Category Archives: Planting

➠ The Spasmodic Hercules

Tim Challies on “the Spasmodic Hercules.” We’ve probably heard the maxim before about overestimating what’s possible in the short-term and underestimating long-term possibilities, but this blog post is spot on. It’s something I worry about—maybe worry isn’t the right word—something I want to be aware of as we begin this work of planting. Can we settle into patterns in our daily and weekly life that will yield the long-term fruit God is looking for?

I see this in work.…I see this in parenting.…But most of all, I see this in spiritual growth. We are often tempted to believe that one moment of great spiritual intensity will bring about greater and more lasting change than the oh-so-ordinary means of grace. We can have more confidence in the single three-day conference than in the day-by-day discipline of Scripture reading and prayer, the week-by-week commitment to the preaching of the Word and public worship.…

This is where so many Christians lose their confidence—they want quick growth and measurable results, and give up far too soon.

The Spasmodic Hercules | Challies Dot Com via Kendall Harmon at Titus 1:9.

NAMS 20th Anniversary Celebration

I’m attending the 20th Anniversary Celebration for the NAMS Network on my way to Florida next month. I’m really excited to catch up with some old friends, make some new friends, and to sit on on some of these workshops, like:

  • Learning to Share the Gospel Relationally & Effectively
  • Staying Happily Married While Church Planting
  • Global Mission & the Survival of the Local Church

20th Anniversary Celebration Workshops

Why Plant? Why Clay County?

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?

Why Plant?

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. ☩

  1. You can read one Anglican group’s reasoning here.

  2. By the way, we believe that God’s desire is to see the the work we do lead to multiple churches that plant multiplying churches. That is probably worth an entire blog post in itself.

  3. it doesn’t help that Elise is going to be doing almost the exact same job she was doing before

  4. To do this week: figure out how to raise financial support

  5. note: they’re not all actually full on Sunday

  6. “But some have multiple services!” you say. True. If you factor in that none are completely full, and some have multiple services, a supermajority of the county remains unchurched.

Danger Ahead

Mr. H behind the wheel.
Mr. H behind the wheel of a fire truck at the EdVenture Children’s Museum in Columbia, SC. If he can drive, surely he can pull off some indoor stunts, too?

“My jump down stairs?”

“My jump down stairs?” Mr. H, our precocious two-year-old, again asked as he looked at me from the landing.

“No, not by yourself. You will get very hurt.” He decided to go back upstairs and get Moo and a bottle of water, and completely forgot about jumping down.1

We are in a phase where we have been encouraging Mr. H that he can do things for himself. One day he’ll go off to school and hear in all likelihood that “he can do anything he sets his mind to.” In many facets of life, hard work can indeed make possible those things which formerly seemed impossible. But the popular wisdom (and its Christian counterpart), require qualifiers. Just deciding we want something to be possible and then doing it won’t make it immediately so. One day Mr. H could probably make that jump without serous injury, but he can’t do it today. I would not have been a good father encouraging him to make that leap. Later on, we went to the playground and he climbed the steps and slid down the slide all by himself at my urging. That was something I knew he was capable of, although he wasn’t sure at first. It was also something that was not without some risk of injury, but at a scale much smaller than turning our townhouse landing into a jungle gym.

Today, I feel a little bit like I’m Micah about to jump down those stairs. Last weekend I announced that I was stepping down as the pastor of Christ Our Lord Church barely two years after uprooting my family and coming here. Elise and I are taking steps to gather a new church plant together on the First Coast of Florida. The work at Christ Our Lord has been hard, but rewarding, and we could not have asked for a better community to spend two years with. We are heartbroken to be leaving so many good friends, who have loved and whom we have loved.

God, we believe, has asked us to jump this time; four years ago when we first considered planting, either God knew we weren’t ready or we didn’t believe our Father that we could do it. And so we are leaping into the unknown. The “settled” church—and I do not mean that in a disparaging way one bit—is basically all both of us have ever known. Those congregations that have shaped us have been varied in style and doctrine, but none were plants while we were with them.

For a lot of reasons, I’m intending to write here often (at least weekly) about what we’re doing. I hope it’s something edifying (if not enjoyable) for others to share in.

  1. Well, until we got back from the playground and were on our way upstairs to get cleaned up. Then he begged me to let him jump up the stairs. He did not seem concerned that “jumping” is, for him, basically rocking forward and back on his feet and then falling down.