One of the things I’ve been saying to the staff at Gathering Point Church for about two years is, “God is up to something!” We have marveled at how He has used live-streaming and word-of-mouth during the Covid-19 pandemic to grow our church, rather than having it shrink. In the first quarter of 2020, just before the world shut down for Covid, average worship attendance was 380. In calendar year 2022 average in-person worship attendance was 456, with another 156 views per week on our livestream.
That’s an increase of 76 per Sunday in-person (20%). Counting just one person per view of the livestream, the total reach in 2022 was 612 per Sunday, an increase of 232 per Sunday (61%). No one really knows the total reach of the livestream, since each view of the video can be one or two or more persons watching. (Bob and Alice Mae Adams, for instance, worship via livestream together every Sunday, so their “view” is actually 2 people.) God is clearly up to something at GPC!
And make no mistake about it. I didn’t do this. We didn’t come up with some different strategy than all the other churches in America that are reporting their in-person attendance is half what it was before Covid. God did this. We remained faithful. God gave an abundant increase. He is doing a new thing!
All of this comes amidst the transition of my retiring as Lead Pastor on January 1 and moving to North Carolina on January 30. Our former Executive Pastor, Ryan VanMatre, is now Lead Pastor, and I believe the future is bright for this congregation! God is doing a new thing. Change does not rattle the Unchangeable One. Whatever change takes place in our lives, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)
For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:4-9 NIV)
The Apostle Paul is right. John Walls planted seeds. I watered them. God has made them grow. I have planted seeds. Pastor Ryan is watering them. God will make the grow. Ryan will plant seeds. Another will water them. God will make them grow. What are John and Mike and Ryan? Only servants. Co-workers in God’s service, with the same purpose. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
To the people of Gathering Point Church I say this: Your faithfulness and your prayers have been more a part of what God has done than my sermons and my leadership. I know that flies in the face of most all the current understanding of both business and Christian leadership, which says “Everything rises or falls on leadership.” If I have done one thing right in my 13 plus years as Lead Pastor at GPC, it has been to let Jesus be the One who leads everything. I guess the leadership gurus are right – everything has been dependent on His leadership. And it will continue to be so.
To Ryan I say this: be bold enough to follow Jesus, even when conventional wisdom points to another way, and be humble enough to always know it’s His church, not yours. He will use you to do a new thing at GPC. Plant and water, brother! God will give the increase.
Ryan is ready. The future is bright. God is up to something in all this. He is doing a new thing. Do not dwell on the past. Do not make the deadly mistake of comparing Ryan to me. He is your pastor. He loves Jesus. He will be strong in areas where I have been weak. He will make mistakes as a leader. (I have certainly made my share, for which I am abundantly sorry.) Embrace him as your Pastor. Love him and Kelly and the girls. Pray for them as you have prayed for Shirley and me. Keep Jesus at the center of everything. God will work through Ryan as He has worked through me and as He worked through John Walls and many others.
Yes, the future is bright. God is up to something. He is doing a new thing! To God be the glory!