Sunday, February 28, 2010

Growing the North Central Conference

God’s garden called the North Central Conference grows.

Jesus said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A farmer scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, wether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself it produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts a sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29).

Friends who labor in the Lord’s vineyard through the Free Methodist churches in the North Central United States, you were planting some seeds. God made them grow.

NCC statistical summary (2008) 2009 -- %

Members  (2,900) 3,200 -- 10%
Worshipers (3,900) 4,206 -- 8%
Average Attendance (55) 65 --18%
Conversions  (850) 1,130 -- 33%

The upper Midwest is not a high growth region in America, and with a few exceptions, most of our churches are not located in high growth areas. The largest metropolitan statistical region in the NCC is Chicagoland, which is losing close to 2% of its population annually at present, but the overall growth rate of the NCC regionally is +/- 1%. It is encouraging to see church growth outpace population growth. This indicates that many NCC congregations are intentionally scattering the good seed of the gospel – through both word and deed – in their communities. That’s bringing Jesus to the North Central United States!

Some of the growth shift has occurred through part of the natural life cycle of local churches. The Kingdom of God endures forever, and the Church of Christ is as indestructible as her Founder. However, local groups or cells of Christ-followers come and go, live and die, prosper and suffer, transform communities and are persecuted, come and go and constantly give birth to new communities of Christ-followers who carry the torch of love and holiness into the uncharted waters of tomorrow.

It is always very sad to see a local congregation that had been strong and fruitful for many years find their continuing ministry waning and viability diminish. Over the past several years the conference has seen congregations in Loyal, WI, Iowa City, IA, Wheaton, IL and Sioux Falls, SD transition from viability to contributing to the next generation of Free Methodist growth and life. The result, however, is the birth of new churches, such as LifePointe and CrossRoads in IA, Betel and the Loop in MN, Resolution in IL (and plans are underway for a church plant in Sioux Falls, SD 2010/11). The church plants in 2009 saw over 100 new conversions, and two of the new churches (LifePointe and Resolution) are both averaging near 100 in attendance apiece.

Several congregations have had some real bust-out growth and show long-term, sustained growth through bold, apostolic leadership and a truck-load of love and care for the community. The Betel FMC (which saw 42% growth in 2009) led by Federico Rivera celebrated it’s 1 year anniversary with Bethlehem FMC (Austin, MN) and had over 200 people worshiping and celebrating. Despite severe weather in Fargo, ND the church is seeing new members join. Seniors social gatherings are solid opportunities to connect with the community in Toddville, IA. Foothills Bible Fellowship is raising funds for Haiti in South Dakota. A Super Bowl Sunday outreach was instrumental in leading a soul to Jesus in Rockford, IL. Marriages are being intentionally strengthened in LaFarge, WI. In January 2010 (without all churches reporting) 22 people made first time commitments to Jesus Christ.

Keep planting seeds NCC! God makes it grow.