I semi-retired around Easter of 2019. Knowing that this was going to enter into full retirement within six months, I started considering my future plans.
The church I was pastoring had been going through a lot of changes over the past several years. While becoming smaller, older and with less actively involved members, COVID-19 hit.
I thought that maybe I should get out of pastoral ministry altogether. So, I took it to the Father, Son and Spirit. After a couple of months wrestling with Jesus, I understood that I would be in ministry of some form, but what that meant was very unclear. What was certain was that I was free and available for whatever he wanted to do.
In January 2021, we took a turn with Grace Communion Rochester. I let members know that they should get involved with a church local to them. I extended an invitation for those who would like to stay connected to join me in a small group. Only a couple of members contacted me to participate in that small group, so we started meeting on Saturday mornings and Friday evenings, having a connect group about twice a month.
While this was going on, I became more involved with members of the community where I live. A town of about 1,100 people. The community is served by a number of churches within ten miles but only one inside the town. I started volunteering at the food shelf, which has been a lot of fun and a tremendous opportunity to look at people of the community through the eyes and mission of Jesus.
In expressing these things with the connect group, advisory team, and with Rick Shallenberger, our regional director, we started to plan on launching a church in the town where I live. The next steps were to find a venue. I love the focus our denomination has with keeping ministry close to your home. Looking at options in Elgin, I found two venues within a few blocks of my home. I am happy to say that a venue has been selected and we had our first service on October 17!
During this process, we looked at using some of the funds available for evangelism. I like to call it ecumenical marketing, focusing on God and touching it with our “brand.” We put together a billboard and are planning some radio mentions. The billboard sits in a sister community of approximately 3,500 people. This town has our local grocery store, hardware store, auto parts store, etc. The billboard is situated along the highway and bike path between our two towns. The image used on the billboard was taken while my daughter, Breena, and I were riding along the local bike path. The thought for the message was to be positive, clear, and unassuming. A lot like how Jesus uses parables; for those who have eyes and ears to see and hear.
We are excited to participate with Jesus in this small community. We are only at the beginning of this adventure and have confidence, faith, and trust in him as we meet people he may call to participate with us in worshipping him in spirit and truth.
Todd Fox, Pastor