Wheeling, WV, and Bridgeport, OH are two neighboring towns located on the Ohio River at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Bridgeport is a small town with a population of 1,195 people and is the picture of abject poverty in the United States with median household incomes of $37,692 per year.
But tucked away in this Appalachian Valley is a church, two pastors, and a move of God which is as miraculous as the parting of the Red Sea. Don’t believe me? Allow me to introduce you to The Experience Church and its pastors, Tim, and Linda Seidler.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Pastors Tim and Linda and hear their story. These two are delightful individuals every Christian leader should know.
Tim and Linda were high school sweethearts who are now entering their 30th year of marriage. But early on, Linda had a relationship with Jesus while Tim did not. He was a talented musician, highly-driven, his company’s top salesperson, and hugely successful, however, Tim would see Linda taking their girls to church each Sunday. Even though he did not have a relationship with Christ he wanted to be the best husband and father he could.
Linda would lay hands on Tim and pray, “God, I know how you designed him. Please let him do in the Kingdom what he’s doing in the world.” Tim began attending weekly services, and God answered her prayer and then some. Tim became a modern-day Saul-to-Paul story. He was not knocked down with a bright light, but he was a person of enormous capacity, talent, and influence who was now using those gifts in a ministry context.
As a result, The Experience Ministry was soon born.
Tim and Linda soon discovered the people in the Valley did not have a problem with Jesus, but they had a big problem with the church. God birthed in them a desire to start something fresh and exciting for people far from God. So in 2010, they began a service called Happy Hour which included music, coffee, and preaching. Forty people were in attendance that first Sunday but everyone knew God was up to something. This small gathering grew, and grew, and grew some more.
I asked Pastors Tim and Linda why the church grew so rapidly (other than the goodness of God of course). The following were their answers:
A Passion About The Power Of Invitation – Allow me to paraphrase Pastor Tim’s words, your invitation can cause a conversation which leads to transformation and can change someone’s eternal destination. The church is passionate about inviting people into conversations and to church.
Social Meda – The church has a very successful social media presence.
Authenticity – The Experience Church is the perfect place for imperfect people. 65-70% of their church were truly unchurched people – not de-churched, so they had no church background and brought all of those issues with them.
Not Authority But Relationship – They honor up (those in ministry positions), down (the broken and hurting), and all around.
The church is a place of excitement.
Diversity – All demographics are welcome. Women are also empowered.
The Next Generation – A tremendous amount of resources are dedicated to families and especially children.
By 2018, the church had purchased an old Catholic school to meet in. However, the facility had no parking. In a town of 1195 people, the church had an Easter attendance of 1,800!!! The church leadership then decided to be smart but also walk by faith. Fifty acres were purchased just off the interstate as you can see in the video above.
Pastors Tim and Linda are continual learners. They are always picking someone’s brain. Facing a need to raise more money than at any time in the church’s history and living in a city with mostly broke people, Tim discovered INJOY Stewardship Solutions. Understanding a partnership fee would be required to work together; he leaned on his Sales background. Tim reasoned if INJOY Stewardship helped them raise $1 more than the cost of services, the partnership was worth it. As Tim said, “I looked at the potential more than the cost.”
With the help of their consultant Chad Aukland, the church set a faith goal of $850,000 which was a HUGE number!!! On the day of their commitment event, Tim and Linda went home, each got out a calculator, and began adding up the commitment cards. Linda said, “We were literally watching the five loaves and two fish multiplying.” Card after card. Commitment after commitment. Once compiled, the church received pledges of $1,129,000 in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of the country!!!
Pastors Tim and Linda pointed out there were only two rather large gifts. The congregation merely all participated in the vision and what God was doing. The results were not a result of the sacrifices of a few wealthy individuals but rather the commitment of many which was a great win for their entire city and church.
There has now been a new excitement and expectation in the air since the church announced its results. The church became the church. People, many with no religious background, saw the fruit of a God who can do anything. People stopped saying, “The church….” and began saying, “My church….” Greater ownership has taken place. People now see The Experience Church as their house.
As I talked with these two incredible people, I felt the consistency from day one of The Experience Church until today. It has always been about the empty seat. The church has always been about unselfish people providing opportunities to reach more people. New people will come to a new location, and new open seats will be available for them to sit. The Experience Church has always been about inviting someone else in. As they have gotten bigger, they have also gotten smaller. An open seat is always available for a broken person to sit in. The capital campaign just helped them get further faster.
Pastor Tim concluded with these words, “These (capital campaigns) are hard. There’s a lot of prayer and a lot of effort. But when is enough, enough? When are we happy and comfortable? We’re uncomfortable if there is one more who doesn’t know Jesus and for them, we have a seat.”
Pastors Tim and Linda Seidler are two of the greatest Christian leaders I have spoken with in a long time. They are some of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking to. If you are not following them on Twitter, I would recommend you do so HERE and HERE. You can also follow the church HERE.
Finally, if your church is looking to raise significant capital in the next year and want what happened at The Experience Church to happen at yours, submit a contact form below.
We will be glad to follow-up and have a conversation with you!