Two Congregations Consider Joining Ministry Efforts

Post a Comment » Written on April 18th, 2007     
Filed under: News
SEATTLE, WA (April 18, 2007) – Members of Interbay Covenant Church voted overwhelmingly Sunday to unite their ministries with Quest Covenant, says Pastor Ray Bartel.

“We’re very financially stable,” says Bartel, who has been at the church seven years. “The church could go on as it is, but we didn’t think that was the right thing to do. Many churches wait until they’re nearly dead before they consider coming together. We wanted to do this from a position of strength.”

As a result, the 54-year-old congregation will give six-year-old Quest a building and land that are mortgage-free and worth an estimated $8 million. The congregations will operate under the Quest name with its leadership team and constitution.

In a posting on his web blog, Quest Pastor Eugene Cho praised Interbay for its commitment to sharing the gospel. “Folks at Interbay have said on numerous occasions: “What we want to see, above all, is a vibrant and thriving church presence in this area and for Seattle. That’s what matters to us.

“I am most excited about the privilege we have of growing together with the current Interbay community,” Cho continues. “Their stories, wisdom, and gifts will be a great blessing not only to Quest, but in our shared commitment to be a missional presence to Seattle and the larger world.”

Members of Quest still need to vote on the new arrangement, but are expected to approve it. “As of June 1, we will be one church, and we will gather together for one large celebration service on June 3,” Cho says.

The two churches had already combined some ministries. Interbay placed its children ministry under the direction of Quest, helping to pay the children minister’s salary and providing the facilities. “That worked very well,” Bartel says. The churches also had worshiped together during several services.

The congregations have had a close relationship for several years. The two churches came within 50 feet of each other when Interbay allowed Quest to meet in their warehouse, which had been used for youth ministry in the 1970s and 1980s. At the time, the church was only two years removed from being a bible study in Cho’s house.

Interbay took out a loan from National Covenant Properties so the building could be renovated in 2002. “We gave them carte blanche to renovate how they wanted,” Bartel says.

Since then, Quest has grown to more than 350 people. Quest’s outreach to people ages 18-35 through unique ministries, including its café, has attracted the attention of the Seattle Times and other news media. Cho also recently spoke to students at North Park Theological Seminary on the Emergent Movement.

“There’s never been a sense of competition or envy because they’ve had explosive growth,” Bartel says. Just the opposite: Interbay has been excited.

For his part, Cho wants the news of Interbay’s decision to spread, explaining, “Their story, courage, faith, sacrifice, and legacy needs to be shared with others.”

Still, the decision to “give itself” to Quest was difficult for Interbay, whose leadership initially opposed the idea. As the congregation worked on its vision for the future, initial resistance gave way to believing the merger was the best means for expanding ministry, Bartel says.

A denominational leader lauded the decision. “It’s a bold, visionary move that will result in much fruit for the kingdom,” says John Wenrich, director of congregational vitality with the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

The decision has been confirmed many times over, Bartel says. “There have been so many direct answers to prayer that it has surprised even the most faithful.”

Cho and Bartel acknowledge that Interbay members who strongly favored the merger from the beginning will need time to grieve. “Even I’m grieving,” Bartel says.

In the end, Bartel says, Interbay lived out the words of Oswald Chambers in his devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest: “Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the one who is leading.”

To learn more about the ministries of the two congregations, visit their websites at Interbay and Quest.

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