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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.