Frequently Asked Questions: General
What is Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25?
Fill These Cities: 25 x ’25 is a vision for accelerating Bethlehem’s next decade of spreading. As we strengthen core church life on our three existing campuses and establish a 24/7 South Campus in Lakeville, we also sense God calling us to plant 25 new churches and engage 25 unengaged people groups by 2025, for his glory and our joy.
Why are we doing this?
- The now 500+ members and attenders of our congregation worshiping in Lakeville need a facility accessible seven days a week to be able to flourish in church life like the other campuses.
- As church life is strengthened on all three campuses, we can undertake greater work for the gospel. A big church can do more things than a small church.
- Church plants are a proven strategy for reaching the unchurched. Bethlehem is blessed with proven capabilities to plant churches, and we sense God’s call to plant more vigorously. Three campuses will allow us to expand our residency program for church planters.
- Our hearts are freshly burdened for hundreds of people groups in the world to whom gospel ministers have never been sent. Bethlehem is unusually well-positioned and resourced to be senders and goers.
- God is prospering our mission through Upreach, Inreach, and Outreach ministries on three campuses, 14 church plants, and 113 global partners in 48 countries. God is giving us every encouragement to accelerate.
Is this vision for Bethlehem members only?
This vision is for everyone who considers Bethlehem their church – both members and attenders. Our prayer is that 100% of Bethlehem’s congregation will commit to support this vision with prayers, service, and financial resources.
What are you asking me to do?
Prayerfully consider a larger, two-year financial commitment to fuel a new decade of gospel ambition, deepening our core ministries and widening our outreach.
How much will it cost?
We are asking God to accelerate spreading by moving in the hearts of his people to provide $38M over a 25-month period of time from 12/1/2016 through 12/31/2018. The total amount consists of three components:
$23M for ongoing Church & Missions (C&M) budgeted operating expenses assumes modest (5%) budget growth in 2017 and 2018 – approximately $11.2M and $11.8M in 2017 and 2018, respectively, compared to the current 2016 C&M operating budget of $10.7M. Our current C&M budget includes significant funding for church plants and Global Outreach. This increase allows us to accelerate current plans.
$13M to build a 24/7 South Campus facility that supports Upreach, Inreach, and Outreach from a permanent, growing base in the southern suburbs. Current plans call for a sanctuary that seats 840 with balcony seating for 328–a total of 1,168–classrooms for all ages, an open lobby gathering space, a kitchen, and a large multi-purpose gym. The building’s footprint size is approximately 52,500 sq. ft. When the lower level of the education wing, balcony, and mezzanine are included, the total finished space is approximately 76,000 sq. ft.
$2M to help finish strong financially in 2016 and be prepared to launch South Campus construction in 2017. December C&M giving has often been in the range of $1.5M to $1.8M. As we move forward, we want to ensure 2016 ministry expenses are covered, and that we are able to replenish our C&M reserve appropriately going into the next two years. $2M is our best current estimate of the regular December giving needed to meet 2016 operating expenses.
What about our current debt?
With this $38M goal in mind, our hope is to begin construction of a South Campus in 2017 without incurring any additional long-term debt, although it is likely that a short-term construction loan will be needed as part of the project.
Beginning with our 2015 C&M budget, mortgage payments associated with the purchase and build-out of our North Campus in Mounds View have been included in our C&M operating budget. We plan to continue this practice in ongoing annual budgets for the next two years.
The remaining balance on our current mortgage is about $3.3M. Just over $11K of each $38K monthly mortgage payment goes toward interest – the rest is applied toward principal. Members and friends continue to contribute directly to pay down our mortgage over and above our budgeted C&M payments. For example, over $150K extra has been given so far in 2016. This option for giving directly to pay down the mortgage will still be allowed. If no extra payments were made, at our current fixed rate of 4% our mortgage would be paid off in less than nine years.
Why do we need our own South Campus building? Why don’t we just continue to rent?
Church life at Bethlehem involves a multitude of endeavors that require a welcoming and accessible facility for ministry and outreach throughout the week. Members at the South Campus have been without a building accessible seven days a week for a decade.
Additional reasons to construct a 24/7 South Campus building include:
- God’s abundant favor revealed in the fruitfulness of ministry on both the North Campus and Downtown Campus causes us to see more clearly the potential for ministry in Lakeville.
- It is time to finish the I-35 corridor for spreading that we envisioned in 2006. God has already graciously provided over 12 acres of land in a strategic location on I-35 in Lakeville, one of the fast-growing local suburbs. We sense God’s call to accelerate establishment of that 24/7 campus.
- A facility of our own permits us to assemble and worship free from limitations on public or privately owned property. We are currently paying around $250,000 annually to rent Lakeville South High School for Sunday services and the 501 Building in Burnsville for offices during the week.
- Freeing staff and volunteers from the many hours involved in setting up and tearing down weekly will release their efforts to more fruitful service.
Why the increased focus on church planting?
Church planting is one of our proven strategies for reaching the unchurched – the reached, but disinterested or antagonistic here in America, as well as the utterly unreached around the world. In the last 14 years, God has given Bethlehem grace to plant 14 churches. We are excited to see this number grow by an additional 25 churches planted locally, nationally, and globally, as – God willing – the next decade becomes “The Decade of Church Planting” at Bethlehem.
We are also working with Bethlehem College & Seminary, which now offers a church planting track and a seminary degree in church planting to prepare, evaluate, and send church planters from each of our three campuses.
For further information on Bethlehem’s increased focus on church planting, check out the following items on our website:
- A Brief History of Bethlehem's Church Planting Involvement
- New Bethlehem church plants since 2003 as part of our Treasuring Christ Together strategy
- Treasuring Christ Together Network
Why the increased focus on targeting the unengaged/unreached?
The lostness of our neighborhoods is only a glimpse of the grave need around the world – hundreds of unengaged people groups living and dying in darkness, without even the faintest flicker of hope. No one is making any discernible effort to bring them the gospel. The lost are not lost on us. We’re pleading with God to bring gospel light to 25 unengaged people groups through our global partners by 2025. May we be “God’s eraser” to reduce the number of people groups on that list who have no access to the gospel.
For further information about Bethlehem’s Global Outreach focus, check out the following items on our website:
What is One Fund and why aren’t we doing a more traditional campaign to raise funds for a South Campus?
Bethlehem already has funding for campusing, church planting, and over 100 global partners included in our annual C&M operating budget. It seemed wise not to create an additional fund for the new ministry initiatives outlined by this vision, but rather integrate them all into our regular C&M operating budget for the next two years, through December 31, 2018, to convey that this is Bethlehem’s unified and multi-faceted mission, and to assist people so they do not have to pick and choose between competing ministry focuses.
Increasingly, many churches have adopted a “One Fund” approach in which they’ve integrated the funding required for new ministry initiatives into their ongoing ministry operating budget for a season. For Bethlehem, this upcoming “One Fund” runs 25 months from December 1, 2016, through December 31, 2018, and includes funding for both our regular operating budget and a 24/7 South Campus building.
What are our new One Fund budget priorities?
- Build a facility in Lakeville that can be used seven days a week for worship, ministry, and neighborhood outreach.
- Strengthen our core ministries to better equip more people for faithful gospel ministry among the families, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces of the Twin Cities.
- Call Pastor Kenny Stokes to a new position focused on church planting and church revitalization strategies.
- Invest in the Bethlehem College & Seminary students and church planting residents who will be sent to plant churches.
- Expand and focus our Global Outreach ministry by sending global partners to unengaged people groups – those who have never been targeted by missionary organizations.
Are we done with campusing, or do we have plans for additional campuses in the future?
We have no plans for additional campuses beyond Downtown Minneapolis, Mounds View, and Lakeville. Rather, with three strong, thriving campuses established along the I-35 corridor – with God’s help – we feel called to make the next 10 years the decade of church planting at Bethlehem.
Have we considered establishing the campuses as three separate churches?
Yes. This was one of the main questions the elders addressed during our Antioch Moment five years ago (see Antioch Moment update during the December 2011 All-Church Annual Meeting: “As announced earlier this year, the elders have come to full agreement that Bethlehem will remain one church on multiple campuses for the foreseeable future until the Lord shows us otherwise.”)
More recently in 2014, the elders clarified and reaffirmed Bethlehem’s “DNA,” describing our Biblical Essentials and Bethlehem Priorities as a vital part of preserving our unity, and highlighting several expressions of what makes Bethlehem one church on three campuses:
- One Affirmation of Faith
- One Constitution and Set of Bylaws
- One Elder Council
- One Membership Covenant
- One Mission Statement
- One Budget
- One Vision Cast From the Pulpit (Video and Live Preaching)
(c.f., DNA booklet section titled “Bethlehem: One Church on Three Campuses”)
A day may come when we sense God’s leading to reconsider this, but for the foreseeable future, we plan to remain one church on three campuses.
Have we considered various options in case our goal is not reached?
The Council of Elders and Financial & Property Administrators (FPA’s) have identified general possibilities. Before proposing a specific path forward, two numbers are needed: The congregation’s commitment cards will need to be collected and tallied in November, and December’s first month of accelerated giving, month 1 of 25, will need to be totaled. Once both are known the first week of January, the elders plan to pray, review next steps, make adjustments if necessary, and bring a budget recommendation to the congregation at the January 2017 Quarterly Strategy Meeting later that month for a vote. Depending on funds committed and given, possible options regarding the South Campus include one or more of the following:
Proceed with planned South Campus construction.
Defer the start of construction until an appropriate amount is committed.
Debt. Consider a mortgage to cover the remaining amount required to complete the South Campus, if all needed funds have not been committed during the 25 months.
Downsize. Adjust the South Campus scope or phasing to match available funds.