What Ship are you on?

What Ship are you on?

All Christ-followers are on board one of two ships: a cruise ship, or a battle ship. 

The behaviors on each of these vessels couldn’t be more different. On a cruise ship, the passengers are on board to take a voyage of leisure. They eat a variety of luxurious delicacies, choose from an expansive selection of activities and programs to take part in, and expect the crew to wait on their every beck and call.

Those on a battleship behave entirely different. They are on a voyage of purpose and are unified in their mission. They are fed consistently, but not for luxury. Their mealtime is designed to fortify strength. There are many unique tasks, and everyone has a job to do, all involved to accomplish the greater good at the expense of the individual’s comfort or recognition.

When you consider your church experience, which ship are you on? What kind of passenger should we be? 

C.T. Studd: Too long have we been waiting for one another to begin! The time of waiting is past! The hour of God has struck! War is declared! In God’s Holy Name let us arise and build! ‘The God of Heaven, He will fight for us’, as we for Him. We will not build on the sand, but on the bedrock of the sayings of Christ, and the gates and minions of hell shall not prevail against us. Should such men as we fear? 
Before the world, aye, before the sleepy, lukewarm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God, we will venture our all for Him, we will live and we will die for Him, and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts. We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only our God, than live trusting in man.
And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight. We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts; we will have a Masculine Holiness, one of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ.

-Pastor Pilgrim Benham

This Post is shared from the Pilgrim Benham Blog.

Teaching Like A Pharisee or Like Jesus

Teaching Like A Pharisee or Like Jesus

By Trip Kimball

When Jesus walked the earth during His time of public ministry, people sought Him out. They were amazed at His teaching, and likewise, by the miracles.

No placards or banners were set up to announce His coming, in fact the opposite was true. People would go out to wherever He was, whether in a town, a seashore, or a remote field—even when Jesus tried to be alone. No one persuaded them to come. They were attracted to Him.

Today, much is made of the distinction between attractional and missional ministry. Jesus was on a mission, but He also attracted people. So, what’s different today?

Real authority

People marveled at the way Jesus taught, because He taught with real authority, not like their religious leaders (Matt 7:28-29). What made the difference?

They drew from the same Scriptures, which would be our Old Testament, so it couldn’t be a Bible version issue.

What caused the crowd to see a difference between the professional teachers of their day and how Jesus taught? Was is it the miracles? Perhaps to some degree, but it was more the way He taught them.

What caused the crowd to see a difference between the professional teachers of their day and how Jesus taught?

What about us?

Yes, of course, Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, but He said we (His followers) were to teach as He did—with His authority (Matt 28:18-20). But are we?

Do people throng to mega-churches because of the authoritative style of the pastor? Certainly, many fine teachers can be found. They write books, speak at conferences, and offer podcasts.

But do we see the same passion in their followers as seen with the followers of Jesus in His time?

Are believers so stirred by the truth that their lives are radically transformed? This is what we see in the Book of Acts with the first followers of Jesus and those they discipled.

Are believers so stirred by the truth that their lives are radically transformed?

Resources galore!

Incredible resources are available today—in print form, online, mobile apps, and more. There’s no shortage of Bible knowledge these days, not in America. But are all these resources, and all the teaching that takes place in churches, conferences, books, DVD’s, and podcasts, transforming people?









Photo credit: ©Time Inc.

Are we penetrating and transforming the culture, or are we just trying to keep our heads above the cultural tide of the world around us? It doesn’t seem like we’re making a lot of progress at present.

Are we penetrating and transforming the culture, or just keeping our heads above the cultural tide around us?

I came to faith during the Jesus People Movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Yeah, I’m old. I remember how much impact the movement had on the culture of that era. It was enough to make the cover of Time magazine. It was a phenomenal time.

But that was then, and this is now. Something is missing, even with all that we have.

What’s missing?

I have my own thoughts on what is missing, but how about you? I’d like to hear from you on this subject.

I’d like to ask some questions to get the discussion going, are you game for that? If so, I’ll do it the way I’d ask my students in class.

First of all, I want you to answer in your own words (IYOW), not Christianese. Second, don’t just quote Bible verses or give pat answers, do your own thinking and reflection on these questions. And third, give answers based on your own life experience, this will make it less theoretical and more practical.


Why do you think people saw Jesus had greater authority than the Jewish leaders in His teaching?

When has your heart been stirred by the truth? What were the circumstances?

If someone was teaching, what do you remember about how they presented their message?

What do you think is important for effective and authoritative teaching?

Remember… no Christianese and no pat answers!


Next week I’ll do a follow-up post with observations I’ve made of how Jesus taught. Hope to hear from you!


trip_0Trip disciples and mentors in several small groups in Jacksonville and beyond. He travels within the US and overseas to teach and train leaders whenever possible.Trip has written a book, training materials, and Bible studies for leaders and missions. He posts 3 times a week– an article, short devo, and simple Bible study at Word-Strong.com

What We Believe About Church Government

What We Believe About Church Government

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page 

A. The New Testament does not clearly establish a model of church government: Church government helps to establish and maintain biblical order, authority, accountability and effectiveness. There are theological arguments that can be made to support the pastor or elder led model. There is less support for a congregational model of authority since there are no positive models (See, Num.16 Rebellion of Korah; 1Sam. 11-12 desire for a king and rejection of theocracy). Yet, the Bible likely allows liberty in the form of church government. Let’s consider some forms of government:

1. Denominational control: In Ac. 15 church leaders in Jerusalem met to give instructions to Gentile churches outside of Jerusalem. When a governing body outside of the local church directs the form is referred to as Episkopalian (flowing fromepiskopos often translated bishop).

2. Elder rule: This is the Presbyterian form coming from the Greek presbuteros translated elder. A reference to elder rule can be seen in 1Pet. 5:1-5. In this model the elder board leads and directs and the pastor is subject to the board, performing ministry at their direction. In most situations pastors are best qualified to lead not because they are more intelligent but because of the time they spend immersing themselves in the church’s ministry on a full-time basis, and their training for ministry. Most pastors will ultimately spend 50 to 60 or more hours per week serving in ministry, and most elders spend less than 10 hours a week.

3. Theocracy: This is the model we adopt, The concept relates to God’s leading of His people. In the OT God ruled the nation of Israel, in its inception, as a theocracy. In this model, God spoke and directed Moses who was assisted by and accountable to 70 elders [Ex. 18]. Aaron and the priests assisted Moses in ministering to the people and the Lord. In the NT model Jesus is the Head of the Church [Eph. 5:23, Mt. 16:18] who raises up pastors who then appoint elders to assist and establish accountability [1Tim. 3:1, Titus 1:5]. Pastors and elders form a plurality of leaders, the lead pastor serves as an elder and is first among equals. Other elders may be paid staff or volunteers. The lead pastor is the primary visionary but is not the only decision maker of the church, thereby avoiding potential for abuse of authority. The lead pastor is the leader of the board but looks to church board to share in tasks of leadership and decision-making Ac. 14:23, 20:17, 1Pet. 5:1-5].

B. The roles of various leaders and boards:

  1. Board of Directors [AKA Elder Board]: These are the people empowered and authorized to vote on significant issues that impact the implementation of the short and long-term vision. Board members must meet all the qualifications for elders described in 1Tim. 3, and Titus 1. Although they must meet the character requirements they do not need to function in the office of elder described below. They decide major decisions impacting the church as contrast with day-to-day operations. Although most board decisions simply require a majority decision, we seek unanimity. Unanimous decisions often reflect the unity of the Spirit. Our board is made up from an even number of pastoral types and business types with the lead pastor acting as the president of the board.
  1. Pastors: Pastors care for the spiritual needs and development of the body as they help to shape and implement the church’s vision. They have met the qualifications for ordination. We have a group of five to six core pastors who work as a team. They are responsible for discerning the long-term and large-scale vision for the church, and to implement the vision
  1. Elders & Deacons: Again these people must meet the requirements per 1Tim. 3, Tit. 1, and Ac. 6. As mentioned earlier, women can be deacons but we do not recognize women as elders (pastors). Elders and deacons oversee, or assist in the oversight of various ministries of the church. They shape and implement the vision of specific areas of ministry and provide insight and counsel regarding the overall church vision. Although their opinions are not binding authority it is wise to seek and consider their counsel.
  1. Financial advisory board: These are believers who are business savvy as a result of education and/or experience, entrepreneurial, and able to think strategically. They advise the lead pastor and/or board of directors to assist in developing the church’s short and long-term strategic plan. Their business expertise can be invaluable and can offer clarity [as well as providing an opportunity for these leaders to have significance in advancing God’s kingdom]. The board members do not have binding authority but advise re financial matters likely to influence the church.
  1. Staff: Help to implement the vision and can include various directors, assistants, and administrative support in addition to pastors. Since they are working in the church for many hours each week they have great insights and their opinions are sought and considered as the vision is contemplated.

A Pastor’s Perspective: the concept of church government relates to authority and the decision making process. In practice, when there are matters that are likely to have significant impact on the church such as our short or long term vision. I generally use the following approach: First, I share the idea with our fellow staff pastors, and since we have multiple pastors, it is generally the assistant and executive first, and then the core associates. After receiving input from the pastors, I’ll share with the staff and then elders and deacons. Once I have gleaned their insights, I’ll present to the financial advisory board for review. Finally, the refined vision is shared with the Board of Directors for a formal vote. The process allows various leaders to share their perspectives, offer insights that I failed to consider, and creates consensus among us as we move forward.

Pastor at Calvary Nexus, Camarillo, CA. Bruce has been an ordained pastor for over 20 years. Bruce planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, Ca. in 1996 and continues to serve as the lead pastor of a multi-site church. Bruce is the author of 12 books. He has previously been a trial attorney, and helps direct the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN].

“It’s Not What You Think”

It’s Not What You Think

By Pastor Miles DeBenedictis

Let me begin by saying that this post will be patronizing. I wanted to say “might be patronizing” but that’s too passive. This will be straight up patronizing.

Yes! So you want to be a pastor. Not just a pastor; a senior or lead (or whatever adjective you want to apply) pastor. I mean that’s the track you’re planning to be on as a church planter, right? Here’s the thing. It’s not what you think it is going to be, and until you are one, you cannot even begin to understand the weight of being one.

But wait” you’ll say, “I’ve been a youth pastor” or maybe “an assistant pastor.” “I’ve had a lot of experience as a pastor on a staff at a large church.” Trust me, you don’t have a clue.

I told you it would be patronizing. I don’t want to be condescending, but this is just the reality.

It’s like when you meet with a couple for pre-marital counseling. They think they know what marriage is like and they’re certain that they’re going to hit it out of the park as husband and wife. They’re never going to argue, and if they ever do, he’s always going to love her as Christ loves the church and she’s always going to respect, honor and even submit to him.

Or better yet: it’s the newlywed (childless) couple leaving your house after an evening with you, your spouse and your four kids. As they drive home they roll their eyes (come one, you remember doing it) and say to each other, “Did you see how out of control their kids are” “OMG, I mean really! When we have kids our kids will be so well behaved.

Trust me, I want you to plant a church. I want you to be successful as a church planter and lead pastor. But you need to reckon with this as soon as you possibly can. You don’t have a clue. You’ll understand this more fully five years after launch day. In fact, you’ll be able to write this article more articulately then too.

But as it stands right now, pray for the humility to admit that you don’t know anything and reach out to coaches and mentors who can help you navigate the things you don’t even know that you don’t know.

Ministry at the top is far more difficult than you mentally grasp. Books don’t do it justice. Podcasts cannot adequately portray it. One-on-ones with senior leaders are great. But until you’ve had to be the one to see the nearly negative balance in the church account, with bills to pay, and your pay/salary at the bottom of the list, you don’t understand. Until you’ve had to deal with the worship leader who quits on Sunday morning, it’s all just theory. Until you’ve had to fire a friend, or make payroll…

Forgive my condescension. Until you’ve been one, you cannot grasp the weight of being a senior pastor.

Please, be humble enough to admit it.


Miles DeBenedictis is the Senior Pastor of Cross Connection Church in North San Diego County, CA, the church he attended as a child and was discipled for ministry by. He can be followed @PastorMiles

How I Got Theology Part 3

How I Got Theology Part 3

By Trip Kimball

American evangelical churches have worked hard to reach out to younger generations over the past couple of decades. It’s not gone that well.

Sure, more mega churches dot the landscape, but a great many people, especially younger ones, have left the organized church, or simply left the Christian faith.

Much effort has gone into attracting and drawing people into church, while others focus on being missional. Sadly, the foundation for faith is often neglected with these efforts.

An assumption

Aristotle is credited with the postulate that nature abhors a vacuum. A vacuum existed in the mid-sixties—a lack of spiritual integrity and substance. This vacuum got filled with philosophy, religion, and cultural trends. Life is cyclical. There is an ebb and flow to everything on earth.

An assumption was made by organized churches in the years preceding the Jesus People Movement. It was assumed that young people had no interest in studying the Bible. I see a similar assumption at present. It was a wrong assumption 50+ years ago and it’s wrong now.

The opposite is true. Many young people are seeking the truth and are interested in the Bible. And, many people want mentoring, but they reject authoritarianism.

“Many young people seek truth and are open to be mentored” @tkbeyond

A hunger

A great biblical ignorance exists today. Not a lack of Bible knowledge or resources, but ignorance. Why? Much of what is presented and promoted is not processed thoughtfully and spiritually by those who receive it. The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart.

“The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart”@tkbeyond

A great hunger and interest in the truth existed when I came to faith over 45 years ago. Yep, I’m old. I’m a holdover from the Jesus Generation, as it was called.

I remember hours of shared engagement studying the Bible with other people of my generation. We did it in churches, often sitting on the floor, in homes, on our own, or outside in public. We couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t get enough.

It wasn’t listening to well-crafted messages from the Bible, it was a personal encounter with Jesus. He (Jesus) has a lot to say about the value of digging into the Scriptures—

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me (John 5:39 NIV)

It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life. The words I told you are spirit, and they give life. (John 6:63 NCV)

“If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31, 32 NCV)

 “Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth. (John 17:17 GW)

A personal encounter

Is there a difference between attending a Bible study and studying the Bible? Yes. I’ve seen many people attend a Bible study, taking in what is said as valuable information. But, if that information doesn’t become life-giving truth for them, it is simply Bible knowledge.

Bible knowledge isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t transform a person, it informs them.

“Bible knowledge doesn’t transform a person, it informs them”@tkbeyond

If our study of the Bible isn’t a personal encounter with Jesus, but only a pursuit of truth, we miss the most important thing. As Jesus said, “these very Scriptures speak about me!” (John 5:39 GNTD)

So, how does Bible study become a spiritual encounter with Jesus? Here are some things that help build a good foundation for your own personal theology to develop—

  • Prayer—perhaps too obvious, yet so vital it must be mentioned—we need to ask God to reveal His truth to us (Matthew 16:17).
  • The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17)—How can we receive God’s revelation apart from His Spirit?
  • Reading and listening to the Scriptures—there is nothing that can replace this. No one else can do this for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Regular study of the Bible—if not daily, weekly—a consistent digging into the Scriptures so your faith is founded on a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27)

Need more?

This is the final of a 3-part series that began with How I Got Theology– Part 1. It’s my personal answer to three questions posed in a previous post called Got Theology? where I look at how we all develop a personal theology.

If you’d like more guidance on how to study the Bible in a personal, yet systematic and objective way, you can download my 7-page Primer on Inductive Bible Study. It is a simple guide to Inductive Bible Study (IBS) developed from many years of training pastors, leaders, and other followers of Jesus, here in the US and overseas.

Just click on the link below, fill out the short form, then download it.

Click Here to Download the Basic Primer on Inductive Bible Study

trip_0Trip disciples and mentors in several small groups in Jacksonville and beyond. He travels within the US and overseas to teach and train leaders whenever possible.Trip has written a book, training materials, and Bible studies for leaders and missions. He posts 3 times a week– an article, short devo, and simple Bible study at Word-Strong.com


How I Got Theology Part 1

How I Got Theology Part 1 

By Trip Kimball

The truth of God is not relative. That is, it doesn’t change to adapt and conform to changes in the culture and beliefs of people.

Much is made of the idea of relativism and a post-modern mindset. The concept that what’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me, isn’t truth.

Personal, philosophical beliefs don’t become reality just because they’re thought out. The natural laws of the earth and universe illustrate and reflect the unchanging nature of God, its creator, and His truth.

Clichés aren’t sufficient

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, “Got Theology?” The gist of it is that theology can become highly personalized. And yet, the truth of God remains unchanged. It’s based on who He is, not opinions or a belief system.

“God’s truth remains is based on who He is, not personal opinions or beliefs “@tkbeyond

Christian believers need to be clear on why they believe what they believe. The trite saying—God said it, I believe it, that settles it—isn’t sufficient, it’s a cliché.

Arriving at why we believe what we do—our theology—can be understood by seeing how we arrive at that belief. I won’t backtrack through what is shared in the previous post, but I do want to look at a challenge I posed in that post.

“Christian believers need to be clear on why they believe what they believe” @tkbeyond

The challenge—3 questions

The challenge involved 3 questions that help determine how our personal theology develops. As an example, I’ll answer these questions for my own life. I’ll do this over the next three weeks.

Hopefully, this will serve as a guide for you. Here are the 3 questions—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What’s been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

My learning curve

I’m a visual and kinetic (experiential) learner. I tend to learn best by watching, then doing. I’m also a reader.

My search for truth and faith included the study of various philosophies and eastern religions. I attempted to live these out to a certain extent, as I read about them. Music and hitchhiking were also part of the process.

I also read the Bible each day for at least two years, yet without understanding it. I talk about this in my book, some of it in the first chapter.

My life reflected the times of that search—the mid to late 60’s in America. I was immersed in the turbulent counter-culture that marked those years. This carried over to my faith search.

A turning point

I’m a rebel at heart when it comes to learning. I don’t just accept things, I question, challenge, then process it all. Of course, this doesn’t go over well with authoritarian teacher-types. It even got me thrown out of a church when I kept pressing for answers.

“When learning, I don’t just accept things, I question, challenge, then process it all” @tkbeyond

In the midst of my search, I came to a turning point in my life. I went up into the mountains, where I lived at the time, and challenged God to reveal Himself to me in some way. I was expecting something like a sign in the sky, a burning bush, or audible voice, but none of that happened. Discouraged, I headed back to my trailer.

Still wanting to hear from God, I opened my Good News for Modern Man version of the Bible to read. It’s then I came across Matthew 7:13-14 and realized I was on the wrong path.

Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it. (Matt 7:13-14 GNT)

I took this as a challenge, but I refused to pray the (“sinners”) prayer or write down the date, as the notes in my Bible suggested. Like I said, I don’t just accept things without question. I did have an assurance in my heart that my faith search was settled. Jesus and the Bible were central to my faith, the foundation of my theology.

“Jesus and the Bible were central to my faith, the foundation of my theology”@tkbeyond

What about you?

So, what about you? Have you had a turning point in your life, come to a crossroads, or other cathartic experience that settled your faith and brought assurance?

“Have you had a turning point in your life that brought assurance of faith?”@tkbeyond

This is an important first step in developing a personal theology. It’s called a lot of things—coming to faith, conversion, getting saved. Whatever you call it, it needs to happen. It’s the starting point of a settled faith, a personal trust relationship with God.

I’d love to hear from you on this—

What stands out as most important in your life as a believer?

Why is this so important to you?


Next week, I plan to continue this series of posts and look at the influential spiritual leaders in my life.


Trip disciples and mentors in several small groups in Jacksonville and beyond. He travels within the US and overseas to teach and train leaders whenever possible.Trip has written a book, training materials, and Bible studies for leaders and missions. He posts 3 times a week– an article, short devo, and simple Bible study at Word-Strong.com


Fuel For The Soul -Part 1

Fuel for the Soul—part 1

by Trip Kimball


What makes humans different from all other mammals? We have a soul, that is, we are a soul with a body—a spiritual soul. We don’t live by instinct, but reason.

We have emotions connected to our thoughts, which effect our behavior. We are moral beings and are made like our Creator.


Generally speaking, we know right from wrong. We reflect on the past, imagine the future, while living in the present. And we need something more than just food, water, shelter, and other basic necessities. We need nourishment for our soul.


A need to know


The first human was created in the likeness or image of God, as are all humans. Humankind was created to rule over all other creatures on the earth, in the sea, and the air (Gen 1:26). This was the original design.


God also gave the first humans responsibility and purpose (Gen 1:28-30). He also gave us the capacity to think and reason (Gen 2:15-17), along with the need for companionship (Gen 2:18-25).


We also have the capacity to be wrong. This is made clear in Genesis 3. We have an innate need to know the truth, which spurs our curiosity and imagination. This enables us to be creative and productive.


“What is truth?”


But what truth do we need? Many claim to know and understand the truth, but all truth is not the same. This is revealed in the dialog between Jesus and Pontius Pilate, where Pilate asks, “What is truth?(John 18:37-38)


I was somewhat like Pilate earlier in my life. I sought out truth from various sources including the Bible. Along with other religious and philosophical books, I read the Bible every day for about two years.


Did I understand what I was reading? No. I was like the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah whom Philip encountered (Acts 8:30-31). I needed some guidance, but where would I go and who could help me?


Fuel for my soul


Right before 1970, I was invited to a church where the Bible was taught in a simple, clear way. This church became a reference point for me.


I still wandered a while longer, but returned there, made a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus, was grounded in the truth, and began serving in God’s kingdom.


What was the key? The truth of God’s written Word. I realized it was the fuel I needed for my soul to grow in a healthy way. It was the nutrition—the food—my soul longed for and needed.


Spirit and life


As pointed out by many, when jesus was tempted by the devil, Jesus answered him with the truth of Scripture (Matt 4:1-11). The devil’s first temptation appealed to the Lord’s hunger, after a 40-day fast.


Jesus’ answer was, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.(Matt 4:4). This is a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3, where God reminded His people that our spiritual need is greater than the physical.


This is what struck a chord in my heart. God’s truth is spiritual in nature and is the only thing that satisfies my soul.


Jesus made this clear to His first followers—


It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)


But not everyone either accepts or realizes this, only those with a personal commitment to Jesus. Here is Peter’s testimony about it—


Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.(John 6:68-69)




What do you think is the best way to be nourished in the truth of God?



What role is the church to be involved with this?



trip_0Trip disciples and mentors in several small groups in Jacksonville and beyond. He travels within the US and overseas to teach and train leaders whenever possible.Trip has written a book, training materials, and Bible studies for leaders and missions. He posts 3 times a week– an article, short devo, and simple Bible study at Word-Strong.com

Beginning & Ending Our Church Plant

Pastor Jason Brown serves as an assistant pastor at Calvary Knoxville. In this article we’ll look at some key “lessons learned” from his experience with beginning and ending a church plant.

Pastor Jason Brown first felt a calling to ministry in his senior year of college. Jason grew up in the Methodist church, and after graduating from seminary he began serving in the Methodist church he grew up in, located in Knoxville, Tennessee. He first heard of Calvary Chapel’s through the local radio station of Calvary Knoxville. Soon after, Jason left the Methodist church to begin attending Calvary Knoxville.

After six months of attending Calvary Knoxville, Jason and his wife felt called to plant a church in Blount County, Tennessee. Calvary Chapel Blount started in January of 2006 with fifteen people and began meeting in a local school. Over the years, the church grew to about forty-five people. Yet, many of those who called CC Blount their church home began moving out of the area, Pastor Jason and his wife felt the Lord stirring their hearts to close the church.

However, Pastor Jason wrestled with feeling that if he stopped the church, then he would be failing. Pastor Mark had even offered Jason a staff position with Calvary Knoxville, yet Jason could not let go. Six months after Jason knew God was calling him to lay down the church, he realized that he was trying to keep the church alive in his own strength. In January of 2014 Pastor Jason officially closed the church, and the remaining members merged with Calvary Knoxville.

CCPN: “What are some of the key “lessons learned” that you would like to pass on to current or prospective church planters?”

Be one who is SENT out, not one who just WENT out

“If I had to go back and do it over, I would have stayed longer, got more plugged into CC Knoxville, and received more training before planting. It would have been better to build that a better relationship with CC Knoxville. Because before there wasn’t too much connection. We jumped in and planted. I think there will be a lot more fruit if you wait to be SENT out instead of just GOING out.”

Hold What God Gives You With OPEN Hands

“I’d say, hold onto the ministry that God gives you lightly. Just because He gave it to you doesn’t mean it’s yours. If He wants you to lay it back down you need to do that. We are called to Jesus first and it’s not about what we can do for Him but being with Him.”

Don’t Give Authority To Others Too Quickly

“One mistake I made was giving too much authority too quickly when someone asked for it. I gave it b/c I felt like I needed it, not because God was calling this person to leadership. So, don’t just give out of need.”

elders_jason_brownPastor Jason Brown lives in Knoxville, TN with his wife and three children. He serves as an Assistant Pastor to Pastor Mark Kirk of Calvary Knoxville. Find out more about the work God is doing in Knoxville by visiting calvaryknoxville.org.

Beginning & Ending Our Church Plant

Pastor Travis Carroll serves as an assistant pastor at Calvary KnoxvilleIn this article we’ll look at some key “lessons learned” from his experience with beginning and ending a church plant.

Pastor Travis Carroll and his family first connected with Calvary Knoxville in the spring of 1999. He quickly began serving, learning, growing, and watching how Pastor Mark Kirk served and lead the church. Before coming on staff in 2005, Travis and his wife served anywhere there was a need. In 2006 God began calling and opening the door to plant Calvary Chapel Jefferson. Jefferson County is about 40 minutes from Calvary Knoxville – a small country community that was in need of a Calvary Chapel.

Calvary Chapel Jefferson started like many CC’s do… as a home Bible study. Over the years the church met in various locations as the Lord opened and closed doors – a school facility, Travis’ basement, and eventually a space that they were able to renovate and use as a gathering space. The study grew to 50 adults with about the same number of children. As a parent to four children and working full-time it was a difficult for Travis to plug into the community and build relationships; and he began to sense that he was not doing what he was called to do – pastor. And then … something changed… for reasons Pastor Travis didn’t understand, people started dropping off… the group diminished in size to about four to five families.

Travis wrestled with the dynamic changes in the church for a year before deciding to end the work. Pastor Travis said, “I felt like the Lord said it was the end of a season, and to close it down. You know it was difficult to plant the church, the years CC Jefferson were active were great, but the hardest part was to decide to close it down.” Calvary Chapel Jefferson officially ended in 2012.

CCPN: “Now, that you have the ability to look back on your church planting experience, what are some of things you see that God did in you and through you?”

Pastor Travis:

Well, people grew, and we grew as leaders. Some of the families definitely grew during that time and it was a stepping stone for them to get connected and plugged in where they are today.”

For me it was a growing time. God used it to mature me and grow me. However, during that last year I got hard. I think there is some crustiness that I allowed in, because it was so difficult. Due to working so much and juggling so many different things I let my walk fall. It was the perfect storm. I was at the point where I didn’t really know if I wanted to do ministry anymore. It showed me the REALNESS of ministry. Now, I’ve been on staff with Calvary Knoxville for 3 years. I love it. I am over the facilities and grounds. I also am the administrative pastor, but I’m more of a cross between pastoral care an assistant to Pastor Mark. I think God trained us for what we are doing now through our church planting time.”

CCPN: “What lessons-learned or advice would you share with prospective or current church planters?”

Pastor Travis:

  • I am thankful for the pastors that God has had me serve under. I would recommend that anyone wanting to go into ministry, or to plant a church to sit under someone and learn & grow and be patient.”
  • “The greatest thing that happened through my church planting experience was learning that my goal was not/should not be to ‘plant a church’ or even to ‘be in full-time ministry.’ My goal is to serve, to love the people, and to love the Lord; and it’s very freeing to just serve and not feel that I HAVE TO be a pastor but that I GET TO serve Jesus.”
  • My biggest piece of advice is to focus on Jesus. Hebrews 1: 1-2 “looking to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith” … and He just kept bringing me back to that, I’d hear Him say, “look to me, just look to me” … there is great value in that.

staff_travisPastor Travis Carroll lives in Knoxville, TN with his wife and four children. He serves as an Assistant Pastor to Pastor Mark Kirk of Calvary Knoxville. Find out more about the work God is doing in Knoxville by visiting calvaryknoxville.org.


Beginning & Ending Our Church Plant

Ebo Elder is the College Pastor at Calvary Knoxville. In this article we’ll learn some key “lessons learned” from his experience with beginning and ending a church plant.

Ebo Elder is a husband, father, pastor, and former professional boxer. Ebo was a WBO NABO Lightweight Titleholder, he held the IBA Continental Light Welterweight Title, and the WBO Inter-Continental Light Welterweight Title. He had a long amateur career with 139 wins, he earned a silver medal in the 1998 Goodwill Games, and went professional in 2000, amassing 16 wins before his first loss. In 2006 he appeared on ESPN’s reality show “Contender Season 2”.

After leaving boxing, Ebo began REALITY, an evangelistic and discipleship ministry geared toward reaching the student generation. In 2007 the Lord opened doors for Reality in many scarcely reached venues and platforms around the country, like public schools, colleges and youth detention centers. Through REALITY Ebo was able to travel and preach in numerous schools, churches, and conferences.

In the fall of 2011 Ebo, his wife Amy, and their four daughters (Maddie, Abby, Gabbie, and Addie) were living in Newnan, Georgia. On August 20th 2011 Ebo says he woke up and strongly sensed that God was calling them to start Reality Newnan, a local church in his local town. In retrospect Ebo says,

“I heard start a church, but God may have been saying to teach the Bible… but with my church-planting heart, I heard, plant a church.”

At the time Ebo and Amy were discerning God’s calling to plant, an opportunity came for a staff position with a large church providing full-time salary and benefits. Ebo turned it down because he sensed the calling of God to start REALITY Newnan. The pastor offering the position said,

“Well, Ebo… NOW you are ready to plant the church because you’re all-in and not enticed by an offer that comes with a salary, benefits, and security.”

God provided the financial resources for Ebo and his family to step away from the traveling ministry of REALITY for a season to invest their time and attention into this new work. So they bought a sound system, chairs, lighting, built a web-site, found a venue; all with the mind-set that if “I open the Bible, they’ll show up”… if you “build it, they will come.”

Pastor Lance Cook of Calvary Chapel La Habra – a dear friend of the Elder family – asked Ebo about the upcoming and work and the preparations. Excitedly, Ebo shared all they were doing in preparation, and Pastor Lance said, have you prayed? Ebo says,

“You know, I was so caught up in what to do, I forgot the most important thing.”

So they began gathering for weekly prayer meetings. On Nov 6th, 2011 REALITY began with a Sunday night Bible study. After nine months of gathering, just as clearly as God had called Ebo and his family to begin the work, they felt that the work had accomplished all that God wanted to do.

Amy recalls some of the neat things God did during that time. Amy said that the church never allowed the size of their church dictate the size of their hearts and impact. During the Thanksgiving holiday, the church provided turkey dinners for local families in need. At Christmas, the church raised $1k for a local family, bought Christmas presents, and spent time with the family as they opened the gifts and ministered to them.

Ebo says that the church had a life-changing impact on many of the families that attended Reality because it was there that they developed a hunger for God’s Word. In fact, one of his child-hood friends whom he’s known since the age of 8, never had an appetite for the Word of God, but through what God did at Reality Newnan he has developed an insatiable hunger for God’s Word and is now always encouraging his friends and family in God’s Word.

Amy said,

“One of the greatest impacts of the church is what it did for our kids. Our kids saw their parents trusting and following God and they joined in and followed us. I could never put a price tag on that. It was so special.”

Lessons Learned

#1. Follow Him, not Them

“Plant in the place and follow the calling that God has called you to. God will take people in and out of the ministry, so follow Him, not them. When you plant a church, it feels like you are extending your family and those who join the church seem to join your family. Love the people, but depend upon the Lord, He’s the faithful one.”

#2. The Church is the People

“The Church is the people, not the website, the chairs, the venue, and the production, it’s the people. So, invest in the people. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would invest into a small group of people and pour into the people. I would invest in building leaders over building a gathering.”

#3. Trust in Beginning & Ending

“In moving away from the season you’re in, you’ve got to trust the Lord. Sometimes God starts and stops things in ways in which you may not understand or even agree with. You’ve got to trust the Lord. For us the church plant was a great season of learning… we learned a lot about God, ourselves, how to better minister to people, and how to better trust the Lord. For nine months we ministered to people and saw God provide in ways we could have never dreamed of. Trust Him in everything.”

#4. Give 100%, 100% of the Time

“At one time, I can remember complaining to God about our numbers. I remember the Lord speaking to me, that He gave His entire life to 12 men, why did I think that I deserved more? It’s the Lord that brings the increase. We must trust the Lord with the numbers. Trust Him with the results, don’t allow the numbers have any affect on your passion for Jesus and the calling He’s placed upon your life.”

#5. Where God guides, He provides

“When we planted REALITY, we were completely dependent upon God to provide. God placed us in a place where our only place to trust was in Him. It was amazing to see how God provided for a family of six and a small church plant every single month with everything we needed. It’s about trust. Through my time as a church-planter, I grew in my trust in the faithfulness of God.”


Pastor Ebo lives in Knoxville, TN with his wife Amy and four daughters. Ebo serves as the college pastor at Calvary Knoxville. You can find out more about this ministry at iwantreality.com.