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CCPN Roundtable, Githurai, Kenya

To facilitate as many bi-vocational mentors, pastors and planters, Calvary Church Planting Network Roundtables in the United States are a few hours in length. It’s not that way here in East Africa.

The recent CCPN Roundtable hosted at Calvary Chapel Githruai in Kenya took the tone of a retreat as several pastors came early from around the country and Tanzania to spend the night together in prayer and fellowship at the church building. By morning there were groups of church planters, mentors and lead pastors gathered around chai in prayer and fellowship long before the official first session. Old friendships were rekindled, new ones were made.

The first session was Who Should Plant a Church and I was honored to teach it. I wanted people to realize where they fit on the church planting team. My points were the Good Shepherd is building His church, His Spirit is calling out workers to join in, and all people in all churches have a place on the team.

My points were the Good Shepherd is building His church, His Spirit is calling out workers to join in, and all people in all churches have a place on the team.

Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge from Calvary Chapel Lakeside represented the Calvary Chapel Association board of East Africa in the second session by giving an informational message on the affiliation process. Being a mentor of multiple church planters, Pastor Stephen was able to relate the practical side of being sent out and the steps someone goes through to become an affiliated pastor.

The third session was by the roundtable’s Githurai host, Pastor Murigi Kariuki. He titled the message, Nurturing a Church Planting Culture and addressed established churches as well as the new churches represented in the roundtable. His points were based on purposing to plant churches, training to plant churches and equipping those called to plant churches. Pastor Murigi suggested one benefit of the community of Calvary Chapel churches gathered together was to discuss the advantages exchanging interns so potential planters could spend time with other churches with specific agenda points to aid in their calling.

Pastor Steve Kaburia from Evangelical Community Church in Naivasha and in Mataara gave a heart felt and passioned plea in the fourth message and titled it, Following God’s Leading. His message was partially based on the testimony of how God had his team labor in the urban community of Naivasha, but was at the same time tilling soil in a nearby rural tea farming community. While the urban church was in its fledgling stages, it was used to plant the new church in Mataara. He laughed while explaining the first church plant did not seem mature enough to launch a plant, but God found it good to grow the second church to double the size of the first church plant. Appropriately, his object for mentors and planters was not to be locked into preconceived systems or patterns, but to be sensitive to God’s leading.

Pastor Evanson Gitu from Calvary Chapel Rongai is received as a mzee (honored elder) among the Calvary Chapel pastors for his years of service and gave the final teaching. After spending considerable time dealing with the Kenya Revenue Authority (similar to the I.R.S.) to understand the obligations of churches to the government, he gave an informative teaching titled, Give Unto Cesar. Many were surprised to learn of the taxes a church must pay and the penalties for ignoring the law. His exhortation was to protect the churches by honoring the words of Jesus.

His exhortation was to protect the churches by honoring the words of Jesus.

As the day ended, pastors, planters, mentors, visitors and missionaries continued to talk and pray. More worship songs were sung, more chai was drank and then more talk and more prayer. Pastor Stephen Otieno Nyadenge from Calvary Chapel Lakeside invited as many that would come to spend a couple days for the 2016 CCPN Roundtable beginning Monday, August 1.

Ed Compean is a church planting coach based in Nairobi with his wife Kelli, but soon to transition back to the States to serve as director with SSMF. You can read their blog or follow him on Twitter @Ed_Compean.

A Foreign Language Launch

Around four and a half years ago by the grace of God and with the support and encouragement of my pastor, Bruce Zachary, we planted the Spanish language Capillla Calvario Nexus in Camarillo, California. In many ways we planted the church inside the English speaking Calvary Nexus, the church Pastor Bruce serves by leading.

Before Capillla Calvario Nexus launched we were a weekly Spanish bible study as part of Nexus. In the beginning of this journey we did not have the experience or preparation, however God knew what He was doing and brought us along in His timing. We had the desire to serve Him and trusted He would equip us on this journey. The Calvary Church Planting Network’s resources, such as the Church Planting Manual, we used at Calvary Nexus helped prepare us for this work.

When we started we knew immediately Children’s Ministry would be a priority, so it became an initial focus. As the months went by the church began to grow, we then established a Women’s Ministry and a mid-week bible study, within the Capillla Calvario Nexus. Shortly thereafter, we reached out to the Spanish speaking community surrounding our church. As a result the church grew rapidly, which was exciting and encouraging. By the sixth month we had around fifty people attending.

Through this all we had the support from Nexus and our sending pastor. They provided us with a place to have our weekly service and resources such as a budget for church events, Bibles, equipment, support and guidance. They provided us with whatever we needed to press forward. Similarly, because of the tight relationship, in the first year Capillla Calvario Nexus participated and supported in outreach helping the English speaking Nexus in their vision to connect, grow and reach. This formed a sense of community among both churches.

Today the Capillla Calvario Nexus church has a strong base to grow from. We have a mid-week Bible study as well as strong children’s, women’s and men’s ministries. We also offer family and individual Biblical counseling. Most importantly have the continued support of the Nexus and out sending church.

Recommendations for establishing a foreign language church in relationship to an existing church:

  1. That church growth depends on the work of the Holy Spirit as the Bible teaches us in the book of Acts. Our responsibility is to share the word of God be faithful and patient.
  2. The support of a sending church to sponsor small church plants in foreign languages is helpful in establishing a strong base.
  3. It is recommended that senior/lead pastor and staff support the foreign language church by promoting and participating in the different activities despite the foreign language obstacles.
  4. Train church planters to establish a service, ministries, Bible studies, and train leaders for the ministries. Connect them with resources support and direction and train them how to launch ministries within the foreign language church.
  5. Pastors, train your pastors and your staff from the church planting and school of ministry manuals.
  6. Senior pastors prepare the church planters to teach the word of God to the congregations through a teaching and preaching class.
  7. The English church can promote the foreign language church, announcements, flyers, websites, social media, etc.

Pastor Jorge Rodriguez is the founding pastor at Capillla Calvario Nexus in Camarillo, CA.

Lessons From A New Church Plant

Organic Church Plant

A little more than three years ago I responded to the church planting call by relocating my family to Westminster, Colorado. This was a thrilling process of stepping into the unknown with God. I was totally pumped believing He would supply the needs for the ministry as I ventured out in faith. I wanted to do something great for God and see a Pastor Chuck like explosion from the days of the Jesus movement. Well, it didn’t happen like that, but God’s faithfulness was at every corner. The first 10-months were crazy tough, but flew-by. We used road signs to capture eyes and iPod worship to capture hearts for Jesus – and He totally blessed our weird efforts.

Staying Focused

As time went on the initial obstacles subsided as people began to attend on a regular basis and worship normalized. Then hit October 5th, 2012 (about one year into ministry) a tragic event struck 2-blocks away from the church, Jessica Ridgeway’s disappearance. As a new pastor I was front and center in a community situation that was overwhelming. There were 1,000 volunteers from around the area that showed up to our Sunday sanctuary at the Rec Center to help search for Jessica.

Long story short, this had a big impact on our Sunday services and the church grew temporarily, similar to the days of post 9/11 tragedies.

During the several months that followed, God had a valuable lesson to teach me in staying focused on Him. You see as a typical church planter, I got overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that I took for granted at larger churches. The very thing I had been warned about was happening to me. I was a male-Martha being distracted with much ministry and my relationship with Jesus suffered. It was hard for me to grasp the balance of priority.

In the end, I learned that deep roots and transformed lives are only possible by waiting on Him. Lots of people led to lots of problems! As a new church planter this was a valuable season for me. Faithful plodding over the long haul with Jesus is far more important than rushing through overwhelming demands of ministry. Stay focused!

Faithful plodding over the long haul with Jesus is far more important than rushing through overwhelming demands of ministry. Stay focused!  

Making Progress

Jesus builds our influence and leadership in a community over decades. The power of His word changes lives day-by-day and relationship is built through faith, hope, and love. No doubt there are many notable victories along the way. However, I’m learning that the road of a church planter is to faithfully hold the course no matter what my eyes may see or my heart my feel. I knew this in my head, but my heart needed to experience this in order to make progress.

So, if God is calling you as a church planter connect with CCPN and get the valuable resources that will help you establish a ministry worth having. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Pastor Jeff Cramer was used of God to plant Westminster Calvary Chapel in Colorado. Follow the church on Twitter at @WestminCalvary.

Church Planting Conference in Panama

What is the purpose of the church? Pastor Bruce Zachary, from Calvary Nexus in Camarillo CA, and the director of CCPN, began his teaching session with that question to an audience of pastors and leaders in Margaritas de Chepo, Province of Panamá. The question caught them by surprise, because although its one of the most important things we as Christians need to know, not all believers out there have a clear understanding of what is Gods plan for His church. At the conference we considered the need to reach the lost, make disciples, and develop leaders to fulfill the purpose of the church. What a joy it was to see pastors enjoying the teaching of the Word of God, because many of them came from different denominations and never had a chance to be trained for the work of the ministry.

We at Calvary Chapel Panamá prayed for this opportunity, so to actually see this taking place was such a blessing. God used Pastor Bruce to encourage the pastors to teach the Word of God and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The conference ended with a time for questions and testimonies and we were left with the impression that the teaching was greatly welcomed. A Calvary Church Planting Network Manual was given to all pastors in attendance and what a joy it was to see them blessed to have such a great material in their hands. We pray that pastors and leaders who attended the conference will continue to reach out to the lost, to make disciples and to train leaders; teaching the Word of God and being guided by the Holy Spirit. The final outcome exceedingly surpassed what we anticipated, truly our God is faithful and His ways are past finding out.
We thank God for Pastor Bruce and for the CCPN. We can see how these materials are making an impact in Latin America. We hope to see healthy churches, especially Calvary Chapels, planted and established in each province in Panama, and throughout Central America. Well continue to pray for future opportunities to serve the Lord together and for the possibilities to do the same in other countries in Central America as well.
Pastor Bert Almazan and his wife Veronica went as missionaries to Panama in 2008 and have been used to establish Calvary Chapel Panamá, in Port Of La Chorrera, as well as other churches. Pastor Bert can be followed on Twitter, @panamabert.

Learning From Those Who Have Gone Before

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity once again to attend the Calvary Chapel Western European Pastors/Leaders conference. This year we met at Schloss Heroldeck in Milstatt, Austria. It is one of my favorite places in the entire world to go to. Not only because the location is absolutely amazing, but it has been there, at the “White Castle” (as my kids call it), that the Lord has often spoken to me at critical times in my walk with Him. During the conference, they gave an opportunity for guys to get up and share what the Lord has been doing within the past year or so and they started with new church plants. Since we are only 1 1/2 years old, I raised my hand and was able to share what God has been doing here in Hamburg, Germany. I had no idea what I was to say, but when I got up to the podium and looked out into this crowd of men that I have grown to love and respect over these past 6+ years here in Europe, I could not help but simply say, “Thank you.” You see, I have had the advantage to come behind many of these men, listen to them, learn from them, and ask many questions of them that has in turn helped me out in our current church plant. In this post I thought I would share some important truths to those of you who are in the process of church planting or considering it.

1.      Sit and Listen

As I write this now, I can still remember my first conference here in Europe. The group was not as large as it is now. We were small enough that each of the guys were able to share who they were, where they were serving, and what the Lord had been doing. I was fresh on the mission field, having just left a very large church in Southern California. As I sat there and listened to those men, I could not help but think of how I wish I could record what they were sharing and then play it aloud to all of those whom I knew in Southern California. I believed it would be great for many to hear of the need for laborers here in Europe.

Although I can distinctly remember that first conference, one thing that I have learned over the years is to simply sit and listen to those who have gone before you. There are many things that you can learn from them. No, these men are not perfect, but their lessons may be able to help you with your current situation or help you avoid others.

2.      Ask Questions and Learn

We had been here for three years now and I found myself at the “White Castle” once again, seeking the Lord for our next steps. There I was at the missions conference and I wasn’t going to leave until the Lord had spoken to me. During the conference, I sat down with many pastors and other missionaries, asking them questions and taking notes. One conversation particularly comes to mind that I had with a friend of mine. He had already helped out in a few church plants and had now planted his own church. As is always the case, he was still in the learning process as well, but there is one statement that he told me that I never forgot. “Joey, if there is one thing that you do in church planting, learn this lesson at the very beginning, don’t start without a team.” Was that gospel? Is that the only way it can be done? No, but here was a long term missionary and church planter who had gone before me, who was speaking some “gold nuggets” and I was catching what he was putting down. My dear friends, listen to those who have gone before. Ask the questions. Ask the hard ones and then learn from them.

listen to those who have gone before. Ask the questions. Ask the hard ones and then learn from them.

3.      Get connected to a Trailblazer

Most of you have probably been connected with a “trainer.” How thankful I am for the one whom the Lord put in my life. You see when I started in the process of church planting, this Calvary Church Planting Network was beginning at the same time. So at the time, I was not directly connected with a trainer through CCPN, but the Lord was completely faithful to me and He was already at work well before I saw the need myself. The Lord connected me not only to another pastor/church planter, but one who had also done it on the foreign mission field as I am. Although he served in a different country, with a different people and language than I am currently serving, it has been very important to not only be connected to a trainer (trailblazer), but vitally important to be connected to someone who knows what it is like to raise a family and plant a church in a foreign mission field. All this to say, be praying that the Lord provides for you a trainer that will take the time to invest into you and to the work that the Lord has called you to. Don’t try to be a Superman and do it on your own. Allow God to place someone in your life that will help you through the process.

be praying that the Lord provides for you a trainer that will take the time to invest into you and to the work that the Lord has called you to. Don’t try to be a Superman and do it on your own.

4.      Learn the lesson and Step Out

There is going to come a time that no matter how much you may know or think you know, no matter how many questions you have asked, no matter what trainer the Lord has placed in your life, there will come the time for you to take the steps of faith and step out. Has God called you? Has He made the location clear? Is your wife on board? Then receive this word from the Lord. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Joey Roper is the lead and planting pastor of CityLight Hamburg, which you can also follow on Twitter at @CityLightHH.

Three Common Misconceptions About Church Planters

It is said that the greatest distance between two people is misunderstanding. And church planters, of all people in ministry, may be the easiest to misunderstand. In listening to many podcasts and conversations on the “church planting discussion,” I have discovered these three common misunderstandings. So here’s an honest attempt to clear things up and shorten the “distance”.

1. All church planters need to be entrepreneurs.

First, let me clarify that church planting is not for the faint of heart. At any given moment, you are pastoring people but also wearing about twenty-five other various hats. Church planting may require you to have a bit of marketing prowess, an understanding of processes/procedures, business savvy, website and graphic design knowledge along with a broader set of social skills, just to name a few. The actual ministry work may be preaching/teaching and prayer, but the organization of the church still needs organizing!

While it’s certainly true that having an “entrepreneurial spirit” is important, God is calling those who are obedient, not just those who are entrepreneurial! It’s more important that you obey Jesus than forsake your calling. Robert Murray M’Cheyne says “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” God can grow you in your leadership and abilities, but are you willing to trust Him and take a step of faith?

So if I’m not a gifted entrepreneur, what do I do? The church leaders in Acts 6 solved this quandary by raising up capable people to oversee practical ministry. Rather than bussing tables they focused on what they alone could not delegate. We don’t use titles at Shoreline but I delegate almost every practical task to capable people after I’ve invested the time to communicate our philosophy of ministry to them and outline the purpose for why we do what we do. This allows me to focus on the three “P’s”: prayer, preaching, and people.

2. All church planters start churches because they aren’t willing to submit to their senior pastors.

While some men have impure and selfish motives to plant churches, most church planters are aware of the needs in their city and experience a “holy discontent” before God calls them to plant out from the ministry they are associated with. Church planters understand that we can’t be everyone’s pastor. Some ministries will never reach a particular people group, and this is why we need more churches.

Peter Wagner reminds us that “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” Audrey Malphurs points out that “It is easier to have a baby than to raise the dead.” We must put new wine into new wineskins and sometimes that means stepping out by faith to start a new work.

If more churches would work together, we could fight the war on a united front. Every week at Shoreline we pray in the service for another local church in town and seek to build up the kingdom by working together for the Gospel. It isn’t “my” church, it is Jesus’s! And He promised to build it, to be with us in our scattering abroad to make disciples.

3. All church planters are pastors of the church they plant for life.

When God called us out of Reality Church Tampa, the church we had planted four years prior, I felt incredibly guilty. I knew God had called me to plant, so why was He calling me to leave? If you plant a church, doesn’t that mean you die in the pulpit there? The truth is, not everyone has the same calling!

Speaking of the Apostle Paul, Acts 18:23 says “After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.” Paul didn’t plant a church and remain, but raised up qualified men to continue the work, then moved on to plant more churches. It is important to know our calling and to fulfill it. Some are called to plant, others to water, but it is God who makes the ministry grow. And when God is speaking to us to step out and keep planting, we must be obedient. May we heed Ephesians 4:1,

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…”

God may have you pastor at your church in a stationary position until you die, like Peter in Jerusalem. Or, like Paul, God may call you to be a serial church planter. So whether stationary or serial, you must fulfill the ministry He’s called you to!

It’s easy to misunderstand church planters. One of my favorite commercials was an Apple commercial called “The Crazy Ones.” It reads this way, and always reminds me of church planters when I hear it:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Pastor Pilgrim Benham is the lead pastor of a brand-new church called Shoreline Calvary Chapel, in southwest Florida. He is currently building a church planter residency/internship for potential Calvary Chapel church planters. For more information, visit thisisshoreline.com.

Conception & Birth

It was mid July in Louisiana when I began coming to terms with planting Vestige Church. My wife called me to the bathroom, waving a home pregnancy test, the look on her face was one of both excitement and fear. She wasn’t the only one that had mixed emotions at the conception of our second son. I was totally ready to be a dad again, but the uncanny timing of Vestige Church’s conception simultaneous to this new baby, had me searching for roots, not the uncertainty of planting a church.

When Lisa was pregnant with our boys, I came to a point where the excitement of their arrival, gave way to the weight of being their daddy. I could describe the calling to plant a church the same way. Initially, you’re full of hope, excitement, love, and anticipation, but concern, doubt, and worry creep in as well. Seeing the little blob on the ultrasound screen for the first time, was like the first meeting Vestige had with fourteen people at a Starbucks. As I gazed at that blob, I wondered how God could create something so beautiful- and that He would use me to do it! I felt the same awe and gratitude when it came to planting Vestige. But in babies and churches, conceiving is the fun part. Each week produces up, downs, and sometimes a sort of gravity-defying combination.

As we got closer to our baby boy’s arrival, I felt something I never expected to feel: loneliness. After my role as assistant pastor for several years, loneliness was something I felt inoculated to. It was like my calling had pushed me to the precipice of some mountain, and I was left feeling uncertain, flapping in the wind. One of my church planting coaches reminded me of when God told Habakkuk to “write the vision…and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” So I began writing –in blogs, in a personal journal, and a plan for Vestige for the days ahead. God used the faithful men in my life, to direct the overabundance of emotion and passion I had (and still sometimes have!), to a task that would begin to bring clarity to the vision God had given us. The more I wrote, the more God gave me focus and certainty in the midst of uncertainty.

With a renewed clarity of vision, we packed up our home, sold it, and moved to city my heart had long since been residing in. A group of about fifteen people helped us unload all our belongings into our new home, which was in complete darkness because the electric company couldn’t get the power turned on in time. We spent the next three nights in a hotel room with our five month old and six year old. The funny thing was, we loved it. It was crazy hard, but we were here.

If you have kids, then you know the way you sometimes convince yourself that after the birth of your baby, it’s going to be better than the pregnancy was. Then you discover that once your baby is able to use the lungs God gave it, you have a whole new set of challenges, not the least of which is sleep. Well, I thought once we moved to Monroe, God would take it by storm. He didn’t. For the first few months, we felt pressed to pray and wait on God to show up and do His part,  feeling we had done ours.

While trying to survive being a new dad and a bivocational pastor, I realized I was just attempting to make it untill we got past the hard stuff, and got on to real parenthood and real ministry. Watching our baby grow, God clearly showed me we didn’t need to wait for either, they where all around us. Resolving to be what we already were, we adopted the phrase: “be the church”. It was no longer necessary for us to wait for more people, or less difficult circumstances, we just had to find tangible ways to be what God had already made us to be. We adopted a local school that was struggling in a bad area, and committed to praying for the staff and students, as well as blessing them with gifts and treats throughout the year. This has provided us a way of pouring  into our community as a group- being the hands and feet of Jesus together.

It was no longer necessary for us to wait for more people, or less difficult circumstances, we just had to find tangible ways to be what God had already made us to be.
January 2015 we launched Vestige Groups, our version of small groups. They’re the first thing we’ve done that we don’t plan to change. Seeing them take shape, is like watching the first walls of house being erected, or the green of a sapling break from the dirt. Our journey is nowhere near completion, and maybe we’re just waiting for the next hard thing. With our kids, it’s probably the pre-teen years and terrible twos, and with the church, God only knows. But for now, we take comfort in knowing God has our backs. He is building His Church, and He won’t fail.
Church planter and Pastor Caleb Tarr can be followed on Twitter, @PastorCalebTarr, and you can check out Vestige Church in Monroe, LA, online.

We’ve Launched Our Second Church Plant!

When my wife and I moved away from our hometown 5 years ago, we planted a new Calvary Chapel in a downtown urban area with about 500,000 people under the age of 40. We knew no one, brought limited resources, and scrambled to find work to supply our needs and people to reach with the Gospel. After much hardship and intense toiling, the church grew and leadership was raised up to continue the work.

Sensing God calling us to step out in faith and plant our second church, we sought the Lord and He opened doors back in our hometown. A Calvary Chapel had dropped their affiliation and the county of 350,000 people now had a tremendous need. The school we wanted our kids to attend since birth offered my wife and I both a job as an administrator and middle school teacher (respectively) at the same pay my job was paying me in our previous city!

When we arrived, we took the summer to get settled and then had an interest meeting at a local artisan coffeehouse. About 20 adults came and asked great questions. The excitement was palpable. A friend offered us a free warehouse space for us to meet in, so we began meeting Sunday nights to prepare for the launch of Shoreline Church. We met from 6-7pm and I taught through Colossians, with a good friend offering to come and lead us in a few worship songs. After the Bible study, I invited anyone to stay for an additional hour to talk about the launch of the church. This group heard what the vision, mission, and core values of Shoreline would be. I asked them to make a one-year commitment to the church and began investing relationally in this “Launch Team”.

In search of a space, we were alerted to a special limitation in our city. It turns out that religious organizations are unable to lease any space in the main part of the city. This led us to begin looking around, and eventually brought us east of the interstate to a very young and growing area that is on the cutting edge of expansion and growth. We drove through this area and found a YMCA that was a perfect meeting place for a church plant. After speaking with the director, they were overjoyed to have a church meeting there and made many accommodations for us to meet weekly, at a very affordable price!

We took the Christmas break to get everything prepared including sound equipment and chairs, kids curriculum, room decor/lighting and signage/invite cards. Many other Calvary Chapels in the state of Florida came alongside us to donate needed equipment or make a financial donation. We initially had a $20,000 budget but found it was met simply with churches donating their used equipment to us!

Last month we had our first Sunday morning service! There were 85 adults and children and a buzz that was contagious. The local papers have been doing stories on the church and most of the people have heard about us through the yard signs we have placed around the community. Every month we will have a “NEXT” class sharing our vision/mission/core values and answering questions people have about the church. We are starting three Community Groups next week around the region and have already started Discipleship Collectives where we are going through the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa new believer’s study.

It is exciting to watch God build His kingdom, and to see such a different and fresh work than He had done in our previous church plant. It is vital to know our calling and to pursue what God has for us. We can’t have someone else’s calling, and we can’t make God fulfill our plans. We have to walk by faith and submit to His will and call, and watch Him do the impossible. I can’t wait for what’s next

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Pastor Pilgrim Benham is a church planter with Calvary Church Planting Network. He is looking for other potential church planters to participate in a Florida church-planting internship. For more details, email us at info@calvaryshoreline.com.

Being The Exception

During my years of preparation for church planting, I spent a considerable amount of time studying and reading books that pertained to church planting. Like most guys prepping to go plant I read the stories of statistics, failures, struggles, triumphs, and successes. Typically I day dreamed about triumphs and success and not contemplating the failure and struggle side of church planting. One specific area of my dreams was in regard to a gathering space.

Our church spent the first year meeting as three community groups around Portland. After the first year we perceived that it was time to begin meeting corporately. God provided a perfect space for our group, so we launched a once a month gathering. The location had everything that we needed, and by all accounts was cool. Soon we were meeting twice month and before long we had made the giant leap to every Sunday. All the while our space was amazing.

Roughly seven months into meeting on Sundays I had a sit down with the pastor of the church we were renting space from. The discussion started fairly normal. We discussed our backgrounds, passions, and your typical ministry related topics. Then it all changed. We began having some serious differences when it came to theology and philosophy of ministry. I brought another of our pastors’ into the meeting that day. We both listened and conversed. The conversation ended with me suggesting we both go back to our leaders to pray and think about how to best move forward.

Our meeting had been on Tuesday, but by Sunday I overwhelmingly sensed God tell me we needed to leave our current space. With great fear I stood in front of our church and told them this would be our last Sunday meeting in our current location. With that announcement, our fledgling church was effectively homeless. I was optimistic that one of my pastor friends would feel the tug of God’s Spirit Monday morning and call letting me know that for whatever reason God put on his heart to let me know about an incredible building we could meet in. Monday came and went. Tuesday came and went. Wednesday was the same and Thursday was not looking good. We were just a few days away from Sunday and had no where to meet and nothing that we considered a prospect.

By Thursday morning I had given up on a meeting place before Sunday. Our church would call it quits. Dramatic, I know, but that is how I was feeling. I sat down in a local coffee shop that I visit frequently. The shop owner, who isn’t a Christian, approached me and asked how the church was. I told her things were going well, outside of the fact we had no where to meet on the quickly coming Sunday. She said she and her husband had recently spoke about wanting to help the community more. I told her her the shop was awesome and would be a cool space for a church to meet in. I left the shop and she told me she’d talk the idea over with her husband. Not thinking this would work, I still planning my next career move.

Thursday night came and the shop owners texted asking if we could meet. Friday morning we sat and discussed what it would look like for a church to meet in a coffee shop while it was still open for business. By God’s grace we came to an agreement and on Friday afternoon I emailed our church and told them we had a place to meet this upcoming Sunday. The excitement was palpable.

That Sunday we had a home. Albeit a coffee shop, but a home. For the next four weeks we met every Sunday night in the coffee shop. It was hard on our church. The coffee shop was further than our other location, it didn’t have space for our kids, and occasionally hearing an espresso grinder go off made it challenging to hear the preaching.  Even though God came through in a miraculous way, it was apparent this wasn’t going to be a long term solution. We began to pray…again. Asking God to provide a new space for us…again.

At that point I had tapped out and told God to send us wherever He wanted to and we would follow. So He did. After four weeks in the coffee shop a new space opened up for us. However, instead of meeting at 5pm we would have to change our gathering to start at 10am. It was also not in the geographical context we had originally thought we were going to plant in.

In the last two and half months our church has gone from great location, to homeless, to coffee shop, to new church building. We have had no kids space, had to change our meeting time, pay more money, and the list goes on. After reflecting on all that God has done, I have realized that I’m a moron. I’m not trying to self-deprecate here, i’m just trying to be honest. I thought because of my training, gifting, and experience our church would be the exception. It wasn’t, it isn’t, and I praise God for that. Our church is seemingly stronger than it ever has been, we are optimistic about the future, we believe that God hears and answers prayer. We believe it is our job to be sensitive to His Spirit and move wherever He tells us to. Even when it seems asinine. All in all I wouldn’t change what has happened. It needed to happen.

 I thought because of my training, gifting, and experience our church would be the exception. It wasn’t, it isn’t, and I praise God for that.

Pastor Trevor Gavin has been used of God to plant Nexus Portland. You can check out Nexus Portland on the web and follow the Gavins in their journey on their blog.

Encouragement To New Church Plants

Last week Pastor Stephen Kaburia invited me to preach at the church plant God is using him to establish in the village of Mataara. I reminded the about 50 gathered people that Jesus had purchased the church with His blood. This established this new church amidst the tea fields was highly valuable and not an accident. The object of the message was for the church to continue and the text was Acts 2:41-47. Here are brief highlights as an encouragement for other new churches.

Continue Steadfastly

It is often said the points of the apostles doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers in verse 42 are the core components of a healthy church. They are, but I like to point out there is a fifth component mentioned in verse 41.

After Peter’s sermon, 3,000 were baptized and added. This places a high emphasis for new Jesus followers to be baptized as they enter the church. It also affirms the need for new churches to emphasize, encourage, and regularly offer baptism. The right teaching of God’s word, fellowship, common meals and prayers will steadfastly follow.

Continuing together

In verses 43-45 the burgeoning church at Jerusalem displayed Christ followers living in community, suffering in community and sacrificing as a community for the betterment of the community. It is significant that these acts of sacrifice happened outside the normal meeting place of the church. I proposed the most important testimonies and the most important work of the church will almost always be done outside the church building.

While such extreme measure are not always called for (though likely more than many believe), the concept sacrifice for each other is basic for a church plant. The gathered worshippers in Mataara were all of a particular tribe, but I mentioned the context of these verses infer these sacrifices were for people of different nations, tribes and tongues, making it important for all church plants to invite in outsiders and sojourners.

Continuing Daily

While the most important work of the church will likely not be done in a church building, it also will likely not be done during regularly scheduled meetings. There is great Biblical precedent and tradition for the Sunday church meetings, but verse 46 tells us the church continued daily. A new church needs to understand worship of the true and living God is seven days a week, simply in all areas of life.

I used the illustration of how many times we have been at a burial and heard the deceased had been a great lover of God. The point being we should not find out someone was a God lover by a pastor standing over a box, but our life with God should be evident day by day to those around us.

Continuing in the Gospel

The praise of God on all days, outside the church walls is attractive. Verse 47 tells us as the new church at Jerusalem did this, God added to them daily. We can expect the same in a new church today.

I explained how we have been blessed to see former prostitutes and drunkards turn from their sin to the Gospel of Christ. It was not because they stopped their actions, but because God inhabits the praises of His people that purposely went to those that will not wander into a church building. It was the attractive grace of God in His redeemed people, some formerly in similar bondage, that draws people out of sin and added them to His church.

This led to the conclusion, which was posed in a question; what was the most important thing that has ever happened in their village? Depending on the context there were many possible answers. For my purpose I proposed the most important event in the history of the village was the founding of the church we gathered as. That church, like all God ordained church plants, is the institution and instrument to deliver the power of God to salvation and then gather a community of Christ followers to offer praise.

Ed Compean is a church planting coach based in Nairobi with his wife Kelli. You can read their blog or follow him on Twitter @Ed_Compean.