In April, a newly-formed Chicagoland Kingdom Enterprise Zone (KEZ) served up a feast of information and inspiration to area ministers and church members. The KEZ sponsored the event, called Missional Café, as part of a two-year venture plan to create opportunities for the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church to do ministry together. The goal of the event was “to spark momentum for church planting and church transformation,” says pastor Rich Schuler, one of the event coordinators.
The event originally had been planned for February, but was delayed by the extreme winter weather. Schuler says the delay was beneficial: “The wait made us better prepared, and as a result the event was a big success.” The Missional Café hosted about 70 participants, equally representing the RCA and the CRC.
The five-hour event, held at Calvary Reformed Church in Orland Park, Illinois, began with worship. The ministers presented panel discussions, sharing how they and their congregation had carried out missional visions. The emphasis was not on teaching but on sparking ideas by sharing their own experiences of how God is working in their lives. Panelists included a wide representation of ethnic backgrounds, ages, and regions.
The panels addressed three main topics. A church planting panel explored non-traditional ways to start a church. Jason Nelson told how God had called him and 14 other people from Pella, Iowa, to move to Chicago to plant a church. Ann Bilbrew shared how she is launching Riverdale Ministry Center, a new campus in the urban Riverdale area on Chicago’s far south side. Dave Izenbart shared the journey that led to the launch of the Riverdale church plant. Tim Hoekstra is co-leading a kingdom learning community in the city of Chicago with the goal of starting mission communities in 77 neighborhoods of Chicago. Jason De Vries shared the unique story of a merger between a CRC congregation and an RCA church family.
In a discipleship panel, panelists discussed good tools for making disciples and growing leaders. Ruth Kelder talked about her passion for coaching ministry leaders as they develop an intentional discipleship strategy for their church community. Jason Perry related his unique vision for discipleship in the local church.
At a third session, church multiplication consultant Ben Ingebretson introduced the Mission Insite tool and discussed how to maximize the demographic information it provides about a neighborhood.
After the panels, attendees met in small groups to discuss what they had heard and to share their own experiences.
Kris Vos, one of the event coordinators and pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Schererville, Indiana, a Christian Reformed congregation, shared his impression of the outcome: “It was great to see God at work and to understand that things work on God’s timetable and not ours.
“The wonderful thing to know is we are not on an island alone reaching out, but there are many others working alongside us for the glory of God.”