Twenty Years of Church Planting
"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
You have made me secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance. "
Daniel G. Ziegler
This is my twentieth report to Annual Conference as Church Extension Director. Two decades in this ministry and office!
King David of Israel became introspective in a poem one day. In it he acknowledged the sovereignty of the Lord God, who had caused David's "boundary lines" to put him in "pleasant places" and to lead to a "delightful inheritance". He reflects on the presence and the goodness of his Lord (Psalm 16:1,2,7,8,11), which calls forth praise from the Psalmist, and on the saints of God, in whom he finds delight (v.3).
The same kinds of thoughts and emotions fill my mind and heart as I reflect on these good years of service to my Lord and my Church. I trust the reader will find in this report some measure of the same praise and delight that King David expressed.
The Year in Review
1987-88 has been a positive and productive year for the Church Extension Department. It started a year ago with reception of Cornerstone Church of Bangor, PA into Annual Conference membership and graduation of Calvary Church, Finesville, NJ from the Department; it ends with two more churches, Camden, DE and Kutztown, PA graduating after having fully supported themselves for three years.
Two other churches have completely supported themselves for the past year, Pocono Mt., PA and Poughquag, NY, and are heading for graduation at the 107th Annual Conference, October, 1990.
The progress and growth of three other congregations has been demonstrated in property matters. The church in Newark, Delaware dedicated its lovely new building on December 6, 1987. Using this base, the congregation continues its vital life and outreach in its strategic location.
In New York State, the church at Wappinger Falls is in process of seeking to purchase land at a central location on a main feeder road on which to construct a meetinghouse. The congregation in Newark, NJ with the help of the Board of Church Extension and the Board of Directors, is seeking to purchase a large existing building in a prime location to provide for a greater constituency and a growing program.
Gateway Church in New Fairfield, CT welcomed a new pastor on September 11. Dean A. Stortz accepted a call from the Board of Church Extension to form a new mission in Ocean County, NJ. John M. Reed replaced Brother Stortz in that Nutmeg State pulpit.
The mission at Holmes, Pawling, NY has gathered together its first ten committed families and received approval to begin formation of its charter membership roll. One of the gauges of the progress of this vibrant young body of believers is that it is increasing its share of the support for its pastor by $4,000.00 in the 1988-89 year. That congregation has chosen to call itself New Life Bible Fellowship Church.
On the Jersey Shore, the mission at Somers Point is known as Lighthouse Bible Fellowship Church. The highlight of the year at Somers Point was a colossal telephone and mass mailing outreach that saturated the area in early spring. Many of the churches sent volunteers to help in the dialing of over 20,000 numbers. Many more offered prayer support and financial backing for this large undertaking -- a pilot project in a new outreach methodology. At a Celebration Sunday on March 20th a large crowd gathered for worship. In the wake of the campaign worship attendance doubled, and results are still coming in. The mission is approaching organization of its membership roll as it now has 8 or 9 committed families on board.
Summer outreach at Somers Point was spurred on by Carol Watson and Jennifer Wilson, who served under our PISCES program as summer missionaries.
In North Jersey, the Edison Mission is undergoing a reorganization under the leadership of Dennis Cahill. A three phase outreach for Edison will include door-to-door survey work, systematic contacting of new families who move into the area and a phone campaign similar to the one at Somers Point, heading for an April Celebration Sunday. Permission has been granted to use one of the Edison public school buildings as a meeting place -- a distinct answer to prayer.
The congregation at Walnutport, PA received a severe blow with the sudden death of Pastor David W. Chappell on July 26. Brother Chappell had served at Walnutport with diligence since 1984. The congregation has been standing together strongly. The Board of Church Extension has begun its search for a successor pastor for the Walnutport mission. David Sng has found open and receptive hearts among Southeast Asian refugees in Philadelphia as he labors to share the Gospel and plant a church among them. His major methodology of outreach has been teaching English and tutoring young people. An informal Lord's Day worship service was begun in early summer in a home. Attendance has averaged 15 - 16, with keen response on the part of David's students and some of their family members.
A new mission in Pleasant Valley, Dutchess County, New York has begun as a daughter congregation of Valley Church in Poughquag, overseen by the Poughquag elders. David Way, one of the elders, has been serving bivocationally as interim organizing pastor. He has been accepted as a candidate under care of the Ministerial Candidate Committee. Worship began at Pleasant Valley in April and is presently running in the thirties and forties in attendance.
We have formed a new church planting team during the year in New England. Dennis Spinney and Christopher Morrison have accepted calls to serve bivocationally in planting two new congregations in the area where Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island abut each other. The first target area is Spencer, Massachusetts, which takes the Bible Fellowship Church into its sixth state. Brothers Morrison and Spinney will labor together in Spencer for at least one year before starting in the second location which has yet to be selected. In order to free them for twenty hours per week of ministry, both men are in need of new designated support.
Dean Stortz is our newest church planter. On September 15, the Stortz family moved into a newly purchased parsonage at 800 First Avenue, Manchester, Ocean County, New Jersey. The target area contains a large number of senior adults -- nearly one-fourth of the residents of Ocean County are 65 and over and more than 55% of the people in Manchester are in that rapidly growing segment of the population. In Ocean County there are at least 30-40 residential developments of various types restricted to seniors. Brother Stortz will target these older people in his ministry of church planting evangelism. In it, he will enjoy the fellowship of nearby Community Church in Howell, with Pastor John Vandegriff serving as his teammate for prayer, strategy and encouragement. Toward Brother Stortz' support, the Board of Church Extension has budgeted over $15,000 for housing in that high cost area. He will serve bivocationally. We hope to provide a half-time salary package, which must be received in designated giving in order to be available for disbursement.
1987-88 is only the fourth time in the 130 year history of the Bible Fellowship Church that four new missions have been opened in one year. The others were 1910, 1894, and 1890. That number has never been exceeded. Of the 10 different years in which 3 or more new congregations have been started, 4 have occurred from 1970 through 1988.
During the year, the churches increased their support for extending the Church by $20,407.20, or 15.6% over last year. We thank the Lord for this increased provision to move the work ahead.
One of the highlights of the year was the Second Annual Day of Prayer and Fasting, sponsored by our Mid-Hudson Team and held at the Kirk-in-the-Woods in Mt. Pocono on April 7. Earnest united prayer was offered up to God for the churches, ministries, outreach and world mission program of the denomination.
During 1987-88, "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy" (Psalm 126:3).
A Personal Purview
Permit me some brief reflection on these two decades of directing the Church Extension Department -- especially the years in Plainfield. We have lived in the Queen City for over 16 years. I have lived in the home on Kenyon Avenue longer than at any other house in my life. We have done most of our child raising at that address.
We have observed life in this small city through these years and learned much. We are among the longest residents on our block. We have seen whole families grow up as ours has. While we have been in Plainfield, seven people have died in the seven houses closest to ours -- a reminder that life is brief.
And we have seen God at work in our neighbors' lives. We have been permitted in many ways to bear witness to the Savior. Persons in at least six or seven households within a block of our address and a like number elsewhere in our Community that we know of have come to know Christ, some at least in part through our witness and some, as far as we know, with no impact from us. And we believe we see the Lord at work in others' hearts and lives.
For nearly five years, I have been an aerobic walker. At least three times per week I walk three miles in under 42 minutes. This gets me out into the neighborhood and makes me feel good and invigorated. And I am reminded that if this physical exercise is good for me, spiritual exercise in godliness has far greater value (I Timothy 4:8).
The Plainfields, with nearly 100,000 population, are short on Gospel preaching churches. We pray that they may become the site of one or more Bible Fellowship Churches in the future.
For most of our Plainfield years we have been part of our Newark congregation. It is the only church our two younger children have known. Our brothers and sisters in Newark have stood with us in some of life's saddest and happiest moments and they have become very dear to us.
The summer of 1988 has contributed two special experiences to my life. It was my privilege to fill a brief interim as preacher for our Denville church and it proved to be a rich and delightful enjoyment to serve with God's dear people in Denville.
Our family of four traveled by auto across the U.S.A. and back, passing through 21 states on the way. For two weeks in the midst of the trip I was able to take a valuable course in Church Growth and my wife studied at a nearby college in her field of early childhood development. I am most grateful to the Board of Church Extension for granting me study leave and helping me financially in my graduate program and for allowing an extra week of vacation for that delightful and instructive trip.
"For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations" (Psalm 100:5).
An Historical Overview
Twenty years is a good chunk of one's life, a credible segment of history. This anniversary provides a good opportunity to reflect on what the Lord has done. In the midst of the routine of our days and the busyness of our years, we may fail to note what our God has done and, as a result fail to appreciate His gracious working and to give Him the thanks and praise which He should rightly receive.
I wish to reflect on Bible Fellowship Church history as a series of twenty year segments. Ten years are called a decade; I am not aware of a name for twenty years -- perhaps a "duodecade"? Let's call each twenty year segment a score. The 130 years of Bible Fellowship Church history may be divided into six score -- the first, when statistics were sketchy and imprecise, is thirty years (1858-88) and the rest consist of two decades each.
Twenty Years of Growth
The score just closing has been rich with the Lord's blessings on the Bible Fellowship Church. These may be seen in the remarkable growth and upgrading of the various ministries of the denomination. During the score, Pinebrook Bible Conference and Pinebrook Junior College have acquired and developed their fine campuses and growing program. Victory Valley has grown. The vision of a high quality new home for the aging has become a reality in Fellowship Manor. A fine and useful archives has gotten up and going, a Historical Society has been formed, a long needed Stewardship Council has gotten underway and our missions program and number of personnel have mushroomed.
Most or all of these steps of progress could not have happened had not our Church been growing. In fact, in the score our total membership moved from 4460 to 6216, an increase of 1756, or 39.4%. A major factor in this growth has been the effectiveness and increase that God has given through the Church Extension Department.
During the twenty years, the denomination has seen the start of 28 new congregations, more than any other score in our history, more than the total new starts in the preceding 58 years. 11 of the 28 have been completely formed as churches and received into Annual Conference membership, along with Finesville, which started during the previous score, for a total of 12 new Annual Conference member churches -- more than any comparable period since 1907. Six of the 28 have died, two are presently dormant (Mays Landing and Eastern Union County, both in New Jersey), 20 continue to the present.
While only 19% of our total membership is in the 19 organized congregations that have started in the last 40 years, these vital young bodies have accounted for 67% of the denomination's growth over the last 20 years. Young churches usually grow more rapidly than older ones.
A table of statistics for the six score should lead us to gratitude and praise for what God has done among us in the recent decades:
Membership Total New Mission Churches # Remaining
Score Growth % Membership Starts Organized to Present
1858-1887-8 406 406 18 13 11
1887-1907-8 1348 332% 1754 25 15 12
1907-1927-8 1211 69% 2965 16 7 7
1927-1947-8 1221 41.2% 4186 9 5 3
1947-1967-8 274 6.5% 4460 9 6 5
1967-1987-8 1756 39.4% 6216 28 12 12
Totals 105 58 50
Some interpretation of these statistics may be instructive:
1. The vigor and effectiveness of our young movement in its first half-century was truly remarkable. Few in number, with limited resources, our forefathers started 43 congregations, 28 of which became fully organized as Conference member churches. And 82% of those, or 23 churches, still continue today.
2. We may be deliberate and somewhat slow in bringing mission congregations to full organization as churches, but when we do, they endure. Of the 58 churches constituted in our 130 years, 50 of them, 86%, continue to the present. 7 have died and the eighth was lost through a merger.
3. Throughout its history, although the denomination has started 105 congregations, only 58 of them have been brought to full formation as churches. Adjusted for the presently continuing missions that have not yet become churches, those 58 churches represent 62%, which means that 36, or 38% of them, failed. You have to take risks; there is no guarantee of 100% success in church planting. Of the 28 starts in the past score, 11 have come to full formation as churches, that is 39%. We hope all of the remaining 11 arrive at full maturity. But it will take only 6 more of the 11 to achieve our historic average.
4. A graph will show more clearly than the table the relationship between new church starts and overall growth. Our church planting fell off drastically in the fourth and fifth score of our history, starting only 9 in each. Membership growth in the wake of that decrease in forming new congregations slowed and nearly ground to a halt.
A graph of percentage increase shows how early growth was stimulated by the new and young congregations through the first 70-80 years. When new church planting decreased, membership decline soon followed.
A graph of the fourth score shows how as the established churches aged and few new ones were started, the growth impetus "ran out of gas". First half growth, 1927-37 was 1075; second half, 270. Then the fifth score produced only 6.5% growth, 324 net membership increase -- over 20 years!
5. In the sixth score, just concluded, growth momentum has been regained as we began again seriously to plant churches. Net membership growth climbed from 274 to 1756, more than six fold.
6. We may expect that the years ahead will be growth years for the denomination because of the impact of these recently formed congregations that will stimulate and gather that growth.
7. If we want to sustain growth and accelerate toward achievement of our WIDER HORIZONS growth goals (to 14,293 total members by the end of the year 2000) we must continue and step up the formation of new churches.
In comparing the just concluded score with the one immediately before it (1947 through 67-8), we observe that of the 6 new starts that achieved full organization as churches during the earlier score, 3 were started as daughter churches (50%). In 1967 through 87-8, 3 of 11 (27%) began as daughter churches. Our experience shows us that daughter churches develop and mature much more rapidly than "cold starts". The churches ought to take seriously the WIDER HORIZONS goal of at least one daughter church per year. Grace Church of Nazareth, PA has birthed Cornerstone Church of Bangor; Valley Church of Poughquag, NY is in process of giving birth to a church in Pleasant Valley. Who will be next?
Gains Despite Handicaps
The church planting gains of the past twenty years have been achieved in the face of some handicaps.
1. Unavailability of Veteran Pastors
While we have tried incessantly to recruit as church planters experienced pastors with demonstrated success in church growth, few have responded positively. Had more done so we might have been able to plant more churches and bring same more rapidly to maturity.
2. Foreign Mission Drain
Two of our effective church planters, Robert L. Draper and Herbert K. Lea, who between them planted 3 churches in an aggregate of 18 years of service (average 6 years per church) were called away from us to go forth as foreign missionaries. In that we rejoice, but we believe that had they remained in the Department they would by now have planted more new Bible Fellowship Churches.
3. A Legalistic Membership Rule
Our church planters are forced to labor while shackled by a culturally formed membership bar that lacks biblical basis, is embodied in an ambiguous rule, robs the Church and her church planters of credibility, contradicts her own assertion that the Scriptures are "our only rule of faith and life" and that is the conviction of but a small minority of our people. We cannot accurately assess the harmful effects of this rule. We do know that it has destroyed young congregations, hampered the development of others, turned away young believers from commitment to our churches and otherwise bled us of young blood and vitality. The impact of this is hardest on the new churches. It is just a matter of time until this restrictive rule will be changed. By God's grace and the Holy Spirit's direction may it be sooner rather than later.
4. Financial Constraints
In 1967 the churches gave $44,196 out of total offerings of $968,387 to extend the Church. That was 4.56% of total offerings, down somewhat from the standard during the previous 60 years of 5-6%.
In 1967 the Church Extension Department consisted of 6 missions and in addition 4 churches, which were not yet able to support themselves, were assisted with financial appropriations. This was a total of 10 congregations.
The federal government maintains what is called the consumer price index. Its application allows us to measure today's dollars by those of a previous year. Conveniently, the c.p.i. for 1967 was 100. In November, 1987, the index stood at 345.8. Using the index, one may conclude that if the churches would wish to provide funding at today's dollar values for maintaining the same 10 congregations as we had in 1967, they would have given $152,830 in this last year, which is almost precisely what they gave. But rather than 10 congregations we have maintained 13 through the year, a 30% larger roster, and added 3 more, not including the two dormant missions that are not now manned. And if the $152,830 were corrected to reflect the 39.4% membership growth since 1967, the total would be $213,045 -- $61,540 more than the churches gave in 1987-88.
Had the churches given of their total offerings of $ 5,459,908 in 1987 the same 4.56% that they gave to extend the church in 1967, we would have received $248,972 from the churches for church planting, nearly $100,000 more than we actually had to work with.
We have gratefully received and shall carefully use the $151,509 entrusted to us by the churches. We dedicate it to the Lord and mean to manage it for all it's worth to produce church growth. But it is sometimes hard to understand why the churches would give $151,509 to extend our own Church, but $341,788, more than twice as much, last year for local missions, most of which is used to finance Christian enterprises that are outside of the Bible Fellowship Church.
How Do We Do It?
The answer to how the past 20 years have been so much more effective for church planting and the growth of the denomination is solely in the sovereign grace of our God, Who has been pleased to bless the proclamation of His Gospel and to build His Church. All praise and glory belong to Him alone.
Some factors and means which the Lord has used to accomplish this work may include:
1. Age and Training of Church Planters
Though we have had to use mostly inexperienced men as organizing pastors, these men have come to us with more maturity and better formal training than their counterparts of earlier years had.
2. Tenure of Church Planting Service
Our men are loyal and tenacious in their work. They are not looking for "promotion" elsewhere. The pastors in the Department have served an average of nearly 7 years with us. Lyle E. Schaller, one of the most knowledgeable experts in North American church growth, believes that a man's most effective years of ministry with a congregation begin with his sixth year.
3. Church Growth Eyes
After years of stagnation of membership growth, the ministers chose as the theme for their 77th Annual Ministerial Convention in 1968 "Evangelism and Church Growth". Papers were read followed by discussion of a great many phases of the Church's growth and non-growth. The convention concluded with a period of prayer for the spiritual and numerical growth of the Bible Fellowship Church.
The Lord began to answer those prayers. Springtime of 1972 found the ministers again convening around the theme of Church Growth. Professor C. Peter Wagner was with us to lead us through the first Church Growth Seminar on the North American continent (there have been thousands since). The brethren grappled with church growth principles and concepts, worked at growth graphing and projections and came away with what Dr. Donald A. McGavran, originator of the modern Church Growth Movement, calls "church growth eyes" -- a consciousness of whether or not the church is growing, why or why not, how churches grow and that churches ought to grow.
Many of the men have continued to read, study, and attend courses and seminars in Church Growth. It seems those two Ministerial Conventions helped to create a turn around from stagnation to growth. In the 13 years prior to 1968, nine had produced membership decreases; following 1968 we enjoyed 16 consecutive years of membership increase.
4. Changes in Principles and Methods
Much of the early years of my service in this office were occupied with redefining, restructuring and sharpening our concepts, organization and methodologies. Again in the past two years, the Board and its committees have worked to rethink our ways of doing so that we can be more efficient and effective in managing a larger and growing ministry.
5. Care in Site Selection
We work hard in making surveys and doing our demographic work in preparation for selecting target areas for new missions. This work is paying off.
The Mid-Hudson region, by way of example, has proved to be fertile soil for Bible Fellowship Church planting. During the score, we have been able to establish four congregations. Three of them are completely formed churches, two of which have fully supported themselves in the past year. The fourth is about to become an organized mission. These accomplishments encourage us to anticipate good success at Pleasant Valley and may auger well for our work in New England, which is culturally and historically close to New York State east of the Hudson River.
6. Goal Setting and Drive
We have defined our task as church planting evangelism and we hold ourselves to that. We measure our work by that "bottom line"; are we planting churches? And we are willing to have others use that criterion in assessing our work.
Our "Design for Enlargement" (1975-85) goals were very demanding. We did not achieve them, but came within 80% of them. The WIDER HORIZONS goals are even more demanding, and we shall do our best, in dependence on the Lord, to achieve them.
The power of goal setting and drive is demonstrated in our history by the work of W. G. Gehman. He became president of the Gospel Herald Society in 1905 and was the driving force of our Church's evangelism and church planting thrust till his sudden death in 1941. During those 36 years, 27 missions were started, which eventuated in 13 fully formed churches, 9 of which continue today. For 8 years immediately after his death, not one new congregation was started, and in twenty years, only 5 new missions were begun. It seems someone must be calling, agitating, plotting, pleading, pushing and pulling (even if it seems obnoxious), ever seeking to be a catalyst, to keep church planting in view and on track.
Our church planting evangelists are visionaries, goal setters, purposive workers, evaluators and achievers. Together we push ourselves and each other to keep driving and doing. Nothing less will do. It takes all we've got plus more, which the Lord will provide.
7. Bivocational Pastors
Perhaps this is the most significant human factor in accomplishing what we have. Of the 11 congregations that began and became fully organized in the 1968-88 era, 7 were started and/or maintained by bivocational pastors, who made up by labor outside of the pastorate what was lacking in the Church's support for them.
Of course, the bivocational pastor has been part of the Bible Fellowship Church from its beginning. All of its pastors in the first years were farmer-preachers. And these "tent makers" opened up 43 new congregations in their first 50 years, 28 of which became fully formed. 23 of them still continue today.
Our great pioneer evangelist and first foreign missionary , Eusebius Hershey, in 1888, at age 65, wrote about a preaching tour in Ontario during harvest season. "I worked in the afternoon and in the evening I preached to quite a number of attentive hearers, who could sit and rest while I had to stand and do the work of preaching after I had left the harvest field." Then, addressing his colleagues in the Ministry, he wrote, "... it is a good plan to encourage the people to come and hear us preach if we spend some time with them in the field working with our hands. I have found it a good plan these 42 years I am traveling."
In our middle years, many men served bivocationally by pastoring more than one church. In 1946, for example, seven men were pastors of circuits serving 15 congregations, 39% of the total number of churches.
In that same era, our church planters in the Gospel Herald Society were bivocational pastors, who earned most of their livelihood by selling literature.
In 1983 the Annual Conference adopted as one of its WIDER HORIZONS goals, "in order to enable the Church Extension Department to step up its formation of new churches, to double the churches' offerings for church extension as soon as possible" (1983Yearbook, p.2l). 1982-83 offerings from the churches were $99,438. Double that figure in 1982-83 would have been $198,876. Adjusted by the consumer price index to 1987 dollars, the amount should have grown to $230,467. To date the churches have not been able to reach that goal. In fact this year they came short of it by $78,958. Until that goal has been achieved, we are likely to continue to be heavily dependent on bivocationals if we take our goal of planting 49 more churches by the end of 2000 seriously.
Clearly, the biblical norm is that since "the worker deserves his wages" (Luke 10 :7), so "the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel" (I Corinthians 9 :14). Indeed, the Scriptures indicate that the minister of the Gospel has a right to such support (I Corinthians 9 :5-13).
But in our day, as in New Testament times, there are some like the prototype church planters, Paul and Barnabas, who conclude, "we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ" (v. 12), and give up their right in order to proclaim the Gospel and build the Church. Bless God for such men! They are blessed indeed, and our Church is blessed to have them.
These "tent makers", walking in the footsteps of those great apostles, are worthy of double honor. The Church should appreciate and cherish them. We must understand that because of their "second job" they have less time and energy to give to the church planting task. So if it takes longer for them to accomplish their goal than men who are fully supported we must understand and not find fault with them. Rather, we should pray fervently for them, do all we can to encourage them and consider whether we ought to accept some responsibility to give dollars so that they may receive more support in the ministry and have more time freed for their "priority job", to proclaim the Gospel.
It is thrilling to realize what we can accomplish, with the Lord's help and by His grace, in church planting evangelism as we work diligently and unitedly for maximum results, so that as the grace of God through us "is reaching more and more people (it) may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God" (II Corinthians 4 :15).
A Hopeful Preview
During the past few years the Bible Fellowship Church has hit a plateau after a strong period of steady growth. 1987 membership was up 66 from 1983 but down 19 from the 1985 high of 6235. Since our church planting program has continued to produce, we may, by faith, confidently anticipate that growth will resume and accelerate. At the same time, the stagnation of many of the older churches should be of concern to us. The churches must address the WIDER HORIZONS goals with integrity and energy. We must call ourselves and each other to renewed commitments and action in evangelism of the lost.
The lesson of our history matches what successful corporations know --
to grow you have to add new units. Retailers who cease to open new stores have begun to die, for existing properties alone cannot hold market share, let alone increase it. And some of their outlets will fail. You've got to start new units.
For a denomination, that means plant new churches. For a local church, that means form new classes, new Bible study groups, new choirs, special interest and age-based fellowship groups, caring groups, alternate worship services (at 8 AM or on Friday or Saturday evening, for example), extension Sunday Schools, etc.
New units, new groups can assimilate large numbers of people at start-up and in the first year or two. Then their ability to incorporate new people diminishes so that they can only take on replacements for people who leave and a few more each year. Psychologically and in terms of group dynamics, they cannot grow rapidly.
Let's not forget or give up on our WIDER HORIZONS goals. Let's storm Heaven in prayer for that total of 106 congregations and 14,293 members by the end of the year 2000.
A graphic projection of the WIDER HORIZONS goals for membership in the next five years demonstrates the challenge before us and focuses our prayers and labors. We
shall be praying, and we need to plan our work, for increase of about 30% by 1993. The graph shows an upward curve. The goals anticipate a gradual acceleration of growth.
By years, from 1988 through 1993, the percentage growth goals are:
Remember these goals were set by consensus, preliminarily by vote of Annual Conference, with finalization through direct input from most of the churches. They are ours! We must own them. We must allow them to focus, our prayers, fire our zeal, fix our vision, frame our planning, and fan our labors, so that whether or not we fully reach the goals, we may confidently and truthfully say to our Lord, "We have done our best!" By this time next year the Church Extension Department should have at least 4 more new congregations underway; there should be two more daughter churches going than we have now, and our membership should total 6,742. Can we do it? Not in our own strength or by our own designs. But by grace through faith and with determination and hard work it can be done. Is it worth it? Certainly it is!
I can see a vibrant fellowship of wonderful congregations -- many in new areas. There are black churches, Hispanic churches, Asian churches, Islander churches, Portuguese churches, Indian churches, deaf churches and others there -- all belonging to Christ and to each other, enthusiastically committed to the Faith and Order of the Bible Fellowship Church, bringing a host of new ones to Jesus, supporting a growing outreach to the whole world, praising, glorifying and delighting our wonderful Lord. Can you see that great movement? Will you let God use you to help bring it to pass?
"May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us -- yes, establish the work of our hands" (Psalm 90 :17 ). Amen!