I have some very exciting news to report to you. After more than five years of prayer and seeking the Lord, Heidi and I both know the Lord has called us to plant a new church in the middle Georgia area, very likely Byron, GA (Peach County). This is because starting a new church, often called church “planting,” is the best way we know today to evangelize the lost.
Why plant a new church when there is a church on every corner already, one might ask? Most Christians are unaware of the fact that nearly 3,750 churches die every year (that’s 72 or so per week!!), closing their doors for the last time, never to reopen. As if that is not bad enough news, solid research shows that nearly 85% of churches in the United States are in plateau or decline, and are winning less than 1 (yes, I said “one”) lost person to Christ each year. Not only that, there are tens of thousands of lost and/or unchurched people in the middle Georgia area, people who are not being reached by those “churches on every corner.” Within just 3 miles of our church, for example, there are an estimated 27,000 lost and over 29,000 unchurched people, and well over 100,000 in our county.
As I (Myke) started my first graduate degree (in church planting and growth [Liberty University]), I remember hearing these statistics for the first time and thinking, “There is no possible way these numbers are right.” I remember my first pastor and mentor, Matt Johnson, telling me the same thing, yet I didn’t want to accept such a hard truth. Yet through time I came to the sad reality that the church is in trouble. Most churches win only 1 convert per year for every 85 current members, and many, many times this new addition, often called a “convert,” is nothing more than “transfer growth,” that is, a person moving from one church to another, as opposed to a person who has just given their life to Christ (compare this with newer churches, which are proven to reach as many as 5 converts for every 75 members). Sadly, many churches are nothing more than lethargic dinosaurs, pre-historic, unfriendly, and on their way to extinction!
The Bible says that if we will delight ourselves in the Lord, he will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). The Lord has placed a calling, a burden in fact, in our hearts and lives, a burden to plant churches that are new, refreshing, culturally relevant while holding fast to the message of the faith, and that engage younger generations. Many churches are dying because they have told younger generations, “Do church our way or hit the highway.” Unfortunately, younger generations will not tolerate this type of religious exclusivism and elitism, and are yearning for something more, something new, something they can be a part of. This is the kind of church we desire to start – a new kind of church, yet with a biblically faithful message of hope in Jesus Christ.
So what will this church look like? This church will hold fast to the foundations of the faith, unwaveringly (Catering to younger generations in no way means compromising the faith!). In fact, doing so is a Christ-honoring way of propagating Christianity and “being all things to all people,” as the Apostle Paul so aptly understood (1 Corinthians 9:21-23). This church will teach and preach the Gospel and the whole counsel of God’s Word verse by verse, book by book. It will focus on worship that is vertical, that is, directly unto God, not “about” God, man, or man’s experience. It will place a heavy emphasis on fellowship, evangelism, missions, servanthood, doctrine, the ordinances of communion and baptism. The goal of the church, in fact its very mission, is to make Christ the central point of its member’s lives and of each family within, hence the name of the church, “CentralPoint Chapel.”
Well, now for the tough part. In confession, I (Myke) should have written this letter months ago. In my pride and stubbornness, I resisted the duty of asking for money, even though that is an essential task in planting. The only part about being called to church planting that I do not enjoy is asking others to donate their own hard-earned money. However, a new church plant, especially in its embryonic stage when there are but a few members for support, can only survive if God’s people support it. This is where you come in. I want to ask you to prayerfully consider joining Heidi and I in planting this church. Not many people are called to take the exciting yet risky step of planting a new church. However, anyone can become a church planter by helping fund a new church plant (see 3 John 8).
Imagine 10 years down the road, a church where 100s have come to know the Lord through genuine repentance, where 100s are being discipled by verse by verse teaching through the Word of God, where worship is powerful, and were missionaries find support to move out into the mission field. That would be a great church wouldn’t it? That’s the church we dream of!!! You can help make that a reality.
Our goal is to initially raise $25,000 to secure a building, chairs, sound equipment, utilities, insurance, instruments, etc. Some of our specific needs, for which we would love to have sponsors, at the moment include:
Sound system: $5000
Video equipment: $3000
Outreach events: $7500
Rent deposits $2000
Church build out: $10,000
Total immediate needs: $36,500
Will you prayerfully consider helping us by both an initial contribution, and then a monthly recurring donation until the church can be self-sustaining? You generous support will go to work starting a church in middle GA in the next 8-12 weeks. I have no doubt that this will be a successful endeavor, as the Lord never calls people to failure. You have an opportunity to share in the success and the rewards of a new church vibrantly glorifying God, since the “the goal of church planting is glorifying God, growing His kingdom, and developing healthy churches with new converts” (Ed Stetzer, planting expert). I hope you realize something that many Christian leaders refuse to admit – the fact that church planting is needed in order to prevent church decline as well as a decline in the overall Christian population.
The mailing address is listed below. Contributors will be made aware of our progress on a regular basis, and will be notified when the church’s website is online as well. Thank you for your generosity, and for your fervent prayer. May Christ be and remain the CentralPoint of your life!In Christ alone! Myke and Heidi Harbuck
Send tax-deductible donations to:
C/O Northside Baptist Church
1013 Carl Vinson Parkway
Centerville GA 31028