As Christians, we have all imagined ourselves sitting with our brothers and sisters in the church that met in Lydia's home in Philippi, or that of Philemon in the Lycas Valley. House-churches were the primary meeting places of Christians on the First Day of the Week in the First, Second, and early Third centuries A.D. In those early days, the gospel spread relationally over the Empire from house-to-house when common men who were strong in the word of God shared the gospel with their families and friends each day and in Christian assemblies in their homes on the First Day of the Week.
I was joyful to participate in their first house-church gathering with Carl and Stacy Alfieri by means of SKYPE in their Brooklyn, NY apartment from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. CST this past Sunday, 11/12/17. Carl was baptized as a result of World Bible School referring him to us for follow-up. Carl attended the Manhattan congregation for a brief time, but he and his wife desire to establish the church in their home.
This Sunday, the Lord's Supper was partaken; song of praise sung; prayers offered; and a lesson delivered by Carl and finished my me. Carl and Stacy have invited another couple to services next Sunday at 2:30 p.m. understanding their need to reach others with the gospel. Emphasis was drawn to the need for Christians to be disciples of Jesus who possess the true DNA of Jesus that will lead to reproduction of souls. Prayers will be offered that a time will come when Carl and Stacy's apartment will not be sufficient space to house all those in attendance necessitating another house-church in Brooklyn and, then, another.
Faithful men of God (e.g. Dan Wheeler, Stan Taylor, Andrew Bowens, Terry Carlisle, Jake Sutton, Don Reynolds and numbers of others) are standing by ready to take up their work of teaching and preaching in these settings by means of Internet venues such as SKYPE, Go-To-Meeting, Google Hangouts, and/or Face Time.
The two congregations established in Bradford and Wyoming Counties Pennsylvania met yesterday morning in worship to God. The first church (Sayre, PA) has talked of planting a church in Towanda, PA—the county seat of Bradford, PA. May the Lord be praised!! The dream of planting churches that meet in homes and other free spaces has been a dream expressed by the Antioch Initiative, but now, praise God, realized! We now have a standing appointment each Sunday afternoon at 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. to worship with the church that meets in Carl and Stacy's home in Brooklyn, NY.
What will be the outcome of this? All is in God's hands. The emphasis will be laid on the authority of God's word for all worship, belief, and daily living. Our prayer is that yesterday was the beginning of a historic evangelistic movement of discipleship as we see the gospel spread over the land with the saints gathering to worship God in homes and other free spaces with seasoned and grounded men of God mentoring disciples preparing them for service and reproduction.
Jesus offered an illustration of a woman putting a bit of yeast in a lump of dough resulting in the whole lump being infiltrated. Little is much when God is in it! Let us all be reminded that when we finally get into a field to spread the gospel that God has long-since been there! Let us join God in His mission for lost souls.
On Friday, December 1st, and Saturday, December 2nd, Jimmy Davis and I are schedule to travel to Moorhead, MS to meet and dream with Gene & Madolyn Gibson concerning their need for a student center director for the community college work. They have served in that capacity for 22 years. They report that four congregations of the church of Christ have closed their doors over the last number of years in that region. We purpose to explore what involvement we might have in helping locate a student center director who might serve a reorganized congregation in that region that might include an outreach to the 50 non-member students who regularly attend Bible classes at the student center in Moorhead. We are encouraging a meeting of leaders from those congregations that once existed at a dinner meeting on Friday of that trip.
On that trip, we have been invited to Winona, MS to meet Betty Choate and to tour their operation of The Voice of Truth International. Betty featured the church planting work of the Antioch Initiative in a recent issue of that Christian magazine.
Having been contacted by Edie Connel (the Administrative Co-ordinate of Follow-Up Partners with World Bible School), she has proposed to send the Antioch Initiative the contact information of all people from 2013 to 2017 who have requested baptism and with whom other follow-up partners have placed in an inactive status. She has forward one name as a test and we expect five more from her soon. All these efforts will be plotted through the WBS website where record keeping may be historically documented. Members of the Antioch Initiative Team will be activated in the follow-up of these precious souls.
Jonathan Towell (Computer Co-ordinator with WBS) has plans to improve the WBS software to realize the full and evolving potential of the Antioch Initiative's desire to disciple souls leading to church plants in the U.S.
Other exciting developments are on the radar of which we cannot speak since their are in a proposal status.
More later as God blesses.
Someone said, "If you plant a church, you may or may not get a disciple, but, if you make a disciple, you always get a church."
Greetings in Jesus’ name
I pray you are well and happy in the LORD.
Things are moving quite quickly regarding our efforts to buy a new church building. Response to our fundraising appeal has been very encouraging and so many of you have been praying for our success, we know that. The brethren at Kittanning church of Christ have continued to amaze us with their steadfast commitment to helping us with this work in Sayre. The purchase price has been lowered to $95000 and we presently have around $45000 towards that. This amount includes $20000 of our own money combined with gifts you have either sent, or pledged to send.
We are expecting to sign a purchase agreement and set the closing date within days, so please keep us in your prayers. One nice little twist is that our regional fifth Sunday singing event is going to be hosted by us at the new location. I asked if we could borrow the building for that one evening (October 29) and the owners agreed. This is a perfect time to show brethren in the region where we will soon be.
Our excitement is now turning more to plans on how we will utilize this building and there is a flood of ideas we are considering. We have members with expertise in areas that are of definite interest to the community; from reading literacy and yoga to smoking cessation and crisis counseling for violence and rape. We are asking God for wisdom in these decisions.
There will be additional expenditures when we move into the building and we are still seeking funds to make sure we can cover these as well as bring the mortgage amount down to a manageable monthly payment. We are so grateful for all your help.
God is moving in this world and we intend to keep up with Him.
May all the Glory be His.
Valley Cities church of Christ
PO Box 82 Sayre, PA 18840
The story is told of a man hitting his golf ball out of bounds. When he got to the ball, it was in the center of a red-ant bed. Being an honest man, he decided to play the ball where it lay. On his first swing, half the ant bed was torn away with dead ants everywhere. On his second swing, the other half of the bed was gone with dead ants everywhere. Only two ants remained and were having a quick conversation before the terrible golfer took another swing. “What are we going to do?,” queried one ant. The other ant said, “I don’t know about you, but I am going to get on the ball!”
Yet, what are we to do to “get on the ball” in the mission of Christ. Well, simply put, we are to get on the ball by doing what Jesus commanded—“make disciples.” Making disciples will lead to the forming of new congregations with members possessing the DNA of Jesus and able to reproduce themselves. So, let’s all keep that clear—that is our mission.
On Friday, September 8th, Jimmy Davis and I traveled to Cookeville, TN to set up our Antioch Initiative booth at the Tennessee Tech Basketball Arena where the Annual Bible Bowl would be held the next day. About 2000 young people gathered at the Bible Bowl on Saturday, September 9th, and we had an enjoyable day meeting various church leaders and informing them of our efforts to make disciples in the U.S. leading to the planting of churches. During the course of the day, we met Jerry Cherry (the preacher of the Red Boiling Springs congregation) and a couple of his elders. I had been invited to preach a gospel meeting in Red Boiling Springs from Sunday, September 10th, through Wednesday, September 13th. As we follow-up on World Bible School referrals for baptisms in the U.S., Jerry Cherry (a pilot with American Airlines) said that since he and his wife can fly free that they would fly to any place in the U.S. to baptize those who no one else can easily reach.
On the afternoon of Saturday, September 9th, we were privileged to have lunch in Cookeville with the elders of Crossville, TN along with a beloved partner in this work, Don Napier. Don arranged this meeting. He is a professional newspaper man and publisher who has agreed to do all our printing free of charge as his contribution to the work.
Following the meeting with the Crossville elders, Jimmy and I journeyed to Red Boiling Springs, TN and checked into the Donoho Hotel built in the late 1800’s once visited by President Franklin Roosevelt. The home style breakfasts and dinners were delightful.
The gospel meeting was well attended and we were able to reconnect with Kenny Westmoreland of Celina, TN and Dennis Miller of Moss, TN who were both in attendance at the meeting on Tuesday evening and dedicated partners in our work. The Red Boiling elders met with Jimmy and I for dinner on the evening of Wednesday, September 13th, and listened to the exciting challenges of this work. On Wednesday morning, Jimmy and I drove back to Cookeville and met with Kevin Daughrity (one of the ministers of Sycamore congregation in Cookeville) along with three of his elders (Charles, Wayne, & Dale). On Tuesday night after service, Grant Carruth, Donnie Dowlen, and Bill Hedge (Trustees of the Smith Fund out of Nashville, TN) met with Jimmy and me to assess the progress of the work in Tunkhannock, PA with evangelist Jeff Wyeth. Those trustees provide a $48,000 per year salary and benefit package to Jeff and Teresa Wyeth. As was agreed from the outset, that sum will be reduced to $30,000 beginning March 1, 2018. Yet, those trustees assured us of their intention to continue with us in this work over the next three or four years depending on the progress of the same.
On the financial side, our priorities are:
Raising $18,000 to replace the sum being reduced by the Nashville Trustees needed by 3/1/18;
Raising operations funding for the Antioch Initiative;
And, looking for other evangelists interested in joining the team as multiple church planters.
As we pursue our new approach of following up on WBS referrals for baptisms in the U.S. and recruiting mentors who will disciple these referrals, we received our first request for baptism from Carl Alfieri of Brooklyn, NY. Carl has been assigned Jake Dutton as a mentor and is in attendance now at a congregation near his home. He plans to be baptized soon.
As you have read, we are prayerful that some of these discipleship relationships between mentors and students who are out of proximity of exiting congregations will result in the forming of new congregations of the Lord Jesus.
God blessed the Antioch Initiative to reach an agreement with World Bible School on Wednesday, August 9th, in Cedar Park, TX. The agreement is that the Antioch Initiative will be given access to all those requesting baptism in the U.S. through the WBS online and postal lesson series that are not otherwise covered in various sectors of the country through the mission outreaches of individual congregations of the church in the U.S. An essential element in this followup work will involved the recruitment of faithful and mature men of God being recruited throughout the country who will continue the discipleship process with said souls leading those repentant believers to their baptisms into Christ and to their continued growth through discipleship in the Lord with the teachers using internet venues (e.g. SKYPE; WeChat; Go-to-Meeting; etc.). Seeking continued blessings from the Father through prayer, we envision this leading to new church plants throughout the U.S. meeting in venues of their own choosing as it may please the Lord. The key to global evangelism is discipleship and there are no shortcuts in the discipleship process. True disciples who populate new church plants will possess the DNA of Jesus and will replicate themselves--new church plants planting churches that will plant churches until Jesus returns. Evangelists will be sought to move to various places in the U.S. with the dream of multiple church planting.
From the outset of the church-planting vision of the Antioch Initiative, we have had in our sights the non-paternalistic model of the Apostle Paul meaning that we insisted that we would not get wrapped up in properties and buildings, but center our attention on the discipleship of those thirsty for the word of God, particularly, in four counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania where the church of Christ did not exist. To date, two congregations have been planted in two of those four counties (Sayre, PA in Bradford County on 10/19/14 & Tunkhannock, PA in Wyoming County on 6/5/16). Yet, when push came to shove, towns targeted for church planting did not present available prospective meeting places in homes of Christians who lived in practical distance of either location. We satisfied ourselves that we would rent temporary meeting places for obvious reasons—the Christians ready to meet could not meet in the rain and snow. Yet, what we did in the rental of those places (e.g. a renovated engineer’s office suite in Sayre & a renovated plumber’s shop in Tunkhannock) has lulled us into an unhealthy pattern of thinking and practice that is opposite to our originally stated intention of Pauline methodology.
To briefly explain, we never see Paul receiving funding from Antioch of Syria or any other congregation to finance church plants in places like Paphos, Salamis, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe (1st Missionary Journey) or places like Troas, Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica, Athens, and Corinth (2nd journey). What Paul did was locate people who were willing to listen (e.g. often in synagogues or marketplaces) and shared the message that Jesus was (is) the crucified, resurrected Son of God & enthroned Messiah—in short, he preached the gospel of grace to them. When souls became repentant baptized believers, they were mentored through discipleship by Paul; by apostolic representatives he sent to check on them (e.g. Timothy, Titus, Luke, etc.); and their spiritual progress was monitored and then guided by written epistles and occasional visits from Paul and/or his traveling disciples. Men mighty in the Old Testament Scriptures from Jewish synagogues, often, were ready-made for leadership in new church plants. Added to that group of high-potential leaders were those on whom the Apostles laid their hands resulting in the conferring of supernatural gifts as the Spirit chose to give according to His will in the infant church. Paul never extended or raised a denarius to finance a church plant, nor did he ever give any instructions regarding where those Christians were to meet in assemblies. Things such a meeting places were left to the Christians of the city. Preaching and teaching was done by occasional visits from an Apostle, apostolic representative, prophets in the local church, or men otherwise qualified by their study in Old Testament Scriptures converted out of synagogues. Financing was sent from time to time to Paul while on a journey by churches he had planted and he worked with his own hands to supply for his needs and for those who traveled with him.
That very condensed explanation describes the essentials that were discussed in the recent meeting of core leaders of the Antioch Initiative on Monday, May 22nd, referred to in our last communication to you. As far as mission work is concerned in our brotherhood, we might be hard pressed to find a 21st example of mission being conducted on that Pauline model described above. Yet, one of the core leaders in this work is brother Gene Clemons of McAndrews, KY. Gene has, essentially, operated by the Pauline mission philosophy for the last forty years. What has resulted from his life’s work? Churches have been established in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ukraine, Russia, India, and China. Essentially, all the churches that were planted by brother Clemons met in homes at the outset, thus no money was involved in buying or rental of meeting places. Since brother Clemons has functioned as a fully funded missionary with a vision of spreading the gospel in and beyond the town where he lived and in and beyond his native country of America, he is, quite frankly, the nearest example to the Apostle Paul most of us have encountered or witnessed. His work of discipling those who have grown to disciple others has been and is a seamless dimension of his service to the Lord.
Arthur Barry (Evangelist of the church plant in Sayre, PA) and Gene Clemons were invited to open the meeting’s discussion on 5/22/17 with a brief recounting of their mission experiences. Ignited by those wonderful stories, the core leaders of the Antioch Initiative reached a unanimous decision to dedicate ourselves in earnest to the Pauline approach to church planting beginning immediately.
What does such a decision entail in practical terms? We are resolved to do the following.
First, we will rely on the guidance of God the Holy Spirit to open doors and bless our efforts. At every turn in God’s record in dealing with man, He has proven himself a mission God always seeking to recover those who are away from Him. He is no different today, hence, when we arrive at a place to seek souls, God will have already been there working His wondrous will! God raises up kings and brings down kings determining the seasons of countries and the boundaries of their habitation all with His mission aim of men seeking Him.
Second, efforts are already underway and will be protracted aimed at the discovery of places in the U.S. where Christians have moved where there are no congregations of the church of Christ. As those relocated Christians are pinpointed in those towns where no congregation of the church of Christ exists, they will, summarily, be contacted with the aim of encouraging them to begin to gather on the First Day of the Week for worship in their homes or in whatever place(s) they deem most appropriate for worship and mutual edification. As to meeting places, that will not be the responsibility of the Antioch Initiative or any supporter associated with the Antioch Initiative in the future. No effort will ever be made in the future to buy properties, to finance buildings or meeting places, or to rent the same for new church-plants. Those are matters strictly under the control of the Christians who will be meeting in their homes at the outset.
Third, the Antioch Initiative will extend the offer of teaching, preaching, and one-on-one mentoring of those Christians and their friends meeting in homes by means of SKYPE or other internet delivery mediums. There will be no cost associated with the delivery of this Bible teaching, except whatever internet and equipment set-up costs the churches meeting in homes or venues might incur. Mentoring leaders, preaching sermons, and delivery of classes by members of the Antioch Initiative and her partners will continue for these house churches until which time they have secured their own evangelists and/or regional preachers who can rotate in to help them. If lost souls are won to Christ in a place where there is no congregation of the church of Christ, those new Christians will be shown how they can begin meetings in their homes with fellow Christians for worship and mutual edification. We are not liberal in our theology or practice, yet, moving back to the model employed by the Apostle Paul stands tall in promising to bring us ever closer to the way the church functioned and spread rapidly 2100 years ago. Realizing that the idea of “house-churches” might be a trigger for some that denominational error or cultism is being introduced, let us assure those who already know us from past experience that nothing could be further from the truth. For many reading this news release, it is not unlikely that the congregation where you gather for worship and mutual edification on the 1st day of the week began in someone’s home or some free space in your town or city. No longer will we compete with the attractional models of denominational churches with their multi-million dollar facilities. Such an approach would mean slowing our discipleship of souls in whatever locations God blesses us to find willing Christians who are not meeting for church assemblies to a snail's pace.
Fourth, the goal of these efforts is not to do the work for the Christians meeting in homes, but to prepare them for works of service. One criteria of our willingness to offer our efforts will be our prayerful judgment that some foundation to build upon exists in that charter group of Christians who show willingness to become involved directly in their own work. If it is determined that no promise exists in any certain place among a group of Christians willing to be trained with a view of taking up their own work for God, then the Antioch Initiative workers might find that expending their efforts somewhere else might be more advantageous to the progress of the Lord’s work.
Fifth, if fully funded evangelists can be financed by one or more congregations to move into the region of a state in the U.S. to plant multiple churches (much like Gene Clemons), then the Antioch Initiative would be joyful to assist with those evangelists' work, if called upon, when time and opportunity present themselves. As we go along in this work, core leaders of the Antioch Initiative will always be on the lookout for such evangelists who want to join this work and vision. If an evangelist would like to function in planting multiple congregations in a region, the Antioch Initiative would join efforts in attempting the raising of support, but can never in the future become the congregation to which such support needs would fall back upon. Elmore church puts a tremendous percentage of their gross contributions into mission work, but to raise and, ultimately, underwrite multiple church-plants with the expense of their meeting places and evangelists' salaries will not and should not be attempted. Promoting the planting of churches in homes or free spaces with preaching and teaching being done by men mighty in God's word through internet mediums hold out promise of the rapid spread of church planting into the future. Such work is being done with great success in China and Guyana. We contend it should be done in the U.S. as well.
Sixth, just as Paul employed written epistles and face-to-face visits by himself and others, various gifted teachers, leaders, and preachers of the Antioch Initiative will visit these churches meeting in various parts of the U.S. as time and circumstances allow.
In conclusion, two wonderful congregations of the Lord’s church have been planted (Sayre & Tunkhannock) and we remain dedicated to assisting them along with our supporters until which time they are able to be financially independent through negotiated incremental reductions of support. The Valley Cities’ church in Sayre is moving rapidly toward that goal of independence having assumed (with their overseeing eldership in Kittanning, PA) $850 of their support needs. Yet, it has become clear that the Elmore church cannot continue to plant church after church founded on the commitments of donors who, normally, commit from year-to-year and who could drop out after their yearly commitments, or, in some cases, without notice. As the 3rd, 4th, 5th churches are established and so on, the Elmore church would, ultimately, be the place to which all financial responsibility would roll back. Such is not fair to the churches being planted, or the evangelists who have relocated their families to these new church-plants. Hence, on the one hand, we stand by our commitments to the first two church plants as they move rapidly toward financial self-support, self-propagation, and being self-led, but, in future church plants and as described above, the Antioch Initiative plans to have little or no financial ties to any future church plant based on the Pauline model herein described.
We are more excited than ever that self-supporting house churches can be rapidly established over the U.S. aided by the teaching, preaching, and mentoring supplied by the Antioch Initiative and its partners. As we pray such will happen, the future of those church-plants will rest squarely on the shoulders of the saints who meet in each of them as they accept their own responsibilities to spread the good news of Christ.
If there are questions any of you have regarding this future strategy, we urge you to contact us for clarifications, further explanation, and looking back at the spread of Christianity in the 1st century A.D. On the other hand, if you are reading this and are struck powerfully that we must return to our 1st century roots to see it repeated in our day, we need your help. Do you know of Christians from your congregation or region who may have moved to some area that does not have a church of Christ near them? If so, please contact us and allow us to reach out to them.
It is time for Christians to throw off the shackles of debt on properties in the mission of Christ; for evangelists to target multiple towns in their regions for discipling of souls; and, for every joint in the body of Christ to supply. The lost world is waiting. We must abandon the attractional style of evangelism that says, “Build it and they will come,” and surrender to Christ’s ancient call, “Go, make disciples of the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching to them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Are there not evangelists who are still ready to "go"?
Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed.
On Tuesday, July 25th, core members of the Antioch Initiative will meet on the campus of Faulkner University at 6 p.m., whether in person or through video conference, to discuss the following agenda items. Those included in the conference will be: Kenny Westmoreland (TN); Gene Clemons (KY); Jeff Wyeth (PA); Arthur Barry (NY); Bill Garrett (PA); Jimmy Davis (AL); Terry Carlisle (AL); Stan Taylor (AL); Marshall Reese (AL); Andrew Bowens (AL); Don Myers (AL); and Dave Laton (AL).
First, exploration and brainstorming will take place to determine consistent ways to become aware of members of the Lord's church who have relocated to parts of the U.S. where no congregation is in practical distance. Our prayerful aim will be to contact those Christians encouraging them to become the church where they live (see http://aicoc.org/index.
Second, the production of a user-friendly booklet will be discussed aimed at giving biblical guidance concerning the beginning of a new congregation in one's home or some free space in one's town.
Third, the recruitment and vetting of preachers/teachers of God's word who are sound and dependable men of God ready to teach & preach to those newly forming house churches from week-to-week by means of the live Internet. The securing of located missionaries in regions with the passion for multiple church planting must become the passion of each germinal church plant.
We would like to welcome brother Kenny Westmoreland (Evangelist of the Beech Bethany congregation in Celina, TN) as a core leader of the Antioch Initiative. Kenny has already met and informed brother Darrell Daily of Messena, NY of our church planting work and vision. I have spoken to brother Daily and he is going to meet with the men of his congregation inviting us to come preach for a few days and to become acquainted with brethren in that region very close to the Canadian border. He informed me that the nearest congregation to Messena is a 100 miles in any direction. Further, brother Daily informed us of a Men's Retreat that takes place the 3rd weekend of September at Camp Hunt in Hubbardsville, NY. We are making plans to attend that retreat where fourteen (14) congregation were represented last year.
Our aim is to network with brethren in regions of the U.S. where the Lord's church is scarce to non-existent.
What will come of all of this? Well, we are dealing with God who is the Infinite Missionary able to cause a little bit of yeast to infiltrate the whole lump of dough!
Jeff and Teresa Wyeth joined the elders of the Elmore church and other core leaders of the Antioch Initiative (March 3 - 5th) in order to enter a series of interactions and interview to determine their interest in and suitability to begin working with the Endless Mountains congregation in Tunkhannock, PA. Those participating in the face-to-face interview of Jeff on Saturday, March 4th, were the Elmore elders (Jimmy Davis, Stan Taylor, Marshall Reese, and Terry Carlisle); Dave Laton (deacon associated with mission at the Prattville congregation in Prattville, AL); Arthur Barry (evangelist of Valley Cities congregation in Sayre, PA); and, Don Myers (preacher of the Elmore church). After consultation with Grant Carruth and Donnie Dowlin (trustees of a mission fund out of Nashville, TN) and the members of the Endless Mountains congregation, Jeff and Teresa Wyeth were invited to take up the work of the evangelizing Wyoming and Susquehanna Counties Pennsylvania and serving as the preacher of the Endless Mountains church in Tunkhannock, PA.
Jeff and Teresa will move their belongings to Tunkhannock this coming Saturday, March 11th, and begin their search for suitable living quarters the week of March 12th.
Grant Carruth and Donnie Dowlin were positive that they could assume a significant portion of the Wyeth's support needs beyond a year's commitment. We will be in contact with other congregations who have expressed direct interest in this work to determine if the remainder of the needed funds can be committed soon.
We praise God from whom all blessings flow. The securing of the evangelist for the Endless Mountains church will clear the way for an aggressive evangelistic campaign targeting Susquehanna County & Wyoming County PA (pop. 70,000+). Economy of resources have moved us to resolve not to plant a church in Suequehanna County as this time, but to urge converts to drive to the Endless Mountains congregation in Tunkhannock for church assemblies and worship.
Some seasoned souls winners are already committing to join the 2017 Summer Campaign in Northeastern PA. Should you be interested in participating in this effort, contact Jimmy Davis at (334) 300-6987 or email
Future sites for the planting of a third church plant will soon be studied.
More later as God blesses.
CLAY COUNTY, TN
June 10th through 15th, Jimmy Davis & I traveled to Clay County, TN to make new acquaintances and contacts on behalf of the Antioch Initiative's church-planting work. There are more congregations of the Lord's church in Clay County than any other county in the U.S.
In light of our recent resolve not buy church properties or to rent church facilities, one might wonder why we continue to seek out brethren to share the challenge of planting churches in the U.S. The answer is as follows. First, we have two congregations being supported by year-to-year commitments of good brethren, but one cannot predict when or if circumstances might arise to cause one or more of those supporters to have to end their support. Kevin Donaldson shared an illustration from a brother (I cannot remember who) who said supporting works is like a Ferris Wheel that turns with new people getting on and others getting off. If there is not a continued effort to encourage new people to get on, then, eventually, one can foresee the seats being empty. We would urge all our supporters to stay on and stay the course with us as we seek to see the two congregations in Sayre & Tunkhannock reach financial independence. Sayre (the Valley Cities church) is rapidly moving toward self-support. Yet, we are committed to stand by both church-plants until that happens. Second, as we seek to disciple lost souls in the U.S. and/or to locate Christians who may have moved to regions of the U.S. where no congregation of the church exists in practical distance of where they relocated, we plan to offer our preachers and teachers to deliver lessons and sermons by internet until which time they can locate their own evangelists. As far as meeting places, they can determine where they will meet (whether in a home or free space), yet, the meeting house will be their responsibility alone. Third, we will be in prayer that God will raise up evangelists who are interested in moving to a region of the U.S with the passion to multiple church-plant and elderships who will be raised up to support those messengers and mentors of disciples of Jesus. In short, we pray for and visualize thousands of congregations being planted and becoming self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-led. Although it has been said time and again, anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed!
On Sunday, June 11th, we were permitted to give a report of the Moss congregation in Moss, TN during their Bible class hour and, Dennis Miller (Moss preacher & one of the elders) was gracious in permitting me to preach the morning lesson. The Moss congregation has partnered with us with a $500 per month donation for over one year. Kevin Donaldson (the other Moss elder) provided us with numbers of contacts while in the area leading to some face-to-face meetings, or phone conversations with interested brethren.
On Sunday night, June 12th, through Kevin's recommendation, we were permitted to meet with the six elders of the Walnut Grove congregation and their preacher, Bobby Gore. They listened with much interest and were left with printed publications to deliberate on what role they might play in our work in the future. They had an abbreviated church service on Sunday evening so they could attend the gospel meeting of a sister congregation three miles away. Jimmy and I followed them there and made acquaintance with two other elderships which led to a meeting on Thursday
15th, with the elders of the Hilham congregation with elders Bybee and Johnson--dear brothers, indeed.
Kenny Westmoreland (evangelist of the rapidly growing Beech Bethany congregation in Celina, TN) gave us several contacts. The Beech Bethany congregation is supporting the work $100 per month. Kenny has already come to Montgomery; preached at Elmore congregation; and taught two classes for me at Faulkner University as a guest professor. Kenny is working on his Ph.D. at present.
Other contacts made while in that region were equally exciting. Among them were:
All of this has made us think, yet again, that heaven is going to be a wonderful place--I want to go there--and we all want to see as many lost souls come to Jesus and join us there.
Kenny Westmoreland and others encouraged us to return to Clay County in the Fall of 2017 and promised to give us further contacts.
God bless you all. We love you all. As you know, if something good develops in this work--you will know of it through this reports. On the other hand, if some setback occurs, you will know through these communications. This work is an open-page and may God have mercy on us all. We pray we can be used (working by your sides) to see the gospel cover the U.S. and the world in our generation.
God blessed us to receive a donation of $10,000 from the Westside congregation in Searcy, AR. May God be praised. As you know, all contributions and expenditures are reported in an expanded and unabridged financial report at the end of every year.
More later as God blesses.
Attempting to keep you apprized of developments in the evangelist-search for Endless Mountains church in Wyoming County Pennsylvania, brother Jeff Wyeth of Windham, OH will be interviewed on May 4th by the Elmore elders and some of the core leaders of the Antioch Initiative in Elmore, AL. Brother Wyeth will teach the auditorium class and preach the morning lesson on Sunday, March 5th. The first stages of the interview process have been positive. It is our understanding that the Wyeths could relocate to Tunkhannock fairly soon, if selected. At this upcoming interview, he will present a budget of his financial needs to take up the work of evangelist in Wyoming and Susquehanna Counties Pennsylvania. He is fifty-nine (59) years of age and draws a military retirement.
As has been previously reported, the workers in the Antioch Initiative will not plant a church in Susquehanna County (the next targeted county), but, due to the rural scattering of nearly 70,000 residents in both that and Wyoming County, we will join the new evangelist of the Endless Mountains congregation (Wyoming County) to evangelize both counties. Converts will be asked to make the drive to the Endless Mountains congregation for Sunday worship assemblies. Those same residents have already proven their willingness to drive to the Walmart in Tunkhannock where the existing Endless Mountains congregation is located. In the future and if circumstances dictate, the converts from Susquehanna County can determine if they would like to take initiative in planting a church closer to home.
Molly Rivera (a charter member of Endless Mountains congregation) observed that region of the Pennsylvania is called, “Endless Mountains,” hence, the very name of the congregation would be one with which residents of Susquehanna County can identify.
If the Wyeth’s are placed in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania soon, our strategy will be to direct all campaigners to extend the gospel invitation to the 44,000 residents of Susquehanna County this Summer through online WBS courses, door-knocking, and the mailing of House-to-House and Heart to Heart. The 2017 Campaign is now under development with brothers and sisters already committing to come for different parts of the U.S. for periods of time throughout the entirety of this Summer (June through August).
As always and happily, all is in the hands of the King of kings.