One Church Becomes Two...Without Splitting
I wrote last week of a church that is closing and, rather than selling the property, they are giving it to Granger so an impact for Christ can continue in its' location. I thought you would enjoy hearing another story of two churches working together for the Kingdom...instead of for their own purposes. Last September as my Executive Pastors' Coaching Network was beginning, I met Joby Martin from Jacksonville Beach, Florida. I soon realized that Joby was unlike any Executive Pastor I had ever met. He seemed to me to be more like a Craig-Groeschel- or Steven-Furtick-in-the-making. "Why was he here?" I wondered?
I found out that Joby was in my network because he was the #2 guy at Beach United Methodist Church, and the only title they had for that was "Executive Pastor." It took him about six minutes to figure out he wasn't really an executive pastor...but he stayed in the group and we became good friends.
Last month, Mark Beeson and I had the opportunity to go to Jacksonville and spend the day with Joby and several of the leaders from Beach UMC. The story that is unfolding there is unlike I have ever heard. Let me give you a few highlights...
- Beach UMC is a church of around 2,000 people attending.
- Approximately 1,500 of them attend what is called "Eleven22." This service started less than three years ago, and has exploded in growth. The other 500 people at Beach attend either the original contemporary or traditional service.
- Eleven22, led by Joby Martin, has quickly outgrown the church that gave it a place to birth and experiment.
- Most senior pastors would be intimidated by this. Not true of Jerry Sweat. He is embracing the growth. In fact, he initiated the decision to expand the reach of Beach UMC -- and rather than split, launch it into two brand new churches. Beach UMC will cease to exist as it has been known.
- One of the churches (the new Beach) will be United Methodist and continue to be led by Jerry Sweat.
- The other church, called Eleven22, will be led by Joby Martin--and will be non-denominational.
I want to make sure you read the last bullet. A United Methodist Church is birthing a brand new church which will not be United Methodist. And it is with the full blessing of the district superintendent and Bishop! If you aren't United Methodist, you have to trust me when I say...that is miraculous! It's almost as if the leaders in north Florida have decided that it is more important to further the kingdom of God and grow His Church than it is to grow the denomination. (Want more information? Watch a video Joby and Jerry made announcing this new birth.)
I hope this is a trend of believers working together to impact their communities. Have you heard any similar stories? If so, leave a comment and share the story.