Like many good things, The Gathering began as a vision of what could be, of what must be. Over the years, when Brandon Eck would bring his wife Rachel back to his hometown of Newton, Kansas, he would tell her, “I want to plant a church here.” During one of those visits home, as they toured Main Street, the vision became a conviction. Watching the people of Newton going about their everyday lives, many of whom appeared disconnected from anyone who cared about them, filled Brandon with an overwhelming passion for the people of his hometown. That settled it. They had to come home.
In 2013, The Gathering came to life. Springing up in Norm’s Coffee Bar, the modest church met at candle-lit tables every Sunday. The vision that brought them together was profoundly simple yet simply profound: Newton Reborn – A people and their city revived, rebuilt and renewed in every way by Jesus for God’s glory and the blessing of everyone who calls Newton home.
The church’s mission to “Love God, Share Jesus, Make Disciples” spread quickly across town. Soon, Sundays at Norm’s became packed with Newtonians who saw, felt, and heard something new and different. The church was throwing off the idea of church as usual, church as religion, and replacing it with the reality of church as a people in relationship with the God who loves them. People who had never been in church before, and those who had, were encountering God in new, exciting, and unexpected ways. Norm’s became smaller every Sunday as Jesus-followers poured in through the doors and packed themselves in. As God led more and more people to The Gathering, it was apparent that a new meeting place was a necessity.
Before moving back to Newton, during one of their driving “tours” of the city, Brandon and Rachel were stopped at 6th and Main by a red light. Brandon’s attention was drawn to one of the most loved, iconic, and underutilized buildings in the heart of downtown, the Fox Theatre. In that moment, he heard God say, “You’re going to have a church in that theatre one day. This city will be transformed from the inside out starting right here with this theatre in the center of downtown.” After overcoming what at times seemed insurmountable odds, The Gathering was able to purchase the Fox.Today, The Gathering is leading the effort to update and renew the theatre to serve as a worthy gathering place for both the church and for all those who call Newton home. Reviving the Fox is but the first step in seeing The Gathering’s vision of Newton Reborn come to life.
Since its launch, The Gathering has impacted the lives of hundreds of Newtonians. Many have discovered they too can have a relationship with God, that God loves them just as they are, and that He has great plans for them. Small-groups or “Neighborhood Churches” have started throughout the city. Through this growth, The Gathering continues to pursue its vision of Newton Reborn: a people and their city revived, rebuilt, and renewed by Jesus for his glory.
Momentum is building and anticipation is growing to see more of Newton Reborn. Join the movement as we work together to see key pieces of our city revived, rebuilt and renewed. We see a renewed Fox Theatre as a catalyst for this Newton Reborn movement, fueling more life and growth in the heart of our downtown. Opportunities to participate directly are coming soon! Invite your friends and family along for the ride by sharing this and future Made in Newton stories with them. You can see and share other Made in Newton stories and the vision for the Fox Reborn at www.newtonreborn.com.