How does a Religious Community Respond to a Successful Church Plant? – Part 1

Do you like success stories?  I love them!  Whether it’s a story about a small business after years of sacrifice, risk, and hard work finally experiencing the big pay-off, a story of an individual who with all odds stacked against them overcomes the obstacles and soars from “rags to riches”, or a story of an underestimated sports team that defies the critics and climbs from “worst to first” to win the championship, I am inspired!

My wife and I are honored, humbled, and blessed to be living just such a story right now as we lead and serve The RESCUE Church in Flandreau, SD.The facts I’m getting ready to share are meant in no way to brag on ourselves or our own accomplishments, but rather on our AWESOME God who is driving this story!

In the past seven years we have watched God bless our church-planting efforts in the following ways:  (these are just a few highlights) 

  • Our church has grown from zero people to an average weekly attendance of 150+ …and counting!
  • Many people have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!
  • Many people have “taken the plunge” of obedience in the waters of baptism!
  • Hundreds of children in our community have been served through an outreach called Cross Trainers!
  • God has restored and healed marriages and families!
  • God has set souls free from destructive addictions in their lives!
  • Our church has reached out to our community in many creative and intentional ways!

Space doesn’t permit me to list all the ways we have seen God’s power on display, but the bottom line is that people’s lives have been transformed as a result of what God has done and is doing through our church.

So how does a rural community that is plagued by a “spirit of religion” respond to such an inspiring success story?  Not with as much enthusiasm as you might expect!  In fact it has been quite remarkable to hear and observe the growing harshness and negativity directed at myself, my family, and our church family from so many who claim to believe in God and who would describe themselves as “religious” people.  By far one of the most common negative and untrue criticisms I hear coming back to me almost on a weekly basis is that “The RESCUE Church is a CULT”. 

This ridiculous and laughable statement reminds me of a similar situation Jesus encountered in His earthly ministry.  In the Gospel of Matthew the Bible records an account of Jesus performing a super-natural miracle of casting a demon out of a deaf and blind man.  Guess who was immediately lining up to accuse Jesus’ miracle of being powered by Satan…that’s right…the religious establishment!

“Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.  All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”  But when the Pharisees (religious leaders) heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub (Satan), the prince of demons that this fellow drives out demons.” – Matthew 12:22-24

In that passage we see a sad reality at work.  When God’s power is on display and people’s lives are being changed, the religious establishment responds by giving credit for all that God has done to Satan!  I would suggest that 2000+ years later the religious establishment hasn’t changed much.  They still feel threatened and insecure when they are confronted with a true move of God that stands in stark contrast to stale, hollow, dead religion! 

So let’s set the record straight.  Let it be known that The RESCUE Church IS NOT A CULT!  I want all the credit and glory for the explosive growth and life-transformation we are experiencing to be rightly given to the Lord Jesus Christ!  He is the Head of our church and He is building His church in Flandreau!  He has given our church a vision to reach out and share His message of hope, truth, and salvation to all who would accept it!  And if that means we ruffle the feathers of the religious establishment in the process…so be it!  But make no mistake about it…this is no work of Satan!  The story you see unfolding is nothing less than the Living God whom we serve advancing His Kingdom in this community!

In that same passage of Scripture in Matthew, Jesus went on to say, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”

I would strongly urge those who so piously accuse our church of being a cult to take a look deep within and ask some important questions:  “Why don’t I recognize the hand of God at work in The RESCUE Church’s story?”  “Why do I feel so threatened by it?”  “Why am I not inclined to be supportive of all the good this church is doing?”  “Why do I lash out with my words at those whose lives are being changed through the ministry of this church?”  “Could it be that I am actually working against Christ’s Kingdom as I malign a church He is so strongly blessing?”

In my next blog post I will say more about this subject.  I will try to help people better understand what The RESCUE Church is all about.  I will invite you to “join” me in one of our worship experiences by describing all that takes place on any given Sunday.  I will tell you what we believe in and what we stand for.  I will try to help you grasp what it is about our church that causes us to stand out in our community from so many other churches.

Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


About Jon Sanders

Follower of Jesus; Husband to an amazing woman; Father of 3 great kids; Pastor of a multi-site church with a vision to reach rural America for Christ!
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  • Judy Jones

    so glad I finally found this. It’s a good venting tool. Take care that you release the offense and those who offend. They Know not what they do!! you are sent here to win the lost in this ministry and you are!! Do not let the “hater” and the “envious” snare you and waste your time! You put on the armor every day and PRAY for your enemies and those who “hate ” you. The Lord will give you the wisdom and discernment to keep taking the territory even as Joshua did. You will lead in strength and courage!! Pay no attention to these false reports.

    Love you