The move to Phoenix, AZ, in the summer of 1993 made sense. An eighty-seven year old church had declined down to thirteen members and the regional leadership of its denomination had hatched a plan, a vision. “Let’s bring in a church planter, declare these thirteen folks to be the core of a new church, and start all over.” The thirteen would be the core and I would be the planter, a model I had successfully lived through twice. This could work. This should work.
Surprise! It didn’t work, at least not at first. Though we labeled this project as church planting, it really wasn’t. Turns out it was revitalization. I wasn’t prepared for that, had never been trained for it, and was at a loss at the outset. However, to make a very long story very short, over time this severely declined church began to gain traction, with much of the growth coming through conversion. I became a devoted student of church revitalization, learning as much and as fast as I could, eventually making revitalization both the center of my ministry life and the center of my doctoral studies. The core of thirteen remained faithful to the vision and grew into being very supportive and sacrificial as they embraced significant change. Most importantly, the hand of God was clearly upon this church and His grace proved more than sufficient.
As our church grew, other leaders in our tribe began to notice and I started to receive invitations to share our testimony and then to speak at various events and then to train others in how to do what God was doing in and through us. In essence, a second ministry began to develop. I was first and foremost the pastor of a growing, revitalizing church, but I was also becoming a revitalization trainer and consultant, guiding other churches with a training curriculum that I developed through study and practice.
These two ministries were quite compatible in the early years, but as each grew, one began to collide with the other. It became apparent that I would not be able to continue to serve both without limiting their development. So, in mid-2000, I left the pastorate and went into revitalization training and consulting full time. At first it was free lance, taking contracts with various evangelical churches and regional denominational groups. One of my “clients” was the EPC Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, a regional grouping of churches that had determined to embrace missional development through church planting and revitalization.
Over several years, my work with this presbytery grew to the point that it made more sense for me to work in-system as staff rather than continuing under contract. Once on staff, we gave this ministry a name, the GO Center. As an EPC insider, I gradually became involved in the national ministry of the EPC as the point man on the Revitalization Task Force that included a team of seasoned pastors and leaders. The impact of the GO Center within the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic led denominational leaders to offer the opportunity for the GO Center to nationalize its ministry. The GO Center from the Mid-Atlantic merged with the Revitalization Task Force and the GO Center as a national ministry emerged.
Funding from the EPC National Leadership Team gave the GO Center its national start, and now, a few years later, the GO Center has grown toward self-sufficiency. In the spirit of continued kingdom multiplication, the GO Center has become a separate non-profit corporation with its own board of directors and with new pathways developing for funding, including continued support from the EPC, reasonable fees for ministry services, and fundraising through the EPC Foundation. This new positioning allows the GO Center to continue to serve the EPC while opening the door to serving other evangelical denominations.
Looking back, it’s amazing to realize that this all started twenty-five years ago with a simple phone call. Of course, it really started in mind of God before time began. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!