I have often said that healthy things grow. And back in 1999, Harvest Bible Chapel was really growing. So instead of continuing to add more services, the other Elders of the church and I believed that God gave us a vision to plant 10 churches in 10 years.
At the time, that seemed almost unimaginable. But, we had faith to believe that, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24
So on March 12, 2000, we sent Ron Zappia, our High School Pastor from Rolling Meadows (original Harvest), one of our main worship leaders, and 300 of our best people to plant Harvest Bible Chapel, Glen Ellyn (now Naperville). Here we are on March 23, 2010, celebrating their ten years of fruitful ministry. Happy Anniversary, Harvest Bible Chapel in Naperville, Illinois!
Ten years later, by God’s grace, Harvest Bible Chapel is still really growing. The mother church has grown by more than four times over this ten-year period, reminding us of Proverbs 11:24, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” It’s so important to me that pastors understand that church planting does not compete with the growth of the mother church; it accelerates it, proving the scripture true. We have planted not 10 churches in 10 years, but 45 churches in 10 years. There are now 36 self-supporting Harvest Bible Chapels in North America and nine international churches. Some of those churches were planted by a Harvest Bible Chapel church plant! We actually have “granddaughter” churches. Instead of just planting churches, we now plant churches who plant churches.
As thankful as we are for this number of churches, we are more grateful for the number of people—more than 17,000 men, women, and children attend a Harvest Bible Chapel on a weekly basis. That number does not include the five locations in Chicago where I serve as the senior pastor. If you add the people on those campuses, the number exceeds 30,000 people every weekend who hear the Word of God proclaimed without apology in a high-impact weekend service where the name of Jesus Christ is lifted high in worship.
And more than just people who attend a weekend service, God continues to change the lives of the people of these Harvest Bible Chapels by the power of His Word and His Spirit. In 2009, 785 followers of Jesus Christ obeyed the Lord and were baptized.
So what’s next?
Lord willing, we will plant 18 additional churches in 2010. That number includes 11 churches in North America and 7 international churches. If Jesus Christ does not return for His church first, my prayer is that there will be 1,000 Harvest Bible Chapels planted in my lifetime.
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” Psalm 115:1