Mt. Zion Wesleyan Church (New Castle, Indiana) was established in May of 1843 and began meeting in the home of Miles and Nancy Lamb with nine charter members. Two years later, they named the young church, “Duck Creek Wesleyan Methodist,” and it was part of the Greensboro Circuit. In 1890, the church moved to its present location after receiving the donation of a new piece of land. Following the move, Duck Creek changed to its current name.

Mt. Zion Wesleyan Church has had nearly 80 pastors in its 176 years, and I never lose sight of the fact that hundreds, even thousands, of people came before us, laying the foundation of what Mt. Zion is today. Our predecessors were passionate about the cause of Christ, and it is so humbling to lead this current congregation. I feel like we are standing on the “shoulders of giants” as we continue the kingdom work they began.

I have had the incredible privilege to lead this amazing group of people for nearly nine years. God has done many wonderful things through them, and many lives have been transformed right before our eyes.

A couple of years ago, however, I got the sense that God was moving. Our people wanted Mt. Zion to be different, more impactful in the community, and we started to take an honest look at ourselves.

Often times, we can make church about ourselves, meaning we have our own preferences about how and why things are done, and those preferences can cause us to lose sight of the things that are the most important.  When we make the purpose and the function of church about ourselves, we become self-serving and inward-focused.

That type of focus does little to bring about change for the kingdom.

We discovered we did, indeed, have some inward-focused tendencies. I believe God stirred all our hearts, and we had the overwhelming desire to “flip the script” and become outward-focused. As a church, we sought the wisdom of our Crossroads District leadership, and they invited us to take part in the “Maximizing Impact” process.

The Maximizing Impact process is a church improvement initiative recommended by our district leadership. The Maximizing Impact team gathers information about how a given church functions, then they come and spend a weekend with the church conducting interviews of lay and clergy members. The team offers insights through a hands-on workshop, and ultimately, makes recommendations for changes that the church body can accept or not.

Throughout the Maximizing Impact process, our church had to take an honest look at ourselves. We were asked to review everything we did, how we did it and more importantly, why we did it.

I was overjoyed to watch our people fully engage in the process. It was an absolute game changer when we overwhelmingly decided to adopt the recommended changes including adopting a new form of church governance, refocusing our ministry efforts and even changing our Sunday service location from the church gymnasium back into the sanctuary. This last recommendation would enable us to use the gym for its original purpose — to run programs that attract people to the church who might not come otherwise.

This physical move, however, had some obstacles. First, we had to renovate our aging sanctuary and a team of people completely dedicated themselves to the project. The sanctuary was beautifully redone from top to bottom. Second, we would have to have two services on Sunday mornings, causing us to double everything we do. The decision was made to move to two services, and it has been inspiring to watch our people commit themselves in that effort.

We opened the doors for our first two services in our newly renovated sanctuary in early March 2019, and the presence of the Holy Spirit flooded that space. The excitement we experienced from the first week has not slowed down since!

Our attendance and giving have increased, but there is something else going on that cannot be so easily measured. The renewed sense of purpose is undeniable and has breathed new life and excitement into this congregation.

I am convinced that this church with its beautiful history is being positioned by the Lord to reach the lost and broken like never before. Jesus said that the gates of hell cannot withstand against the power of the church (Matthew 16:17 – 19). It is an honor to lead these faithful and passionate congregants who are committed to knocking those gates off their hinges!

Pastor Steve Arnett serves at Mt. Zion Wesleyan Church in New Castle, Indiana.