Two groups of people, who were 1,600 miles apart, sensed God moving in their lives. They did not know at the time, but they were on a collision course toward a ministry partnership.
The Next Step of Obedience
Tom Cooper, Mike Foster, and John Klundt at Broadway Christian Church in Mesa, Arizona could not shake the thought—we need to plant a church.
Broadway is filled with passionate servants of the Lord, the majority of whom are senior citizens, aged 70-90 years old. The congregation desperately cared about younger generations, but attempts to reach young families floundered because none lived in their area.
Yet these three leaders at Broadway prayed in earnest, How can our fruit grow in someone else’s trees? They sensed that God was moving them to partner with others to plant a new church. “We couldn’t walk away from what God put in our hearts,” Tom said. But how? Where? Who would lead it?
Matt and Jen Fogle, meanwhile, were involved in a fulfilling youth ministry at Eastview Christian Church in Normal, Illinois. Matt said if anyone had asked him his dream job, he would say, “I’m living it!” Yet they began to feel a tug on their hearts that God was ready for them to leave the church and ministry they dearly loved, step out in faith, and head elsewhere. But where? To what kind of ministry?
Matt and Jen approached the Eastview team, told them how God’s Spirit was moving, and Senior Pastor Mike Baker and others began to pray with and for the Fogles.
“Church planting wasn’t on our radar, mostly because of the funding thing,” Matt admitted. “We’ve talked to so many church plants that had to shut down because they didn’t have enough funds. It’s a scary thing. You have no idea if this is going to work.”
Step by step, God moved the two groups closer.
Tom, Mike, and John began talking with Stadia to find a church planter. Matt and Jen sold their house, put their things in storage, and waited on what God had next—still unsure. Next Matt got a call from Nate Bush, a church planter in New Mexico who also works for Stadia. Nate asked Matt if he would consider talking with Broadway about planting a church. Despite previous hesitations, Matt said, “We’re just looking for the next step of obedience. So yes, we’ll consider anything.”
Next, Matt and Jen took initial steps with the Broadway group. Tom remembers at some point in the process the leadership realized, “We believe Matt is the God-selected man for this church plant. He attracts people, and he will reach people we cannot because of our location and age.” Yet they sensed the Fogles needed time to think it over, so Broadway asked them to join the effort and then left them alone to pray.
Matt and Jen took their four young kids on a couple of road trips in an RV last September, spending time heavily in prayer. After a month of prayerfully considering all the options, they knew Arizona was their next move.
We Can't Take It With Us
Four decades ago, Broadway itself was a church plant; it is in their DNA. Yet Tom, Mike, and John knew it would take time, consideration, and more prayer before all the elders were on board to move forth with this vision.
When they presented it to the congregation, everyone was eager. The goal was $1.2 million over the entire fundraising campaign, with $600,000 for this first church plant and the other half for future church plants. On commitment weekend this past March, Broadway members pledged above and beyond: $1.3 million.
The family of God at Broadway is committed to using what they have to leave a legacy. “They truly believe it, with Scripture and our constant reminder, that we are to go, we are to plant, we are to disciple, and we are to give because we can’t take it with us,” Tom said. “We need to leave it behind, so we need to know where it’s going when we’re leaving it.”
On their firstfruits Sunday, the congregation brought $358,000, almost a third of the pledges. All of this to equip churches they will never attend, to transform the lives of people they will never meet.
Broadway has been working with David Duncan, Executive Director & COO of CDF Capital Foundation, for five years. Through visits to the church and additional resources, David has been able to assist church members in finding ways to give when they do not have cash in hand.
“People are cashing in bonds, IRAs, CDs,” noted Tom. “They are sacrificing, giving up things they no longer need. There are silver coins and gold jewelry in the offering plates. A few days ago a guy came to give us a motorcycle.”
Really Good Stewards
Matt and Jen have moved to Arizona and got to witness firsthand the commitments and firstfruits pour in from Broadway. Their fears about funding washed away in view of the generosity of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Matt was amazed that a church would raise so much money yet keep none of it for their own.
“We know this church planting story is rare. God does not always work that way,” said Matt.
So the church plant now known as Rhythm Community Church has started to take shape. It is scheduled to launch this October, and along with Matt as Lead Pastor, they have an Executive Pastor, Worship Pastor, and Children’s Pastor on the team.
With the astounding outpouring of firstfruits in hand, Matt knew that Rhythm needed to steward those resources well. “I reached out to CDF and said, ‘I want to be a really good steward, and I know this is kind of unheard of, but we have more money than we need right now for this church plant,’” Matt said. He explained that David Pace, Senior Vice President, Ministry Development at CDF Capital, helped him figure out a flex account.
“CDF made it crazy easy. I didn’t go to school for this,” Matt said with a laugh. “I went to Bible college for eight years to handle the Word of God correctly. Finances is the last thing I want to worry about. I know they’re going to do well with the money and take care of it. Now it’s earning interest, and I haven’t given it a second thought. If I do think about it, I just say a prayer of ‘Thank You, Lord.’”
Never Tired of Telling the Story
Matt was surprised to discover how freeing this planting partnership was—Broadway has been open-handed without giving requirements on how Rhythm uses the money they raise. “They told me, ‘Whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to do, we’re behind you,’” Matt said.
Tom explained Broadway’s perspective on the church plant: “At first we thought we’d send some of our people, we would help them organize, we would be part of it, we could help do the books, etc. But as it evolved, we realized—no, we need to let them do what they do and stand on their own.”
The only thing they asked is that Rhythm partner with Broadway on the next church plant. Broadway has also offered to have Rhythm participate with them on mission trips and related activities.
Broadway’s generosity and compassion in following God’s leading continues to touch hearts. “David Duncan told me, ‘Man, I don’t know another senior church that is building churches for kids,’” Tom described. Seeing his church family being so unselfish and seeing God move through so many different people and organizations to make Rhythm Community Church happen brings tears to Tom’s eyes. “I never get tired of telling people this story,” he said.
Matt hopes their story will inspire other congregations like Broadway and inspire people to pray for Rhythm. “We need as much prayer as we can get. I’ve never seen a movement of God outside of extraordinary prayer. You can have ten times the money, but if God isn’t growing it, it’s pointless. There’s no amount of money that can do what He can do. That’s been our fight since the money has come in—remaining desperate for God’s grace, remaining radically dependent, not on Broadway or CDF but on the Spirit.”
The fruition of an unexpected partnership continues to unfold: Take a church of seniors passionate about reaching young people for Jesus. Add a young family following God’s urging to take on a new challenge. The result is a new ministry ready to transform a community for the Kingdom. It is a path only God himself could have designed.
Read more from The Cornerstone Summer 2019
We hope that you are inspired by the stories in the issue of The Cornerstone. Thanks for being a part of God's work to transform churches and lives.