For the congregation of Gospel Fellowship Church in Wolf Point, Montana, 2019 was a year of new beginnings, as they dedicated a brand new church building and installed a new pastor, Mike Andrews.
In November 2014, a fire damaged the church extensively, and the decision was made to rebuild at a new location rather than attempt to salvage the old building.
For the past few years, the congregation joined with Bible Community Church in Wolf Point to hold services while waiting for the completion of their new facility.
Former pastor Bruce Bogar faithfully served the congregation through this time of transition, although he had announced his intention to retire shortly before the fire took place. He gave the message during the first public service in the new building this past June before handing over the reins to Andrews.
Andrews and his wife, Diane, come to Wolf Point after serving in the Denver area. Mike was the senior pastor at Belleview Community Church, a USMB congregation in Littleton, from 1989 until it merged with another church five years ago to become The Rock Community Church.
After the merger, Mike took on the role of pastor of discipleship at The Rock. After serving in this role for almost five years he felt the position didn’t quite fit his areas of gifting.
“Both my wife and I kind of came to a place where we felt like the things we were most passionate about and our spiritual gifts could be better used in a different setting,” Andrews says.
He reached out to USMB district ministers and began inquiring about opportunities to serve as a senior pastor.
“When we had made the decision to resign our position at The Rock Community Church, we literally told God, ‘We will go wherever you want us to go if you’ll just make that clear,’” Andrews says.
He soon received a call from Central District Conference minister Rick Eshbaugh about an open position at Gospel Fellowship. Mike and Diane visited the church in March 2019 to meet Bogar and the congregation and get a feel for the community.
“At the end of that week, we really felt like God spoke to us very specifically and said, ‘Mike and Diane, I want you in Wolf Point,’” Andrews says.
They returned in April to officially candidate for the position; shortly after, the congregation unanimously voted to hire Andrews as senior pastor.
The move to Wolf Point was a significant transition for Mike and Diane, who had both grown up and ministered in larger cities, but they believe God made their calling clear.
“Over and over again and in a lot of different ways, God has really confirmed his call on our lives to be in Wolf Point,” Andrews says. “We’re grateful to be in God’s will and serving here.”
Celebrating new beginnings
Andrews preached his first sermon at Gospel Fellowship in June 2019, shortly after the first service held in the new building. He was officially installed July 7 as senior pastor.
As of November, Andrews estimates the building was about 98 percent complete with some minor interior finishes yet to be completed as well as some work on the parking lot and driveway.
A building dedication service was held Nov. 3. Andrews gave a sermon titled “Great Expectations,” preaching out of Isaiah, and Eshbaugh attended and gave a prayer of dedication.
During the service, each person was given a 5×7 card on which to write their prayers, hopes and dreams for Gospel Fellowship.
“There were really a lot of wonderful expressions of enthusiasm and faith,” Andrews says. “I think as I read those, the most encouraging thing for me was the sense that the congregation realizes that God wants us to have a vital evangelistic and discipleship ministry in this community.”
He adds that a common sentiment in the church body is that now that the building is mostly complete, it is time to be “more intentional about the real work of the church, which is Christ’s Great Commission.”
Andrews says he would like to work toward making the existing programming at Gospel Fellowship more effective. He believes the new building will allow improvements and growth that were limited when the congregation was sharing a facility with another church body.
Pursuing evangelism and outreach
One of Andrews’ passions that he saw an opportunity to pursue more readily in Wolf Point is evangelism.
He was struck by the image of the historic Lewis and Clark Bridge that stretches across the Missouri River near Wolf Point, which he sees as “a reminder that a church ought to be a bridge between the congregation and the community.”
He and Diane are looking forward to focusing more on outreach in their area of rural Montana. First, however, they want to take the time to learn more about the people and understand the culture and community dynamics, particularly as Gospel Fellowship sits on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
Both Mike and Diane emphasize the need to support and partner with indigenous leaders in the community in order to bridge the gap between the Native American community and non-Native American residents of Wolf Point.
“I think sometimes in our zeal and our enthusiasm, we rush into programming that God’s not really asking us to do,” Andrews says. “My hope is that we would become very intentional and active and effective at serving as a bridge over which people can find Jesus.”
Diane Andrews’ passion is fostering spiritual growth and transformation in women, which she has pursued through a nonprofit ministry she founded and directs called R&R Retreats.
She has already begun to impact the women of Wolf Point, as she held a one-day retreat Oct. 12 at Gospel Fellowship called “Divine,” which focused on the “divine appointments” Jesus had with women in the Bible.
Nearly 50 women attended the retreat, and two accepted Christ for the first time. Diane says a couple of women who were not previously part of Gospel Fellowship have since begun attending with their families.
Currently, Diane is working to spread the word about a Bible study she is launching in February that will run for six weeks. She is the creator of the study, called “Intimate Moments with Jesus,” and it will be open to women in the community of Wolf Point and beyond. She plans to focus on fellowship and giving the women opportunity for connection and friendship building.
She is also planning another retreat at Gospel Fellowship that will take place later in the spring of 2020.
Both Mike and Diane are committed to pursuing the call of the Great Commission in Wolf Point alongside their new congregation.
“It’s not an easy commission, but it’s not hard to understand,” Andrews says. “We want Gospel Fellowship to be an effective instrument in God’s hands to lead people to Jesus and then disciple them.”