Planting at 60

by Jeff Dryden
Converge Community Church
New Buffalo, MI

Can a church that is 60 years old start a new site?

That’s what we wondered about Sawyer Highlands Church. Who recommends that 60-year-olds give birth? Only the Lord God. Sarah was long past the child birthing years. She thought her husband (and maybe God too) was a little crazy. But when the Lord is involved, a 60-year-old church can plant a new site. At least that’s what we believe. And that’s what we believe the Lord wants us to do.

Sawyer, MI is a small town. And small towns have unique and specific identities that they hold on to. A few years ago, we began to ask that question about a neighboring small town. We’d have people come to SHC from New Buffalo, and they would say things like, “There isn’t anything like this down by us.” New Buffalo is only 10 miles away, certainly a short drive. Yet New Buffalo is its own community with a unique identity. Churched people would come to us from New Buffalo, but those disconnected from church wouldn’t think of it.

So, a few years ago, we began to offer summer services in New Buffalo. During the summer, the town’s population swells to 11,000. We began a simple worship gathering in a local diner’s outside courtyard. OK, it’s a hot dog stand. Eventually it was drawing over 100 people. It was then that we realized God was on the move, and there was room for a church to be launched there.

As the preaching pastor, I would speak in both locations. But we didn’t have a site pastor. Everything I read said that it was foolish to start a new site with no clear site pastor. “So, should we not do this Lord? I’m 53 years old. I have plenty to do already in our growing church. At my age, it’s way easier to stay put and keep praying for God to raise up another site pastor.” Yet we know there are too many people not going to church in New Buffalo. We felt compelled by God to begin. In small towns you can’t begin a new site and live in another town. You must be one of them to bring Jesus to them. So in November, we moved our family to New Buffalo.

This summer we again conducted our summer services at the local diner. Did I mention that it is a hot dog stand? One Sunday we had almost 150 people…at a hot dog stand! That’s not normal. That’s God! The summer service is simply a launching pad for the church we’re calling Converge Community Church. (Get the story behind the name at www.convergenewbuffalo.com.)

God has been raising up a great team. We certainly aren’t doing this alone. God has brought in people we never knew, who say, “I’ve been praying for a work like this for years.” Our launch is October 7 in the local high school. We’re excited. We’re scared. And we are confident that God is on the move.

Can a church that is 60 years old start a new site? When God is in it, there is no doubt.

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Church Health, Church Planting, Michigan, Jeff Dryden