Reflection time: Its officially 3 years ago tomorrow that I began the adventure of what was Mars Hill Community Church and eventually became Anchor Point Church :). Three years have come and gone so quickly!
Today as a family we drove out to Minneapolis. In fact while I am writing this I am sitting in the holiday Inn. While driving up I had significant time to reflect about our time at AP. Its hard to believe how quickly 3 years have been. Many people don’t know the history of the church. So today for this blog, I thought I would share with you parts of the journey!
The church officially began November of 2006. My parents Al and Laura had been church planters throughout their lives – and the Spirit seemed to be saying that it was time to plant again! My dad had spoken at both Providence College and Steinbach Bible College and had invited any graduating student – who planned on moving to Winnipeg – to join them in a new church plant.
So in November, 2006, 8 people joined my parents in their home for their first Bible Study – preparing to plant a church.
The first official church service was September 23, 2007. The church met in several different schools and community centres – eventually landing at Bonnycastle school gym. This was quite the adventure (So I heard :))
In 2012, Bonnycastle School decided that they were no longer going to rent the school to the church. At this time there were roughly 65 people attending the church – including children. So what does a church do? Leave it to my Dad :). He found this lovely building at 1400 Pembina Hwy – what we currently call home! The first service began in September of 2012.
The church didn’t have a for sale sign up – but my Dad knew that the Egyptian Coptics had been meeting there – and they didn’t seem to still be there. So he began the hunt!
In short order, a deal had been made to start using the church – and a short time later over One million dollars had been raised – and the church was debt free! What a gift to the body.
During the summer of 2014 – Mars Hill Community Church hired there first pastor. This pastor helped give leadership to the church for one year. The stories that I have heard of the pastor is that he cared about the church, he was a great teacher, knew the scriptures well and would be missed.
So the fall of 2015 came along and the church was without a pastor. The responsibility was now fully upon the volunteer board. So many decisions to make. Do we continue meeting, is our time done – God what are you saying! They were tired and searching.
That September we were at my parents house for dinner. My Dad was updating me on what was happening at the church and at some point asked if we had ever considered moving to Winnipeg to pastor?
I will now give a personal history leading up to this time!
Kendra and I had known since we were married that we would be pastoring one day. We had a call from God to be involved in church planting, in Canada – and that we would one day be back in Winnipeg as a home base for this.
We moved out to Steinbach, to work at Southland Church in July of 2005. We knew that this was going to be a training time for us. About 2 years in we figured we had learned what we needed to – and it was time for the next adventure. Ok, to be honest, Kendra didn’t sense that at all – but I most certainly did. So I started dropping hints with my pastor – “hey, if you ever want to plant a church in Winnipeg – let us know”. OR “if you ever want to send someone anywhere in the world – we would love to go”.
I didn’t realize at the time – that I had antsy feet. I had an adventurous spirit that had NOT been satisfied. I knew the calling, I knew the location and so no better time then now! But I had a lot to learn – things that I didn’t know I needed to learn. I needed to understand the value of ministry fruit. To not just love people – but walk with them through to maturity. I needed to learn how to replace myself. I needed to understand that the goal was not another adventure – but to love what I was doing TODAY – and walk that through to completion. I needed to learn to enjoy prayer, know the voice of God and love his presence.
I fell in love with the church, the work and the community. I would never have had to leave – and that is exactly when the call came.
I had often asked God to take away the desire to plant churches – because I felt like it was a distraction. But he seemed to be saying that he was never going to take the desire away – because he wanted me to always view everything that we were doing in a large church within the context of a small church. If we couldn’t do it with a small church – we probably shouldn’t be doing it 🙂
About 3 years in, I sensed the Lord say that we were going to know when it was time to leave Southland. God was going to speak to Pastor Ray and he was going to tell us we were called and sent. Till then, I needed to invest my time into the church, bearing ministry fruit and to keep quiet about it.
So wait we did!!
I told my Dad that we had planned to move back to Winnipeg, but not for another 5-10 years. I had just moved into a new position at Southland and I hadn’t raised up anyone to take my position yet. So I suggested that my Dad go and ask my lead pastor if they had any options. My Dad did that. They wrestled through some options but nothing seemed to land.
Then one day my Dad came to Southland without me knowing – and asked Pastor Ray if he would ever consider releasing us to come to Winnipeg to pastor their church. Ray had said that he didn’t own us and if that was what God wanted – then he would be great with that. My Dad took that as a yes 🙂 and Pastor Ray took that as – Donavan and I need to talk – and we need to get lots of people to pray about this.
So a couple of days later I got asked to join Pastor Ray for a meeting. It was in this meeting that he told me that they were not interested in having me leave:). They didn’t have someone that could move into my position and they wanted to keep me around. I was glad that they liked me and wanted me – but also a little disappointed. I thought that perhaps this was going to be ‘the meeting’! I told Pastor Ray that we weren’t leaving. If he didn’t believe that we were called and if he was going to send us – we were NOT going to leave. We would gladly stay for life!
Well, coming out of the meeting, Pastor Ray had told me that they knew that I was called to be involved in church planting. He had mentioned that for years they knew that if someone was going to leave the church to do that – it was going to me. So we determined that within the next 3-5 years we would move in that direction. Likely not Mars Hill, but planting or helping a struggling church in Winnipeg.
It was this meeting that I shared with Pastor Ray many of the things that God had spoken to us about church work – in regards to pastoring in Winnipeg. He hadn’t heard the story prior to that. I likely had 30-40 pages of my journal filled with thoughts from the Lord regarding the coming work:)
Well a month went on and still no conversation from Pastor Ray. Kendra and I prayed and asked God if we needed to keep waiting or do something. We sensed that I was supposed to email pastor Ray and tell him what I had heard and appreciated in our previous meeting and ask him if he still felt like we were one day called to go to Winnipeg – now that he had heard our story.
He responded and asked if we could sit down and meet!
So on a Thursday before Christmas holidays, just over three years ago – ‘THAT MEETING HAPPENED’! I went into his office and we talked about many things relating to ministry, church life, winnipeg, calling etc. Then the miraculous happened. It was nothing shy of the Holy Spirit falling into the room in the most powerful of ways. Pastor Ray told me that he needed to release me to go to Winnipeg. And he needed to release me – NOW!! God had made it clear that I was called and it was time to be sent. And if he didn’t send me now – he would be disobedient. He didn’t know what they would do in the church – in regards to my position – but it didn’t matter, because God must have a plan.
We wept and prayed together. We embraced and spurred each other on. It was beautiful. I felt so encouraged and empowered.
After talking with lots of our friends over Christmas, I made contact with Mars Hill to see if they were still looking for a pastor. Kendra and I were asking the Lord to make it clear for us – were we to plant a church or help a struggling church. Mars Hill was God’s plan! I met with the board in January of 2016 and before the month was over they asked us to come and join them!
February 1st, 3 years ago – we began our adventure at Mars Hill Church.
What has happened since then? LOTS!!
The church has grown from around 30 people to over 300 on a weekend. We have moved from 1 service to 2. We have a thriving childrens ministry, middle school ministry and High School ministry. We have started a few cells and this fall hired someone to give leadership in this area. We have seen many people come to faith in Jesus, many more have fallen in love with Jesus. We have seen people grow in hearing the Lord, seeking his face, being the body of Christ, learning to love each other etc. We have observed the church become incredibly generous and grow to have a reputation of being the friendliest church in the city (ok, I have no evidence for this at all:). I am sure there are LOTS of super friendly churches. But in my bias I am choosing this title – until one of my fellow pastors reads this and comments in the feed something different 🙂
We knew that Anchor Points calling is to help people grow to maturity in Jesus. And God has seemed to make it clear and reaffirmed that he is going to call 1000 church planters out of our church to love the people of this beautiful country – loving them towards falling in love with the creator of the universe. And God seems to be saying that we are to be a part of starting a similar movement in Europe. I don’t know how!! But it’s His vision – and if that’s what He plans to do – WE ARE EXCITED to partner with Him.
Two years ago God opened up a miraculous door for us in Iceland. And he has been leading us down a path we had no idea he would take us down. The Iceland story will be a more complete blog on a different day – but Ármann and Aslaug and their family moved here in June – 19 months ago – and God is keeping them here for the time being! It is amazing! Side note: Armann is preaching this weekend 🙂
Anyway, here we are!! Learning to love God. Not having a clue what we are doing – but we know someone who does – Jesus. We have tried many things – some good and some not good :). But all of these things have helped us to grow closer together, to teach us, to push us to seek God – and to realize – that we can’t do anything well, without being madly in love with God! So here we are!
The Elders have been talking about the church and the pending building project a lot in the last while. We realize that we are clearly in the people business and not in the real estate and building business :). We have plans that are put together, engineering work is now done – and together we have the joy of continuing to minister to people! So amazing! And as we have grown we realize we need more space for our children, we need toilets upstairs, and we could really use upgrades on the current sanctuary and extra seating!! We are going to get the plans up in the lobby in the next week or two – And I am asking that you would join us in asking that God would provide the finances we need for the project!!!
It is a crazy ride – isn’t it :)? I have never desired to have a beautiful church or a big church! I have desired to have an honest, real, transparent, loving church! I want a church that honours God in everything that we do!! Apparently there are lots of people that desire the same thing – so glad you have joined us. Please join me in praying about this project! We are certain this is what the Lord has asked us to do – but how :)? So pray we will!
Another side note: Early on God spoke to us saying that he was raising up a Nicodemus in the church. Someone that he was calling to give a large amount of money to the building! Not that the rest of us weren’t to give as well. Absolutely we are! But someone that he was calling for this specifically. Lots of us in the church are young, students etc. What can we do? Give what you are able – but PRAY! Pray for this Nicodemus! That God would make it clear and grant prosperity to them as well.
Anyway, this blog was to be short – and it is now long:). I am grateful that God is the one orchestrating beautiful things that we are learning to observe, watch and participate in.
Please continue to pray for myself and our leadership team. This is really new for us – and the church has exploded! Filled with people who are desperately hungry. Thank you for making the last 3 years worth it all. Thank you for charging after the King. Thank you for challenging me in my thinking. Thank you for praying. Thank you for making every Sunday morning the highlight of my week. Thank you for at least pretending that you are engaged while we are preaching :). Thank you for loving my family!
Have a blessed evening. Go Jets. And Happy 3 years!!