New Church Development in Classis Grand Rapids South

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When the chair of New Church Development, Rev. David Struyk, invites the pastors of our Grand Rapids South Classis to a ‘free” luncheon, it’s more of a summons one cannot wisely dismiss. It’s an opportunity to learn, to be encouraged and to be challenged. And, it was!

Let me share a few things I learned. Upon welcoming us and praying for Christ’s presence, Dave set the agenda and pace. It was a time to hear stories and plans, excitement and thanksgiving.

Pastor Wayne from the PIER introduced Darius who shared a journey of hope following a time of wandering and alcohol abuse. It was clear that there was room at the PIER for the prodigal and people needing Jesus. God is at work and the folks are forging ahead, reaching others. Challenges face this body of Christ as they need a new worship leader while determining how best to use their present facility on Division, or to look for another. Our group took time to pray! 

Next, Robert Kennedy from CCI shared that on December 12, their fellowship would be welcoming 10 new members as well as celebrate the success of their “downtown” ministry among a group of construction workers that’s excitedly developing new leadership for the fifteen in it. By way of Zoom, CCI is reaching elsewhere, and planting a church in Chile. Imagine it! A young church in Wyoming reaching into the heart of Chile and touching lives. Certainly a God thing! In addition, yes, there was more, Pastor Robert’s group has ministered to a woman caught up by ICE and needing the help of an attorney and funds to be released. Twelve of the fifteen thousand has been secured. Help for more is needed! Word came just before our lunch that a judge had released her from the icy grip of immigration. The group celebrated and took time to pray!

City of Hope GR’s pastor, David Vanderwoude told of their October 10 launching leading to immediate signs of God’s blessings. People are experiencing the joy that comes along with learning that life is difficult for people with disabilities, including their parents. A mother may not ever hear her child say, “I love you, Mom.” or “I love Jesus!” They need encouragement. We rejoiced hearing of the mom who did hear it after a son was at Hope and told his Mom those precious words. God is at work! Also, “Family Care Packages” are being distributed and lives are being touched in wonderful, life-impacting ways. Again, we took time to pray. 

The stories we need to hear continued as Amy Schenkel shared the development of “Micro-Churches,” that Jim Boer later simply called, “House Churches.” The idea developed from those in Europe watching the rapid church attendance decline and asking “How do we do church in these settings?” She explained what happens at a typical local manifestation and how it celebrates learning, fellowship and the communion sacrament as supported by inSpirit CRC. The Pandemic, here and everywhere, is occasioning if not forcing new ways how we can reach others for Christ. The church needs to change in its desire to grow and obey Christ’s command, “Go and.…” Resonate is working diligently and creatively to adjust and “come alongside.” 

Cody Zuiderveen, Campus Ministry at Grand Valley, shared with enthusiasm and thanksgiving the developing ministry of “Raising Up Leaders.” A joint venture with Calvin Seminary enjoys initial fruit as a staff member, Wilson, has been designated to work with Cody.  Credits and tuition assistance make it even more appealing to students, present and alumni. Interjecting into the conversation, Amy S. added that unique and adapted ways are reaching those at the “edges of the church.” Whether called Micro or something else, it’s an exciting and inviting approach in our reaching others. Again, as a needed requisite, we took time to pray! 

Jim Boer, as a member of NCD, indicated they’d be visiting with the churches of classis to inform and challenge them in the call to be diligent in their efforts to reach our communities. Dave challenged those present and stated that Classis may seem, “boring, governing, and worthless,” but its church planters need to come and share their stories.

God is at work, with us, through us, and for us!
We closed our time with prayer.

George G. Vink

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