Bethlehem adopted a mission statement, Loving God + Loving Neighbor, to express who we want to be, and developed a Strategic Plan that identifies four critical success factors:
•Reading the Bible,
•Meeting in Small Groups,
•Demonstrating Faith through Taking Risks, and
•Recognizing the Holy Spirit at Work
Our neighbors include a growing population of Spanish speaking people, people we don’t reach today with the two services we offer. We’ve asked God to show us opportunities to take risks and love our neighbors and we believe that He has come to us with just such an opportunity.
At the June council meeting, Pastor Ryan shared the Northwest Conference’s vision for planting 50 churches in the next ten years and some ideas about how we might participate. Within weeks of that meeting, the Northwest Conference shared with us the opportunity of offering space to a new church plant, New Covenant, or Nuevo Pacto. When we ask for opportunities, the Holy Spirit responds!
New Covenant/ Nuevo Pacto is a new church plant by the Northwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. It started as a Spanish-speaking ministry of First Covenant Church of Minneapolis, but has grown to the point where they recently moved to Minnehaha Academy for worship, where they already have an average Sunday attendance of 70 people.
They use the name New Covenant as much as they use Nuevo Pacto because they do not want to limit their future to being a Spanish language church. While the adults are Spanish speaking or bi-lingual, they understand that their children will not be, and they want to be able to provide a church that will be home for them in 15 or 20 years. That long-term vision drives their focus and the decisions they make today.
Bethlehem has the opportunity to help New Covenant/ Nuevo Pacto by offering the use of our facilities. We have been diligently documenting the current use of our space so we can be confident that services and events at New Covenant/ Nuevo Pacto will not interfere with ministries and activities already happening here at Bethlehem. We’ve met with the Child Care Center and we’ve had conversations with Crosstown Covenant and Redeemer Covenant, both of whom already share their facilities with another congregation, so we can learn from their experiences. We’re confident that should we decide to open ourselves up to this opportunity we can come to an arrangement that would work for both congregations.
Beyond the practical challenges of schedule, space, and some financial impact due to increased utilities and maintenance costs, we could probably come up with several reasons to let this opportunity pass. Some may feel that we’re still getting used to having two services? Others may feel we’re still trying to figure out our relationship with our Bhutanese neighbors? Don’t we sometimes forget how to best to share space with the Child Care Center already? It’s a risk, no doubt about that. But we’ve asked for risks, we’ve asked for ways to serve our neighbors, and we’ve asked the Holy Spirit to lead us. When we look at the rewards, this seems to be risk well worth taking, and we can count on the Holy Spirit to help us navigate and resolve any issues that arise. Who knows, we might all grow a little because of it.
One parting thought, Pastor Ryan shared several bible verses with the Strategic Planning commission. There is one in particular we want to share:
“You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall no go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan and the widow, so that the Lord your god may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan and the widow. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.” Deuteronomy 24: 17-22
The last sentence is a reminder that we were once a church without a building. God blessed us through the generosity of Minnehaha Academy, who allowed us to use their facilities for the first quarter century of our existence. How wonderful that we might have the opportunity to pass that blessing on.
The Adhoc Neuvo Pacto Committee
SEE OUR UPDATED FACILITY USE AGREEMENT HERE.