The Broken, in Willmar, Minn., is a church for “the sick.” As in Mark 2:17: “Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
That is The Broken’s key verse, and it was co-founder Chris Alle’s main plea. He’d been calling out to God to provide a place for the broken—those who had walked paths of addiction, prison, and alienation as he had done—to find both complete acceptance and true preaching of the whole Word of God. Begun in May 2017, The Broken is not affiliated with any denomination but is partially supported by grants from Classis Lake Superior, a regional group of Christian Reformed congregations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Manitoba, and northern Ontario.
Steve Zwart, pastor of Unity CRC in Prinsburg, Minn., brought The Broken to the attention of his classis Home Missions team. “In light of the CRC’s emphasis on a cluster model for church planting, [I] proposed the idea that we partner with this church plant as a classis, and encourage the local group of CRCs in our region to come around [The Broken] to help it get off the ground,” Zwart said.
Alle has counted Zwart a mentor for close to 10 years: from Alle’s “whole-hearted pursuit of God” following an encounter with Jesus in jail, through his work with a ministry called The Fortress, and in the creation of The Broken.
“All of these things have formed me into me going back to where God pulled me out of; to reach in and grab people that he has called and get my hands burnt up to pull them out of the fire,” Alle said.
At the March 2018 meeting of classis, outside of its usual September budgeting process, delegates considered a proposal. Sourcing money from the Church Revitalization Fund, they agreed to give The Broken $1,200 per month for one year. Classis has since passed the next budget, committing its support through the end of 2019 for a total of $25,200.
Of the unusual process, classis stated clerk Henry Gunnink said: “Maybe God has to push us a bit to stick our necks and money out without first having all our t's crossed and i's dotted. Classis could be commended for seizing the moment when it presented itself.”
Zwart agreed. “This unique relationship embraces a big kingdom vision,” he said.
Several central Minnesota CRC congregations have welcomed Alle to preach and share his ministry. Pastor David Zigterman at Emden (Minn.) CRC said, “His stories and passion for the gospel were very encouraging for Emden to hear.” And the church’s prayers and financial offering were encouraging to Alle.
“Dealing with this kind of ministry is difficult because I wasn’t thinking of how many funerals I would have to do in this ministry whether due to suicide or overdoses. I couldn’t imagine how many families I would have to console because either their father, their mother, or their children passed away,” Alle said.
Classis funding makes up about half of The Broken’s overall budget. The rest of the new church’s needs are met through tithes from those who attend and offerings from places where Alle speaks. Services are Sunday nights, currently being held in a theater space in Willmar. From a group of about 30 the ministry has grown to about 60 in the last year.
“I’m surprised people still come back to listen to what I have to say, but you come to the realization that if you just stick close to the Word of God, they’re coming to listen to it—they want his Word,” Alle said.