1,000 Churches in Our Generation

May 5, 2017

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us …” (Ephesians 3:20 ESV)

Fifteen years ago, Pastor J.D. used this verse to challenge the members of the Summit to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God—things far above anything we could ask or think. Since 2002, we have seen God answer those prayers, over and over and over again. As I reflect on what God has led the Summit to do in missions over the last fifteen years, it makes me look ahead to the next fifteen years with a sense of hopeful anticipation.

LOCAL

  • Community missions project participants in 2002: 12
  • Community missions project participants in 2016: 3,688

In the last fifteen years, we have embraced Raleigh-Durham as “our city.” We want to own the care and service of our city. We want to know and love the marginalized in our area, including the homeless, orphans, prisoners, unwed mothers, and disconnected youth. To that end, in 2005, we began ServeRDU (then called “Hope for Durham”) as a way to put God on display in the broken and hurting parts of our city.

Since that time, we’ve seen 164 families take steps toward the adoptive or foster process. Our men’s prison service has grown to 143 prisoners in weekly attendance. We’ve had more than 650 people serve refugee families with World Relief. Through our DWELL initiative, we have nine teams in the Triangle, with more than 100 people living in underserved communities. We have placed mentors and volunteers in more than 50 schools throughout the Triangle. Perhaps most exciting, the majority of this work is led not by our staff but by our lay members, with 55 people leading local outreach teams across our church.

NATIONAL

  • North American churches planted from church’s foundation until 2002: 0
  • North American churches planted, 2002-2016: 32 (with 8 scheduled for 2017)

For the first 43 years of our church’s existence, Homestead Heights (as we were called then) was not engaged in U.S. church planting. This is sadly ironic considering the fact that our church was actually a church plant herself. In 2004, we financially supported our first church plant in the tiny town of Youngsville, Ohio. Over the next five years, we expanded our vision, supporting five more church plants. By 2010, we became increasingly convinced that the key to fulfilling the Great Commission wasn’t just by praying and giving but by actively sending.

We wanted to send out our best to start churches across North America. We began to talk about planting 1,000 churches in our generation. It was an audacious goal, but it started to catch. Since 2010, we have planted 26 churches in the U.S., sending out 400 of our people. Every one of those 400 people has a fascinating story of engaging in God’s mission and seeing God’s provision.

INTERNATIONAL

  • People serving two or more years overseas in 2002: 5
  • People serving two or more years overseas in 2016: 204
  • People sent out for two or more years, 2002-2016: 378
  • Churches planted overseas from church’s foundation until 2002: 0
  • Churches planted overseas, 2002-2016: 162

Sam James, the first pastor of Homestead Heights, planted our church in 1962 and stayed just long enough to see it off the ground; then he left to serve on the mission field in Vietnam. Unfortunately, Sam James’ passion to send out people to take the gospel to the ends of the earth wasn’t a priority for the church. But when J.D. Greear became our pastor in 2002, he ignited a fire that continues to burn in the hearts of our church. It was a fire that would make Sam James proud, a fire and a passion to make Christ known where he is not known, especially among peoples who have never heard the name of Jesus.

This is particularly evident in our student and college ministries, which sent 147 people overseas during 2016. (You may need to go back and read that number again!) We are encouraging everyone, from students to retirees, to do what you do well for the glory of God and to do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.  We have retirees who plan to move overseas and encourage our long-term workers on the field. We have businessmen and women who are seeking jobs in dozens of international cities, leaving behind a comfortable American life to take the gospel to the darkest corners of our globe.

These are only a few of the ways that we have seen the One who is able to “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” And while we are both excited and humbled at how he has used our church to accomplish these things, we believe that even greater things lie ahead. God has only just begun. The greatest works of God are not in our past but in our future.

None of this is for the fame or glory of The Summit Church. A thousand years from now, no one may know the name of the Summit, but praise God, they will know the name of Jesus Christ.

“… to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21)

by Bonnie Shrum

Photo by img.org

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