Here’s the Annual Report for 2016!
Here’s the Annual Report for 2016!
In a continued sign of momentum in Ecclesia, we are excited to welcome two new congregations to our family – The Neighborhood Church in Garland, TX and Koinonia House in Pottstown, PA. Both of these churches have been journeying with Ecclesia the last year and it’s a joy to make them and official part of the community.
The Neighborhood Church is located in the suburbs of Dallas and is seeking to follow Jesus for the sake of God’s kingdom in Garland, Texas. Garland is a large suburb that happens to be one of the most ethnically diverse cities of its size in the U.S. Their hope is that The Neighborhood Church would look more and more like our Garland as they live into their name by walking alongside their neighbors in meaningful relationships.
Here is how Adam describes The Neighborhood Church …
“Our people are authentic, hospitable, and sacrificial. Some grew up in church, some were hurt by a church and have found healing, and others are completely new to church (even in the middle of the Bible belt). We try to live authentically with God and each other as a family. The church was planted by Mark Moore as Providence Community Church in a nearby city over a decade ago. We’ve changed our name and re-planted in Garland but the core practices of believing the gospel of the kingdom, belonging to one another, and blessing our city and world has been a constant through the years.
God has been so gracious to unite us together with a clear sense of who we’ve become and what we’re called to do. We want to be a faithful presence to those in need, to the marginalized, and to the de-churched. Since the Fall of 2015 we’ve partnered with a community center in one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of the city two miles from where we gather for worship. We’ve served in a variety of ways from after school programs, holiday parties, and VBS-style summer student weeks, but now we’re taking another step in our effort to be good neighbors for God’s kingdom by launching a Neighborhood Clothes Closet to meet needs and open more doors to relationships.
We are thrilled to be part of Ecclesia. After Pastor Bud Riddel and I (Adam) visited last year’s national gathering we were convinced we had found a nurturing and life-giving community that shared our heartbeat. Pastor Kathy Keasler (formerly of A New Community), Pastor Bud, and I can’t wait to develop new relationships within the network and to continue to grow our existing relationships. By God’s grace, we look forward to being God’s people together.”
Bob Hyatt, Director of Equipping and Spiritual Formation said, “I’ve always been impressed with the way the Neighborhood Church, planted in the heart of Church Country, has managed to be different. By living as a truly missional community they live out a real Kingdom alternative to the culture around them in a way that both challenges and inspires.”
In addition to TNC, Ecclesia is also enthusiastic to welcomeKoinonia House to our movement. Koinonia was planted by Jessica Clemmer and her husband Todd over a decade ago with a desire to “do church differently.” They envisioned a community that was relationally centered, and shared life together built around faith. In discussing their origins Jessica relayed,
“We thought we wanted to create an atmosphere where people who typically wouldn’t feel comfortable showing up at a traditional church would feel welcome. We wanted to be intentional about making space for the arts in church life, and wanted to be a place of blessing to our local communities. What we were really desiring was a fuller realization and living out of the Gospel, though at that point we didn’t have a paradigm for understanding or living that well.”
Throughout the years, Koinonia has begun to develop and lean into a fuller understanding of the Gospel; in that it wasn’t JUST for saving from hell to heaven, but that it was a process of partnering with God in the reconciliation and restoration of all things. As this settled deeper into their core, they began to get ahold of the concept of missional living, feeling released to build and enjoy genuine relationships with people that were not part of our faith, which they could see cultivating much more openness to the Gospel. J.R. Briggs, Director of Leadership & Congregational Formation has been walking alongside Koinonia in this last year. J.R. shares, “It’s been a pleasure to spend time with the Koinonia House community- and it’s been a joy to call Jessi and Todd Clemmer friends for the past few years. After talking about Ecclesia with the Clemmers and their leaders for some time, I’m thrilled that Koinonia House is now officially a part of the network.”
After many years of meeting in different locations, now they are seeking to put down roots, and be present and stable for the communities in which we live and are involved. On behalf of Koinonia, Jessica says, “We are excited about the ways that God has been connecting us with the greater Body, both in our local region, as well as through like-minded networking, such as Ecclesia. We are moving into a new season with great expectation, not of what we will be able to do FOR God, but rather, what we will be blessed to be able to do WITH Him.”
Ecclesia is excited to walk along with you in Koinonia and Neighborhood Church!
The Neighborhood Church in Garland, TX
Do you want to make an impact outside your local community? Perhaps in addition to the one your already making? Or, had you hoped to plant a new congregation out of your current church but that opportunity hasn’t emerged, and yet you still want to support the formation of new faith communities? If so, here is a great opportunity!
Last year we introduced the Pentecost Offering at the 2016 National Gathering. This new initiative emerged out of a desire among certain Ecclesia Churches to work more collaboratively across the network in the supporting of new communities of faith. Given our desire within Ecclesia to accentuate the PRIMACY of the local church, we determined that each participating Ecclesia Church had two options with the funds generated through their local Pentecost Offering efforts. First, they could decide to retain the funds from the Pentecost Offering within their own reserves for either a future church plant out of their congregation or for a project they decided to support specifically. Or, they could decide to send the funds to Ecclesia as a whole, which would then bundle, batch, and distribute the collective funds generated to a specific project or two. (Of course, some churches decided to do a mixture of the two).
As a whole, nearly $50,000 was generated through the Pentecost Offering in 2016. We were genuinely surprised by the receptivity to this new initiative. Much of that was retained locally, but the portion that was sent to Ecclesia was ultimately given to a new congregation in New Jersey. New Hights Christian Church in Hightstown, NJ is a new congregation emerging out of Next Gen Church in Princeton, NJ. New Hights is pastored by Oscar Guerrero, a bi-vocational church planter, and is primarily focused on the Latino Community. You can see a snapshot of God’s action among them in J.R. Briggs’ update in this edition of the news as well as the Ecclesia Annual Report. With our collective support, New Hights has been able to purchase a van for their congregation to help the myriad of ministry they are engaged in on a weekly basis. This is an incredible story that our Ecclesia Churches are happy to be part of, that they likely never would have, apart from being involved in Ecclesia.
We are collecting the names of churches within Ecclesia desiring to participate in the 2017 Pentecost Offering. If you are interested, please reach out to Sarah Keasler (email@example.com) or myself (firstname.lastname@example.org). We will be distributing information on the 2017 Pentecost Offering in the next month.
After 12 years meeting in 3 different pubs and 1 rave space, the Evergreen Community in Portland, OR finally has a building! Evergreen has moved into the former Presbyterian Church of Laurelhurst, a beautiful brick building. This past month has been spent acclimating to the new space, and dreaming of ways the kingdom can be advanced out of it. Many neighborhood groups already make use of the space. Check it out!
Recently District Church in D.C. had some big news!
Over the last several years, they have been praying as a church about a set of what they’ve called God-Sized Dreams. These are things they believe God is calling us to but didn’t have the resources or people to make them happen. What this means practically is that they have been praying and looking for space that can facilitate as many of these dreams as possible; specifically, they have been looking for a ministry center space, not so much for Sunday mornings, but to base all of their work out of each week.
Recently. they were able to purchase an incredible property!
This property will serve as a ministry base and center for their multiplication efforts as a church! Located near the Brookland Metro in Northeast DC, it’s an old Catholic convent where Dominican sisters and then Jesuit priests lived and studied to train for ministry.
District Church plans to expand their District Fellows program to train people called to ministry, to house their foster care and adoption ministry, DC127, and support many of their weekly activities with the church— small groups, classes, and ministry teams. They will also be able to expand counseling and soul care work.
As 2015 came to an end, it closed the 8th chapter in the short history of Ecclesia. For all intents and purposes, Ecclesia really began in 2008 with a few churches and a small handful of church planters who were looking to provide a unique witness to the gospel in a scattering of cities, mostly on the east coast. There was a good deal of experimentation in that small collection of churches and churches in development. There was the hope of friendship between leaders and churches that shared a heart to be about God’s mission in the world together.
For the first 6 years our network had a good and consistent rhythm of two steps forward and one step back. We had even more limited funds than we have now and we stretched those as far as possible. Through a good deal of effort and sacrifice, something more solid began to emerge in ways that I believe many sensed and could see happening – but were not as easily coherent in those early days.
In the last two years, something significant has changed, as we have had enough solid footing to actually make some “leaps of faith” toward the future. In 2014 we brought on two other Ecclesia pastors at 1 day/week to help give time to our network that was pregnant with opportunity. This was a step of faith for us in that we didn’t have funds to pay them even at 2/3 of what we should pay them. It was a year to re-connect to both our churches and mission and Jesus provided us with enough funds to pay the bills. Last year we stepped out in faith again, moving everyone on staff to 1.5 days/week with the knowledge we would need to raise outside funds for that to happen. 2015 became a year of solid growth for our network, with not only many churches in our network continuing to develop more vital ministry in their community, but also several churches that were already a decade or more in age, deciding that Ecclesia was the family for them. Within the last year we started several Leaders Circles, strengthened our media and communications, and were able to make more visits to more churches to preach, train, equip and support, etc. our leaders and congregations. Again, Jesus met our needs.
As we come into 2016, there are so many good efforts at work. Leaders Circles are expanding and there is a desire for more to be organized. After some groundwork in 2015, we are preparing to launch a Residency Initiative for churches to help equip future leaders. Our coaching network is in place and available to support leaders and we are preparing to launch our first collective, Ecclesia-wide offering at Pentecost for church planting and pioneering mission. We have 3 new congregations being welcomed into Ecclesia at our National Gathering in March and a least a dozen more that are in process.
When I look through 2016 into the next season of life in Ecclesia, there are 5 words that seem more settled in my soul (and yes, they all start with “f”) – friendship, family, faithfulness, fruitfulness, and future.
Friendship – Ecclesia began with the bedrock of friendship and a desire to leaders to journey together through the uncertain course of ministry in these transitional times. My hope is that, with each passing year, these friendships are taken one step further and new friends are welcomed in.
Family – One of the unique desires of Ecclesia is that we would be a network of churches built off a network of leaders. Our heart from the beginning is to increasingly become an extended family on mission together as churches and leaders. In the coming season, my hope is that this extended family transcends those of us who are in more identifiable “clergy” roles and moves more and more into the churches we shepherd through connecting leaders together, collaborating on joint projects or global partners, or supporting new pioneering church plants and mission endeavors.
Faithfulness – In the midst of a church culture that can easily become captured by a vision of success that looks more like the American dream than a Kingdom dream, we strive for faithfulness to the gospel and the mission of Jesus together. In our time this looks like attending to the work that is in front of us and the community we’ve been called to, over the long journey of cultivating disciples of Jesus from the ground up. In addition, I believe it will increasingly look like the need to encourage one another toward faithfulness around the historic gospel that has been handed down to us from past generations of the church, even though the exclusivity of the good news of Christ will be increasingly challenged by our cultural context.
Fruitfulness – While we want to be faithful, we don’t want to exchange faithfulness for fruitfulness. Our heart in Ecclesia is to see the fruit of the Spirit proliferate our churches so that they are filled with the character of Christ and therefore can carry the power of Christ as made possible through the revelatory ministry of the Holy Spirit. With the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit at work, we can only expect then to see tangible Kingdom impact from our churches.
Future – Perhaps at the core of what I believe Ecclesia to be about is that we are creating a future together – one that is not isolated – but is a forerunner in cultivating an identity and practice for the whole church as we transition to an increasingly post-Christendom era in the West. When I look at the various streams of influence that flow into our network, it is hard to understand how they can all fit together. Yet, my belief is that somehow the Holy Spirit is at work among us to prepare a community of leaders and churches for faithful mission with an apolitical evangelical identity for the future.
It’s an exciting time to be journeying together in the years ahead. Please keep going with us and inviting others along the path too!
Chris Backert- Ecclesia Network National Director
One of the heartbeats of Ecclesia has always been to resource and support current and prospective church planters. After all, no single church around came into existing without being planted in some way. Particularly, we are in a season where new kinds of churches need to be started to bear witness to the gospel in the increasingly complex context of North America.
During the Pentecost Season we are launching our inaugural Pentecost Offering to further support church planting and church planters within the network. Be on the lookout for more information in the coming months – especially at the National Gathering in March.