It all started as an idea:
If our goal is to plant five new churches in the next five years, wouldn’t it be helpful to take a few leaders on a vision/prayer tour of the most populous and untouched parts of our district!
At first it was to be a ‘car tour’—five men in a sedan. That plan was abandoned when it became obvious that a car wouldn’t hold all those who were interested. We moved to a ‘van tour’. One day in conversation with General Superintendent, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, I mentioned our Northeast Prayer & Vision Tour. “Paul, that sounds exciting,” she replied. “I’d like to go.” That week, by faith, I made a $500. deposit on a fifty-five passenger bus. It was obvious that God had bigger plans than ours.
Dean Brown, our Evangelism and Church Growth Director E&CG, and Cam Engert, our Office Administrator, took hold of the logistics and things began to come together.
Soon, large-capacity, high-influence individuals from other organizations who care about our district and our vision began to sign on for the tour. They brought expertise, enthusiasm and faith, and were available to coach and mentor us as we traveled. What an amazing array of talent God put on that bus to encourage us. In addition to Dr. Lyon, we were joined by…
• Stan Hoover, District Superintendent, Chesapeake District, a district that encompasses the Washington, DC area. Stan is also the chairman of the Wesley Seminary Board.
• Wayne Wager, District Superintendent, Central New York District (CNY), our neighboring district to the west.
• Lynn Ensign, CNY District E&CG Director and pastor of Mt. Pisgah Wesleyan Church in Smithfield, PA.
• Chris Conrad, Director of Church Growth, E&CG Department of The Wesleyan Church, who has planted two churches.
• Phil Struckmeyer, church planter, West Michigan District. Phil has planted Impact Church in Lowell, MI, a church that now runs 900. He has daughtered two or three other churches out of Impact Church, and has been one of the influences that has helped West Michigan plant 21 churches over the past five years.
• Wayne & Amy Otto, a dynamic church-planting team from North Michigan District, who are filled with enthusiasm, have planted six churches and have a goal of planting five more in the next five years.
• Ryan Kozey, Founder of The Infinity Alliance, whose mission statement is… 'We exist to engage in God’s redemptive mission by reaching every man, woman, and child in America through starting and partnering with missional churches'. His five-year goals include networking with 1,000 like-minded leaders, to discover 50 places where God wants to initiate movements, and then to initiate training for those 50 places through Renovation Centers that are being established.
We left Albany, NY at 7:00 am Monday, March 8 and returned at 8:00 pm Tuesday, March 9. Forty-nine hours of vision, prayer, mentoring, coaching, encouraging, growing, seeing, feeling, experiencing… During our travels we saw…
• Poughkeepsie/Fishkill/Newburgh area of southern NY (pop. 290,000).
• White Plains, NY, Westchester County (pop. 941,000).
• Stamford, CT, Fairfield County (pop.883,000).
• Bridgeport, CT, Fairfield County.
• New Haven, CT, New Haven County (pop. 846,000). While in New Haven, we spent an hour on the campus of Yale University. Amazing! And we dined in Mystic, CT, a quaint seaport town, complete with draw bridge, seafood and shops. Mystic is very near the largest submarine base in the world.
• Providence, RI, Providence County (pop. 622,000), a beautiful downtown, where we over-nighted and then walked the campus of Brown University before leaving on Tuesday morning. We also prayed over the Capitol Building.
(I digress… What an awesome district we have! The diversity is amazing. Long Island Sound, Cape Cod, Adirondacks, Catskills, Berkshires, Greens and Whites. Seaside villages and world-class ski resorts. Tiny villages and great cities. Four distinct seasons. Off-the-charts fall color. Winter wonderland. Flowering springs and mild summers. Educational universities whose thoughts influence the entire globe. Wow!)
• Boston, MA, Middlesex County (pop. 1,500,000). We walked the Boston Commons, where Dr. Lyon talked her way into a tour of the Park Street Church. We rode through the campus of Harvard University, and went to the top of the Prudential Building, where we saw community after community in all directions, many inhabited by 100,000 or more souls. We looked down on Fenway Park and on the home of the Boston Pops. We saw mile after mile of the brownstones of South Boston and Beacon hill. We saw the Charles River, site of many regattas. And we saw the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
• Hartford, CT, Hartford County (pop. 860,000), where the vice-chairman of the Local Board of Administration of the Hartford Wesleyan Church prayed over us.
• Springfield, MA, Hampden County (pop. 456,000), then we continued across the Berkshires.
As the day darkened, we approached Albany, capitol of the fourth most populous state and one of the most influential. Passing by the State Capitol Building, we prayed for a revival of moral and spiritual values to take root there.
Exhausted but exhilarated, the 40 of us went our own separate ways. We had spied out the land, and found it to be a 'land flowing with milk and honey'—and opportunity!
To be continued…