This past weekend I shot up to Traverse City, MI for a quick visit to catch up with Pastor Matt Herron and to see all that God is doing in one of our oldest Sojourn Network churches: Sojourn Church.
Their Partnership with Sojourn Network
Last time I visited was in January of 2013 with Sojourn Network’s first Executive Director, Brian Howard. Making the 8-hour drive in snow-covered roads for most of the trip, Brian and I finally arrived to meet with Matt, Sojourn’s Lead Pastor, and his elder team to discuss what it might look like for them to partner with this new network to plant, grow, and multiply healthy churches that last. The elders courageously agreed to move forward, and a fruitful partnership began in early 2013, one that we continue to thank God for to this day.
Over the years, I’ve been amazed to see how generously — and many times how quickly — this church has responded to needs within our network. A few years back, one of our churches needed a quick down payment to secure a lease on a new building. They reached out to the pastors in our network, and within a few days a check had gone out from Sojourn to this young church, covering the bulk of their need.
In another instance, a young church plant was fundraising to buy chairs for their new space. Sojourn chipped in to buy dozens of new chairs for this congregation. In yet another instance, Sojourn had a surplus of funds at the end of their fiscal year. Instead of only asking the congregation to give more and bolster their days of cash on hand, Matt encouraged his church to give beyond their local church and to a few of our network pastors. And this is all in addition to their regular giving of 5% to our mission as a network!
Matt has intentionally brought a few of our church planters to visit their church and give updates to the congregation, including Rob Maine (Renaissance Church in Pittsburg, PA) and, most recently, Jason Bradshaw (Gospel Community Church in Troy, OH).
Since joining the network in 2013, Sojourn Church in Traverse City has consistently modeled what it means to partner with others churches to help pastors plant, grow, and multiply healthy churches that last.
What’s changed since 2013?
Since our original visit in January 2013, much has changed for this 100+-year-old church.
For starters, they rebranded in 2014, changing their church’s name from Immanuel Baptist Church to Sojourn Church. This was a monumental move for this church and one that was met, at least initially, with no little resistance.
The name change was just the beginning, though, as the church then entered into a new phase ministry: getting their house in order. This phase consisted of updating their building and property — as well as their church constitution — both of which were struggling from years of deferred maintenance.
On the heels of these new shifts came a season of many goodbyes coupled with the joy of lots of hellos, as the church began to say goodbye to many of its tenured members while welcoming a host of new families in 2015 and 2016. In fact, only four families remain from a church membership roster dating back to January 2010!
The church grew as new families began pouring in, resulting in yet another significant shift in June 2016, moving from their 10 AM service to two mornings services at 9 and 11 AM.
Where is Sojourn headed now?
Now, with over a decade of patient ministry and house-ordering behind them, Sojourn is entering new territory, finally poised to ask new questions and seek God for new answers. These questions include:
- How can we be a more aggressive sending church in the small towns that surround Traverse City?
- How can we invest in a generation of pastors who desire to revitalize older, dying churches in this region?
- How can we partner more intentionally with our community?
- How can we leverage our facility for the greatest kingdom impact?
- How can we raise up more leaders who have a vision for “going”?
- How can we creatively make room for more people to hear the gospel?
God has already provided answers to some of these questions.
Recently, for example, the pastors were praying for a way to make better use of their empty basement classrooms (originally designed to be a school) and gym. Shortly after beginning to pray this, an employee of the local YMCA came and knocked on their door wanting to talk about using their space for an early childhood education program. Conversations ensued, an agreement was reached, and now the space is filled five days a week with over 70 children from the community.
Matt Herron and His Team
Through all this, there has been a constant variable of God’s grace in the life of this church: Matt and Kim Herron. For anyone who has followed the call of God into an older, existing church, you know the patience, wisdom, love, grace, conflict, and endurance required to see cultures changed, to see bureaucratic policies liberated, to see faithless routine transform into faith-filled vision. Pastor Matt and his family have stuck it out, and God, in his grace, seems to be honoring this patient labor with a season of life — of resurrection — in the life of this church. We’re so thankful for Matt and for the team of pastors God has brought together to lead this church — Ben, Ryan, and Dave.
Please continue in prayer for Matt, his team, and this church, that God would do immeasurably more than all that they ask or think according to the power at work within them so that God is gloried in his church and in Christ Jesus both now and forever (based Ephesians 3:20-21).