Evangel has always been about chairs, creating space for people to experience Jesus. From 1963 with Pastor Zwyghuizen and the Rehoboth House to breaking ground for a new church building in 1972. From our first full-time pastor, Steve Wilson, in 1975 to breaking ground in 2001 for a 5000-square-foot addition. From a second pastor, Nate Marsh, in 2009 to a new lead pastor, Levi Matteson, in 2014.
Every one of those decisions were made in faith with the hope that we would be able to minister to more people.
And Evangel continues to grow. Maybe you’ve joined us for worship recently, or perhaps dropped off your kids at Awana. If you’ve spent any time at Evangel over the past year, you’ve probably noticed something. We’re bursting at the seams. For years, we’ve talked about options. The time to act is now.
Growth Plans for 2016
We have purchased the blue house directly across the street from the church. We’ll be transferring our office and administrative functions to this house, allowing us to convert those areas in the main building to additional learning space.
Before that can happen, however, the Evangel House needs to be renovated and brought up to commercial code.
Additionally, our members voted to add a third pastor who will allow us to offer a third service and increase our ability to counsel members in a timely manner. The new pastor will lead our worship teams, strengthen our international ministries, and oversee missions/outreach, including short-term mission trips.
The Evangel House
For years, we’ve explored options to expand our current facility or purchase an adjacent property. Those options were simply not feasible or available. When it seemed as though we couldn’t possibly fit another family in our Sunday Children’s program, the opportunity to purchase the blue house across the street presented itself.
Members approved the purchase and financing of the Evangel House in January 2016, and renovations in the summer will bring the house up to commercial building codes.
We’ll move the pastors’ and administrative offices there, expanding children and youth programs in the church building and creating classroom space in the house for those who can safely cross the street, such as teens and college students.
Is this a long-term solution to our space constraints? We hope not. We will continue to focus on serving God’s kingdom, and if it’s his will, we’ll soon be seeking other solutions. In any case, we’ll have equity in this house that sits on prime real estate in Houghton.
Click on the images below to view the floor plans:
A Third Service
Before we even consider relocating or building, we need to fully utilize our existing space. Most churches accommodate growth through a third—and even fourth— service. A third service is the most low-risk, cost-effective solution to address our current capacity constraints.
Land and building costs for a facility large enough to accommodate us would be four to five million dollars. It would involve a three-year capital campaign before even breaking ground, and then we’d be straddled with debt that would crowd out funding for other ministries.
We’re not in a position now to even consider building. Yet we need to take action because our two services are over 80 percent full. Our average school-year attendance is 360, with just over 200 chairs in the sanctuary. There were only five vacant seats during our Easter service. At this capacity, studies show, new attendees would be reluctant to return.
We’ll start a third service soon after having a third pastor in place. We’ll maintain the early service through the school year, unless attendance requires extending it through the summer. We anticipate some who attend the 9:30 and 11:00 services will shift to an earlier service, and this will free up room for another 100 attendees.
A Third Pastor
Already, our pastors are stretched too thin. Studies show an effective ratio of attendees per pastor is between 100 and 150. We are currently at about 180 attendees per pastor. Unless it is a crisis situation, counseling meetings with our current pastors are scheduled weeks out.
As a practical matter, we need a third service to accommodate those who wish to encounter Jesus at Evangel. And we need a third pastor to accommodate a third service. A third service would put our ratio of attendees per pastor well over 200—a level at which we wouldn’t be able to effectively minister to the congregation.
Additionally, there are ministry areas that are not getting proper pastoral care. A third pastor would strengthen our international ministries, oversee missions, including short-term mission trips, and lead our worship team.
A primary responsibility of our third pastor would be to lead teams to create rich, consistent, worshipful services. While our other plans create chairs, a third pastor is important to fill those chairs and move people through our discipleship model from discovery, learning, and ultimately to service.
The Four Chairs of Evangel
The Stool: Some at Evangel encounter Jesus for the first time. They may have come seeking comfort after a divorce, death, or illness. It may have been curiosity to find if there’s something more to this life. There checking us out, and having committed to stay. They are represented by the stool. In any case, Evangel is a safe place where people can explore the faith.
The Student Desk: Many people come to faith at Evangel. They receive the Gospel with eagerness, and now they should examine the Scriptures to see if what we say is true. We make space for children and adults, equipping them with the Word. Even those who've been Christians for some time have plenty to learn. What does it mean to live like Jesus? What does it mean to love your neighbor? Some chairs at Evangel are like the student desk, a place of learning.
The Recliner: Yet some at Evangel have settled into a soft, comfortable form of Christianity. This cushion, easy chair can be a place of healing, and that’s fine, but it’s the most dangerous chair at Evangel. God wants something more for our lives, and we want to encourage every Christian to live an active faith.
The Office Chair: We want to meet people where they are at, but we're passionate about moving them through a discipleship process to the point of being all-in, fully committed. We want people to move into the office chair, serving his kingdom.
Listen to the sermon series:
Every Chair Has a Story — Part 1
Every Chair Has a Story — Part 2
Every Chair Has a Story — Part 3
Still have questions?
We have answers. View our leadership's responses to frequently asked questions here.
to Raise $250,000
What can you do?
First, please pray God will grant us wisdom, discernment, and grace to serve him as he wants us to.
Second, we need to raise $250,000 to:
1) Renovate the Evangel House, which will free up classroom space for children through adults on the main campus,
2) Supplement the first two years salary of a Third Pastor, which will enable us to have a Third Service, and
3) Retire the Mortgage on the Evangel House, which will keep Evangel financially healthy to support ongoing ministries.
Would you consider "Buying Chairs?" One chair for $250? Ten chairs for $2,500? Twenty chairs for $5,000?
If you are a member or regular attendee, please prayerfully determine how much you can give beyond your regular offerings over the next two years.
Complete the Commitment Card, which you will receive in the mail, and return it to Evangel on May 15. If possible, include 10% of your gift so that we can begin renovations in the summer and prepare for the fall academic year.
Alumni and Friends:
Evangel continues to be a special place that equips people to serve in his kingdom far from Houghton, Michigan.
Would you consider "Buying Chairs"? One chair for $250? Four chairs for $1,000? Eight chairs for $2,000?
Any amount would help. Donations can be mailed to Evangel Baptist Church Attn: Every Chair. Be sure to write "Every Chair" in the memo line of checks.
Donations can also be made online via a secured server here.
If you're still on our mailing list, we'll will mail a brochure explaining our vision along with a Commitment Card. If you are not able to give now, we'd appreciate if you could return the Commitment Card. It would give us the ability to budget over the next couple years.
If you prefer, complete the quick online form below to let us know what you plan to give.