The great partnership between Normal City Church and The Garden Churches began with a discussion, a prayer walk and a tour.
The discussion was short-lived and straight forward. Simply, the planting of a seed. The question was posed to Rev Vickie, the lead pastor of the Garden Churches, “Is God calling you to do a work at the Normal City UMC.” And she, after spending time seeking the Lord’s will, came back with the answer, “NO.” There was no sense what-so-ever that the Lord was calling The Garden Churches to become involved with this little dying church near the Ball State University campus. The Garden was moving toward Main Street UMC and she was in the middle of a very busy, challenging time, fulfilling the vision that God had given for a great work in East Central Muncie.
After a few short years, Normal City once again came into the focus of The Garden Churches. During a prayer walk, with several other pastors, around the Ball State University area, Rev Vickie and this group found themselves standing beside Normal City church. They all decided to walk around the church, praying for the future ministry of the church, and giving thanks to God for the influence that it had in the Ball State area of many generations. None of the pastors in the group had a sense that God was calling them and their churches to do a work with the Normal City church or even to expand what they were already doing in the area. But the seed was being fertilized.
The Garden Churches had recently begun a new youth ministry… a new concept of youth ministry. It was called Multiplication. Not only would that change the focus of how youth ministry was done, but, in the long run, it would change the entire focus of how The Garden Churches would do ministry in every area. The fundamental idea of multiplication is that one disciple mentors three disciples; then those three disciples each takes on three disciples; then each of those take on three disciples… suddenly you find yourself with 27 disciples… and it continues to grow exponentially. And one of the fundamental keys to Multiplication is that one must follow the Holy Spirit to seek and save the lost. It must be operated as a church without walls. It didn’t take long for that youth multiplication movement to spread into the campus area… and it didn’t take long for there to be a felt need of someplace that they could all meet in occasionally
Once again, the Normal City UMC became the topic of conversation. Could the Lord be leading us to create a new Multiplication site for the purposes of reaching youth and young adults around Ball State? It was time to tour the church.
Upon entering the church, it was apparent that the Holy Spirit was still wanting to do something with this building. God was not done with this ministry. The tour covered the entire building, which was in an extreme state of disrepair. Finally, the tour entered the sanctuary. The carpet was a mess, some of the plaster had fallen in, it smelled of old dampness, but the presence of the Holy Spirit was undeniably there.
As we were leaving, Rev Vickie took a route no one else had taken. She walked through one of the darkened back rooms that hadn’t been used in years. As she walked through the Holy Spirit led her to look at a poster that had been used in the ministry of the church at some point in the past. She was completely overwhelmed by what the Spirit showed her. It was a perfect representation of the logo of the Garden Churches, made by an unknown hand sometime in years past, and kept, stored away for such a time as this. This poster was the Lord speaking saying, “Yes, now is the time to bring revival and renewal to this work I began a century ago.” At last, the Lord had begun to create a partnership between Normal City Church and The Garden Churches.
There have been a few changes over the past few years in what that ministry looks like. But with each change, discipleship has grown. What began as a ministry focused primarily on youth and college students has now grown into a significant internet outreach, in partnership with The Garden Churches. Together we have heard the call of God to make disciples digitally. The Normal City Church, even though the building is gone, still lives to make disciples through Cultivation Center. An online presence that offers discipleship virally, through workshops, videos, online materials. Because of the online digital disciples, Normal City Church, as it partners with The Garden, is now making disciples across the state and across the country.
The creation of this partnership is a perfect metaphor for The Vision of PLANT, GROW, SEND. That initial seed was planted years ago through a short, straight-forward conversation; (PLANT). Over the next few years, the seed was fertilized and grown through pray walks, further discussions, seminars, and various other means; (GROW). Then, one day it began to send out new seeds. First through the one-on-one Multiplication mentorships that took place and now through Digital Disciples ; (SEND).
Thanks be to God!