As part of an ongoing effort to focus on needs outside the walls of its church, Cape Christian Fellowship made a request of its 2,000 weekly attendees who worshiped at the church during this Christmas season. The appeal, “Give your biggest Christmas gift to God!” was printed in programs, announced from the stage, played in videos during services, distributed via email, and direct mailed to congregants’ homes.
“Our initial goal was to raise $50,000 to start a medical clinic for the working uninsured and help launch a new church location in North Cape Coral,” said Cape Christian’s Lead Pastor Wes Furlong. “What we got instead was something we never anticipated.”
Shortly before the church announced their request for the Christmas offering, they received a commitment from a family who wanted to see Cape Christian’s work in the city expand beyond what $50,000 could provide. The family, who attends Cape Christian and insists on remaining anonymous, agreed to match every dollar given during the Christmas offering with $10 of its own, a ten-to-one charitable match, up to $1 million.
“We trust God for big things at our church, but we didn’t anticipate our Christmas offering exceeding the match amount,” said Executive Pastor Brett Furlong. “We knew that we had something special on our hands when we discovered that our pre-school and elementary children alone had given $1,200. Then, after the initial response on Dec. 16, we discovered that people in our church had given close to $200,000 even before the match, quadrupling our goal the first weekend.”
The final Christmas offering totaled more than $1.25 million in donations from hundreds of families in the congregation and one generous family’s matching gift. The amount is equivalent to the church’s entire annual budget and according to city historians, is the single, largest one-time donation in the history of Cape Coral.
Funds from the Christmas offering will immediately be used to benefit residents in Cape Coral. First, Cape Christian will finish Fellowship Park, a 100,000-square-foot public park that will include Southwest Florida’s largest splash pad, four children’s playgrounds, a 4,000-seat, state-of-the-art amphitheater, a large outdoor café, a jogging track, and multiple pavilions and shaded seating areas.
Another major initiative being funded by the Christmas offering is Cape Coral’s first privately-funded health clinic, which aims to ease the health care costs of the working uninsured and underinsured.
“The Samaritan Health & Wellness Center is being started out of our desire as the church to reclaim the healing ministry of Jesus,” said Cape Christian’s Lead Pastor Wes Furlong.
Along with the park and health clinic, the church is expanding its interactive family nights called “Fam Jam.” Held on the first Friday of the month, Fam Jam is a place where kids bring their parents to church for high energy music, virtue-based teaching, and a full stage production with actors to reinforce the month’s virtue. The church’s rapid growth has also led Cape Christian to open a new location in North Cape Coral, debuting this coming Easter. In addition, a portion of the Christmas offering will go toward extending the church’s reach outside of the U.S. by building four churches with partners in Haiti.
A church whose mission is “Helping families experience God’s fullness,” Cape Christian places a high priority on the needs of the community. The result has been an outpouring of volunteering, giving, and new services in Cape Coral, as well as the cooperation of dozens of churches in Southwest Florida who participate in the Not In My City campaign, started by the church in 2011.