Is Our Gathering Time A Barrier?

March 17, 2017 Josh Howeth 7 Sayings on the Cross, Branch Notes

Since we started preview services nearly five years ago, our worship gathering time has always taken place on a Sunday evening. One reason we have met on Sunday evenings is that we have always desired to be a church focused on reaching students at Oregon State. We felt like gathering in the evening would offer a more convenient time for students to come and worship. A second reason was far more pragmatic, in that we have had a difficult time finding a facility where we could worship together during a Sunday morning.

Since the beginning of The Branch, nearly 4 ½ years ago, we have seen God work in tremendous ways. We were a group of young families who were dreaming of making an impact on the campus. Little did we realize that reaching students would be more natural, while reaching other generations would be more challenging.

One of the distinctive elements of our vision from the beginning has stated that we desire to be a church that reflects our city. If you’ve ever attended Branch Brunch and committed to become a member of The Branch, you’ve heard us talk about this at length. We desire to be a church that reflects the demographics of our city because we believe if that were to happen, there would be a greater display of the glorious gospel for all to see.

Most communities or organizations gather around preference—a preference of an idea, institution, style, or culture. We firmly believe that Jesus gathers people together who are diverse in preference and calls those people to experience unity and show love for one another in an other-worldly kind of way.

Since Corvallis contains roughly 50% college students, we have sought to reflect the demographic of the city by living as a church focused on reaching college students. Yet there is much diversity within the city of Corvallis—elderly, families, singles, single parents, Chinese, Hispanic, poor, rich, educated, uneducated, the elite, the marginalized and more. And we believe this is not only what Jesus wants to do, but we believe this is just what Jesus does. He takes people who are unlike one another and makes us family. But this only happens if our faith community centers around a Person and not a preference.

This is our dream. To see Jesus call us to himself and daily send us out to share and show the gospel to people who are both like us and unlike us.

Last fall, our elder team began to ask honest questions about what we have become at this point in our church’s story. 70-80% of our church is college students. We celebrate this! But we then asked why we are not seeing greater growth, from our perspective, amongst other people groups in our city.

One question we discussed and prayed about for months was if our Sunday gathering time was a barrier to connecting with other generations. We have sought out an extensive amount of wisdom and coaching regarding this question and have confidently landed on an answer. Yes, we believe that our meeting time is a generational barrier.

With that said, as elders, we have decided to move into the future seeking out opportunities for us to be able to gather on Sunday morning instead of Sunday evening. The earliest this change would happen is this fall when our lease with Christ Church (formally the River Center) ends. Currently we have no firm leads on a potential Sunday morning meeting location, which is why we’re asking that you’d join us in praying for God’s provision.

Change in church planting is unavoidable. We’ve anticipate that to be true and have experienced that as being true. Please know that it is definitely not our desire to create change for the sake of change. We love the leadership and hospitality of Christ Church and wish that we could avoid making a facility change in the future. Unfortunately, worshipping in their building in the morning is not an option.

We recognize that changing worship locations again is not ideal. But with all that’s been said, we recognize that it is necessary and it is our hope that wherever we are led we would be able to worship in that location long term.

The Branch, like many churches, especially church plants, has seen its fair share of changes. But a time change like this will be a culture shift for us. In the most loving way possible, I want us to realize that this shift is not a decision that’s being made because it’s necessarily my preference or your preference (I personally love our gathering time). But this is a culture shift that we think we need to make, not for our sake, but for the sake of those who are yet a part of our community of faith.

This shift is a shift attached to our mission. We desire to see Jesus build his church and we definitely do not believe this is the silver bullet. But we do believe this will remove a barrier.

Please don’t hesitate to email me or call me with any questions or concerns you might have. I want you to know that I’m so thankful for you. It is a joy and privilege to be your pastor. My prayer is that you abide in Jesus and experience the fruit of that union which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

-Josh Howeth  |  [email protected]


Other News:

Join us for corporate prayer every Sunday afternoon from 3:003:30pm in the Twig’s area at Christ Church as we intercede for our church and the city. Come for the whole time, or just drop in for a moment.

Ladies on Saturday, April 22, we are going to take an in depth look at what it looks like to stand firm in the Lord by taking up the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-20. We will meet from 9:30am-12pm at the Branch offices (760 SW Madison Ave) for an incredible time worshiping together in word and spirit! Contact Victoria Renard for more information.

On Saturday May 6th, the men at the Branch are invited to a day of rafting down the Clackamas river, followed by dinner. The cost for the event is $70, which includes rafting and all meals. This is a good event to bring your friends (christian/non-Christians) and enjoy some adventure and fun. Sign up online and if you have any questions email Stephen.

Our Community Forum is for members of The Branch to come together, share a meal, hear about what’s going on in the life of our church and to dream and pray together about the future. Our next forum is on Sunday night, April 30th immediately following the Sunday worship gathering. Please mark your calendars for this very important night together. Every forum is important, but this forum will be extremely important as we will be sharing about various changes and sending opportunities we are going to be encountering this year. Please contact Josh with any questions you might have. (541-224-1476)

The Global Mission Pipeline is simple—it’s a training program to help equip and cement a foreign mission DNA within an individual. Within the program, you’ll read books, walk with a coach, write papers, and be exposed experientially to ministering cross-culturally. If you’d like more information please contact Stephen.

This year we are asking members of the Branch to apply for Local Mission Grants, which seek to come alongside member’s ministry ideas/endeavors with financial support. If you have questions or would like to talk to someone about Local Mission Grants simply fill out a connect card and drop it in the basket. If you’re interested in leading a new local missions initiative you can find the application online, fill it out and send it to Stephen Brucker.

Branch Brunch is a time to get to know more about our church and ask questions. This class is also a requirement to become a member. Our next Branch Brunch is scheduled for Sunday, April 30th at 10:30 am. If you are interested in attending please email Josh Howeth.

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