It started with a phone call, “Pastor Winfield, would you be interested in a church building?” Which led to many prayers, meetings, finding a church-planter, developing a core team, more prayer and prayer walks, some outreach events, and … a new church was birthed.
A large part in answering the question, “how are we advancing the Gospel?” is that a new church now exists where one did not before. It’s easy to overlook the obvious when asking or answering this question. The obvious is that Grace Fellowship now exists. So how are we advancing the Gospel just by existing? Grace Fellowship is “advancing” the Gospel by existing and living out the Gospel. The very act of functioning as a body of Christ is advancing the Gospel. The keyword there is “functioning” as a body of Christ. More on that in a bit, but let’s look at the overall opinion of church planting as evangelism.
Denominations, Conventions, and Evangelistic Groups have long agreed that starting new churches is a very effective approach to evangelism and that, perhaps, evangelism isn’t evangelism without church planting. It can be argued that this has actually always been the case; but the emphasis has been recently rediscovered.
There are numerous new groups of churches and church leaders promoting the idea of starting new churches. Older protestant and evangelical denominations are amping up their efforts to plant new churches. Matt Mars, the Director of Missions in Missouri for the Clay/Platte Baptist association(SBC) recently shared with me that their goal is to plant 50 new churches in 10 years (in a two county area).
There’s much more to be said about this, and space prevents me from sharing every aspect regarding the influence of a new church in an area. You can read more via the recommendations at the end of this post.
The point is that Grace Fellowship is a “new point of light” in Des Moines. Our existence is lifting up the Gospel of Christ. Through our existence we are:
a) Growing in our maturity as believers in community – and living out our faith where we work, live, play, and shop.
b) Gathering regularly as a combined body to pray, praise, and proclaim the Word of God. We call it a worship gathering at which anyone and everyone are invited.
c) Meeting in smaller gatherings to learn, pray, care for each other, and study the word (Gospel Communities – a very important concept we need to build upon and expand)
d) Participating in group outreach through community events (between 250 and 300 contacts were made on Beggars night – 5 of those were at our Wed activities the next night).
e) Showing the love of Christ through benevolent activities (Food Pantry, assisting students at Willard, helping with the Baptist Friendship Center).
The corporate aspect of doing these things as a group of believers is important. This large group is called Grace Fellowship. We can do more together than we can separately. It takes more than one or two people, or a small group to run a KidZone ministry, to have corporate worship gatherings, to run a food pantry, to hold classes for learning how to better share our faith. When Jesus said, “I will build my church,” what did he have in mind for its expression? I believe it is the Acts 2 model we see – an identifiable large group of believers cooperating together to advance His Name and message; which necessarily include smaller groups for care, prayer, service, and learning.
I kind of look at the “large group” aspect of our church as I do a water-filled sponge on a dry piece of ground. We gather together to be encouraged, to learn, to have our faith strengthened and be filled up as a group like a sponge expanding and dripping with water. Then we squeeze the sponge and are spread out over the community to share the living water with those we know.
There’s more to write about how we are “advancing” the Gospel a body. But the very fact that Grace Fellowship now exists is a part of that advancement effort.