On the first Sunday of October in 2015, I awoke refreshed, having spent most of the previous two days with a group of men whom I’d never met before. Pastor Dustin Pennington of Cornerstone Fellowship had asked me to come and pour into the men of his church as they spent the weekend in a retreat together. God moved among us, and there was instant spiritual and relational significance that filled our meetings together that weekend in North Georgia. Little did any of us know that those two days would serve as the fire which lit the fuse that led to the vision that God was about to explode on two pastors, two churches and one community.
The vision for what would become New Bridge Church was birthed one year ago today, on the first Sunday of October.
When Pastor Dustin brought the vision to me the next day in my office, we spent that Monday morning listening to each other, praying over what we sensed was a call to obey from God, and formulating a plan to listen for the voice of the Lord for the next several days without speaking to anyone else about what we discerned. Could it be that God was truly leading two churches from very different denominational backgrounds to become one? Dustin and I agreed not to even speak to each other in the next several days; we needed to hear clearly from God. When we met together again, there were no doubts, God was leading us to lead the two churches to become one. Meadow, a formerly Baptist group, and Cornerstone, a formerly Assemblies of God group, would shed our denominational affiliations and unite to launch a brand new work which would become known as New Bridge Church. What some would call insanity, we called ingenious and inspired. Had it originated with Dustin or myself, it would have been foolish. More than anything, he and I were sobered that God was calling us to this kind of work which was unprecedented in our region. We told the Lord together that we would do it, and we never looked back.
Over the next few months there were countless meetings with the leaders of the two assemblies. Fastings and prayers took place. The seeking of outside counsel from other area church leaders was met with helpful guidance. It is hard to believe but not one single time was there anyone who firmly counseled us not to do it. Not once did anyone we sought counsel from tell us that this was not of God. In fact, most everyone we spoke with was stirred, recognizing that what Cornerstone and Meadow were doing resonated with the Scriptures, as it seemed to revolt against traditions and embrace the Ephesians chapter four reality of one Church. The Baptist bubble and Charismatic cocoon were being done away with like old wineskins. Something new was being prepared by the Lord. Something which would signal to anyone watching that lesser loyalties would no longer hold us. We committed to start as, work at, and remain committed to being a church which held to the authority of the Scriptures and the necessity of the Holy Spirit. We would not abandon our bibles in a pursuit of encounter with the Holy Spirit. Neither would we assume that the Holy Spirit’s presence and power would take a backseat to doctrine. We knew that the first-century church had both Word & Spirit as their two pillars, and we received a call from God to make these two pillars our own priority.
Here we are today, one year later, and the vision is a reality. So many in our community have answered their own call to come here and unite. I often say that New Bridge is a church for denominational refugees who got sick of having to pick and choose which part of the bible they would be forced to maximize or minimize. God has blessed us greatly in this first year since the vision was given. We have seen more baptisms in the last 10 months than in the previous three years combined at either church before the merge. People’s minds are being renewed. Life is being imparted as even our youngest are experiencing the Holy Spirit in ways that far surpassed what we would have predicted. We have more Bible studies and outreaches than ever before. God meets with us when we gather, and we have been blessed to witness healings of different types. Women are being empowered to step into places where they had been hesitant before. Men are being unlocked and unleashed to lead and serve. Our teens have been gathering every Sunday night for three hours of Bible study together. You can scarcely come by the campus when there isn’t some form of prayer or study taking place. It would seem that God has raised up New Bridge to prepare our part of this community for some significant days which are soon to arrive. We sense something coming. We are grateful to Him. Frankly, I am enjoying this season more than any other season I have ever experienced as a follower of Jesus. What moves me the most is the awareness that we are just getting started – the best is still ahead of us.
So, one year later, I am thankful. I believe all of you that have remained with us through great change are also grateful that you did not give in to the impulse to flee. So many of you have arrived at New Bridge after the vision was already put into motion. Many more will be coming alongside of us very soon. We will remain committed to organic New Testament Christianity: an unwavering commitment to apostolic doctrine, with an equal commitment to our reliance upon the Person, presence and power of the Holy Spirit. With these two pillars framing up our mission, our identity will be marked with love. We trust that these commitments will allow for the expectation of God’s continued blessing upon us as a faith-family. We also believe that we will be able to impact those who are not yet followers of Jesus with a genuine, non-religious display of Gospel truth and love.
It has been a year. And it has been immeasurably better than I could have known.
Now…into year two we go.
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