There are many different models of new church starts, and often as soon as a church launches, it looks and feels like a church to everyone involved. But in the United Methodist Church there is an official process for becoming a “church,” which means the church has its own members and can operate on its own, without financial support from the Conference or another church. That step is called chartering, and The Way in Wentzville met the mark on October 29.
Although some new churches come straight from the Conference, The Way has a different heritage and had its lineage present for the big day. SunRise was planted by Rev. Bruce Baxter in O’Fallon in 1990. Rev. Mike Schreiner launched Morning Star out of SunRise in 1999. Rev. Jimmy Cooper launched The Way out of Morning Star September 12, 2013.
“This proves to the world the church is not dead,” Missouri Bishop Bob Farr said at the beginning of his sermon for the chartering service. “Church is still the way to a fuller life, not just in heaven but here on Earth.”
Bishop Farr knows what it’s like to plant a new church. He launched Grace UMC in October of 1990. He has seen how many new people can be reached and how their lives are changed.
“In the past four years you’ve seen signs of miracles,” Bishop Farr said.
The Old Testament describes 66 times when the people of God stopped, built an altar and recognized a special time, Bishop Farr noted.
“They marked the moment,” he said. He also cautioned those present that there are many times when God took that mark away – when people were drifting off message. He cited Proverbs 19, where there is no vision, the church perishes. The Message paraphrases the verse as when people can’t see God, they stumble over themselves. Hebrews 2 cautions the people of God not to drift away from their purpose.
Bishop Farr left the new church members with four takeaways from his sermon:
1. Devotion to God: Revelation 2:3-5. You’ve walked away from your first love. It is easy to lose Jesus in church.
2. Readiness to Learn New Things: Romans 12:2. Be transformed by first renewing minds.
3. Openness to Change: Isaiah 43:19. Behold I am doing a new thing.
4. Be a Stretcher Bearer: Mark 2:1-3. The man was made whole not by his faith, but by the faith of his friends who carried him to Jesus on the stretcher.
The worship service included communion, five baptisms at the first service and six at the second. Cooper expressed appreciation for the crowd that filled the sanctuary to capacity and encouraged people to keep up the momentum.
“We haven’t crossed the finish line. We’ve merely started the race,” he said.