How has God been at work in Keri and my life leading us up to this point in the MainStreet journey? Here’s the story so far. Follow links to watch fun videos associated with our journey.
In April 2010, Keri and I were on a plane flying back from Nashville. We were sent to the Assessment Center, an intense 4 days of evaluation and spiritual guidance by the Evangelical Covenant Church to see if we were fit for church planting in the Covenant Church. But the ball had been rolling for many months — no, actually years.
God begin stirring in my heart a vision for a new community of faith in my hometown of Mound years prior. In 2005, just out of seminary, I felt propelled by God to use my influence as a sub teacher, basketball coach and driving instructor at MWHS to spearhead a new ministry to reach and mobilize local teens for Christ. I took a part-time youth director at Bethel Methodist Church at that time. The Revolution soon grew out of that burden, which effectively drew hundreds of Mound youth to music events in town such as Battle of the Bands, monthly Coffeehouse open mic nights, student-led worship concerts (Elevate) in the high school auditorium, and more.
For two adventuresome years we had a living room packed full of teenagers every Monday at our Way of the Revolutionary Bible Study. One time I counted students from 12 different churches, and 4 different high schools in our living room. They all came for one common reason: They wanted to be part of something that was not ‘church as usual’. They sensed a unity being formed around the central purpose of simply following Jesus and shining his light beyond the church walls, and into their schools. They were drawn to the rally cry I continually placed before them: “Let’s start a movement that sweeps through every corner of this community!”
They responded to challenge. They wanted to be bolder in their faith. They wanted the courage to share “the reason for the hope that lies within them” (1 Peter 3:15). They loved the vision of being the church beyond the walls of the church. One of my proudest moments was when a group of these “Revolutionaries” (as we called them) started a Thursday morning prayer group that met in the school hallway before class each week. Shining their light inside the walls of their primary mission field.
Another proud moment was when a group of these started “Revolution S.O.S.” In the middle of a snow storm, they would send a text message to all the others saying, “S.O.S. Bring a shovel and meet in the Jubilee Foods parking lot at 6 to go shovel walks.” Yes, they were spontaneously serving others in the name of Jesus. No youth pastor nagging them. No church program organizing them. Just teens following the self-sacrificial Way of Jesus in serving others.
Those were two and a half exciting years in Mound — at least for a small group of teens in Mound. That was 2005-2007. In 2007, just as the Revolution was gaining momentum, Keri and I were struggling at home to balance our 6 job lifestyle, all-consuming ministry schedule, and lack of finances. For the sake of our personal health and marriage, we walked away from the Revolution in the fall of 2007 to get things right at home. I spent the next 3 years as a full time high school pastor at Faith Covenant Church, making the long commute from Mound to Burnsville every day.
Keri and I experienced some of the best times of ministry together at Faith Covenant, and learned how to get healthy boundaries in our ministry and marriage. And a full time salary with only one job helped immensely with getting our life in order.
But we never left Mound. And Mound never left me. The burden God placed on my heart for the city never lifted. Most teens in Mound were still not connecting with other local churches. I had gotten a taste of what it’s like to be on the front edge of birthing something new for the Kingdom during the Revolution. It was intoxicating. Seeing teens come alive and owning their faith. Seeing kids who didn’t want anything to do with “church” have their negative stereotypes shattered as they sat in our living room sharing their doubts and skepticism without being judged. Having a church basement packed with 150 teenagers on a Friday night hearing about Jesus and invited into His revolution. Taking the message of Christ into the high school at a Friday night Elevate concert! Having a bunch of teens come to us and ask us if Revolution would host an Invisible Children Benefit Concert featuring local student bands to raise money for kids suffering in Rwanda.
I remember vividly after one of our Elevate concerts at MWHS, noticing all the adults who were present, saying to myself: “Wow, I wonder if we could grow a church out of this Revolution?” I quickly dismissed the thought. I was just out of seminary, had hardly been in youth ministry for two years, and was not ready launch and pastor an entire church. But the desire to see a new, vibrant church forming in the heart of this town was definitely there already in 2006. But I was not ready. Keri and I were not ready. The people of Mound were not ready. Perhaps, God was not quite ready either.
Fast forward a few years and we’re back in that plane on our way home from Nashville. Several things had shifted in our lives.
1. Keri and I were united in the call and desire to plant a church in Mound.
2. Keri and I had learned how to work together in ministry, complementing and supporting each other.
3. We knew we needed a larger support structure and resources behind us if we were to plant a church in Mound. We had found ourselves a home in the Covenant Church which just happened to be leading the way in successful church planting in America.
4. I had grown a lot as a leader my three years of full time ministry at Faith Covenant.
So, the stars were aligning in the early spring of 2010. The Covenant Church had recommended us as qualified and called to begin planting a new church in Mound, MN. But we would have several challenges to overcome if we were to move our vision forward.
The most effective way to plant a church is to have a Parent Church sponsor you. In the case of the Covenant, this typically involved providing $50,000 of seed money (to be double matched by the regional conference and national office) and, most importantly sending out a team of people to be the core of the new church (30+ committed adults). As our plane landed last April, we had no church behind us and just the two of us making up our team. Oh, and I would leave my position at Faith Covenant in May and be unemployed thereafter.
The summer and fall of 2010 was spent sharing the vision of MainStreet with friends, seeking strategic partnerships with churches, and trying to raise $50,000 in order to sign a 3-year Covenant Agreement with the Covenant. We hosted Vision BBQs with old friends, family and neighbors. I chatted with everyone I knew at Caribou. I worked an overnight paper-route to keep me free during the day-time hours for church work. We asked people to invest money in this vision, and sent fundraising letters to everyone we knew.
In August about 15 people met for our first Launch Team meeting at the Threshold in Mound. In September a meager team of 12 or so organized a Free Garage Sale that blessed many in the community. In October we hosted a worship rally at the Mound high school drawing 120 people to hear about MainStreet. We relaunched Revolution Monday night gatherings at Threshold led by Crown College interns. In November we reached our funding goal of $50,000 in pledges by Thanksgiving. (Oh, and found out we were expecting a baby!) Most importantly, we found a generous Partner church at Excelsior Covenant across the lake. In January, we signed a three-year Covenant Agreement with the Northwest Conference and MainStreet was officially backed by the Evangelical Covenant — and after 8 months of unemployment I had a salary to plant and lead MainStreet Covenant Church.
January through March 2011 were dark months at MainStreet. The initial momentum and excitement from the first fall had dwindled. Our team seemed stalled out at about a dozen committed regulars. We continued to meet, talk vision and values, pray and seek God. But we hadn’t seen anyone new jump onboard for months. Some doubted more than others. We found ourselves in the desert, wandering and complaining that God wasn’t coming through on His end.
We pressed on, clinging to the promises and praying the prayers of Scripture. Jesus said, “…I will build my church” (Matt 16). He – not us. We could invite and cast vision but only God could move hearts to join our mission. We remembered daily that “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his field” (Luke 10). We prayed for workers. Daily. We waited for God to answer.
A second wave of new team members came our way in March and April 2011 following a sermon I gave at Excelsior Covenant Church. My message from Mark 4 invited people to take the bold step away from the comfort and safety of the beach where they had been listening to Jesus preach all day (first half of the chapter), and to heed his call to “Get into the boat and go to the other side” where there the mission waits (end of chapter 4). I told them of the troubled state of the church in Mound (just across the lake – as in the story), and how (literally) thousands of Mound people were leaving on Sundays to find a healthy church in other communities. I told them we’re praying for God to send workers to help us. A small handful heard God speaking to them through my message that day, and joined up.
Other new friends were met as we lived into our vision of being a church who engages people “in the marketplace daily” (Acts 17:17). The previous fall we had met Dave & Melissa in the Farmer’s Market. Spring we met Laurie at Caribou Coffee. Deano heard about us at the Chiropractor. We met another Deano at his store in town. Hear their own stories of how God led them to MainStreet HERE.
Our new, slightly larger Launch Team held another worship rally at the MWHS in April where we again casted vision and invited people to join the team. At this same time, another church closed its doors in the conference and MainStreet was given ALL of their equipment — including thousands of dollars worth of sound equipment! God was bringing us people and provision. Our relationship with Excelsior Covenant continued to grow, and more and more people heard about our mission across the lake.
This past summer 2011 was spent going through the Sermon on the Mount, and praying for people to fill all the necessary roles so we could launch Sunday worship services in the fall of 2011. We began actively recruiting our Mission Friends team — i.e., Kids volunteers, Hospitality team (ushers, greeters, welcomers, etc), Set-up team, Sound/tech team, and more. We set a date for our first worship service on September 18. We found a place to worship at The Gillespie Center. We bought a trailer and filled it with our newly acquired stuff. We put banners around town and invited people to join us for this groundbreaking worship service.
All the necessary pieces began to fall into place at the last possible moment. God’s people rose up to the challenge, volunteered their time, and a strong team began to take shape — again, largely thanks to our Mission Friends from across the lake. Leading up to this first Sunday we spread the word by hosting our second annual Free Garage Sale outreach event — this time with a stronger team and with the help of WeCAN. We again set up a booth at the Farmer’s Market and met more people.
As I stop to ponder how God has brought people into this adventure, I’m amazed by one overwhelming fact: We didn’t know 98% of these people a year ago. We set out on this journey confident that our extended network of family and friends from Mound would jump onboard to help build this church in Mound. In reality, very few have stepped as of yet. We didn’t know that MainStreet would be born out of primarily brand new friends God would bring to us from near and far.
I remember pointing this out in my sermon at Excelsior Covenant, saying, “When Jesus chose his disciples, they didn’t get to choose each other. All twelve were chosen by Jesus, and they had to learn to live with each other.” Fortunately, we’re blessed by the people Christ has chosen to be in this “MainStreet boat”.
Our first Preview Service at The Gillespie Center on September 18, 2011, was a wonderful success! A great team filled with love for one another and God, poured themselves out willingly in their respective areas, and we caught a momentary glimpse of the new church God was forming. About 150 people filled the room that Sunday, and with a sense of expectancy and joy, worshiped the Lord together. The band played, Scripture was read, I preached, people worshiped and God was honored.
But the revolutionary spirit from those years past still longs to blow on the hearts of the people in this community. Christ still longs to call some of his servants who have left Mound to attend church elsewhere back to be the church right here. Our friends across the lake have come over to offer temporary help in launching this new church, but we’re praying for Mound families to rise up and be the church for this town.
So, rise up church of God in Mound. We’re called to shine right here where our kids go to school, where we shop for our groceries, where we make our home. Our neighbors are waiting for us to shine our lights over the backyard fence, and into the local businesses, joining together with other local churches in having an impact on this community. What are you waiting for? God is on the move in Mound, doing a new thing! Our teens are looking for a youth group for MWHS students. Our children are looking for a church where they see their teachers in worship on Sundays.
When God called me to plant a church in Mound, he gave me a verse with a clear message for me:
“It is not enough for one who is my servant to gather the tribes of Jacob again in their place, and to get back those of Israel who have been sent away: my purpose is to give you as a light to the nations, so that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
God was telling me, that morning I read this looking out across Jennings Bay, that my calling was to help gather the scattered believers of Mound who were sent away looking for a healthy church someplace else. My call is not just to start a church, but gather those who were scattered abroad. Why? For the sole purpose of forming a community in the heart of this city to be a light shining into every nook and cranny of this town.
So, is God calling your name? Is He drawing you back to be the church right here? Join the adventure! Make history with us, and build a better future for this community.
Jeremy Berg 9.28.11