by Tony Lynn
PLYMOUTH, MI – On July 19, 2021, in Flint, Michigan I witnessed the association of churches, in which I grew up as a teenager, make a bold decision to trim down their administrative expenses. This radical course change by the churches intentionally increased the churches’ funding for evangelism, community engagement, and church planting.
Send Network Church Planter/Pastor Jason Loewen of Union Flint Church in Flint was elected Assistant Director of Missions. Pastor Ed Emmerling of Westside Church in Flushing was elected Director of Missions.
Loewen and Emmerling’s bond and brotherhood grew during the early months of the COVID-restrictions. Church planter Loewen and the launch team found it very difficult to find a gathering place. Long time pastor, Emmerling was moved by Loewen’s radical focus on reaching local people for Christ and led his congregation to generously share their facilities with the new church plant originally located mere minutes from their established church.
When other men would have felt fear, frustration, or jealousy, these two men increased in faith and felt compelled by God to combine their efforts and hearts for God’s Kingdom and for the redemption of the lost surrounding them throughout three counties. The two separate churches meeting in one location has intensified the presence of God, and the proclamation of the Gospel in the area.
On that Monday evening, Transition Team leader, Pastor Chris Tenneriello of Bethany Baptist Church, Grand Blanc explained how the team altered course during this past year. The team admitted financial resources were too meager to hire as they had in the past. At the same time, the team was keenly aware that a mighty movement of collaboration had swept into the region more than a year ago.
Corporate prayer preceded this associational transformation! Southern Baptist pastors and non-Southern Baptist pastors in the region, started a regular prayer gathering inviting God to create a movement unlike anything they had ever seen before. The attendance at the prayer meetings has remained one of the highest priorities of the pastors’ calendars. Those prayer gatherings gave way to conversations between pastors erupting in community-wide initiatives that are still being discussed months later.
Following the very brief session where Loewen and Emmerling were unanimously elected new leaders, a gathering of BeTheChurch.org cohorts got underway with inspirational Pastor Joel Wayne of Chapel Pointe Church in Hudsonville facilitating the roundtable discussions. “Be The Church” comes alongside spiritual leaders of today and tomorrow to equip them through authentic leadership development, foster relationships that weather any storm, and discover the massive impact they can make in churches and communities for the Kingdom of God.
There was an unmistakable rhythm of deep reflection as participants listened to Wayne speak, followed by enthusiastic roundtable discussions among pastors and church leaders. Participants during the evening, remarked that previous associational gatherings may have had ten people in attendance whereas on this night, seventy people were enveloped in dreaming about the increased effectiveness of their church and the collaboration of all of the churches.
Emmerling has been overheard saying, “I’m at a point in my life, I don’t care who gets the credit, I just want to see more people saved.” Highlighting the radical transformation of the local association in which he has participated for decades, Emmerling explains the new design by saying, “It’s about getting more of the money from our churches into the streets of our communities so that others can receive Christ.”
How does a transformation like this occur? Here are some of my observations:
I think the association’s transformation started more than one year ago in the midst of praying pastors who invited the Lord to do something radical. God is acting.
Established pastors, with many years of service in the region, have been gracious in receiving new pastors and new church planters into their numbers as friends.
Younger men and older men in the ministry honor one another as those called by God to spread the Gospel among the nations and into local populations.
Pastors and planters at different ages and who serve in different contexts share authentic feelings and thoughts that create bold, fresh initiatives.
Every pastor is displaying his bravery by letting go of the traditions and preferences of the past in order to take hold of God’s new endeavors.
This divine movement is trickling down into the hearts of lay leaders within the local churches.
The Lord is the overwhelming driving force behind this united effort overshadowing the other current topics that create divisions among believers.
The desire to see an amazing number of people come to know Christ is the foremost concern on the hearts and minds of my friends in the Greater Flint area.
Everyone believes God is up to something only He can do, and they want to take part in His movement.
Might we see evidence of God doing similar things like this throughout North America? I believe if we look around, we will see that God is making things like this happen all around us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Tony L. Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.