How Gateway Helps Other Churches
A year before Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast coast in 2012, Pastor Ed Funderburk sat with the elders of a small church in southern New Jersey as they desperately sought help. With the recent departure of the
senior pastor and a period of severe dysfunction within the church, it had shrunk down to about 60 people and was struggling to pay the mortgage, let alone find someone to preach on Sunday mornings. Pastor Ed had visited more than 200 churches nationwide in various conditions, but this situation looked pretty grim. For the first time ever, Pastor Ed reluctantly counseled these elders that closing their doors was an option they may need to consider. But that small church was not giving up so easily.
When Gateway started and began to grow, its platform of influence increased globally, and people started asking questions: Why are you growing so quickly? How do you structure your leadership? What ministries do you have? How do you maintain a healthy, Spirit-filled church? And over and over again, we heard this one: Can our church do that too? With so many people asking questions, Gateway’s leadership saw an opportunity to bless and build the global Church by empowering and equipping other church leaders. So nine years ago, Gateway initiated Connect, a ministry that provides resources, connections, and help to other churches. “In His kindness, God has blessed Gateway and given us a platform. And the principles that help us thrive and grow are biblical principles that are reproducible in other environments,” says Ed, executive pastor of Connect. “We have a responsibility to help as many churches as possible.”
Connect holds yearly events and seminars where pastors and leaders from across the country interact with one another and with the leadership at Gateway—and there’s always an open door. “We serve anyone who reaches out to us,” says Charley Elliott, a pastor with Connect. “Sometimes they are in a desperate place and need help, and sometimes they are in a healthy place but know God has called them to more.” The Connect website also offers hundreds of free materials for anyone looking to see how Gateway does things.
But it’s not just about people seeing what Gateway does. Connect mainly focuses on helping establish health and clear vision in the local Church. With 90% of American churches either stagnant or declining in numbers, it’s clear to see that there’s a health problem. “We’re like church mechanics,” says Pastor Ed. “We assist churches in becoming healthy, and we believe the byproduct of health is growth.” Sometimes that means asking hard questions and having difficult conversations. In the end, each church Connect reaches must decide what works best for them.
That little church in New Jersey took and applied every piece of advice they could get, except for one: they didn’t want to close their doors. So Gateway helped connect them with Brendon Wilson, an energetic pastor from Arizona, who became their senior pastor. The church changed their name to Fusion Church, reestablished their vision with clarity, and began growing. Then, Hurricane Sandy hit.
This deadly storm put every thing on hold, and the church changed its focus to help the community. Gateway partnered with Fusion to deliver disaster relief to Hurricane Sandy victims. Because the church was able to be such a blessing, it has grown to more than 800 attendees, and it’s still growing.
Approximately 900 churches in all denominations across the country have been impacted through the counsel, connections, and resources Connect has provided. Testimonies similar to Fusion Church are stacking up. Bay Community Church in Daphne, Alabama, reached out to Gateway after they had plateaued at 500 attendees. Connect was honored to serve this church during an extraordinary season where they exploded to over 4,000. Grace Fellowship in Lawton, Oklahoma, was a church stuck in the past, but they reinvented and recharged their vision and have seen incredible growth. Churches in need of pastors have been connected to teachable and vision-filled leaders. Marriages are being healed. Families are becoming a priority. There is better communication and less confusion on church staffs. Churches are becoming the heroes of their local communities. Eighty percent of the churches Connect has reached are seeing significant change and growth. And it’s not over. Connect is establishing more relationships with pastors and churches across the country every day. “When I heard about this ministry, I immediately thought, ‘The Blessed Life is not just a book or an idea here,’” says Pastor Charley. “Gateway is living out that value daily with radical generosity to the local Church.”
To learn more about Connect, visit connect.gatewaypeople.com.
To learn more about the principles for healthy church growth, check out Pastor Robert Morris’s book, The Blessed Church, available at the Gateway Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.