As of March 2016 Element Church has ceased operations. However, the Church will live on as we live out our identity as disciples living as a family of servant missionaries.
Matt and Matt are currently in transition to new employment and would greatly appreciate continuing support while they do this. You can give on online via EasyTithe.
If you are looking for a church, here are few local options:
Sometime between 2006 and 2009 God birthed a desire in the heart of Matt Murphy and Matt Coder to plant a church together. In early 2011 that dream became a reality when Princeton Alliance Church called Murphy to lead a church plant to the Brunswick area. In March of that year there were about 8-10 of us in a room dreaming about what God could do through us through a church plant to the Brunswicks. As a group we were reading through Ephesians and someone said verses 8-10 were standing out that we were all “elements” of God’s plan to make known the Gospel. So we named ourself Element Church. We were all an “element” of God’s plan to make known the Gospel. So we set out on a journey that would make known the Gospel in the Brunswicks.
We did this through huge marketing campaigns to put the word out that we were there. We put flyers in neighborhoods and through big events in the community. We were pumped to be planting a church, following the call of Jesus. Eventually, we launched big in the Regal Theater in North Brunswick. We had what we called “preview” services with our first being in October of 2011 that saw around 200 people show up. We capped our previews with our first “official” service that was in February of 2012 where we had nearly 300 in attendance. After all of the pomp and circumstance we settled at around 125. Some weeks we had over 50 people volunteering on a weekend.
To the naked eye we were a success. But God was stirring something in our hearts. Each week we had a volunteer meeting where we would share stories about how amazing Element Church was. Then it hit our leadership that we weren’t called to make Element Church amazing we were called to show how amazing Jesus was. We wanted to see disciples of Jesus made not disciples of a “cool” church. As a leadership we prayed and asked God what He might be doing. Jesus asked us “Do you want to make the Gospel known or do you want to make Element Church known?” Little did we know that this would have ramifications we would not forsee. God brought Matthew 16:24-28 to mind as I was praying through this question. In that Jesus asks are you willing to give up everything, your hopes, dreams, desires to follow after me? Will you take up your cross and follow me? We were struck by this and began to press in. Another way of asking it is do you want to make disciples or do you want to build the brand of Element Church? We hit the ground running hard after the vision of making disciples. That first year we taught people what the Gospel was all about setting a foundation of what was to come.
As we preached the Gospel God did amazing work through Element Church we baptized 15 people in the first year and a half. In total Element Church has baptized 42 people in 5 short years. God was beginning to show us through the Gospel that our identity as a group was a Family of Servant Missionaries sent to make disciples that made disciples. Around the time Hurricane Sandy hit our church was just learning what it meant to live as missionaries in our communities. We felt compelled as a church to just literally walked to homes most severely hit by the storm.. We were like the Marines for Jesus, we hit the beach head before anyone else. It was funny to watch each time we went to Union Beach how much more they were organized as we went. The first time we went we just made it up as we went and I’ll never forget God using an unemployed alcoholic/in and out of rehab contractor to help us and lead us. I’ll never forget sharing the hope of Jesus with him in his truck and him weeping as we drove at the grace of Jesus that God would use him to help others.
You see the church is not primarily a business, it’s not primarily a service project organization, it’s not primarily a hospital, it’s not primarily an event, it’s not a primarily building, although these things can help what the church is. The Church is a people sent to make disciples that make disciples. We as a church were called to make disciples and make disciples we did. We set the bar high for what Jesus had called the church to be. Things changed. It no longer became about Element but it became about Jesus.
Mistakes were made. We are human. But boy it was fun and a lot more rewarding. Rather than spending thousands of dollars to travel to a beach to be “missionaries” we were learning how to be missionaries in our local context. This was scary. Opening our life up to the call of God to be a family of servant missionaries to make disciples was scary. When we started the journey of making disciples we knew we needed to build relationships with people. In all honesty, we could not throw an event/party/bbq that included anyone outside of the Element Church we had a relationship with. We sucked at throwing parties. How would we make disciples if we could not even build relationships with anyone? But slowly we learned how to build relationships in our local context. We learned how to apply the Gospel to ourselves for the first time. We were wrecked by the Gospel and what Jesus was calling us to as a church. We grew so much that we actually began to make disciples of those who did not know Jesus seeing neighbors step into faith with Jesus and even be baptized. We finally learned how to throw parties, this fall we had a run of 13 straight weeks with an outreach event all with the goal of making disciples of Jesus.
It wasn’t all roses as people left our community as we pursued this call. Some left because we didn’t lead them well and some left because it was uncomfortable confronting this new/old identity. It was tough to see people go. Because of people leaving we had to adjust our budget where we moved to the Days Hotel and some staff had to move on. With staff moving on more people left because of the closeness they felt to the staff leaving causing more budget concerns. It was difficult for a young church to survive the turnover we had in our leadership. People leaving caused negative momentum too big to overcome leading to more people moving on. We even reached the point where 3 times this fall, financially Element had no money. It is not just about money. It is also about the people. We have been in decline for the past 2 years with no real immediate sign that will change. This fall we have averaged around 20 adults. It is people and resources.
Over this past summer(2015) our leadership talked about and considered making a move to close. We all agreed it wasn’t time. To give it one more shot. The boat had not sunk yet and we felt God wanted to do more. He did. We saw our first “Story of God.” I saw two people at my dinner table understand God’s grace for them for the first time. We were able to help a family dear to Element Church walk through the death of their son. God had his reasons for calling us to stay.
In the fall of 2015 we went back on district support meaning we were in a redevelopment phase, life support if you will. We sought their counsel, other church leaders, and our sending church. Everyone was in agreement it is now time to close as Element Church. Throughout my life God has always confirmed things through mentors in my life. There has been a lot of confirmation.
We are not closing the church because the church is a disciple making movement and God has called us to that. We will always do that. Hopefully you all will always do that. But it is time to close the business side of this community. People and Resources are the 2 commodities in the business side of the church. God is not bringing us more people. We almost need to triple to get to a point on the people side of sustainability. And resource wise we continue to burn through money. We cannot continue to sustain it at our current rate.
This church did not fail. God did not fail. In our last time together we remembered stories of God’s success through our church. We remembered those who were baptized. People told stories of how over their 5 years at Element Church they grew more like Jesus than in the decades before. Others told stories of how God literally transformed their life, old became new, and Christ was in them. Every shared at how God had changed their view of what a church should be. For all of that I believe God accomplished what He set out to accomplish in us. He accomplished His vision through us and that is what we asked Him to do. Now, we all go our separate church ways continuing to live out our identity as a disciple living as a family of servant missionaries.