Our sister church, Core Community Church, celebrates ten years of existence this weekend!! That’s an amazing milestone, since over 80% of church plants fail within the first two years. They threw a swanky party on Saturday night at the Doubletree to celebrate. The pastors of Coram Deo and our wives attended in order to represent our church and show our love to our friends at Core, who have been so helpful and encouraging in our own journey. I was invited to share a few words at the event to mark the occasion. I thought I’d share those words here as well, so that those who weren’t present can celebrate God’s grace and honor these dear friends with us.
In 2001, I moved my family to Omaha to take over the job that Ethan Burmeister had left to plant Core Community Church. And so in many ways my own story is bound up with the story of Core Community Church. I consider it a great privilege and an honor to be here with you this evening and to celebrate what God has done.
You may think the existence and growth of Core is a great story of persistence and faith and mission. (And it certainly is all those things). But I think it’s more. The existence and growth of Core Community Church is nothing less than miraculous. I really believe that we’re celebrating tonight not just the general providence of God, but a special outpouring of his grace. Let me tell you why I say that.
In the past decade, dozens of church plants have failed in the city of Omaha. This city is a graveyard for church planting. I don’t have enough digits to count how many new churches have failed, leaving a trail of damaged people and wasted money and blown opportunity. I could tell you stories for the next hour. Millions of dollars have been poured into the work of church planting, with little or nothing to show for it.
And yet, here is Core Community Church. Celebrating ten years of faithful ministry in the heart of our city. Standing virtually alone among the carnage of failed churches. Ladies and gentlemen, that is not just amazing; it is miraculous!
And listen: we all know that no human being gets credit for that. That is God’s doing, and this is his mission, and he gets the glory. But I want you to know how much respect and honor I have for your lead pastor and his wife, Ethan and Erin Burmeister. Ethan is a giant and a hero of the faith to me, and he deserves to be honored well by you this weekend. The strength of his vision and the tenacity of his will have helped to light the way for the rest of us.
So let me tell you what I see God doing as a result of his faithfulness to Core. I truly believe that after ten years of persistence, we are seeing the beginnings of a church planting movement that will bring spiritual renewal to our city.
Jesus uses the language of war to describe his mission. He tells us to expect a brutal conflict between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. And he promises us that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. And so we should expect that progress in God’s mission has a similar dynamic to progress in a war. The first troops to land are responsible to establish a beachhead. They sustain the heaviest fire and hold the ground for those who come behind them. And then slowly, methodically, the surge of troops comes and begins to take back the ground that is held by the enemy.
I believe that’s exactly what’s happening when it comes to church planting in Omaha. You guys were the beachhead. You were the ones to lay down over the barbed wire and hang on long enough for the rest of us to get there. And now we’re seeing the surge that – if God is gracious – will bring spiritual renewal to our city. This is happening in three ways.
First: through the Acts 29 Network. When Core joined, it was just a handful of churches. When Coram Deo joined it was still under 100 churches. Now it’s 300 and counting, and one of the most influential church planting networks in the world. It’s through our connection with Acts 29 that we’ve surfaced guys like Todd Bumgarner, who’s planting in Lincoln, and Justin Dean, who’s your church planting resident here. Acts 29 is creating momentum for the cause of church planting both here in our area and around the world. And you guys were part of the genesis of that.
Second: through broad church planting. Knowing how hard and lonely it is to plant churches, Ethan and I have always wanted to encourage and support anyone in Omaha who’s doing that work. So for the past 2 years we’ve been leading a church planter’s quarterly that attracts dozens of church planters from all over the city. And through that, God is building a camaraderie and community among church planters that is changing the climate of evangelical Christianity in our city.
Third: through existing church renewal. Back when Core started, you guys were weird. You were an anomaly. You used words like “missional” and “emerging” and “holistic,” and existing churches just found that strange. But do you know what’s happening now? Those existing churches are coming to us to learn. They’re longing to experience renewal around the gospel and the mission of Jesus, and they’re turning to Core and to Coram Deo and to Acts 29 to point the way. We are participating in the mission of God not just by planting churches, but by spurring renewal in traditional churches as well.
So, people of Core: on behalf of your friends throughout the city, Happy Birthday! Thank you for your faithfulness to Jesus, to His gospel, and to the cause of church planting in the city of Omaha. Your legacy is vast, and your story is still being written. May God give you decades more of influence and ministry, so that Omaha might be renewed through a movement of the gospel.