The following is the article I (Erin) wrote for the Sept 19, 2013 edition of the Waverly Newspaper.  While I titled it “Why A New Church?” they titled the article “New Pastor Reflects on Need for His Ministry” – which isn’t very accurate, because Riverwood is really God’s ministry, but that’s a side issue.  Here is the article in case you’re interested:

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Why A New Church?
By Erin Bird

A couple of months after my family of six moved to Waverly, my oldest daughter was doing homework at our house with one of her high school classmates.  Somehow their conversation veered away from math to “Why did your family move to Waverly?”  My then-15-year-old explained that we had come to start a new church.

“That doesn’t make sense,” was the friend’s reply.  “Waverly already has enough churches.”

Since moving to Waverly over a year ago, I have conducted approximately 50 community interviews.  A few of these individuals have shared the same sentiment as my daughter’s classmate – Waverly already has enough churches.  I was even told in one interview that a new church, in one person’s opinion, would hurt the existing churches in town.

Because some of my best friends are pastors of other churches, the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt another church.  In fact, I had high hopes coming to Waverly that the opposite would happen – we would actually help the area churches.  Sound preposterous?  Pastor Tim Keller doesn’t think so.

Keller started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York in the late ‘80s.  Since then, his church has helped start over 70 churches.  Several times, when they have prepared to start a new church, they’ve been told, “There are already enough churches in that neighborhood/city.”

But experience has proven otherwise.  Not only has Redeemer Presbyterian in NY started churches that reach and minister to an entirely different segment of the population, but the existing churches in the area also see resurgence in attendance and momentum. (Keller writes about this here.)

That’s why I tell people that Riverwood Church’s goal is not to compete with the existing churches in Waverly, but to complete the mission that we believe God has given all Christ-centered churches – to make disciples (followers) of Jesus.  If God uses Riverwood Church to help someone begin following Jesus – great!  But if He uses a different church to help someone pursue Jesus, we’ll celebrate that just the same.

That’s why it was fun last Sunday night to have Riverwood Church’s first Worship Gathering.  Not only did we have a full room, but we also received the support of numerous churches.  St. Andrews Episcopal graciously allowed us the use of their building.  Grace Baptist kindly let us use their portable sound system.  The Vineyard lent us several items.  Redeemer Church from Cedar Falls led the music.  And my former church back in Cedar Rapids sent a group of people to serve in Kids Creek and the worship service.

So why a new church?  First, to connect with the spiritually disconnected and invite them to follow Jesus.  But second, to be an encouragement to the other churches in town.

If you aren’t actively part of a local church, we invite you to our next monthly Worship Gathering, Sunday evening, 5:00 pm, at the W-SR Middle School. To learn more about Riverwood Church, check us out online at www.WeAreRiverwood.org.

By the way, my daughter’s homework partner was at our house again last week.  As we were talking about Riverwood, she said, “I’m really glad you guys are doing this!”  And hopefully, you will be too.