TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Traverse City is a beautiful place to live. A land of hunting, fishing, hiking, beaches, swimming, snow skiing, snowboarding, sledding, antiquing, awesome restaurants, snowshoeing, biking, camping, wineries, canoeing, having a small town, easy going atmosphere, etc. We are called the playground of the north, and for good reason. One thing is missing – strong, multiplying churches. In fact, the landscape is full of dead or dying churches. How could this be?
In order to want to live here, you must have the means to do so. Many who can afford it do retire here and want to enjoy all the recreational amenities the area has to offer. When they come, they do not want God interfering with their dreams and plans. Thus, Traverse City is one of the largest de-churched cities in America (#12 in the USA).
Also, Grand Traverse County has become the number one county in America for millennials who are millionaires to live. They can work from home in a country setting and enjoy the recreational playground this area provides. They do not have a need for God. When people get up on Sunday morning, they are not thinking, “Where can I go to church today?” God is the farthest thing from their mind.
Traverse City is very liberal, with the countryside being very conservative. Michael Moore calls Traverse City his home – “nough” said. It has his fingerprints all over it. People do not have God on their radar screens. The dark places of Traverse City are not what most people think of – drugs, poverty, child or spousal abuse, alcoholism, murder, theft. Yes, these do exist, but the dark places here take the form of recreation. Yes, recreation is the god of this area.
My wife and I are from the south and when people hear our southern accent, they ask, “Why did you come here?” Our answer is God.
God loves us and has prepared us for this new adventure. He also loves the people here in Traverse City. In order to survive and start a multiplying church from scratch, you have to know God loves you and has called you to love others in this specific place. It is only this conviction that allows us to press on and not be discouraged.
Most of our time is spent establishing relationships with those who are far from God and seeing how we can be God’s hands, ears, feet, and arms to love people to Jesus. Please pray that they would trust us enough to walk with them through their pain. This is slow, especially when you are trying to build with unbelievers. For those who think they are saved, God must work to get them unsaved before they can get saved.
We praise God that many lives are being transformed by the love of Christ. This year, we actually launched our church in a middle school and now have a beachhead in Satan's domain. Pray that our church will not become discouraged at what some call “slow growth”. In times of weakness, I find myself praying that God would just send us some normal couples. If it were not for the love and compassion of Christ compelling our church to reach out, it would be easy to simply let the lost go. However, we all know this is not God’s will. As we follow Christ, He gives us His joy in seeing lives transformed, one at a time. God is at work and there is no time to get discouraged.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ricky and Sandra Pearson are church planters at Cornerstone Fellowship in Traverse City, Michigan. They have successfully planted four other self-supporting churches prior to coming to Cornerstone Fellowship. Ricky and Sandra are the parents of three married children with five grandchildren.