Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Bringing Encounter Church To A Close

Some of you have partnered with Encounter Church from the very beginning. Others have come along later, and still some have just begun to pray or support this new church plant in Helena, Montana.

Please take the time to read through our journey and find out why we're bringing the Encounter ministry to a close.
As you know, we have been following God, and praying impossible prayers from the very beginning almost three years ago. God gave us this vision for Encounter Church when we had no funding and no assembled team. We sought this support from a variety of sources and began building a new church plant from scratch.

With the help of ARC, SBC, and NAMB, we received assessment, confirmation, and encouragement to reach people in Helena that no one else is reaching.

We're talking about those, who like us, are a bit outside-the-box, and do not fit into the traditional approach of churches in Helena. We sought to change this community, working alongside other churches, to reach people for the Kingdom helping them truly Encounter God and Jesus in their everyday life.

From the early days dreaming in our living room about a this church, to Discussions at the Staggering Ox, Friday Night FWDs, the Encounter Grand Opening, and finally meeting on Sunday mornings at the Pattern House — we have shared a long and challenging journey.

From that very first April in 2009, we have focused all of our intent and effort to selflessly serve our community showing them the unconditional love of Jesus in a real and tangible way. Encounter has become known in Helena as a church that serves its community. It is known as a church for people who don't like church. We have truly become a church that is FOR Helena, rather than just a church IN Helena.

I am so proud and thankful of all the hard work, time, effort, and more — that individuals have put into God's vision for Encounter. These people have been, by far, the most important and significant part of our journey.
We want to share that at this time, that Andrea and I are currently praying through the process of seeking God's leading in a new season of ministry. From the beginning of the new year, we've been seriously evaluating and assessing the survivability and sustainability of Encounter Church.

While we've seen many victories and successes through the ministry of Encounter, while we've seen lives changed and the community touched, we have NOT seen a few crucial elements come to pass that will see Encounter survive in the long haul.

A decision such as this is never easy. As we have continually assessed the Encounter ministry, it was an especially difficult and painful decision knowing that Encounter has made a difference in Helena.

At the same time, we've communicated our needs and prayers all along. It has become clear in recent months, that God is giving us new direction. Still, the loss of Encounter Church will leave a void within the Helena community.

Andrea and I have been blessed by the experiences and lessons God has granted us through this journey. And most importantly, we've been blessed by every relationship we've formed. This journey has been richly rewarding and also spiritually draining. We've learned that joy and heartbreak can occur together.

And so we are deeply saddened to announce that we are gracefully bringing the Encounter Church ministry to a close.

In the next month or two, we will continue to serve Encounter Church just as hard as we have. There are many loose ends that need to be tied up, both ministry-related, financial, and administrative. If you have been touched by the Encounter ministry, we invite you to take advantage of the opportunity to get together with us and debrief, if needed.

Please know that we are in the process of meeting with a numerous people in the coming weeks. One of our main concerns now, is to help each of person make a smooth transition toward continued spiritual growth, beyond their time with Encounter.

While this last Sunday, July 24, was our final worship gathering, we will continue our one-on-one discipleship and we will continue to meet together at our home for LifeGroups until Andrea and I transition to a new phase of ministry.
While Andrea and I continue to minister here in Helena over the next month or two — discipling those who have connected with Encounter — we are looking for open doors into our next phase of ministry. If you know of any ministry opportunities or positions, please let me know. The key for us is to find the next spiritual adventure that God has planned for us.

Church planting is now engrained upon our hearts. At this time, Andrea and I are not emotionally prepared to launch and lead another church plant effort immediately, but we are not ruling it out for the future. Risking it all for Jesus and embracing uncertainty for Him is in our DNA now.

We are longing to fit with some other church planting effort where we can be the part of the team that Encounter so desperately needed. I most likely will continue to pursue ministry in worship arts, still knowing that my skills and experience now cover a broader spectrum that include preaching, graphic design, leading small groups, discipling individuals, coordinating successful outreach efforts.

Please know that we are in the process of meeting with a numerous people in the coming weeks. One of our main concerns now, is to help each of person make a smooth transition toward continued spiritual growth, beyond their time with Encounter.

Above all, we are seeking God's leading in this. As with the personality and vision of Encounter, we are called to a ministry with a vibrant and audacious vision. A vision, that if God isn't in it, it will utterly and completely fail. We are called to reach those who otherwise would never know Christ and never set foot in a church — to minister to out-of-the-box people in unconventional ways. As Pastor Craig Groeschel says, "To reach people that have never been reached, you have to do things that no one has ever done."

We are praying for some audacious, lion-chasing opportunities and ask you to pray with us as we embrace the uncertainty that lies ahead.

In His Hands,
Eric & Andrea

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