By Richard Gerber
Immanuel OPC in Andover, Minnesota, began to be developed at an unlikely time.
In the spring of 2013, Pastor Jim Hoekstra began serving as the interim pastor of Mission OPC in St. Paul. Pastor John Shaw had accepted a call to be the general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. As the search for the next pastor was under way, the session wanted to care for the congregation and explore the possibility of a church plant somewhere north of the Twin Cities.
From the inception of Mission OPC, the idea of planting other churches nearby had been fostered and was part of the church’s prayers. But during a time of changing pastoral leadership, you wouldn’t expect a congregation to be exploring the possibility of a daughter church plant. But in the providence of God, the man available to serve as interim pastor, Jim Hoekstra, was an experienced OP church planter. He had labored on two previous church planting fields in Wisconsin—New Berlin and Cedarburg.
As Jim explored the north suburbs of the Twin Cities, Andover became the focal point. This target area northwest of the Twin Cities has 280,000 people. There is one church for every 3,000 people, but only half the population identifies with a church. Half of those who are churched are Roman Catholic. One quarter are Lutheran. Immanuel OPC makes the fourth Reformed congregation in the area.
Forty-five percent of the families in Andover proper have children under eighteen years of age at home. The area is almost rural. Many of the families seem to be seeking a utopian community. One of the aims of Immanuel Church is to reach these children and their parents, and help them find the ultimate heaven on earth.
A weekly Bible study of 1 Peter began in July 2013. Five households from Mission OPC were the initial group. By the time worship began in November, when a new pastor arrived at Mission, other families had joined the group. They came through personal invitation and outreach letters. Worship is held in the facilities of a local Seventh-day Adventist congregation. It is a fine facility and is available all day Sunday for Immanuel’s use.
The congregation has been heavily engaged in outreach. The people distributed 1,200 brochures door-to-door. A mission team of young people came and distributed another 3,000. Postcard-size invitations to the Christmas services were handed to acquaintances. Letters went out to the mailing list of a Christian magazine. There have been Friend Sundays and community picnics. At the Andover Family Fest, 250 cards about the church were handed out from the church’s booth, and the names and contact information of sixty-five people were gathered.
There is also a website crafted with non-Christians and evangelical Christians in view. Pastor Hoekstra’s sermons are available on SermonAudio.com.
God has providentially added to the church. A man from China walked in to the church building following the worship service one Sunday. He was invited to stay for the fellowship meal. A friendship began that day. He is now in a class, preparing to profess his faith in Christ and receive baptism.
Please pray for Immanuel OPC in Andover, Minnesota. Pray that God would grant good fruit from the outreach already carried out, as well as from those planned over the next few months. Pray that the people would not be disheartened. Even with all the outreach efforts, only a small number of visitors have come to worship. Praise the Lord with Jim and Bonnie for his kindness and provision for them. Bonnie has a fine job at her university alma mater. They are grateful for the opportunity to plant another church. Pray that the Lord would continue to give them joy in serving him.
Immanuel is thankful to the Lord for the support of its mother church. The mission work is prayed for every Sunday from the pulpit at Mission OPC; one or two families visit every month; one ruling elder is present at Immanuel almost every week.