“There are tremendous opportunities to share the love of Jesus in Parrish and bring more people into God’s kingdom, and we want to support the ministry as much as we can,” says Caleb Free, pastor at Risen Savior, Lakewood Ranch, Fla. More than 40 of Risen Savior’s members are forming the core group of a new home mission starting 12 miles north in Parrish, Fla.
Risen Savior was designated as a mission restart in 2016. It has seen phenomenal growth, adding about 150 new members in the last few years, including 35 from a neighboring congregation that closed.
But it and nearby Ascension, Sarasota, Fla., weren’t content to focus only on their communities. They also saw growth potential in Parrish—30,000 new homes over the next 10 years in a community that is 75 to 85 percent unchurched. With members from both congregations living in the Parrish area to serve as a core group, it seemed a logical place for a new church.
“God has been blessing our congregation in Lakewood Ranch and the congregation in Sarasota where our hands are full of gospel ministry opportunities in our own communities, but Parrish also seems like the right place to start a church,” says Free. “But to be able to do it, we needed a full-time gospel worker.”
Home Missions agreed and funded a new mission start in Parrish in April 2021. Home missionary Jeremy Cares arrived in August.
Cares hit the ground running, first working with WELS members in the area. “My outreach has been more inreach in the sense that I’m reaching out to members in the area to build up a solid core group,” says Cares. He is conducting small group Bible studies with members from the core group as well as holding monthly fellowship events at his home. He joined Parrish’s Civic Association where he is meeting people from the community as well as learning more about the growing area. “My goal wherever I serve is to be the expert in and about that community, to know the most so I can have a major impact and influence through our ministry,” he says.
He is also working on all the logistics of starting a new home mission—developing Articles of Incorporation and a congregational constitution, building a website, scouting worship locations, and choosing a name.
Things are moving quickly, with the group already picking a name—The Shore—and renting a banquet hall in the clubhouse of an area golf course for weekly worship. The first worship service for the core group will be June 5.
The week before, core group members will be commissioned as evangelists at a special service at Risen Savior. “We want to announce who the core group is, publicly show the transition, and also stress the importance of Risen Savior’s involvement,” says Cares. “We’re partnering together—you’re sending us off to build God’s kingdom even further.” Besides providing members for the core group, Risen Savior has dedicated $75,000 for the first two years to help support the mission work.
Risen Savior, Ascension, and The Shore don’t want to stop in Parrish. The congregations already are discussing other growing areas between Tampa and Fort Myers, places where people need to hear the gospel message. “The devil is waging war on a lot of people right now, and he might take their souls any day, any moment,” says Cares. “If we don’t share the love of Jesus openly, they may never have the chance to get to heaven. We need to share that love of Jesus.”
Learn more about WELS Home Missions’ work at wels.net/homemissions.
Volume 109, Number 04
Issue: April 2022