Bound for Canaan

Church planting in Newton,Kansas


Labels are a funny thing.

My son is an excellent student (label). Anything he tries to do academically, he does well. I’m amazed by the way he can open a book and tune out the world.

caleb reading standing on his head

*proof* :)

I have never been good at reading (label). I would try and try and I could never stay focused enough to finish a page. This meant I would constantly read and re-read the same paragraph multiple times. It was super frustrating.

On the other hand, I’ve always been really good at math (label). I remember being in 2nd grade, in the extended learning math group, with my friend Will doing double digit multiplication and taking timed tests. It was always a great time trying to see who could get further or get the test done faster. I loved it.

Unfortunately, I cultivated a destructive tendency. If I was good at something, I loved it and did more of it…if I wasn’t good at something, I hated it and chose to not do it unless I absolutely had to. Over time, I simply choose to “just get by.” I never challenged myself. I never did more than the bare minimum. For a long time I thought my “middle of the road,” “do enough to squeak by” approach was just my personality. It wasn’t. I had labeled myself as something and believed the lie that I was nothing more or less than that label.

A couple days ago, I was talking with a friend of mine about my role at The Gathering. We talked about our lives and tendencies and quickly realized how alike we truly are. Both of us struggled in school. Both of us did just enough to get by. Both of us chose to ignore things in our lives that didn’t come easily.

There was one glaring difference between us: He had moved beyond his label and I had made excuses.

A little while into our discussion, he said something I’ll probably never forget. “You are always cultivating something.” It was at that moment I realized I had cultivated apathy in every crop of my life. Apathy was my label. In my marriage. In my relationship with my children. In the ministry. In friendships. Everything was just good enough to get by.

I don’t want to cultivate apathy. I don’t want to just get by. If Jesus died so I can live and have abundant life…then why am I content with mediocrity?

I share this in order to say: I will no longer be apathetic about people, relationships, Jesus, and things that I see as difficult. It’s usually the difficult things that are worth doing well.

I encourage each of you to challenge yourself daily and allow God to move in your life even when it seems impossible to do so. Cultivate Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.

Love God, Share Jesus, Make Disciples.


Craig  <><

We would love your support – Pray Diligently, Give Generously – Support Us

Celebrate Good Times!

It’s 2015! It’s truly amazing how fast time flies as you get older. In an attempt to recap 2014 and shed light on 2015, I offer a brief glimpse into our lives as church planters.

The Gathering launched in April of last year and has grown rapidly during the past 10 months. On Sunday mornings we now average 170-190 men, women, and children. 20 new believers have been baptized. God opened doors for us to love our neighbors on 6th street through a block party and Christmas gifts.

David Baptism

God even did the miraculous by allowing us to meet on Christmas Eve at The Historic Fox Theater on Main Street after many “no’s.” To say that 2014 has been a blessing, miraculous, and mind-blowing would be an understatement. God has done what He said He would do. We still believe this is only the beginning.

The Fox Theater  Fox Theater Worship

2015 will no doubt have its share of difficulties, but more-so its share of God’s provision and glory. We believe Newton Reborn is just beginning to take shape as we love our neighbors and share The Life with them. Leah, Caleb, Claire, Caitlin, and I want to thank each and every one of you for your role in this adventure. We know that God has laid it on your heart to pray, give monetary support, give wise counsel, and love to us, and we couldn’t be more grateful. We love you all so much and we ask that you would continue to do the same in 2015.

One change we are making in the way things will be communicated is through this blog. As you may have noticed, we are now at rather than our wordpress site. This is for many reasons, but one in particular is that we are changing our monthly gift/donation process. You can now give right here on this site using your debit/credit card or through PayPal. All you have to do is click Support Us and everything will be explained there. We will also be posting a lot more to keep everyone in the loop about The Gathering and our lives.

Thank you again from the deepest parts of our heart for being an integral part of this journey. We are blessed and encouraged by each of you. If you would like to help, you can do so in three easy steps:

  1. Share this blog online
  2. Support us financially by clicking “support us” and filling out your info OR you can send a check! (Mailing address is on the Support Us page)
  3. Pray that God’s Will will be done in and through our lives and the lives of those at The Gathering.

Noshing on Yum-Yums

Hi all! It has been a while since we posted, but I assure you we are still alive and well and busy, loving Newton and watching God continuously blow our minds through his work at the Gathering!

We have been working on building relationships within our Neighborhood Church group, learning more and more how to lead well and be disciples who make disciples as well as equip others to do the same. We have been busy doing all the things that make up Sunday morning celebrations – setting up and tearing down, working in the sound booth and kids ministries, greeting, documenting worship, events and baptisms through photo and video, and doing our best to connect people to and within the Gathering!

We have been active in our community through volunteering at Caleb’s new school and being visible at local events (applying temporary tattoos to Bethel College students and alumni is strange and fun!).


We have noshed on yummy waffles and burritos at the city’s annual Tastes of Newton event, as well as many other “Yum-Yums,” delicious desserts and meals with our Core Team and church family! We have been frequent park gatherers, play-daters, and spur of the moment girls-night-outers (well, I have been). We have provided meals in times of joy as well as grief, held babies, listened with open ears and had awkward conversations. We have witnessed hearts changed by Jesus, spirits healed and people’s lives flipped upside down because of God’s love for them. We feel so honored by the opportunity to be able to experience this little slice of heaven right here on earth!


We are working toward our vision and one goal: Newton Reborn. A people and their city revived, rebuilt and renewed by Jesus, for his glory.

This Christmas, we have the opportunity to serve our Gathering neighbors right down the block from Norm’s Coffee Bar where we meet each week. We are throwing a huge party for a neighborhood block of 51 homes, and blessing each household with Christmas gifts, hot chocolate, hot panini sandwiches and love without conditions. We will start there, but it is just the beginning!


As always, thank you to everyone who continues to support us through financial gifts, prayer, and kind words of encouragement. God is moving in big ways here in this little city in the heart of Kansas, and it is extremely humbling to know that even ordinary jars of clay like us can be used in big ways too, showing that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

For those who have been considering/praying about how you can get involved, you can always give online by clicking on “Support Us” at the top of the page and following the instructions!

P.S. Can you believe 2014 is almost over? Holy December, Batman! 

Gathering: The Facts

Everywhere we go (Everywhere we go)
People want to know (People want to know)
Who we are (Who we are)
So we tell them (So we tell them)

I used to chant that little song a lot back in my softball days. It was a great way to let the other teams know who and how “mighty mighty” we were. “Woa-ah! Oh-yeah!” It worked really well in the context of a game – I was the loud girl screaming my chants with a furrowed brow, and one was able see exactly how well I was playing by glancing at my stats.

My softball glory days, however, have really nothing to do with this post. I just can’t get that chant out of my head whenever I go somewhere and someone asks me how things at the new church are going. My response is usually something like “It’s going really great! God is doing some really cool things around here!”

I have a real talent for vague, awkward conversation. And also for using superior adverbs like really. Brushes dust off shoulders. It’s a gift.

In light of all this nonsensical commentary I’d like to share a little bit about what is, eh-hem, really going on at the Gathering. See what I did there? I’m all about the word play. And, let’s be honest, pretty much everyone in the church world likes it when you throw numbers around.

The Gathering

At the official launch of Sunday morning services on Easter, we had 145 people in attendance between the two services. We were all floored with that one. Since then our low has been 85 and the high 117, for an average of around 100 people attending each Sunday (30 of whom are children!). According to one of our elders Greg Noll, who keeps up with church/church planting research on the daily, a return rate of 50% usually means you’re off to a great start. Even in the dreaded “summer slump” we are well above that goal. We welcome new faces each week and are working hard to get to know familiar ones.

We have also had 65 people start the D1NNER process – what we call the first step in getting connected at the Gathering. There are four sessions and at each we eat dinner together and engage in discussion about why the Gathering exists, what it’s all about, its vision, mission, core values, the importance of scripture, etc. Oh, and snake handling. Just kidding, I had to see if you were still paying attention. After someone completes all four sessions and decides we are indeed, we place them intentionally into a Neighborhood Church group, where they eat more great food (we like food) and connect with others through relationship, discussion of a Bible story and honest, authentic prayer. Jesus called his disciples to make disciples, and that’s the aim here – people who are following and in relationship with Jesus, changed by Him and on mission with Him – helping others to grow in their understanding of Him and coming alongside them to also be on mission with Him. Just call me Wordy-McWorderson. We have about 40 people currently plugged in to a NC group and it’s been an honor to host one in our home as well.

According to Brandon (the man with the plan our lead pastor), there are 17 people who have given their lives to Jesus since launch day, and so far 5 people who have chosen to be baptized. This is exciting stuff! It is truly amazing that we have been given the opportunity to bear witness to some of the really cool things God is doing in this little town of Newton, Kansas. We believe this is just the beginning!

We want to thank everyone who has financially supported us thus far – know that your gifts, whether you give one time, monthly, or anonymously (although I’m so curious to know who you are…) are greatly appreciated, and allow us to spend our time fully present in the work God is doing at the Gathering; connecting with people, serving and loving Newton. I think it’s cool to know that when you give, you get to be a part of this work also. So, thank you. We also want to send thanks to those who have supported us through faithful prayer and encouraging words – you are the fuel to our fire.

I like to describe the process of raising support as “wonderfully uncomfortable.” Trusting God alone to provide for our family and our needs through His people can be uncomfortable, like, constantly. But it has also been wonderful – I am forced out of the control room and there is such freedom in letting God provide in the way He deems fit. And if you feel led to join us on this journey, we welcome you. We are at about 1/2 of our monthly support goal as it stands, but many people giving a little can make a big impact!

And that’s a fact, Jack.



The Comfort in being uncomfortable.

A Picture of a couple on the beach relaxingWe live in a society where people aim to be more comfortable. The idea of comfort is sold to us in expensive cars, new big houses, vacations, and “I made $5000 in one day without leaving the comfort of my couch!” promises. The funny thing is that we are so enthralled with being comfortable that we buy the “promise” hook, line and sinker. We go into massive debt, we sacrifice precious time with family, we even will sacrifice our own health to purchase this “comfort.” Sounds a bit like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Make money, lose family and friends, and die by the age of 56….but hey, at least you were comfortable when you died! 😉

I have found that there is a Comfort in being uncomfortable. There is something so good in simplicity. When we are moved to do something different, take a chance, choose the difficult and uncomfortable task, God does something HUGE…He becomes our Comfort.

When Leah and I made the decision to follow Jesus into Newton to help plant His Church, we had no idea how anything was going to be taken care of. We chose to leave a steady income for one that was seemingly “unknown.” With three kids, a mortgage and moving expenses, you can bet this was uncomfortable! We took the step anyway, and I don’t regret a minute of it.

God provided an incredible house from an incredible family who were trusting God and choosing to be uncomfortable by planting a church in Ohio. God provided a loving and very encouraging church family immediately. God provided the right family to rent our old house and the exact right time and for the exact amount we needed to pay that mortage. And finally, although we have not yet met our monthly support goal, God provided you.

You who read this blog, support this mission, and pray for us are an incredible blessing. Thank you for being God’s conduit. We feel His comfort while we still don’t know what tomorrow brings. We are able to trust more intuitively in the God who creates and provides because we chose to be uncomfortable.

My final thought (Jerry Springer anyone?) is that I want you all to experience what we have. God wants to be your everything. He wants you to lean on Him in times of struggle, thank Him for times of plenty, and enjoy this ride called Abundant Life with Him. Join us in living the dream God has placed in your heart. Take a chance and all the while love God and others unswervingly.

craig <><

We’d LOVE for you to join us and be a part of what God has called us to do in and through The Gathering. You can give a one time contribution or choose to partner with us monthly by clicking through to our giving page.

Progression of an Easter Picture

I loved seeing all the pictures on Facebook of my friends and their families, kids, significant others, pets (shout out to the #dogsofinstagram #catsofinstagram).  However, I didn’t get ours posted in time, so I thought I’d share some of our lovely, picture perfect moments here. Enjoy this progression of an Easter Picture.

Take 1: The Tripod Setup



Take 2: The Acceptable-But-Dangit-It’s-Blurry-Just-One-More-Time-Kids

IMG_5298 copy


Take 3: The Smile-And-Pretend-Like-You’re-Laughing-Ha-Ha-Can-We-Please-Just-Get-One-Good-One!?



Take 4: Whatevs, I’ll take it #Easter2014



The moral of this story: Take your Easter pictures early in the day, when anticipation and joy still abounds.

Do not wait until you have to actually edit light into the photo. 

He is Risen!

Easter at The Gathering

Holy smokes!!! WHAT AN INCREDIBLE GOD WE SERVE! What happened this past Sunday at The Gathering was nothing short of glorious. We officially launched with two services and had 150 people attend! I cannot express how amazing this truly is. Until our launch, we had a steady 25-35 during the soft launch. God is truly bringing people from all walks of life to Himself and using The Gathering to do so.

Most importantly, not only did God bring many people, but TEN people asked God to save them and make Him the Lord of their life! We are already scheduling baptisms!! Love. It.

Please continue praying for us as God uses our talents and passion to continue to see Newton Reborn. We are already seeing fruit from our first steps and we believe this is only the beginning.

Let’s celebrate!!


Never say ‘never’

I have never liked Newton.

There. I said it. (Insert awkward dramatic pause for gasps) When I think of Newton, images of scrappy volleyball and softball players come to mind. I think of the smell of cow manure, generalizations of small town folk, truckers, Mennonites, rundown buildings and boredom. I know, I know, that’s not fair. But you must understand that I am a Wichitan from the big city of Wichita. (Insert goat bleet laughter and some eye-rolling pssh noises) I have actually stated on several occasions that “I will never live in Newton, Kansas.”

Never say never, my friend.

If you would have told me six months ago what change the coming months would bring, I would have goat bleet laughed in your face and wished upon you my best southern “Bless your heart.” I was not excited at the thought. However, each week as we left The Gathering, I felt a stir in my heart and a sense in my spirit not to count it out. As I prayed about it – Really, God? Newton? Don’t make me do this. We have a great church. I love my neighbors. I love Caleb’s school. I love Target. Waaaah – the one thing I heard over and over was: Trust Me, and trust the leadership of your husband.

Over the course of these past few months asking and seeking Him, God has completely changed my heart about Newton. As I trust Him for my life, and not my own ideas of what my life should look like, I find I have less and less control and more and more freedom to become who He is making me to be. It’s a good, scary place to dwell. My friend (Oh lawd I wish we were friends in real life!) Jen Hatmaker puts it this way in her book 7: “Obedience isn’t a lack of fear. It’s just doing it scared.”

So here’s to “doing it scared.” I can already see the change forming in my attitude towards this small town life. While all of the above mentioned negatives still stand in my mind, I can see also see some amazing visions of renewal intermingled amongst them. I’m beginning to be able to see this town the way Jesus does, and can feel the anticipation of change on the open Kansas horizon. And all of a sudden I don’t just like Newton – I’m able to love Newton.

I just don’t think I’ll ever love cow manure.






Newton Reborn

This story explains one of the many reasons we came back to Newton!

Southbreeze Story from Craig Stutzman on Vimeo.

Fear Is Overrated


I believe it’s easy to tell someone to not be afraid, but in the same breath be fearing something yourself. In the past I have found myself doing this very thing. I would be consoling or encouraging a student about fear and all the while thinking to myself about how I struggle with it.

The past two months have been very revealing to me when it comes to fear. When God was called us to leave the “known” and step into the unknown (especially when it came to finances), it was scary. We didn’t know what we were going to do for a house or where money would come from to pay our bills. Would our children embrace the move? Would Caleb like his new school? Would his new school like him? These were (sometimes are) the fears that have been running through my head.

Walking in obedience has been a head and heart transformation for me. When you officially take the step out of the boat and have nothing but the miracle power of Jesus to keep you walking on water, fear tends to take a back seat.

This has led me to recognize how overrated fear truly is. Those who have been around me these past two months know that this is all I’ve been talking about! Fear is overrated. Plain and simple.

When the Bible addresses those called to take a risk, God ALWAYS sends someone to say these words “do not be afraid” or “do not fear” or “fear not.” These words remind us that God is in control. He always has been, and always will be. No amount of fear I have will change His sovereignty. So the question I have to ask myself is “Do I trust Him?” My answer is Yes.

My hope and prayer for each of you reading this post is that you will be called out of the boat just like Peter was. I pray that as you step into the unknown and begin to walk on water, that you will ignore the waves and stare headlong into the face of Jesus. This is where indescribable peace and comfort come from.

Take the risk! Step out!

Love you all,

Craig <><

Shameless Plug: If God has laid it on your heart to help us reach the city of Newton, KS…you can send support easily by clicking Support.

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