Big News for our Walkerton Campus
We have some big (and wonderful) news about our Walkerton Campus. This blog post could become a full book very quickly. It could be about vision, God’s hand, hurt, perseverance, renewal, and more. I’ll do my best to keep it brief.
The original vision: Suncrest launched the Walkerton Campus as part of our “Jesus Mission” in 2010. We launched a campus in Highland, new churches in Liberia, and this campus in Walkerton within weeks of each other. That was crazy, but we sensed it was of God.
The launch: Walkerton wasn’t in our strategic plan, but came out of relationships God had given us and a sense that we needed to live by faith and “go for it” even when we didn’t have the resources for a typical campus launch. Very quickly, the campus was reaching almost 100 people and seeing stories of lives changed even though we had a shoestring budget and couldn’t send a launch team from other campuses.
A challenge: We knew there would be some logistical challenges. Unlike our other campuses, Walkerton is over an hour away, in a different time zone, in a smaller town outside of the Chicago suburbs and launched with the campus pastor as the only connection to Suncrest. Even from launch, we made adjustments for this and there were definitely benefits to all the shared resources, but…
One year ago: Last February the campus was 18 months old when the campus pastor, myself, and our elders all agreed we should set a plan in motion to “release/launch” the Walkerton campus as a church of their own. It seemed a win-win-win. The community of Walkerton would have the church they needed; Suncrest would be able to function with greater unity as 3 campuses in the same region; the Walkerton leaders were ready to step out in faith and take full responsibility for their own future.
The Crisis: I don’t want to avoid the hard part of the story. We were moving toward a launch/release and had a plan to announce this on September 5. On September 4, the campus pastor shared a serious failure in his personal life with me and resigned. (He continues to work through all of this and is experiencing God’s grace. I’m thankful for that.)
Three challenging months: The whole plan to launch was dependent on him. I even wondered about the viability of the campus. On September 6, two of our elders and I sat with leaders from the campus and we formed a plan to do only the essentials of Sunday mornings, Community Groups, and Serving the Community for the next 3 months. I can’t tell you how much I respect these leaders. They had no idea what they were REALLY signing up for, but they had seen lives changed and had their lives changed. Their community needed this church.
A Re-Newed Vision: Those leaders held it together for 3 months. It was hard. We had a decision to make about the future. Those leaders rallied and said if Suncrest would help them, they wanted to go forward with the vision of becoming a church plant. That was an easy one for our elders. We believe God called us to Walkerton in the first place. And we plant churches. Of course we would help.
A New Leader: Through an unlikely connection and covered with prayer, we were led to a pastor named Gary Davis who lives about 30 minutes from Walkerton and had a sense for sometime that he was to plant a church in his home region. This could be it’s own blog post some time, but the result is that last Sunday their leaders announced to the whole campus there that Gary was coming to be the pastor to lead them as they launch a church of their own!
The Road Ahead: On Sunday, March 10, the group in Walkerton will pivot from being a Suncrest campus to becoming a new church. They will continue to meet weekly for worship with Gary as their pastor and prepare for a public launch as a new church with a new identity this Fall. What WON’T change is their desire to welcome anyone and everyone just as they are and help them experience faith in a new and powerful way.
The Credits: This isn’t a movie, but many people have been models of faith, vision, and perseverance over the last 5 months so I want to “scroll the credits here”. I’m DEEPLY grateful for them. This amazing story could not and would not have happened without the hand of God…or these people letting God use them. I’m not trying to draw attention to them as much as I am thanking God for them as I type each name (from both Walkerton and Suncrest): Eric, Ryan, Melody, Loretta, Jim, Michal, Randy, Bobby, Debby, Cindy, Laurie, and Rod. It’s been an absolute privilege to walk these 5 months with each of them.