The Legacy of a Peacemaker

by Gunter

I have always been fascinated by the stories of great moves of God throughout history. I am a student of great spiritual revivals. One of my favorite histories is that of the Moravians of Hernhut, Germany. 

A young man by the name Nicolaus Zinzendorf committed himself to the care of Christian refugees fleeing religious persecution in Europe during the 1720s. He gave a large portion of his estate to provide a place of refuge for the displaced families who were seeking rest. 

The community, made up of people from different backgrounds and religious views, soon found it very difficult to do life together. They debated and argued over doctrinal differences such as baptism, holiness, and even end times theology (much of what consumes the Church today).  

But Zinzendorf was committed to reconciliation. He urged the people to make amends and to live in peace with each other. Over time, the people of the community began to lay down their differences of opinion and turn their focus to Jesus. Zinzendorf led the people to repent and to repair relations. This process of reconciliation culminated in a united communion service in 1727. What happened next changed the course of history. 

A Moravian historian writes of the encounter: 

"The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst. From that time scarcely a day passed but what we beheld His almighty workings amongst us. A great hunger after the Word of God took possession of us so that we had to have three services every day, 5:00 and 7:30 A. M. and 9:00 P.M. Everyone desired above everything else that the Holy Spirit might have full control. Self-love and self-will as well as all disobedience disappeared and an overwhelming flood of grace swept us all out into the great ocean of Divine Love."

What followed this powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit is known as the birth of the modern missions movement, as many Moravians gave their lives to take Christ to the nations of the world. The fuel for this movement was a prayer meeting that lasted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 100 years! 

It has been said that prayer is the key to revival. But prayer alone is not the key. The kind of prayer that brings heaven down is united prayer. And there is no united prayer without reconciliation. 

What would happen if we would lay down our differences in the body of Christ and cry out to God in fervent, united prayer? Maybe the next great awakening would sweep through our cities. Maybe the next wave of missions would cover the earth with the glory of God.

I long to be a voice of reconciliation in my city for the name, Jesus. How about you? 

"Urged by love, to every nation Of the fallen human race
We will publish Christ's salvation, And declare His blood-bought grace; 
To display Him, and portray Him, In His dying form and beauty, 
Be our aim and joyful duty."-- Nicolaus Zinzendorf

 

Settling In

 by Gunter

We are growing accustomed to our new home and way of life. As with any transition, there have certainly been challenges. But we are enjoying it here in Savannah. We haven't been out because the kids have been sick with a cold since before the move. But they are getting better by the day. 

Bethany has an amazing job and works with some really great people. It's kind of her dream job, to be honest. She is the new Communications, Marketing, and Economic Development Coordinator for a local electric cooperative here. We are so thankful for the provison of God in this season of our lives that allows me to stay home with the kids and make preparations to launch our church. I am already growing as a daddy and a teacher. This role reversal has been the most challenging aspect of this adventure for me. But it's so rewarding. 

As most of our time right now is devoted to our family's transition, not much "church stuff" is going on at the moment. But I should give a little update on where we are in the process. We have our non-profit status and have opened a bank account, so we can now receive tax-deductible donations. We will begin our first phase of fundraising next month.

We have a basic website up and running with a vision video and link for giving. You can visit the website by clicking here.

Over the next several months we will be focusing on building our launch team as we meet new people. Several of our friends from Alabama will be moving here soon to be on the launch team. We can't wait for them to get here! 

We are blown away at the goodness of God and are incredibly grateful for the encouraging words and support sent our way this week. Please pray for us as we continue to adjust to the "new normal" and make our plans for the future. 

Much love!  

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Boxes

by Gunter  

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Well, we're officially "moved in" now. Actually, it's just me and a whole lot of boxes! Bethany and the kids are driving here today. But I've been at our new home for a couple of days now. I've had a lot of time to think and pray. 

While cleaning the house and unpacking boxes, I've thought about how crazy this move must look to people who know us. Why in the world would we pack up everything we own and move away from family and friends to a city where we know almost nobody? What about the kids? I know that our friends and family believe in us and want us to be successful in whatever we do, but I also know it must look and little scary and a little crazy too. Guess what. It is! But anything worth doing in the Kingdom is scary and looks crazy! 

Forrest Gump's mama said, " Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Life is also like is a huge pile of boxes in your garage! Many of our boxes are labeled only by room, so there's no way of knowing what's inside. We often look at our circumstances in life and see a huge pile of "boxes," full of mystery. We can respond with fear or anxiety. "Oh no! Look at all these boxes! This is hard. I can't do it." Or we can respond with joy. "Oh boy! Look at all these boxes! I can't wait to see what's inside!" 

I want to encourage you to respond to the unknown with faith and anticipation. If you're worried about the unknown, you can trust your loving Father to provide. He knows what you need. And sometimes the greatest blessings He wants to give you are in unlabeled boxes. You can't see what's inside yet. But you have to trust Him. The future is going to be better than you can possibly imagine! 

 

 

Moving Day

 by Gunter 

Well, it's almost here! The movers are coming on Tuesday. That's tomorrow! Move-in day is Thursday. This is my view at the moment... 

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This week is going to be a whirlwind of activity and emotions, I'm sure. But we are excited about finally moving to our plant city, Savannah, Georgia. Dreams are coming true! 

Please pray for our family during the transition. 

 

 

A Little Birdy Told Me

by Gunter 

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Peace In The Storm

One word, "peace," sums up my walk with God in 2016. My head hasn't been in the sand! I know 2016 was anything but peaceful! What I really mean is that lesson after lesson, Father has been teaching me to cultivate peace on the inside of me when everything on the outside was chaotic. 2016 was perfect training ground for that. 

Around this time one year ago, my family and I left a good job, our home, and everything comfortable to start over. To rethink ministry. To rethink our purpose. And to gain wisdom and receive training in pursuing our dream -- to plant a church. 

At that time, I was really bad at maintaining my peace. It seemed that every little stressful event, disappointment, or discouraging word just threw me for a loop. 

In a couple of months, we had moved into our temporary new home (thanks to an amazing church who provided housing for us during this time). Many early mornings were spent watching the sun rise over the hayfields that surrounded us. 

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As I sat on the front porch, drinking my coffee with my Bible in my lap, and my heart anxious about the unknown future, God would speak to me. 

A pair of doves would become regular guests at our home for several months. Sometimes they would visit as I was praying and reading on the porch, even building a nest and laying two eggs in it. 

During one of those early visits, watching the doves, I heard God whisper, "This season of your life is about learning to cultivate peace." I was reminded of this promise every time I saw my two little feathered friends. 

Looking back a year later, God has done so much in our lives. We live in a much greater measure of peace than ever before, and we are learning to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. We are discovering that the peace inside us doesn't have to be influenced by the chaos around us. In fact, the opposite effect is what God wants for us, that the peace inside us would affect our world around us. 

Jesus had so much inner peace in the storm-tossed boat that He slept right through it! Then when He got up, He spoke to the storm, and it ceased. He could speak peace into the situation because He had peace on the inside. God wants the same to be true in our lives.  

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Vision For The Future

The doves left a few months ago. The abandoned nest still serves as a reminder of what God has done in our family over the past year. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, a new feathered friend started making visits -- a hawk.  

Sitting on the porch, I watched as this majestic bird of prey would scan the fields from his perch atop the power poles.

I said in my heart, "God, I want to have vision for the future like that hawk does. I want to be able to see further and clearer than I do in regard to what you have for me and family to do." 

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I heard His familiar voice. "Do you see how high he is on his perch? He sees far and clear because of his position. If you want vision, you've got to come up here."   

It's so true! Our vision for the future doesn't come from others' opinions, the next best model for success, or any teaching on vision. Vision that is long and clear comes from drawing near to God's heart. It's about hearing His heartbeat, His emotion, His desires.  

The Apostle John received the longest, clearest vision anyone had ever received after he heard the invitation to "come up here" (Rev. 4:1).  

The way we see life has everything to do with perspective. We must look to the future from Heaven's perspective if we are going to do great things for the Kingdom of Heaven.  

So, don't write off 2016 and say it was "for the birds!" Let's learn from the past and press on to greater things!  

I'm beginning the year 2017 full of expectation and excitement. My word for the year is "Vision." Pray with me that our vision grows ever clearer as we pull close to Jesus this year.  

 

 

Our Vision - Encounter

by Gunter  

The vision of The Dwelling has morphed right along with our hearts during this process of walking by faith and drawing near to God. But the same convictions that propelled us into this journey are still very much alive and burning in us.

Over the next few blog posts, I would like to go into some depth to communicate the vision of The Dwelling.

"THE DWELLING EXISTS TO CREATE SPACES FOR PEOPLE TO ENCOUNTER GOD, DISCOVER THEIR IDENTITY, AND FULFILL THEIR PURPOSE."

We believe that our specific vision for our church mirrors God's heart for His Church as a whole. And His heart is for encounter.  

A good definition of "encounter" is "when God invades our present reality with a tangible sense of His nearness." Through encounters with God, we come to know more of His heart as He reveals Himself to us. The experience of salvation is an encounter in which we come face to face with the truth of our own condition, and the goodness of God draws us to rethink and turn from our sin. We owe it to the world to create spaces for people to have this kind of encounter. It's the reason we exist. 

Futhermore, for a son or daughter, encounters with the Father are not limited to an initial salvation experience. Encounters should be the norm -- the fruit of hunger and intimacy with God. 

An encounter can be a dramatic event that shakes us out of our spiritual slumber. Or, an encounter could be as simple as an eye-opening moment while reading the Bible. Whatever the experience, the result is the same -- a deeper knowledge of the Father and a stronger affection for Him. 

The bottom line is this: God is not a subject to be studied. He is a person to be known and adored. The experiential element to Christianity has been quietly divorced from the modern Church. The passion of our hearts is to help people discover the mystery and wonder of a God who is personal and close. Encounter is essential.

Secret's Out

Not to be cliche, but a certain cat has been in a bag for far too long. It’s time we let it out. 

We are overjoyed to finally share with you our plant city. We are planting a church in…

Founded in 1733, it’s the oldest city in Georgia, and it boasts a rich spiritual history. We will be building upon the work of countless believers who have gone on before us and partnering with brothers and sisters who are doing amazing work in the city now!

Our family of five will move to Savannah after Christmas, and Bethany will start a new job on Jan. 9. We are smitten with coastal Georgia, and we are so looking forward to becoming official residents! 

We will spend the first several months getting better acquainted with the area and the people, nailing down some details. We will begin launch team meetings in the early fall, and The Dwelling’s first Sunday service will be in January 2018.

“Hostess City of the South,” here we come.

Guess What!

Boy, do we have some catching up to do!

After we got the thumbs-up from ARC to begin our church plant’s launch phase (all the prep work that happens leading up to our first Sunday service), our speed of life has turned up a few notches. We are hammering out the details to start a new life in a new place! So over the coming days, we will share with you where that new place is, what we will be doing there, and how God has laid out the path for it to all come together.

I’ll give you one bit of exciting news right away — our church plant has a name! 

First, let me weave a little back story for you. 

Over the last several years, a picture keeps popping up in my mind. I see an expansive old house, the kind with a deep front porch. The front door swings open, and lining the warm living spaces are countless bedrooms, too many to fit in any house I’ve seen. The house is filled with people of all colors. I get the impression that I’m in charge of the house, and I am caring for all these people.

Four years, that dream has burned in my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I figured it was a far-off idea, that maybe someday down the road when my own children were grown, I would own a house like that and be wise enough (and selfless enough) by then to take care of a bunch of people who needed a place on their way to beginning new lives, somebody to love them and offer a sense of home and healing. Bright, warm, welcoming, comforting, nurturing. What a nice vision to have for my 50s or 60s.

At least, that’s what I thought. And then it hit me one day — that home might not just be a literal dream for my distant future — it may be MY VISION FOR THE CHURCH PLANT! Not a literal house, but what I envision the church accomplishing, summed up in that picture in my mind. 

There it was, after so much time of watching Gunter begin to take his vision and put it into words, into a plan of action. There was the passion of my heart, wrapped in a neat little gift box. It was my piece of the puzzle that, we would soon discover, fit perfectly with my husband’s.

You see, as we thought and dreamed and mulled over what exactly this church plant needed to be, Gunter had talked an awful lot about encounter. And at first, I really didn’t get it. Encounter? It sounded kind of weird and emotional and dramatic to me…that is, until it came into the context of a home. Until I had a puzzle piece with the very same print.

Of all the arenas in which we’ve ministered, times spent with people in our home have been some of the most meaningful and fruitful. We love welcoming people in, feeding them, and sharing conversations around the kitchen table or on the comfy hand-me-down couches that have always graced our den. Home is where we get to know people on a deeper level. It’s a place we’ve been able to serve, laugh, love and be real. 

That’s what I want our church plant to be, on a larger scale — not a literal house, but a home that feels homey. An inviting setting to meet God, to get to know Him on a deeper level, to be real, to love and to be loved. To be part of one big, happy family (dysfunctional, yes, but family nonetheless).

Lo and behold! That sounds a whole lot like what Gunter had been saying all along! “…everywhere we go, we create spaces for people to meet God…” were his exact words.

In fact, throughout the Bible, God has wanted encounter and relationship, too! He’s gone to the greatest lengths for it.

In the Old Testament, the Temple was a space that opened a door for God to connect with people, a house where He made His dwelling. In the New Testament, He came as a man — Jesus — to “dwell among us,” and invited people to come to Him. He took it a step further when He sent the Holy Spirit, as He now lives in every believer. And one day, we’ll make our home with Him in Heaven. Obviously, He wants people to be in relationship with Him, to share home. 

God’s heart for encounter and home + His passion in our hearts for encounter and home =

The Dwelling.

We are God’s dwelling place, and we want people to encounter Him, whether we’re in a building on a Sunday morning, at work, at school, at the grocery store, anywhere and everywhere. 

And, whoa, we even have a logo and some homey colors. (So homey, you could just about kick off your shoes and warm up your tootsies by the toasty glow, huh?)

The Dwelling. It just fits. 

Well, that’s all for now. I cannot wait to fill you in on the rest! But that’s another blog for another day this week. Much love to you!

 

 

 

 

Full Steam Ahead!

by Gunter

It's been a while since we updated everyone about our journey. No, we haven't fallen off the face of the earth, nor are we losing steam! We are making a lot of progress and have some exciting news to share! 

Two weeks ago, we attended a church planters' training intensive in Birmingham with the organization through which we are planting. It was a super-encouraging time of learning and meeting other church planters from around the nation. We connected with people, got a lot of phone numbers and received help in developing a practical plan to implement as we prepare for launch. 

While in Birmingham, we also completed the interview process where other pastors assessed us in the areas of our ministry, marriage and finances, to make sure we were prepared to deal with the weight that is associated with planting a church. (This is the event we've been looking toward for almost a year.) The exciting news is...WE PASSED! We got approved with a "strong yes" to move forward! We are so grateful for people who believe in us enough to equip us to live our "God dream."  

Coming off this mountain, we are believing more than ever that we can do this! But one thing is sure: we can't do it alone. We weren't meant to do it alone. We are so aware of our need for the Body of Christ to come alongside us and help. We have felt the prayers of those of you who faithfully lift us up to the Lord daily. Keep praying! We are so grateful for the financial gifts we regularly receive. Keep them coming! We will be beginning our fundraising efforts soon, so the more resources we have, the bigger the impact we will be able to make. 

It takes a huge amount of money to start a church. And your generosity will result in changed lives, restored marriages and transformed communities. 

The vision of the future we see is so much bigger than us. It's so much bigger than even what we can imagine! There's plenty of room for you to be a vital part of what God is doing. Would you consider joining us on the journey? 

Click here to find out how you can get involved.  

Stay tuned for more exciting news to come!  

 

Barking Dogs and Missed Adventures

by Gunter 

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at my Granny and Paw's house. (I've previously written a blog about their impact on my life. Read about it here.)

Paw went to heaven when I was 6 years old, so I have few memories of him, but they are happy ones. He would often take me on walks down the dirt road near their house. It was always an adventure. I can remember him stooping down to teach me what kind of animals had left the tracks in the soft dirt, and the names of trees that grew along our path. And he never tired of my endless questions! 

One day, as we were preparing to go on our adventure, he put a jacket on me and said, "If you get too cold, we'll turn around and go home, OK?" It was pretty chilly outside that day, so it's a wonder that Granny let him take me! 

As we set out on our journey, we neared an old house that sat on the corner, right beside the dirt road. Every time we went on walks, we had to walk by that house. It was always a spooky looking house to me. But the real problem for me was what was inside the chain link fence. A bulldog. A very vocal bulldog. 

That day, just like all the others, he saw us coming and began his territorial display. Paw said, "Now don't be scared of that dog. He's in a fence. He won't hurt you. Paw won't let him get you." 

My heart was pounding! I was terrified of that dog! Usually, Paw's gentle reassurance was enough for me to overcome my fear and walk on by. Not that day.  

I stopped and pulled Paw's hand. "I'm getting a little bit cold," I said. He smiled, seeing right through my excuse. "Do you want to turn around and go back?" I said, "Yes."  

That day, I let that bark rob me of an adventure. 

These memories came flooding back to me when I read a quote recently by Kris Vallatton:

 "The dogs of doom often stand at the doors of our destiny. They start barking when we are about to cross the threshold of our God-given purpose. Most people never fully enter into their promised land because they allow fear to dictate the boundaries of their future. They reduce their lives to accommodate the dogs of doom, and they mistake the silence for peace." 

In this season of my life, the "dogs of doom" have been barking their heads off! I have a choice. I can listen to the barking lies of the Enemy, consider his threats, let fear win, and turn back. Or I can press on, pull in close to my Father, round the corner, and go on the biggest adventure of my life!

I think I'll keep walking.  

Forgiveness: Laying Something Down

by Bethany

A week ago, Gunter answered a question that is not only close to his heart, but is also of great relevance because of recent events in our nation -- "How do I deal with anger, resentment and bitterness?"

The end of the sermon video got cut off, but I have to mention it because it was my favorite part... Gunter said the world pressures us to choose a side: "You have to either be on this side of the fence or that side," we are told. But God has called us to TEAR DOWN the fence.

YES!!! Who's with us?! 

We appreciate Pastor Eric Bradley and Church With U, our internship family, for allowing Gunter to share. Enjoy the video, and be blessed.

I've Seen Too Much

by Gunter

  "Why do we need another church? Don't we have enough of those around here? "

These are questions church planters often hear. 

As for me, the simple answer is, I have an incredible longing in my heart to plant a church. It's not a passing thought. For me, it's one of those "do or die" things in life. I can't imagine not doing it at this point. It's a burning call within me. 

With that said, there are many things that God has used in my life to bring me to this point.

If you were to ask me why I must plant a church, my more detailed answer would go something like this:

I've seen too much. 

I've seen too much of what the future looks like to go on living and never experience it. John Maxwell says, "Dreams don't work unless you do." I cannot let fear or love for my own comfort keep me from pursuing the dream in my heart. 

I've seen too many people caught in a cycle of hopelessness, living day to day with no purpose or vision. I believe that the Good News about the Kingdom not only saves people from their sin, but also restores them to be who they were created to be and empowers them to do what they were created to do. This church will be a place for people can encounter God, discover their identity, and live out their purpose. 

I've met people from some of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the United States and have witnessed the struggle that is so misunderstood by those of us who don't know it.

On the other hand, I've seen the affluence that blinds the heart to its own need for grace. Hopelessness wears a mask better in some communities than others. But it seems every family, rich or poor, is plagued with it. I want to bring the hope of the gospel to our cities.

I've seen too much of the world to sit and do nothing. The need is so great. The nations of the world, including ours, need to see a demonstration of the Kingdom of God though the local church that makes evident the power of the gospel.

I've walked dusty streets in Central America filled with poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction, and utter hopelessness. In the same setting, I've seen God's miraculous power to heal, deliver, and save. I cannot settle for just talk anymore. I don't want to plant another church that only talks about God's power but never witnesses it. I've seen miracles. I've seen addicts set free. I cannot settle for a powerless religion any longer. 

I've driven across an entire nation in North Africa, West to East and back again, and never saw a single Christian church or met another follower of Jesus. I cannot settle for a church that stays cozy in its light, while millions are in darkness. 

There may be a "church on every corner" where we all live, but what good is a church on every corner that's not reaching the corners of the world, or even their own corner, for that matter?

I have seen God's faithfulness too many times to go on doubting Him. I've seen too many prayers answered to stop praying now. I've heard too many stories of God's using ordinary people to do amazing things to not believe He'll do the same with me. 

 

 

 

It Goes Further

by Gunter

We are so grateful to those of you who have supported us financially. Your generosity is helping us attend training and build our launch fund. We have a long way to go, but your willingness to give thus far has fueled our courage to pursue this dream. 

We believe that our God-given resources can have a much greater impact if we have an "open hand." That's why we have committed to sow at least 10% of every gift we receive into church planting and missions in North America and around the world. 

So, as you support us financially, know that your gift is going further than you realize. You are touching the world. Check out the infographic below to see where your gifts have made a difference so far. 

Seeking His Face, Our Place

by Gunter

Wow! We are amazed at the support and encouragement we have received from so many people over the last few months! It is so empowering to know that you believe in us like you do. It's also empowering to know that when God's kids partner with Him, nothing is impossible! 

Last October, we answered our call to begin the process of planting a life-giving church. It has been one wild ride! We left our home, a steady income, and people that we loved dearly to embark on this journey. We didn't know where we were going when we left, and we're still not certain where we will end up! 

This morning, I read how Abraham stepped out in faith when He heard God's voice. "Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). God is never obligated to explain Himself. Obedience always requires radical faith. Faith in God is trust. And trust is the fruit of intimacy. The more we really know Him, the more we trust Him. 

So, we find ourselves in Abraham's shoes, in a sense. We have stepped out. And day by day we are seeking His face, pressing in to hear His voice - to know His heart. And as we go, we wait. We move on with excitement and purpose but with a deepening awareness of God's purposes and His presence. We want clearer direction. We want our minds and hearts adjusted to how He thinks and feels so we will be right in step with Him on this journey. 

As a family, we are devoting this week to focused prayer concerning the location of the church plant. We sense the narrowing of desire and love towards a couple of places, but we really want to make the best decision with God on this.  

Will you pray with us this week? Pray for wisdom to be given to us as we make decisions that affect our family,  future generations, and people we've not even met yet. Pray for clear direction and confirmation in our hearts. Pray that we would have the discernment to sift through the opinions of others and our own. Pray that we would draw nearer to the Father this week.  

With all of our hearts, thank you for reading our blog posts. We are grateful for the financial support, the encouraging notes, texts and calls. Thank you for your faithfulness to pray for us. We are having a blast on this journey, and we're so glad you're along for the ride! 

Comment below if you're partnering with us in prayer this week!

Q&A Time

“We can dream bigger. My vision was too small.” Those were Gunter’s words after what we just experienced.

This milestone in our journey was our first church planting conference. We hesitate to call it a “conference,” because that sounds so grey and boring. This conference was anything but! 

The leadership called it the world’s biggest family reunion (and even sent us home with family reunion t-shirts). 

We call it amazing! And we want to thank you for the part you’ve played in getting us there. 

So to help us boil down what we learned, come sit in on an interview with Gunter and Bethany! Just pretend you’re asking the questions instead of reading the ones we made up. 

 

What is an ARC conference?

Gunter: A gathering of veteran church planters, potential church planters, and people who just love church planting. ARC’s mission is to provide resources for church planters to fulfill the dream God has placed on their hearts. It was a time full of fun and hanging out with thousands of others who share the same heart. Lots of food and learning and fun. Did I mention it was FUN?

Bethany: ARC is the organization helping us prepare to plant churches. Just from what I knew before getting involved, they seemed like a great Kingdom-minded organization, but now that I’ve had a taste of what they’re all about, I’m ready to jump in with both feet. 

 

Overall, what did you take away?

Gunter: We can dream bigger. My vision was too small. As i heard stories and testimonies of people who had done it, it caused my faith to grow.

Bethany: Momentum. I saw with my own eyes that we were part of something much, much bigger than I knew. We were progressing before, but now, it’s like we’ve stepped from the shore into a moving stream.  

 

What was the most significant thing you learned?

Gunter: Between the two of us, I think more in terms of the vision, the “big picture.” I learned about defining our vision and how to communicate that vision well. A vision without a plan is just fantasy. 

Bethany: I’m more of a details person, so I was like a kid in a candy store when a bunch of wise people started talking details about how to make it happen! Even more significant, though, to me, were the thought processes behind the scenes. I learned that to get the end result we want — people connecting with God — we have to be thoughtful and thorough on the front end. And that it’s not necessarily the fancy bells and whistles that make a church work well. 

 

What was God saying?

Gunter: “You can trust Me.” Sometimes we can’t see the outcome of what we know is in our hearts when we literally leave everything to pursue the dream God has given us. It’s good to hear from people and meet people who have already done it. We’re seeing it from this side, not knowing what may be ahead, and they're looking back from the other side, saying, “God is faithful.”

Bethany: “See? This is possible.” We heard from people in various stages of life. Whether their churches were just a couple years old or 30+ years old, they were all willing to share about their own small beginnings and bungles made along the way. Several of the speakers quoted Zechariah 4:10: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” It encourages me that all these successful church planters started from the same place as we are starting — small beginnings — and not as experts.  

 

What was something that surprised you?

Gunter: The variety of people — different backgrounds, personalities, and styles. And yet, that a group so diverse could be so engaged together, unified, and encouraging to each other. It was on a scale unlike anything I had experienced. 

Bethany: The integrity and biblical soundness of the ARC organization. I knew they had some good, practical ideas about how to keep a church plant from going bankrupt within the first year, but I had no clue that they were so committed to doing things the right way, in the right spirit. ARC is no shallow, fluffy organization. The kind of spiritual strength I witnessed among them blew me away. 

 

How is your direction as a church planter more refined?

Gunter: Hearing people share their stories and hearing wisdom from other people gave language to the dream in our hearts. I feel like i’m able to communicate it better, now that I’m seeing how the vision plays out in real life.

Bethany: I think my own role became more refined, in my own mind. Hearing from some of the women involved in church planting — many of them wives and mothers — encouraged me to serve according to my giftings and stage of life, without feeling the pressure to take on everything single-handedly. I realized it’s okay if I’m not directly involved in every area. I have the freedom to be who God is calling me to be and do what He’s calling me to do in the season. 

 

How are you more prepared? 

Gunter: Confidence. I have more confidence than ever. I’ve seen God do amazing things through ordinary people. If He can do it through them, He can use me.

Bethany: Awareness. Planting a church is no small task, and it comes with its share of potential pitfalls, even in personal areas. People who have gone through it shared with us about the strains planting a church put on their families, their finances, and their faith. Their honesty and wisdom is helping us to be proactive in strengthening those areas of our lives before we get to the hard situations ahead. We’ll head into this better prepared to weather the storms and come out in one piece on the other side.    

 

What’s next?

Gunter: Our next training event and assessment interviews will be in September. Until then, we’ll be working on getting details squared away and praying about confirmation of a location. We also have to get information together and submitted before our assessment at ARC. And of course, getting lots of hands-on experience at Church With U, where we’re interning.

 

So that’s where we are in the process — excited, better equipped, and moving forward! We appreciate your continued prayers, encouragement, and support! 

Location: The Beginning of Wisdom

When we first began this church-plant-training phase of our lives, I figured we needed to know stuff. Stuff about budgets and outreach and the church plant mindset. About events planning and out-of-the-box Sunday morning services. Lots of detailed stuff. 

I am happy to say all that is coming along.

But as we began to face one life decision after another, we realized knowledge alone wasn’t going to cut it. We were in desperate need of WISDOM! Much more wisdom than we thought!

So, I turned to Proverbs. I figured if I make a mental note of all these wise sayings, surely I could gain some wisdom and not WRECK THIS THING, right?

Out of all I’ve read so far, here’s the resounding theme:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

Coming from a church background, I’ve heard that verse hundreds of times. But truth is multilayered. I knew that truth, but now I KNOW that truth, and when I’m 50, I’ll KNOW it even more deeply, and when I’m 80…until I see Him face to face.

My question was, why? Why is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom?

To start, all wisdom originates with God. Proverbs 8:22 says, “The Lord made me [wisdom] at the beginning of His creation, before His works of long ago.” The chapter goes on to describe how wisdom was there with God as He created everything. If wisdom exists, God is the source.

But can I get a witness that if you have a low opinion of someone, you are not going to give them the time of day? The higher my view of someone, the more I am going to take what they say to heart. The more I am going to observe the way they do life and try to mimic that. 

That’s where “the fear of the Lord” comes in. If I’m a know-it-all, or if I have a low view of God, I am not going to listen to Him. If I don’t believe He is absolutely and forever good -- if I don't revere Him -- I can’t even begin to gain the wisdom that only comes from Him. 

If I think what I need is going to come from somewhere else…or if I struggle and scratch to supply my own wisdom, I’m going to miss the real source.

If you look up the word for “wisdom” in the Old Testament (“chokmah”), it is overwhelmingly used in reference to wisdom or skill directly given by God to people. In many instances, it’s referred to as a spirit of wisdom bestowed by God. 

WHAT?! You mean I don’t have to figure out how to make MYSELF wise? I don’t have to make this wisdom thing happen in my own strength?! Oh so liberating. 

When this realization hit me and I submitted again to this God who is certainly worthy of my reverence, it was like I was finally ready to listen. The wisdom I searched for was at His feet. I was finally ready to START gaining some wisdom straight from the source. 

And I was happy to find out Who the source is! Not my ability to listen to a speaker, not my good judgement on how to do life successfully, not a person who seems like they have it all together somehow. What I so desperately need originates with the One Who loves me more than anybody else loves me! The one Who is making all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The One Who promises to complete the good work He started in me.

Of course, He intends for people to learn from each other (Proverbs 15:22 12:15), but even wise counselors in my life are a gift from Him.

This true “fear of the Lord” never makes Him seem unapproachable or distant. This kind of awe doesn’t hold Him at arms’ length. No, my love for Him has only intensified as my proper view of Him has grown. Love to a depth that I can’t sing a worship song in my kitchen without tearing up. I’m obeying Him more when I feel like doing things my way. He's training me to pause and humble myself when my first reaction is to throw a tantrum. And I’m learning to remember Him more often during the busyness of the day. 

So I’m not Solomon yet, but I’m headed in a good direction — right here at the beginning of wisdom.

Casa Nueva

by Bethany

Long time, no blog! We’ve been busy moving to our NEW PLACE! We affectionately refer to it as "Casa Nueva." A few cardboard boxes are still hanging around, but I’m now writing to you from where will be our home for the next 9 months to a year. 

We are so happy here! The house is cozy. The area is quiet and beautiful (we have about as many tractors drive by in a day as we do cars). The kids play on a playground I can see from my kitchen window. Best of all, the price allows us to live within our means and continue to save for the home downpayment we’ll need when we move to our plant city. This is truly a God-arranged situation worth the patience.

So many of YOU have played a part! Thank you so much for your prayers, and for being on the lookout for a place for us! 

In other news, God continues to program us for the future He has planned. He is bringing out patterns in us that shouldn’t be and replacing them with right ways of thinking. He’s giving us further insight about the vision, piece by piece. And we may even be getting some clues about the location. We shall see in time…

Just wanted to give you a quick update and let you know that we are still here! More to come in the next couple of days on what we’ve been learning. Thanks for coming along with us on this adventure!

Good Gifts

by Gunter

This is such an exciting time in our lives! There are moments of overwhelming joy and anticipation as we are on this journey. There are also moments of uncertainty and anxiety. We are learning to rejoice in every circumstance and to trust our Father's heart. He's good. And He will never change, even when everything changes around us. 

For me, a husband and a father of three, one of the major areas of learning to trust concerns finances. It doesn't matter how "spiritual" you are or how much you are sold on God's vision for your life, everybody freaks out just a little when money looks scarce!

But I can say with certainty that God always provides. He gives good gifts. He meets the needs of His kids, especially when we partner with Him. He finds great joy in it. 

He is providing in so many ways. He has led many of you who follow our journey to give, and we are so grateful that you are partnering with us! 

When we first stepped down from our position at our church of eight years, I had no job to transition to. I made some phone calls and put in some applications, and got a job at Shane's Rib Shack in Enterprise. (Great food and service! You should try it!)  While I was there, I learned a lot about serving people, pastoring people in a different environment...and cooking for a crowd! The job also helped me get acclimated to being back in the work force after years of full-time ministry. 

I got a new job a few weeks ago as a loan processor at Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union. It's a great job with benefits, and I love the people. I'm gaining much needed wisdom and understanding on the financial side of things. 

God has met another need this week. We have been offered a rental house for a fraction of the cost of most homes in the area. This takes some strain off our finances and frees us up to focus our resources on the future. We've felt led to steward our money with the end goal in mind, and now God has paved a way for us to do that. And we plan on moving in soon! 

The lesson we are learning now is so valuable for the journey ahead of us. God is a good Father who provides for His kids. Nothing brings this sweet reality home like being completely dependent upon Him. I wouldn't trade anything for the way I'm getting to know Him during this season of our lives. Whatever your current situation, you can trust Him too. He's a good, good Father. 

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