid-Hudson Team conducted on-the-field "soil test" surveys in a spiritually needy community that is, as far as we know, without an evangelical church and plans another soon. In addition to sharing the Gospel, the purpose of such surveys is to spot reasonable and responsive potential target areas for future new church attempts.
The Mid-Hudson congregations are located in an area of strong charismatic influence but lesser presence and influence of more conventional evangelicalism. Out of concern for effectiveness in ministering to people who have been affected by this Charismatic influence, the Mid-Hudson Team sponsored a Seminar on Ministry to Charismatics on April 9 at Emmaus. Some 40 men attended the seminar.
The Greater Newark Church Planting Team serves as a Surrogate Board of Elders for four New Jersey missions and is made up of their pastors, Delbert R. Baker II, Newark; Ronald C. Erb, Irvington; Dennis W. Spinney, Hillside and Daniel G. Ziegler, Interim Pastor at Edison. It is presently meeting on an evening approximately every three weeks. In-depth Bible studies in I Corinthians with rotating leadership are followed by a detailed prayer time and then the business. As in each of the teams that conduct business and serve as surrogate elders, careful minutes are kept.
A Northampton-Berks Counties Team of Pastors Randall A. Grossman, Kutztown; David W. Chappell, Walnutport and the Director meets somewhat less often and more informally for prayer, mutual encouragement and evaluation.
Our newest team, located in the Atlantic City area, is the Project Beachhead Team. After gathering a Launching Fund, we have waited for a number of years for the Lord to bring together a team. Harold C. Weaber and Roger L. Reitz will begin full-time ministry on January 1, 1986, in the shore area to plant two new congregations there. They have begun on a regular basis to meet with the Director to study the area to recommend specific target communities and to formulate plans, strategies and goals for their church planting work.
In practice these teams prove to be what Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 describes. Genuine understanding and trust are built. A real openness develops. Through sharing and prayer each becomes aware in detail about his colleague's work. There is great freedom for mutual encouragement and counsel. The men really enter into each other's ministries. The biblical model is again blessed of the Lord and proves to be a source of strength in the hard work of church planting evangelism.
My involvement in the teams has kept me close to the men in the Department and "on top" of the progress of each of the works. It is likely, however, that the growth of the Department in the WIDER HORIZONS years ahead will not allow the Director to continue such extensive participation in the teams.
The Department is presently made up of 14 congregations. There are 4 churches (Finesville, NJ; Camden, DE; Poughquag, NY; and New Fairfield, CT), 6 organized missions (Glasgow, DE; Walnutport, PA; Kutztown, PA; Newark, NJ; Edison, NJ and Wappingers Falls, NY), and 4 unorganized missions (Mt Pocono, PA; Irvington, NJ; Eastern Union County, NJ and Whaley Lake, Pawling, NY). Two more unorganized missions will officially begin on January 1, 1986 in Atlantic County, NJ.
This year we rejoice in several solid indicators of success in our work. Two of our organized missions have completed their organization and elected elders. They are presented to the 102nd Annual Conference for recognition as churches and acceptance into its membership - the missions in Glasgow (Newark), DE and Kutztown, PA.
During the 1984-85 year the church at Finesville has fully supported itself. As we enter the new year, the congregations at Camden, DE and Kutztown, PA. have
asked the Board to discontinue their appropriations so that they also may support themselves. The Kutztown work, in having achieved full organization and self-support within 4 1/2 years of a cold start has probably set a record for the Bible Fellowship Church.
Several other of our congregations are making organizational progress and will surely be presented for Conference membership within the next year or two. And several of the works are reducing their appropriation requests and will achieve self-support in the near future. Most of our works have made clear and measurable progress in growth during the year.
One of the great highlights of the year has been the start of the mission at Mt. Pocono, PA. which began as a daughter of Berean Church in Stroudsburg. From a first worship service on December 9, the congregation quickly outgrew its first meeting place, a day care center. In a most remarkable way, the Lord has provided a large, beautiful stone church building which was built in the early years of the twentieth century, had been used for many years as a place for summer worship and was for several years unused. This building, known as "Kirk in the Woods" has been restored and beautified by the Mt. Pocono congregation and is being used by permission of the large bank that is trustee for the building. The congregation continues to grow and develop wholesomely.
One of the deepest disappointments of the year was the closing of the mission in Eastwick, Philadelphia. The congregation had grown to the capacity of the family room in the home of its organizing pastor, Roger L. Reitz. There was no meeting place available to allow for further growth and the requirements for building imposed by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia were virtually wholly beyond the ability of the young congregation. Had there been a larger proportion of responsible adults in the group there might have been a better basis to continue to seek for a meeting place, but as it was, the congregation was made up mostly of children and young teens. Pastor Reitz has succeeded well in incorporating many of the Eastwick constituent families into nearby Emmanuel Church.
Two veteran pastors and leaders of the Bible Fellowship Church have made significant contributions to our work during the year. David J. Watkins gave a year to the demanding pastorate at Edison, NJ. Serving the Edison congregation part-time from a 60-mile distance was difficult, but Brother Watkins ministry at Edison was fruitful in some progress and development. Presently I am serving as interim pastor at Edison.
A.L. Seifert is serving with distinction and great effectiveness as part-time organizing pastor of the Mt. Pocono mission.
Byron Widger, a 1985 graduate of Biblical Theological Seminary and former student assistant pastor at the Graterford Church, has assumed the pastorate of the mission at Wappingers Falls, NY, succeeding Herbert K. Lea, who left during the year for service as a missionary in Central Africa Republic.
On Wednesday, November 21, 1984, a devastating fire destroyed the apartment and virtually all of the belongings of the Ronald C. Erb family in Irvington, NJ. The people of the Lord throughout the brotherhood and beyond reached out to help the homeless family put things together again. Thousands of dollars and many gifts in kind were donated in a tremendous demonstration of love and concern. The Bert Baker family in Newark made room in their home for the Erbs.
After the time of testing and transition was past, the Lord granted some special and remarkable opportunities in Irvington. The work has surged ahead in a heartening way since that time.
The Bible Fellowship Church has its own way of group process for getting its work done. At times this way is somewhat more cumbersome than its alternatives. But it is true to the biblical data on the corporateness of the church and it does build strong and wholesome interpersonal relationships within the brotherhood. Our work has been benefited during the year by the work of several Assessment Committees and Surrogate Boards of Elders in which pastors and elders of several congregations have worked with Board members and Department personnel to move the work ahead. We are grateful for these brethren.
A Policy Committee of the Board has been working hard to rethink and draft Board policy and to bring together a Department handbook toward streamlining the ways of doing our work so as to carry the increased load of the WIDER HORIZONS era. An enlarged Board will help significantly.
During the year the Department has conducted surveys in Atlantic County, NJ, Dutchess County, NY and Berks and Montgomery Counties, PA.
In this transition year we ought to assess our progress in the Design for Enlargement decade and our prospects for the fifteen years projected for WIDER HORIZONS. Some comparisons of three successive ten-year periods may give cause to thank the Lord:
Total Membership Increase % New Church Failed Net New
starts Cong. Cong.
1955-65 4554 - 47 -1% 2 4 -2
1965-75 5111 +559 +12.2% 10 7 +3
1975-85 6235 +1124 +22.0% 16 7 +9
"Design for Enlargement" goals in 1975 were:
1. To start 20 new congregations in ten years
2. To begin at least 2 of those in older urban
3. To enter three new states
Goal #3 was 67% fulfilled as we entered two new states, Connecticut and Delaware. Goal #2 was exceeded in fact doubled as works were begun in Newark, Irvington and Eastern Union County, NJ and Eastwick, Philadelphia, PA.
Since the funding was raised for Project Beachhead between 1978 and the present, and the groundwork was laid in that period, we count the impending two Shore area missions as part of "Design for Enlargement". They bring the total of new church starts in the ten years to 16, four short of the goal of 20 for 80% achievement. We should like to have achieved or surpassed all of the goals. We are grateful to have seen the most fruitful ten years of church planting in Bible Fellowship Church history. We question that that would have been achieved without the focus of goals for our prayers and work.
"Design for Enlargement" was a set of goals adopted by the Board of Church Extension and announced to the denomination. We believe WIDER HORIZONS has greater prospect for achievement because it has been specifically adopted and owned by the churches. The WIDER HORIZONS goals will be achieved only by our best prayers, efforts and programs - on the part of every member and every church.
The churches have asked their Church Extension Department to start 39 new congregations between now and the year 2000. Our first year goal is 2. We are exploring the Boyertown-Gilbertsville, PA. area as a possibility for one of these. We ask for prayer about this and for direction to another target area.
The goal of 16 daughter churches breaks down to an average of 1 for each of the 15 years plus one more in one of those years. The Nazareth church has projected one and has begun a vigorous consideration of the Slate Belt area as the location of its daughter congregation, which could be the first of the 16.
The Board of Church Extension is presenting year-by-year total membership goals to this Annual Conference for adoption or "owning". The proposed goals are graduated in recognition that we need to overcome growth inertia, that it will take time to develop and implement strategies, plans and goals and that we should expect a cumulative or "snowball" effect as we begin to grow and then that growth accelerates.
If the churches would net exactly 6% growth for each of the 15 WIDER HORIZONS years we would surpass our goal of 14,293 members in the year 2000. But while 6% growth is possible in the coming 1985-86 year, it is highly unlikely. Over the past 5 years we have averaged only 1.4% growth per year, and the best of the 5 years was 1981, when we grew 3.4%
The proposed goals begin at 2% per year and graduate to 10% in the last WIDER HORIZON year.
Our own history tells us that 10% growth in a year is by no means impossible. In four turn-of-the century years our forefathers approached or achieved that percentage growth:
From 1974 through 1982 the Bible Fellowship Church averaged 2.9% growth per year. If we can maintain that average over the next five years we shall be right "on target" in 1990.
From 1924 through 1931 we averaged 4.5% growth in membership per year. If we could sustain that average over the next ten years we shall be right on target in 1995.
In the ten years from 1898 through 1908 our forebearers averaged 6.8% growth per year. If we were to sustain that rate of growth for 15 years we should surpass our goal by over 2000 members. The first 15 Yearbooks which were published, 1896-1910 reveal an average growth rate of 6.2%. If we can match that for the next 15 years we shall exceed our goal by 695 souls.
I do not cite these statistics from our history to make the challenge of WIDER HORIZONS seem light. I do cite them to increase our faith and provide some encouragement
It is important for the churches to formulate specific plans, programs and goals for their WIDER HORIZONS growth. Intermediate goals that parallel or exceed the denominational goals "owned" by this Conference need to be set and owned by all of the churches and then faithfully and resolutely pursued.
The specific denominational and local church goals must become the focus of pointed, persistent, prevailing prayer and of our best individual and corporate labors in the Gospel.
Dr. Donald A. McGavran, the father of the Church Growth Movement, has written, "Slight growth - when worked for - is granted. More would be if (Christ's) Church counted...receptive (peoples) as a pearl of great price and..single-mindedly did those things which multiply churches in (them)" (Understanding Church Growth, Revised Edition, 1980, pp.165,166). Dr. McGavran's statement appears to me to be consistent with
the Scriptures as epitomized in statements by our Lord Jesus and His brother, James: "Be it done to you according to your faith" (Matthew 9:29) and "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (James 2:26).
The Bible Fellowship Church has decided together on some long-range goals for growth that we believe will please our Lord. Now will we be committed to pray, to believe, to plan, to work and to evangelize so that these goals will become fulfilled by the year 2000?
Fifty-five new congregations and thousands of new believers presented to Him by a great team of praying, believing, planning, working, evangelizing people, by faith will surely please and glorify our Lord. Let us "go for it"!