Church embraces risk, watches God transform families

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Discipleship & spiritual formation


A year ago, leaders of The Well in Hastings, Nebraska, riskily accepted a challenge with great potential and peril.  

The leaders asked external donors to stop giving in January 2023. Then, pastor Joe Marino and the leaders reworked the church budget while regularly encouraging disciples to tithe faithfully and regularly. 


They decided to depend on God and the church, unlike anything they’d done in the church’s first 12 years. Instead, what might have stoked fear has sparked generosity and 10 new families, reflecting exponential growth for the Converge Heartland church. 


Plus, the south side of Hastings is a community where residents have seen five or six churches close in just one location. Yet, that’s the exact building where a growing number of people now worship every Sunday. 


“We’re not coming here to die,” Marino said. “We’re coming here to live and breathe new life.” 


Christ’s work is renewing families and lives 

God has amplified life transformation for people and families since the leadership sought self-sufficiency last January. 


A family that joined last year hadn’t attended church in 25 years. They worship every Sunday. Plus, the father goes to a men’s group and the wife is in a women’s group. Their 16-year-old daughter decided to obey a challenge for Bible reading given by Pastor Marino one Sunday. 


Then, the mom and dad started reading the Bible with the kids, including a nine-year-old daughter. That daughter’s passion for God grew, and she wanted to get baptized and take communion. 


As the younger daughter’s faith took off, the older sister started studying communion verses and decided to get baptized. On Easter morning, the father baptized his older daughter, and minutes later, the younger daughter had communion for the first time. 


“This is the church family doing its part,” Marino added. “God did his thing.” 


But the Lord wasn’t done yet


On the night before Palm Sunday, Joe Marino spontaneously told his wife, Christy, he’d quit his job as pastor if a particular woman got saved. This woman, who had been raised Hindu, had been attending worship services, reading Acts and watching The Chosen. 


Joe Marino knows how powerful God is. He was exaggerating when he said he’d quit, but he made his point: Seeing a Hindu woman choose Christ would be so remarkable he could quit right then as a good and faithful servant. Once the Marinos had wound down after a Harley ride, the two went to bed. 


Related: The Marinos’ have their ministry at The Well plus something a little faster. 


Several hours later, during the church’s communion, that woman and her fiancé walked to the table where the leader who normally offers the elements was instead praying with the couple. 


Marino couldn’t believe what he saw next. 


“When they turned around, there were just tears running down their face,” the pastor said.  


The woman had chosen Christ as Lord, right there beside the table where The Well proclaims his death until he comes. Plus, the couple has scheduled their wedding and made plans to join The Well. 


“The Lord’s doing his thing,” Marino said. 


God’s next level of grace and power has come because a Converge church riskily embraced responsibility for Christ’s body and mission. That’s how half of Hastings is seeing a church that lives for them so that more people experience the life-changing gospel. 


The Well and Converge churches like it take seriously their reliance on God and their culture of evangelism and discipleship. Learn how Converge and its regional offices can help your church build a culture of evangelism and discipleship.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene