This weekend members of Central will be asked to vote on two questions.
The first question addresses whether Central can amend its articles of incorporation and file the Second Restated Articles of Incorporation. The first articles were written in 1994 and need to be amended to include a reference to the Board of Elders serving as the Local Board of Administration—a practice we’ve had for a number of years. The second change describes the Water’s Edge Network. This change is needed for us to reflect the presence of other campuses and facilities away from our Holland site.
The second question addresses whether Central should merge with Overflow Community Church under the Plan of Merger recommended by the Board of Elders. The board of elders and key members of our staff have had to discern whether the Lord was leading us to bring Overflow into the Water’s Edge Network. We were approached in October 2017 and over the last eight months of dialogue and discernment, we’ve been led to the conclusion that bringing Overflow into the Network is the way we are being led by the Spirit.
On Sunday, June 24, our members will be asked to vote and, if the vote is affirmative, the District Board of Administration of the Wesleyan Church will need to do the same. They will meet on Friday, June 29. Only after that can the plan for merger be executed.
The process we have followed has been thorough. To ensure clarity, we formally worked through finance and business practices, operational processes, communications objectives, mission practices, facilities best practices, information technology processes, etc. We’ve had access to the financial statements and balance sheets of Overflow throughout the process, worked a budget for the 2018-19 financial year that reflected Central’s values and best practices and received agreement from the finance committee for how we would handle the debt Overflow has without borrowing money. The diligent work undertaken by our team led the board to unanimously sense no significant risk to Central in merging with Overflow. We are confident in the Lord’s leading.
A few days before our members cast their discerning voice on the recommendation of the elder board, I want to remind us why we’re so passionate about empowering the church of Jesus across the world. Central Wesleyan Church is an incredible church filled with incredible people. Over the last 17 years Central has invested over $27m dollars into outreach. Last year alone we invested over $2.1m in outreach which was over 28% of income (excluding capital giving). That means over 25 cents of every dollar that comes in is targeted for outreach.
Think about that. It’s in our DNA to reach out, and through the Water’s Edge Network we’ve found a way to use our administrative gifts for outreach purposes too.
A key motivator for me is Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” The context is how leaders entrusted with much should act in the time between Jesus’ ascension and His return. One commentator, Keener, puts the application of the parable from which this verse is drawn like this: “Leaders in the church must recognize that they are appointed only to serve their fellow servants, the rest of the church” [Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary]. I love that last line, ‘the rest of the church.’ The rest of the church is bigger than the local church called, Central.
Another significant observation from this passage is that greater knowledge carries with it a greater responsibility. Verse 48 is the conclusion to a section that began with Peter asking in verse 41, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” Jesus’ answer reveals that those with more knowledge and more resources have more responsibility. This isn’t addressing money matters alone, but management of the household (v42). When it comes to matters of household management, Central has knowledge that we are called to share with the rest of the church. Knowledge like this is a liability unless it’s shared.
I could share so much more about why we are excited about the opportunity to partner with Overflow Church. Let me add one more thought. We are opening our doors to Overflow because since Overflow’s inception a decade ago, Central has been a constant companion, a helper, and a co-laborer with Pastor Brian. Our roots with Pastor Brian and Overflow go deep. While we can’t merge with every church, there is a connection here that we believe the Lord wants us to harness moving forward.
None of this should be taken to mean that our partnership is one-sided. We are excited about this partnership because of the mutual benefits. Overflow has an exciting multicultural ministry with roughly 40% diversity. Furthermore, they have an exciting local mission strategy that God has used to make a difference in Benton Harbor. These two areas, multicultural ministry and local mission, are just two areas that God will use Overflow to develop us.
I am excited about the days ahead for both Central and the family of churches God is building called the Water’s Edge Network. We have made significant strides over the last few years and I want to thank each and every one of you for making the journey with us.
Praying for discernment for you all as Sunday approaches.
I’m so thankful to be able to co-labor with you all.