Monday, August 9, 2010

How to Build a Church in Five Days

CHURCH CHALLENGE

Mount Olive United Methodist Church (Indiana)
How to Build a Church in Five Days
By Rachel Elwood, Writer
March/April 2009 The Call

Yes, it’s possible! With a congregation of mature, gifted believers and a desire to “plant” new seeds of faith in others, Mount Olive United Methodist Church in Marion, Indiana, helped grow a brand-new church in Honduras in five days. Here’s how they did it.

1. They viewed people with compassion.
Without question Mount Olive UMC takes a deep interest in bringing Christ’s love to hurting people. “It’s so important to realize that it’s not all about us,” says music minister Tim Becker. “It’s easy to get so caught up in ourselves that we don’t do a good job in reaching out to other people. It’s about God’s family.”

2. They offered missions opportunities at local, state, national, and international levels.
From volunteering at the local women’s shelter to building wheelchair ramps for disabled individuals, from bringing relief to flood victims in Indiana and Louisiana to organizing several missions trips a year to Honduras, the church desires to have a variety of hands-on experiences available for church members. “My goal for the church is to be faithful to God’s calling,” says Pastor Bob Dexter. “This has been a very exciting congregation to be a part of. Over a period of time, people have become very focused on how we can show the compassion of Christ to others.”

So how did Mount Olive get hooked on Honduras? According to missions chair Joy Wickline, “One guy badgered a couple other guys to go on a work team with him, and on the last night in Honduras, they met a group of street children at church. Their hearts were ripped to shreds, and when they came back, they decided they needed to do something.”

3. They showed commitment to a particular field or project.
Mount Olive had been sending teams to the Manuelito Project in Honduras for several years before the opportunity to build a church came up. Started by a Honduran church, the Manuelito Project rescues children from a life on the streets and gives them an education, a healthy lifestyle, unconditional love, and most importantly, the knowledge that they are children of God. Mount Olive has been—and continues to be—involved with construction at the project. “Anyone can go, no matter what age, what their profession is—there’s always something to do,” says Galen Clark, longtime church member who has been to Honduras multiple times.

Through serving at Manuelito, the church came to know Pastor Jorge Pinto, the founder of the project. Jorge is also a WGM board member, president of the Honduran national church, and a dynamic pastor who has founded several churches. Jorge approached the church with a vision to build a church for the Lenca Indians, an indigenous people group who live in a remote mountainous area.

4. They didn’t do it alone.
The team of men from Mount Olive was joined by a team from another nearby church, La Fontaine UMC, whose pastor is the son of Mount Olive’s previous pastor. In addition, a team came from the Honduran church where Jorge pastors. “It was so neat to have them all working together on the church,” said Colleen Hawk, missionary to Honduras who also traveled with the three-church team to the Lenca village.

For Tim Becker, it was an especially meaningful experience, “I expected God to show Himself during that trip, but I didn’t know it was going to be through relationships with people that I really didn’t have a lot in common with. But we had the same God and we had the same saving grace of Christ. It was obvious from the beginning that it was all one big family.” Since this trip in 2006, La Fontaine UMC has sent teams several times to the village and is financially supporting Amore y Vida (Love and Life), the Lenca church.

5. Most importantly, they worshiped the Lord together.
What a powerful moment, having just finished constructing the church, to worship with the Lenca people on Sunday morning in the building. And yes, they built the church in five days! And for the three churches—Mount Olive UMC, La Fontaine UMC, and Dios Es Amor (God Is Love)—who sent people to build, the worshiping continues to this day.

So how does the story end? It doesn’t! Like all good stories, this one keeps evolving. Amore y Vida has gone through some transition and is now awaiting the arrival of a new pastor to lead the church. Pastor Bob Dexter, who recently accepted the call to pastor Mount Olive, and the church are busily planning its upcoming trips to the Manuelito Project in Honduras.

Do you want your church family to be a part of “transplanting” their faith to new believers in new places? Do you want to know more about how your church can get more involved in missions? Contact Todd Eckhardt at church@wgm.org.
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