C3 minister resigns

After almost a quarter-century as part of C3 Exchange and the former Christ Community Church, the Rev. Bob Kleinheksel will resign on July 31 as part of an administrative cost-cutting move.
Marie Havenga
Jul 25, 2012


“Rather than waiting for the inevitable situation where my position would be radically reduced or cut altogether, I simply resigned,” he explained. “I believe in the cause of C3 in the community and in the world. We're on a good wave. The community will be viable and in the black by the end of the year — I'm convinced of that.”

Russell Radford, chairman of the C3 Board of Directors, said this is the latest in a series of moves the “inclusive spiritual community” has taken in an effort to remain financially afloat.

Radford would not disclose Kleinheksel's salary, but said it was a “reasonable amount of money on an annual basis when you take into account salary and benefits.” C3 Executive Minister Ian Lawton said Kleinheksel would receive two months of severance pay.

“Bob has handled this whole thing with the same generosity and class that he's always handled his ministry,” Lawton said. “It was a sacrifice for the good of the (C3) community. It was a very courageous and giving thing for him to do."

In September 2011, the C3 membership moved their operations from the former Christ Community Church, 225 E. Exchange St. in Spring Lake, to the Grand Haven Community Center in an effort to save $15,000 to $17,000 each month on utilities, maintenance and mortgage payments.

Last year, Lawton took a 50 percent cut in pay and gave up benefits in transitioning to a contract employee. Three other staff members have also seen salary reductions, according to Radford. C3's communications and membership director, Malea Nicolet, resigned in June.

“They saw the writing on the wall, or what they thought was the writing on the wall,” Radford said.

Current budget projections show C3 will be about $30,000 in the hole by the end of the current calendar year, according to Radford. Pledges and weekly donations were down 15 to 20 percent in June. The church lost about 50 members — from about 420 to 370 — when it moved from Spring Lake last year.

“It's extremely frustrating for the (C3) community,” Radford said. “Everyone hopes that each cost-cutting measure is going to be the last, that we'll stabilize. That just hasn't proven to be true.”

Radford said Kleinheksel's voluntary resignation might be the financial boost the church needs to turn itself around.

“We're hoping that this time we're in a position to stop the bleeding,” Radford said, adding that the congregation's mood Sunday “was not one of defiance, but one of sorrowful acceptance.”

Kleinheksel said he plans to expand his counseling business, Eutopia Counseling, which specializes in marriage and family issues. He said he still believes in the C3 vision and will remain an active participant, and plans to continue delivering meditations during its Sunday services.

“In the face of continued financial shortfall, the (C3) community is not able to sustain two ministers,” Kleinheksel said. “Sad and unfortunate as it is, I felt it was the right move. ... It was a hard decision, but my mind and heart feel clear and resolved.”

Radford said the C3 community is also on a mission to more clearly define itself and its philosophies in an effort to attract like-minded members.

“This has been a tremendous shock for the community,” he said. “Shocks have a habit of unfreezing minds and attitudes. Already there has been discussion about alternative ways of addressing how we do things. We need to get together and sort out who we are, what we value and how we do things. I'm confident we can do that quickly.”

Lawton said he would be picking up Kleinheksel's community care duties without additional compensation.

Lawton also said the C3 community needs to live within its means, and Kleinheksel's departure should result in that notion.

“I had hoped we would grow more quickly with a new setting,” Lawton said. “We haven't grown fast enough to sustain two ministers. When we left (Spring Lake), we weren't sure how many people would come with us or how much they would give. Setting the first-year budget was a bit like a start-up company — we didn't know what to expect."



Exactly what is the the "vision". Please clarify. Lets keep Lawton in business off the backs of other really good people. Good luck...


Why is this on the front page of the Tribune? I don't recall many other articles on local church staffing issues, much less on the front page.


It's the GH Tribune insider advantage...the same reason why they've made headlines from their beginning...for instance, like back when they took the Cross of Jesus Christ down from their worship facility in Spring Lake because they felt it was offensive to the many in their congregations who practice a different faith and worship false gods. John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Michael Johnson

Actually, the cross was taken down NOT because they thought it was offensive, but because C3 wanted to officially proclaim itself multi-denominational, with no one religious symbol predominant - a brave move since, if they had moved forward with becoming multi-denominational, the religious right of any religious community in a free society, WITHOUT removing the cross, they would have been pilloried as hypocrites by local Christian communities who spend an awful lot of their time concerned about the religious beliefs of others. Perhaps Ecclesiastes better suits your understanding of these events: "Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out." 8:17.

Tri-cities realist

This really shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone at C3, the Lawton takeover is almost complete.


To Michael Johnson, your response below doesn't justify the removal of the Cross of Christ. Also, the label of "multi-denomination" isn't correct. Denominations serve as different types of Churches that follow Christ Jesus. If C3 were multi-denominational, then there would have been no need for the removal of the Cross. C3 is "multi-religion", "multi-god". Big difference. By this, they are promoting a false doctrine with false teachings, which is warned about in the Bible. It's confusion at it's best. As for your Biblical reference to throw a punch, it's actually quite small. The Bible wasn't given to us to cut and demise one another; it was written to provide us with truth, which C3 has blatantly denied in their endeavor to create a multi-god worship organization. The Bible of our Living God, Jesus Christ, is clear on numerous references to this Truth. All you have to do is read It.
Yahweh, He is God; there is no other besides Him." Deuteronomy 4:35
"Yahweh, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other." Deuteronomy 4:39
"See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me" Deuteronomy 32:39
"Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me." Isaiah 43:10
"'I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me." Isaiah 44:6
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one [hen] and love the other, or he will be devoted to one [hen] and despise the other." Matthew 6:24
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3

Fly on the Wall




Michael Johnson

The Stevens Family

Michael, I happen to run across this quote form Lawton himself from the paper a while back....."“The cross has become a negative symbol for a lot of people.” His intent WAS to not offend the public by having the cross displayed... also stated in the paper's past. It is a fact that the original purpose of that building in the very first moment it was built, was for the purpose of serving Christ. Once Lawton changed the outlook of the church, and took the cross down... he basically sealed the fate of his church, leading into loss of parishoners, which meant loss of funds, equalling loss of the building. Praise the Lord for the new church that is going there and their direction they are taking the church, reclaiming the building for Christ and the re-raising of the cross that Lawton sold. This a victory for our community as a whole. Looking forward to that day!


Agreed! This guy seems to be really sincere. Too bad Lawton stays and he is out! Chalk that up to the same poor Board choices that have resulted in the destruction of this church (if one can still call it a "church.")


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