[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in April 2007. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news

Alumnus grows church to 1000+ in 20 years

By Laura Lehman Amstutz

Dennis and Linda Gingerich
Dennis and Linda Gingerich (far left) with Tony and Ada Hostetler, and Rod and Ginny Troyer, founding couples who are still very active in the life of the church. >

“We always knew we would eventually be church planters, it just took seven years for the right opportunity to come along.” For Dennis and Linda Gingerich the right opportunity was in Cape Coral, Florida.

Twenty years ago they planted Cape Christian Fellowship with two other couples and the support of Mennonite Mission Network and Southeast Mennonite Conference. Today Cape Christian has an average of 1,100 in attendance on Sunday morning.

“With the awareness that 85% of church plants fail within the first three years, I’m keenly aware of God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit,” said Dennis Gingerich.

While neither Dennis nor his wife Linda had church planting experience, they both grew up in homes where their parents and grandparents were actively involved in church plants.

“I grew up in Oregon where my parents and grandparents were a part of church planting teams, but none of them were pastors,” said Dennis. Dennis’ wife Linda is the daughter of Fred and Carolyn Augsburger, who planted two churches in Youngstown, Oh. during her childhood.

“We have always loved the idea of reaching out to unchurched people,” said Dennis, “and leading them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.”

“We both have incredible patience for those who are seekers, and grace for their sometimes slow process of coming to faith in Christ and developing in maturity.”

God’s grace, a love of unchurched people and some good leadership have helped Cape Christian grow and flourish, when many other churches fail.

“I focus on equipping leaders and then giving ministry away,” said Dennis, “I also continue to discover, develop and deploy new leaders into the congregation.”

“I love to lead leaders,” he continued, “I love to pastor leaders and influencers in the community who have no pastor.”

“I also love to communicate in practical down-to-earth ways to hundreds of people each week on how to do life as God intended it to be done,” continued Dennis. Cape Christian focuses on contemporary music, down-to-earth messages, and relevant, attractive youth and children’s ministries.

Ranked as one of the top five fastest growing cities in the nation, Cape Coral has grown from a population of 48,000 to over 165,000 during the 20 years of the church’s existence.

“I’ve now been in Cape Coral longer than any other pastor in town,” said Gingerich, “But, for the last 10 years, I have been meeting with a small group of pastors every Monday morning. We are not in competition with each other. We support each other in the common calling we have to reach out to our city.”

“In the next 20 years, we will be launching a whole church planting movement," said Dennis, "I look forward to being even more fruitful in the next 20 years as I lead leaders and I keep changing and growing and taking new risks.”

Dennis Gingerich is a 1979 graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

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