It’s a unique method of announcing goals, but the vision story recently released by Vision Ohio, the church planting organization in the Buckeye State, is clear in announcing its intention of planting 120 new Grace Brethren churches in the next decade.
The document, which may be viewed at visionohio.org, is the result of 14 months of work by about 30 pastors in churches throughout the state, according to Dr. Tony Webb, executive director. Ohio encompasses five regional districts that are affiliated with the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.
“It’s meant to be a vision document,” says Webb. “The exciting thing is it came from the churches, not the Vision Ohio staff.”
Written in a future story format, the text tells of a celebration as reported in the September 2020 FGBC World. The event was held at the Metro Cleveland Grace Brethren Church where 185 churches in Ohio gathered to celebrate church-planting efforts of the past decade. Among those participating were representatives of networks of African-American churches, Spanish-speaking congregations, and churches and campuses that target 20- to 29-year-olds.
The story cites efforts by key churches to create training centers that assist bi-vocational pastors, as well as vocational pastors, in planting and serving new churches. It highlights six metro efforts in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, and Dayton, where churches found visionary ways to cooperate.
“We felt the story format was the most effective way to communicate our vision,” says Webb, noting that it draws attention to the story not the process, as in more traditional bullet-pointed vision statements.
Now it is up to Webb, who transitioned to a full-time position with the organization on February 1, to implement the document. (He previously served one day a week while pastoring the Southwest Grace Brethren Church in the Columbus suburb of Grove City.)
If the goal is reached, the number of Grace Brethren churches in Ohio will triple. There are currently 63 Ohio congregations listed in the 2010 Handbook of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.
Webb and his wife, Cathy, along with Vision Ohio missionary Ron Boehm and his wife, Cheri, will be participating in the process, leading new church plants themselves. Webb is already working with a group near the Polaris area of north Columbus that meets in a home.
“It’s more intimate and relational,” he stresses, acknowledging it is in the shadow of the large Grace Brethren Church of Greater Columbus, also located near Polaris.
The Boehms are planning to begin a new work in the Cleveland area. A new work has been established in the Eastgate area of Ashland, while another one is projected in east Mansfield. Each ministry will be unique, targeting a specific age range or economic stratum.