Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
Treasuring Christ Together - A Working Vision
A Multiplying Movement of Congregations, Campuses, and Churches
Spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ
Bethlehem Baptist Church, Fall, 2003
When Jesus Christ blesses his church, he puts us to the test. How will we manage his mercy? Managing mercy may feel unfitting, but it is biblical. Jesus gave differing “talents” to his servants and told them to manage well till he comes (Matt. 25:15). We either do this humbly and wisely, or we do it badly. There is no non-response to mercy.
That’s our situation at Bethlehem. One fallible but crucial measure of Christ’s blessing is how many people are tasting the supremacy of God among us on Sunday morning. The answer is: more than twice as many as five years ago. Here are the first quarter averages:
This trajectory of grace set the Council of Elders to praying and planning. We would like to share with you how we think God is leading us to respond. We hope you will taste the same joyful anticipation we feel.
After four years of effort, the adult ministries team is finally in place with the call of Sherard Burns and Tom Eckblad to join David Livingston. This is crucial because it lays the foundation for aggressive growth without neglecting the relational health of the church. Never before have we had a team that includes assimilation, covenant care, and counseling. We believe the time is right to exchange the mentality of coping with the mentality of strategic growth.
We build on the past grace of what God has made Bethlehem to be. On the facing page we try to portray Bethlehem as it is today. With the glory of God at the top and the grace of God at the bottom, every ministry exists “to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.”
Most unusual are the six auxiliary ministries that span upwards at the top, from TBI to World Missions. These rise with increasing expansiveness and distance from Bethlehem. In all our planning we should not forget that the blessing and burden of being Bethlehem include an ever-expanding global responsibility.
What’s new at this point in our history is the fresh resolve to multiply congregations, campuses and churches. You see this on the facing page in the ministry called “Church Planting and Strategic Mobilization.” The church already approved Kenny Stokes as the leader of this ministry. You also see it on pages 4-6 in the vision statement called Treasuring Christ Together (TCT).
TCT is a strategic alternative to an ever-larger sanctuary downtown and an everincreasing number of services at the single downtown campus. The alternative is to create and nurture a radical, risk-taking mindset for “spreading” by multiplication, as opposed to the more comfortable mindset of expansion by centralized enlargement. For Bethlehem at this time, we think this alternative vision is harder and better.
TCT means three kinds of multiplication: neighborhood congregations, campuses, and independent churches. You may read about these on page 5.
Our aim is that multiple churches be planted and that there be more than two campuses. One essential part of this vision is a mixture of live and video preaching in worship. It seems good to the elders, for this season in our history, that the congregations and campuses be united by Pastor John’s preaching. Newly planted independent churches would have their own preaching pastors.
The anchor service (always live) would be Saturday night, starting October 4. At this service a video recording of the sermon will be made. The next morning this recording will be used in the worship services where the preacher is not present. We will continue to rotate live preaching among the campuses, but now we will use this recording instead of broadcasting live. This change accomplishes four things.
1) It keeps the preaching pastor live downtown every weekend (Saturday night) for the sake of a consistent urban presence.
2) It frees us from the spirit-squeezing synchronization of services on Sunday morning.
3) It saves us $1,400 a week in broadcast fees.
4) It enables “neighborhood congregations” to use the video in homes at creative times when outreach is optimal. For more details on scheduling see page 7.
We pray that God will create in us the pilgrim mindset to spread a passion by multiplication. The price is higher than centralization. But the saving effect for those without Christ will, we believe, be greater. And that will be our joy. Pray with us for this miracle of grace.
For the Council of Elders,
To read the remainer of the document please open the PDF above.