Nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and a mere 12 miles from the famous Pikes Peak is Colorado Springs, Colorado. The beauty of the area and state attracts tourists year-round, but for Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas, it’s a mission field.
The church with boots on the ground is The Bridge Fellowship, a young church plant of roughly 200 people that was launched by Steve Farris and Brandon Stokes, graduates of the Cross Church School of Ministry. The School of Ministry is where Steve and Brandon completed a one-year church planting residency before they moved to Colorado Springs and started The Bridge Fellowship in 2015.
With the mission to share the “life changing love of Jesus Christ with lost and hurting people,” the church has rapidly reached families in the area.
“We had a grand opening April 24, 2016,” said Steve, who pastors The Bridge Fellowship. “We didn’t have a specific or target demographic, but it turns out we’re reaching a lot of young couples with young children, and we want to expand that to the whole city and region.”
Steve and Brandon felt called to Colorado Springs after attending a conference that brought attention to the need for new churches in the area, including Denver, one of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) 32 Send Network cities. And Cross Church went with them.
“They are the ones who believed in us from the very beginning,” Steve said. “We wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for the partnership with Cross Church, and it’s not just their financial support. It’s the relationships and encouragement we have, and not just from the Missions Team but from the pastors and other people in the church who are cheering us on.”
While Cross Church is the sending church for The Bridge Fellowship and their prayer partner, what other Arkansas Baptist churches might not realize is that they, too, are partnering with The Bridge Fellowship when they give their tithes and offerings to cooperative missions through the Cooperative Program.
“Sure, larger churches with more resources can send a missionary that’s being called out, and there’s nothing the matter with that,” said Scott Carter, Associate Minister of Missions at Cross Church. “However, when we send our missionaries through the agencies that are funded through the Cooperative Program, every church in the body of Christ has equal opportunity to send and participate.”
Simple, but Divine
Before The Bridge Fellowship officially launched in April 2016, the Cross Church School of Ministry went on a missions trip to Colorado Springs to help the church with local outreach.
“The goal was really to help bring brand awareness to our city about The Bridge Fellowship—that we exist, we are there, and we care about them,” Steve said. “[The School of Ministry] took part in a multitude of activities that accomplished that goal.”
One of the activities involved taking donuts, cookies, and pizzas to area businesses, fire stations, and police stations, an outreach tool The Bridge Fellowship likes to call “hand-to-hand ministry.”
On one particular outing, a group of students took donuts to an area of business and met Mrs. Baker. She had seen signs and other advertisements for The Bridge Fellowship but had not paid much attention.
“When the group from the School of Ministry at Cross Church brought donuts to her business, she would tell you that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Steve said. “She went home and told her husband, ‘We have to visit this church.’”
The couple now attend and serve at The Bridge Fellowship. Mrs. Baker works the volunteer table on Sundays, and her husband serves as the lighting director.
“It was just one of those things,” Steve said. “It was a divine connection through something as simple as donuts that brought this couple to our church.”
Scott of Cross Church said that sometimes it takes “breaking the pattern back home to go on a trip and realize, ‘Hey, we can do this back home.’”
“When we and our church members are wrapped up in our daily lives, we tend to miss a very crucial part of the Great Commission,” he said, “and that is the ‘as you go, make disciples.’ But then we can mobilize people to go on mission trips to another city or country, and they participate in very practical outreach ministries and see lives changed through simple methods like passing out donuts and pizza.”
By combining resources through the Cooperative Program, which supports the Send Network, churches of all sizes are creating opportunities for missions, whether that’s national or international. And it benefits both the sender and the sent.
“In a very general sense, [the Send Network] gives Cross Church a way to connect and have influence in cities across the United States,” Scott said. “It’s also a very personal way to send church planters from Cross Church to areas that we might not send them otherwise and to partner with [other] church planters as a supporting church.”
But Cross Church is just one of the 45,000+ churches that have access to cooperative missions, like the Send Network, through the Cooperative Program.
“The first thing we think of is, yes, churches pool their money to support denominational ministries, but it’s actually much more than that,” Scott said. “For those that are on the field, the Cooperative Program gives a network through which every individual church planter family and missionary family is connected to, and they get to cooperate through.”
“It’s an obvious fact that financial support helps in church planting—it takes money to plant churches,” Steve echoed, “but for [The Bridge Fellowship] a huge part of the relationship with NAMB and through the Send Network is just the companionship, the support, the encouragement that we get from our partnering churches, from the mission teams that come out, and when we go back to visit and they build us up so that we can go back on the field and continue the mission that God has called us to.”
Seeing God bless the investment in The Bridge Fellowship is what partnering together is all about, Scott said.
“In just about two years, The Bridge Fellowship is already running 200 or more, and it’s not about that number,” he said. “What it is about is the changed lives, the transformed hearts, and the dozens of people they are baptizing. It’s that we know—by investing in a church planter like Steve—we are not planting a church plant but planting the beginning of a movement of churches planting churches throughout Colorado Springs, the state of Colorado, and hopefully the entire western half of the United States and beyond.”