Alye and Dustin Pearce know that God brought them together for a long-term purpose in the Permian Basin. In January of 2020, a restlessness began to make a home in their heart. Every time Dustin read Scripture, prayed, and sought counsel, he sensed he was being released from his ministry calling at Stonegate after a decade of service. Then, COVID hit in April of 2021 and he and Alye entered into a time of intense prayer and fasting.
During this season, Dustin was slowly and methodically plowing through the Gospels, Ephesians and Proverbs. He was also reading a book called Heromaker by Dave Ferguson. This question started rattling around in his brain, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” The answer was clear: Start a new church. And much to his surprise he was longing to start a new church in Midland that would transform an entire region.
Alye and Dustin talked a lot and she was feeling led to start a new church as well. For the first time in their marriage, they had unity over what their ministry future looked like. After sharing their story with the Stonegate body in September of 2020, God continued to work on and challenge their paradigm for “what a church could be.”
As far back as 2008, The American Church Research Project found that church attendance was not keeping up with population growth in the United States. Research revealed an increase of 303 churches from 2000-2005, yet 3,205 churches were needed to stay on track with population growth. Current research on American church trends shows “36 percent fewer Americans attended church weekly in 2020 than in 1993.” A little over a decade ago evangelical researchers Thom and Sam Rainer found that “Most churches are dwindling. Most denominations are not growing. The population in the United States is exploding … the church is losing ground. We are in a steep state of decline.” Scott Thumma and Warren Bird conclude from a survey on megachurches that, “three in four of new megachurch attendees left another church to attend the growing megachurch”. The majority of Church growth (in the US) is from transfer growth.
Despite some ups and downs over the years, nearly the same percent of U.S. adults today report reading their Bible weekly as did in 1993 (2020: 35% vs. 1993: 34%). This shows that people are interested in God and growing in their faith but are not seeing attendance in a church building as necessary. While at the same time, there has been an almost 15 percent increase in people who have never read the bible in the last 20 years. Therefore, the amount of people who are not coming to a church building is increasing, all while the number of people who have never opened a Bible is increasing as well.
Something has to change.
These are the letters/words on a poster that greet many global missionaries: IYKDWYBDYKGWYBG - If You Keep Doing What You’ve Been Doing, You’ll Keep Getting What You’ve Been Getting …
Therefore, Advance Church was born. A church focused on “Go and Make” rather than “Come and Sit.” Ultimately, Midland needs more disciples of Jesus who Go and take the Great Commission seriously in all of life. Disciples who risk everything to reach the unchurched, unbelieving, and uninspired in their communities.
The current population of Midland is 146,000 according to Wiki. Research shows that roughly 10 percent are involved in churches now, which means there are about 131,000 people not in church. To reach these people we need to see a new movement of God where every neighborhood, zip code, and relational network is saturated by ordinary people, transformed by Jesus, who are equipped to employ a reproducible disciple-making strategy and to plant churches. A movement that starts in Midland will not only change this city but the entire Permian Basin.
Both Alye and Dustin have deeply rooted family and friend networks, as well as strategic relationships with city leaders, school administrators, and coaches throughout the region. They love this area and know that some people are legitimately far from God and some think they know God, yet both are headed to a Christless eternity unless Someone intervenes.