Church Highlight: Immanuel Church
Your name: Brad Guenther Your spouse and children’s names: Terri Guenther; Abigail & Joshua
Name of your church: Immanuel Church
Location of church: Castleton-on-Hudson, NY
Date church was planted (if your church is a plant): December 2004
Name of partnering church(es): Trinity Baptist Church (Niskayuna, NY); Open Arms Church (Schenectady, NY)
What are the reasons you decided to plant a church in your city (if your church is a plant)?
The Capital District is the most unreached city in the USA, according to several Barna and Pew studies measuring both church involvement and key indicators involving attitudes toward the Bible and Christian doctrine. Rensselaer County is the most unchurched county in the Capital District. In 2004, we could not identify any established work that was sharing the Gospel in the towns surrounding East Greenbush, NY (our target community).
The East Greenbush area is about 30 minutes from Schenectady, where I lived during my pre-teen and teenage years. In 1998, while still a student at SUNY Albany, we began to pray that God would plant a church in the East Greenbush area. Several plants had been attempted over the previous 30 years, but none had survived. We prayed that God plant a church that would grow deep roots and still be a gospel witness in this community for the next 100 years. With seminary in Wake Forest yet in our future, we had no thoughts that God would send us back to the Capital District for this purpose, but He had other plans.
What have you seen the Lord do in and through your church/church plant?
Over the last ten years, we have seen approximately 60 people come to faith in Christ. We have seen God bring us many more Christians who were young in their faith or who had never been discipled, that we have seen grow into strong Christian leaders in our church and in other churches when jobs have taken them out of the area. We have seen our testimony grow strong in our community. For example, 5-6 years ago our town board vigorously opposed our presence in the community, but at present are actively working on our behalf to help us find land for a permanent location in the community.
What do you hope to see the Lord do in and through your church in the future?
I believe that much of the last ten years of ministry has been the establishing of roots beneath the surface for the growing of the church we prayed for 18 years ago. The soil is hard and it will take a generation of Christians willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of praying and laboring for God to break up the hard soil. I believe we are that generation.
Our desires for the future are simple and straightforward. We want to see God increase the fruit of our gospel labors. We want to see a gospel single-mindedness in the body of Immanuel Church. We want to purchase land and build a building that would become a base of ministry for the next century. We also want God to use us to plant a church in the city of Albany in the near future and throughout Rensselaer County as the Lord provides the increase.
What advice do you have for current or future church planters?
- Go to your city/community to die there. Assume that God will leave you there your whole life, rather than seeing it as a stopping point on your way to bigger and better.
- When planting gets tough, which it will, don’t run from the work or see it as a sign that God wants to move you on. Rather, set Isaiah 50:7 in your mind and heart and adopt the prophet’s confidence and determination.
- Love your city and the lost people in it. When you are opposed, don’t let it harden your heart toward them. Pray for them every day. Don’t sit in your office or your house waiting for them to come to you, but find what they love and join them in it as much as you can. When you think of your lost community, you’ll begin to think of them not as a big faceless mass of people, but as Jason that you know from Little League or Ed that you know from the volunteer fire department. Resist the urge to do only big “outreach” events, but find ways to love and invest in the lives of the individual lost people God places in your life.
What else would you like to share with the readers of our blog?
We are so thankful to be partnering with the Pillar Network. The network is in so many ways the answer to a prayer we’ve prayed since 2002 when God first laid it on our hearts to plant Immanuel Church.
What are your 3-4 main prayer requests?
- Financing for the purchase of land to build on in our community.
- A part-time Worship leader.
- A fruitful Summer of outreach programs. For open hearts in the many who will hear the gospel for the first time and for the volunteers who will help us do these ministries to the glory of God.