“83% of my state are going to hell and it breaks my heart,” Pastor Gerry Stoltzfoos shares in response to why church planting is such a vital component of Freedom Valley Church in Gettysburg, PA. Since planting Freedom Valley in 1992, they have grown as a church of six sites. Beyond simply having multiple sites they have also parented and partnered with a total of 26 church plants since 1992. Their goal is to plant 100 churches by 2020.
Their journey hasn’t been without challenges. 38 of his congregation chose to move to Tulsa for their most recent plant. “It’s breathtakingly painful,” Gerry says. Beyond the life long friends that have been made that choose to go to a different site or plant the most recent plant hit directly at home for Gerry. His then executive pastor, now church planter Jason Fitch asked about the policy of there being no limit on who he could recruit from the congregation. Gerry’s response was that was the policy, to which Jason said he was glad because he was going to ask Gerry’s daughter and son-in-law to go as worship leaders.Freedom Valley Tulsa was blessed with not only the new worship leaders but Gerry’s son also decided to join the team. Gerry reflects, “It’s also unbelievably rewarding. I just keep repeating the mantra, ‘this is about winning souls for the Kingdom.”
Recently Pastor Gerry was able to baptize a single father. When he had a chance to ask him his story the father shared that three months ago thought he was going to be an atheist and thought pastors like [Gerry] were “worse than Hitler” and the real deceivers of our culture. A few months ago a family from Freedom Valley Church invited my 10 year-old dauther to come to church. She came home that Sunday and told her dad she gave her heart to Jesus. He wanted to be supportive of his daughter and chose not to belittle what she had shared with him. Over the next few weeks he said she changed so much in front of his eyes. The anger and resentment over her parents recent divorce seemed to disappear.She became a person of love and forgiveness, changing her personality completely. It was then that he asked himself, “Why would I not want that in my life?”
Freedom Valley Church is set to launch two more sites in 2010. Pastor Gerry’s advice to other pastors, “You have to keep yourself on kingdom multiplication and not allow yourself to feel you are the only thing out there.”