Proverbs says that without a vision the people perish, but how does a vision for increasing the kingdom of God come to fruition if there is no corresponding plan of action? Bro. Brian Labat, pastor of Calvary UPC in Addison, Illinois, is adamant about combining a mission to fulfill a vision for revival in the kingdom of God. “Most of us have a vision but no corresponding mission,” he said. “There is a difference. The vision is the seer, but the mission is the doer. To the prophet the Lord said, ‘Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it’ (Hab. 2:2). After asking for direction for the church, the Lord gave us the acronym R.C.T.I., which stands for: Reaching ordinary people, Connecting them to an extraordinary God, Teaching Biblical principles, and Involving every believer in the mission of Christ. This has become our purpose.”
Advancing the Vision
Pastor Labat believes the key to having a growing church is multi-faceted. “After being here 10 years, we got desperate,” he said. “We had tried everything we knew and had plateaued at around 120 members. My wife and I realized that if the church were to continue to grow, we had to grow personally first. Until this point we only knew what we wanted to see happen, but we did not know how to make it a reality.”
After visiting other successful churches and asking many questions, Bro. and Sis. Labat gathered new ideas and implemented vision and mission. They began with having a yearly vision service. “Every January, I preach my vision, introduce that year’s theme, and remind us of our mission (R.C.T.I.),” said Pastor Labat. “Then we work to live it out for the rest of the year. We created ministry covenants for every ministry in the church. If you want to be involved in a ministry, you first must agree to the covenant. We have upper and lower level ministries, as far as requirements are concerned, but we have designed them in such a way that every covenant causes you to reach higher than where you are now.”
Good Church Equals Expansion
The leadership of Calvary UPC has found that the method that works best for growth and increasing attendance is to consistently strive to have good church. “Our services are the single greatest opportunity we have for church growth,” explained Pastor Labat. “If we fail to have a positive and life-changing experience, it does not matter how much we pray or love souls, the church will not grow.
“It all starts with pre-service prayer. Prayer must be the foundation of every service. We have a ‘no pray, no play’ policy that says if you are going to be involved in any ministry you must commit to being in pre-service prayer.”
Focusing on member participation is also a key factor for growth. “Our aim is to get people involved in a ministry as soon as possible,” he said. “If people do not feel connected and a part of the church, we will lose them. We created a growth track to membership and ministry called The Pathway. It is a 10-week course that my wife and I teach during our Life Class at 11 a.m. It was born out of the frustration of not retaining new people, nor being able to get them to a place where they are useable. The Pathway has been a key to moving people from peripheral to core.”
Pastor Labat also feels that one of the greatest areas for involvement/training in the church is the music ministry. The choir sings once a month, but the 30-member chorale leads worship every Sunday. “Focusing on excellence in our music department is a key element to growth and participation,” he said. “We work hard at making our Music Ministry the best it can be because a large percentage of every service involves music and worship. If we do not give it our best, it will affect the whole worship experience, regardless of how good the preaching is. If we want to experience greater church growth, we must get our services right.”
Enhancing the Vision
Pastor Labat said that planning and working the yearly calendar has also proved to be beneficial. Most church events remain on the calendar from year to year. “We have monthly staff meetings,” he said. “These meetings are for all our ministry team and coordinators and are held on the first Sunday of every month from 10:30 to 11 am. We pray, discuss the calendar/upcoming events, talk about where we are as a church, and teach leadership principles.”
Calvary UPC has begun live streaming its services, which has resulted in a large number of visitors. The church has also started a Spanish Ministry. “Reaching the Hispanic community has always been a part of my vision,” said the pastor. “A few years ago, the Lord brought several couples to Calvary who helped us establish it. Today we have a Spanish Life Class that meets every Sunday, and we have quickly become a multicultural church.”
Since time demands on pastors are great, Bro. Labat shared what he feels that a pastor’s first priority should be when preparing for revival. “It goes without saying that we should always be prepared when we step behind the pulpit to preach or teach,” he said. “However, I also believe that pastors should spend a lot of time planning, meeting with leaders, and seeking spiritual direction for the church.”
Calvary UPC has 21 ministries that operate efficiently within the church, including Student and Young Adult, Community, Adult and Family, Music, Technical Services, Guest Services, Spiritual Growth and Enrichment, Food Service, and Facility Management Ministries. “I meet with our department and ministry leaders once a month,” said Pastor Labat. “Every ministry coordinator has a job description and every ministry has a standard operating procedure. Also, our leaders are asked to reach out to two or three people in the body every week. I ask for a list of names at the end of every month to ensure we really are reaching out. I teach leadership principles during our monthly staff meetings. Also, there is training within each ministry by our ministry coordinators. Approximately 60 percent of the church’s members are involved in some form of ministry and evangelism.”
“In the last year we have started to see more miracles of healing and deliverance,” said Pastor Labat. “We have also heard multiple prophecies concerning the future growth and revival God is sending to our church. The Lord has allowed Calvary UPC to become a healing place where hurting people are restored. We want to continue to be a church that welcomes people without judgment, loves people without condition, forgives people without limit, and challenges people without restraint.”
The Lord has also blessed the church with abundant musical talent. Calvary UPC Choir did a project in 2016 called Praise Him, which is available on iTunes. They are planning to do a second live recording this November.
Pastor Labat said there are two factors that drive him to improve his daily walk with God. “The first is knowing that I will be held accountable for what God has called me to do,” he said. “The second is recognizing that every person is going to spend eternity somewhere. When it comes to the ministry of the Word, I find the most fulfillment in preaching things that pertain to the season the church is in at the present. I also enjoy preaching what will help grow individuals as well as the church. The focus of my ministry is reaching for souls, keeping them saved, and helping new believers find a place of service in the body of Christ.”
Current and Future Facilities
Exciting future plans consist of building expansion, and the leadership of Calvary UPC is praying about what direction to go next. The church’s present facility includes a sanctuary, nursery, five classrooms, three offices, a kitchen and café, a large meeting/youth room, and a fellowship hall/overflow. The sanctuary can seat 250 and another 100 in the overflow, which they have begun using on Sundays to create more space. Due to continued growth, the church is in the process of expanding the parking. “Several years ago, our average attendance was 135; today we average 200,” said Bro. Labat. “Our church is blessed to sit on seven and a quarter acres, which is unheard of in Chicago Metro. The Lord has positioned us for great growth.”
Bro. Labat and his wife, Ginger, are blessed with two daughters: Brielle (21) and Ashlyn (19), who both attend Indiana Bible College. Bro. Labat has served as a sectional youth director and led the Illinois District All-State Youth Choir. Being a third generation Pentecostal on both sides gives him a rich, godly heritage. “Both of my grandfathers, Wesley Labat and Edmond Werner, were ordained ministers with the UPCI,” he said.
Growing up in Bro. Jim Shoemake’s church in San Jose, Calif., Bro. Labat felt the Lord dealing with him at a young age. “When I was a child I would lie awake in bed at night, cry out to God and tell Him I did not want to be lost,” he said. “That conviction drove me to an altar at eight years old where the Lord filled me with His Spirit. Even as a child I knew I was called to preach and would one day pastor. I can still remember the first message I preached at 16 years old. It was a Wednesday night, and the title was, ‘A Call To Remembrance.’
“One thing that has influenced my ministry is something my pastor once said: ‘Time proves all things.’ In other words, your calling will only be proven as you live it out over time. That single statement made me want to succeed at all cost. Even today I’m still trying to be faithful and live up to my calling.”
After Bro. and Sis. Labat were married, they were privileged to assist at churches under several great men. “Those experiences have proven to be invaluable,” he said. “Along with learning what to do, we also learned a few things not to do. In 1999, we began to feel a shift in our ministry and in August of 2000 my home church in Addison came open. We were elected on Sunday, January 14, 2001 and our first service as pastor was a week later on January 21.”
Calvary UPC was started by Bro. Roger Ogden in 1955 in an old funeral home in Chicago. Since then, Bro. Rice, Bro. Turner, Bro. Doughty, and Bro. Wyser have pastored the church. In the early ‘70s, Bro. Doughty moved the church from Chicago to Villa Park. In 1983, Bro. Wyser built the present facility, which they are still in today.
“In our first service we had around 50 in attendance but then it quickly dropped to 30 by the third week,” said Pastor Labat. “The method we used to pull people together in the early years was a lot of potluck dinners after service. Our focus was to try and heal people by getting them together and creating a culture of love and fellowship.”
If interested in The Pathway ─ the 10-week growth track to membership and ministry – contact the church, which has a digital copy available for $50. To order you may call the pastor at 630.628.6866 (church) or 630.903.8534 (cell) or email Brianlabat@sbcglobal.net.