© 2010 John Casimir O'Keefe

A tale of two churches

This past Sunday I was looking for a church plant in my area.  My desire was to go and see what they were doing to reach a new mindset.  What was their vibe, their dance in the larger community?  In that I found two plants in the area.  One, New Horizons Christian Church and the other is River Valley Church.  The differences between the two were amazing.  Let me give a little background on each of the churches:

New Horizons Christian Church:  This church is a church plant from STADIA.  When I visited the website, and to be honest it was not very impressive, they said that they were meeting at a local elementary school at 10:00am.  So, this was the first church I decided to visit.

River Valley Church:  This church is a “remnant church.”  The church was an older Presbyterian church in the area that sold its building and had the funds in a savings account.  This church met at 10:30am, so I figured I would visit it next week.

Things change.

When I arrived at New Horizons Christian Church the parking lot was empty.  There were no signs up, and the doors were locked.  I decided to wait around for a while and see if people where coming – maybe, just maybe, they decided to change the worship time and they did not get it on their site.  But no one came, and it was getting close to 10:15am – so I figured I would head to River Valley Church.

River Valley Church was a very unique experience for me.  The average age of the congregation was mid 80’s.  It is the remnant of a Presbyterian church that had seen better days.  But what I found very cool about this church was it “got it.”  River Valley Church sold its building, and is using the funds to help fund another church plant in the community.

Now, I have heard of “legacy churches” before, but that usually starts with an organization, or denomination, approaching the individual church and “helping the die with dignity.”  While there may not be anything wrong with such organizations, at worse I kind of see them as the Kevorkian’s of the church – they are helping churches with assisted suicide, in a graceful and peaceful manner.  At best, I see these organizations as bad lawyers coming in on the death bed of an old lady trying to steal the farm.  I kind of see them as organizations were making money off the hurts, pains and suffering of a church going through hard time is a good thing – and make no mistake they do charge for their services.  I know I have a poor view of these organizations, but that is me and I am open to admitting my limits of approval.  OK, let me get off my soap box and back to what I was sharing.

What was so interesting to me is that this idea, this desire to plant another church, started with the local congregation and not with the denomination.  Those attending the church knew they were getting older, grayer and disconnected with the “next generation.”  They understood that they would nopt be able to reach out to the next generation, not because they did not have the heart to do so, but because they knew what they liked and what others like were very different things.  So, they decided to take a step of faith and move past where they were to where they believe God wanted them to be – a community very willing to will their assets to the next generation.  Their call, their heart, their desire to see the kingdom grow impressed me greatly.

Now, before I close I would like to say that I was equally impressed with David Limiero, West Regional Director for STADIA.  When I got home I called his office – yes, on a Sunday – thinking I would leave a message about New Horizons Christian Church.  To my surprise he answered the phone and we had a great conversation.

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