There are a lot of questions surrounding our departure from Virginia and our move to Florida. Let’s look at two of the big ones. Why are we planting a new church? and Why are we planting in Clay County, Florida?
Church planting remains one of the most—if not the most—effective ways of bringing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to those who have not yet believed.1 All churches should be engaged in that work, but new churches have a particular effectiveness in that aspect of the wider Church’s task of making disciples. That does not mean I think everybody in a “settled” church is being negligent. But as one of my mentors has pointed out over and over again, when the Lord reveals to you a need and puts a burden on your heart for it, he is not likely asking you to find somebody else to take care of it.
We see the disaster of lives being lived apart from God. We want to do our part in bringing people to him. We believe there are sizable groups of people that will not be reached by existing churches. God willing, the church(es)2 we plant will remain mission-focused and concentrate on the work of making disciples.
We believe that the vision God has given us will enable us to preach the Gospel to and make disciples of a particular kind of person and family. We don’t intend by our planting to find fault with the vision, culture, style, approach, or direction of any other congregation. Nor do we intend to lay out a system or program that ought to be replicated anywhere else.
We think (hope) that as we articulate that vision it may be clearer how this will be so.
Why Clay County?
We have in our hearts a particular place in Clay County, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves (I guess you could say our ducks aren’t quite all in a row yet). Some will no doubt assume that Elise and I just got homesick and moved back home to our old life3. That is not the case.
First, we are not the same people now that we were two years ago. For starters, our family isn’t the same size. I’ve added “dad” to my list of titles and Elise has added “mom” to hers. Our ministry at Christ Our Lord Church and our journey as parents has profoundly influenced us.
Next, we aren’t going back to the same ministry. We aren’t even going back to ministry in the same city or county. We have never planted before. We have never raised financial support before4. We’ll be putting pieces together from training and mentoring and coaching we have had over the years, working with some people we have known for a long time. But we’re doing something new, in a new place, with new people.
Some will protest: But you’re going to plant a church in the Bible Belt! Easy! Why bother? The last numbers I had showed this: If you filled all of the churches in Clay County to capacity on Sunday5, only about 10% of the county would fit.6 And Clay County is growing.
Although our prior ministry was in Jacksonville, we did live in Clay County for four years. We know Clay. They’re “our people” right now. There is a need. We see the need. We can do something about the need. And God has already begun to give us what we need to do that. To him be the glory. ☩