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.”



10007282_10208263715050270_4316678909431570815_o

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.

 

 

Calvary Chapel Via in Managua, Nicaragua

Pastor Rob Trohon shares about how Calvary Chapel Via (“the Way”) was planted in Managua, Nicaragua. Take 3 minutes and enjoy this video, then pray for the work God is doing in Nicaragua!

Strange Fire – Friendly Fire | An Interview With Pastor Brian Brodersen

Pastor John MacArthur recently held a conference in California called Strange Fire, where he addressed the gifts of the Holy Spirit and his opinion on their use in churches today. He also had some remarks to say about Calvary Chapel and our emergence during the Jesus Movement of the 60s and 70s. This 22-minute interview is a response by Pastor Brian Brodersen (Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa) about John MacArthur’s comments…

Church Planting Key Elements

Pastor Bruce Zachary discusses the four key elements of a church planting network and why we are excited about the Calvary Church Planting Network.

Church Planter Profile: Jeremiah Hurt // Lexington, KY

Jeremiah Hurt and his wife, Serah, are in the early stages of planting Calvary Lexington in Lexington, KY. Here’s a profile on Jeremiah and some of the things he’s been learning early in this process…
——————————–

1. In a nutshell, how did you find the city you planted in?

My wife and I knew we were leaving to plant a church, and I sensed that He wanted us to leave soon.  I told my pastor (David Keesee of Calvary Chapel, Crawfordsville IN), and I told the company that I worked for that I probably wouldn’t be around for another year. We were willing to go anywhere. We even looked into and prayed about North Dakota. A friend of mine who had moved to Lexington KY called me one evening out of the blue and asked me if I would pray about planting a Calvary Chapel there. I said we’d pray about it. Being only four hours away, we decided to visit for a weekend. We left thinking we’d never return, but promised we would continue to pray. Three days later the Lord confirmed, through His word to Serah and I that we were to indeed move to Lexington. One month later we were here with my pastor’s blessing.

2. What were some of the lessons you’re learning since you are still early on in the church planting process?

We are constantly learning and relearning the simple truths of what it means to follow Jesus as we plant this church. Here are a few things that we keeping coming back to day in and day out. They will seem obvious for sure, but they have taken on a whole new meaning during this process.
        1.) Keep our eyes on Jesus
         2.) Seek Jesus and ALL these things will be added unto you
         3.) PRAY for crying out loud!
         4.) It is His church, therefore this is His church plant
         5.) He’s on the throne. He’s in control. He’s got this. Relax.
6.) Leaving everything to move here was still just a simple act of obedience.
It is His church, therefore this is His church plant.

3. If you did this again, is there anything you would do differently?

If there’s anything I would do differently if I could start over, it would be to pray more. Simple as that. Prayer breeds confidence in Jesus and that you are hearing from Him and being led by Him.

4. What are some of the most important things for a potential church planter to consider before they leave to go plant?

A few things to consider before moving to an unknown city to plant a church is to make sure your pastor and other men who are faithfully living for the Lord agree with the calling that you sense God has put on your life. Make sure you remind people to be praying for you as often as possible. The idea of the adventure that lies ahead can often be greater than the actual living it out on a daily basis. Purpose in your heart not to give up when the going gets tough. It will get tough.

5. What is your vision for the next year of your church?

My vision for Calvary Lexington in the next year and the following years is simple. I desire for us to grow in our love for Jesus, His word, and for others, and that we would genuinely live out Acts 2:42. I pray we would be doers of His word and not hearers only, and that Titus 2:14 would come alive in our hearts:
       “He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.”(Titus 2:14 HCSB)
If there’s anything I would do differently if I could start over, it would be to pray more. Simple as that.

Scouting the Land: Tips for Fact-Finding Trips

“How did you find which city to plant in?”

“Of all the cities in the U.S., how did you choose this city?”

Those are some of the most common questions we get from potential church planters.

Dave Folkerts is the Pastor of Calvary Chapel Melbourne, Florida and he also serve as the CCPN core leader for Central Florida. He’s had 8-10 guys from their church planting group leave recently on fact finding trips, so he compiled a list of things they’re doing on their trips as a way to help others who are still in the beginning stages. Read through the list below, then make sure to pass this on to someone who may find it useful.

1. Talk to 3-4 pastors in the area.

Try to have one of them be a CC pastor closest to the target area. Learn about previous church planting efforts, culture of the people, and any insights on the area. Most of the pastors have been very supportive and cooperative. If you encounter a pastor who appears closed to the idea of a new church or is “concerned about competition,” help them to understand that you are seeking to reach the lost and enhance God’s kingdom–not build upon another man’s foundation.

2. Talk to city managers and chamber of commerce leaders.

Get a feel for the city, future growth areas, demographics etc. These have people have been very open and helpful.

3. Visit with people in local cafés, reastaurants, and even in bars.

The local people have been very open to share about their community. Find out about schools, interests, what makes the community special, and perceived needs. Find out the community’s views towards: God, the gospel, the Bible, and the need for a different kind of church where the Bible is taught, love is genuine, and that have a balanced view of the work of God’s Spirit.

4. If there is a Christian bookstore, ask the manager about the spiritual climate of the area.

They know a lot about the different churches and needs.

5. We try and study the area to see if there are other churches in the area that are teaching God’s Word with grace similar to the CC philosophy of ministry and theology.

We don’t want to plant in the shadow of someone else with a similar ministry. Our guys want to plant where people are not being fed or reached with the Gospel.

6. Does there seem to be a good fit between the community and the planter [and his family].

For example if the pastor is looking for an urban or metro area, a suburban, or even a rural area can he see he and his family assimilating into the community? Also, is there a good fit with the planter’s passions? For example, If you want to reach the next generation you may need to be near a college campus or an urban area.

7. They try to do this in various communities seeking God for direction as they go into a community.

Sometimes the direction is not here. When God closes a door it is still direction.

Planter Spotlight: Earl Buchan

1. Who are you and where do you serve?
Earl Buchan, and I serve in Vancouver BC Canada.

2. How long have you been at your current church?
My family and I planted this church in our hearts so many years ago it seems, but our doors physically opened on July 4th of 2010.

3. Describe your calling to church planting.
I was raised in a family feeling very much alone. My brothers being much older than I and away from the household it was as though I was an only child. My parents were good hearted people, but often times busy with their own stuff to spend much time with a growing son. I learned to be self-sufficient and to trust only in myself for encouragement, guidance, and safety.

Though I wandered, and was given too much freedom in my teen years, I found my way into an indoor hockey game every Friday night. One of the leaders was Andy Amanovich and I remember how friendly and accepting he was of me. Some months later I asked Andy why he bothered doing this indoor hockey thing and he simply said “because I love God, and I know He loves you too.” No one had ever said anything like this to me before, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. At a Christmas Eve service in 1985 I responded to an invitation to follow Jesus.

In Luke 9:23 Jesus says “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” I believed that to be a marching order into a spiritual battle…but I didn’t have any idea just what taking up my cross meant. I felt a calling in my life to be a shepherd, to be a father to the fatherless, and to lead his youth into a place of warmth and safety in His love. I saw a picture of Heaven that was so real and beautiful that I was left with a heart-ache to tell everyone that this is not our home, that the Lord has done something wonderful for us on the cross, that the laying down of His life made it possible for us to be with God in Heaven and live eternally with Him. Even though God revealed this to me, there were a lot of things that I did that got in the way of what He wanted to do in my life.

In 1989, at the age of 19, I still felt this deep inner loneliness. I was away from home, living with friends in Burnaby, and forced to examine the Christian faith for myself. One of the guys living with me gave me a Bible. As I read it I discovered personally God’s love for me and that He was with me in a personal way. The loneliness I had felt much of my life had somehow changed. I felt connected to God, through his word, in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I knew without a doubt He was with me. At that moment I felt adopted into God’s family, truly a part of something and that I had a purpose in my life.

A few years later I got married and pretty soon had three extremely amazing kids. Looking back I can see just how much of a gift of grace Maria was. Not only was God providing for my inner loneliness but he brought me a partner to share this life with. My wife is my best friend and it is only this past few years that I have seen just how much she has cared for me. I still had a lot to learn though, and I spent years moving my family around between Mexico and Prince George trying to help God with the calling he placed in my life. Everything came to a crisis point several years back when I realized that I hadn’t been investing into my own family as much as I had been the families of other people.

My wife and I were stretched apart farther than we ever had been before, and I could see a potential end to a romance that began with providence and love. It was only when I started to understand the word ‘Surrender’ that I would find my peace; to trust God and surrender to Him being the master and commander of my life.

For the first time I opened my hands to Him in prayer and genuinely asked Him to make my life into something that will bring a smile to His face and to help me to be the Father and Husband that He wants me to be. I let the control of my life go back to where it should be, out of my hands and into His. I have felt so happy and free in my life knowing that I finally trust in the Lord, and how He has been with me every step of the way simply waiting for me to turn to Him. Becoming a follower of Jesus doesn’t make you perfect, instantly. Over the years, I have grown closer to the Lord, which has helped me grow closer to my wife and kids. I don’t struggle with loneliness anymore, and take comfort from Psalm 68: 6: “God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” My wife and I are happy together, have hope for the future, and have together decided to look first for what God wants in our lives instead of what we want for them.

All of the safety, encouragement, guidance, and love I needed as a little boy could be found not in any human being, but in the surrender of my heart to my Lord Jesus. Whatever this world has for me now is unimportant compared to the promises that I have found in Jesus. Taking up the cross and denying myself means that I have to die to my selfish desires, and to stop living for me. Taking up my cross has meant that I live for Jesus now, and am willing to do whatever He wants me to do. I’ve given myself over to His guidance and care, and to lead my family in that same manner. It has changed – and is changing – our family for the better. In John 17:3 Jesus said “This is eternal life: That they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life means relationship with God through Jesus, and eternal life is the greatest gift I have been given.

When I was 16 years old I felt the call to be “God’s messenger.” Those the words that were given to me through the Holy Spirit. Over the next several years I shared the Gospel with anyone that would listen to me, and even some that wouldn’t. At the age of 21, after I was married, I received an inner witness of the Holy Spirit during worship. I received a picture of what I believe was Heaven. The doors of the throne room were open wide for all to enter. The light that radiated from the presence of God was unreal. Words came to my mind very simply ‘Tell everyone.’ Since then I have felt a burden to preach the Gospel. It took me 20 years to learn that God doesn’t need my help to see

His calling in my life come alive. I needed to be firmly rooted in His Word, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, and be joyful always. I needed to be a Father to my children and a Husband to my wife. It was then and only then, that the Lord released me into His service. I was mentored to pursue a Kingdom life that has brought me home to my native East Vancouver to start a fresh work there.

The peace between my wife and I has been a strong litmus test for me. My wife is my greatest cheer leader and best encouragement on Earth. I couldn’t ask for a better support and friend in this faith adventure.

Planting a church in East Vancouver has been an organic extension of our lives in this community. We don’t feel called to a particular ethnic group and our church is quite diverse in age, ethnicity, and economic situation.

4. What moves your heart the most for your city?
East Vancouver is the most diverse area in all of Vancouver and arguably all of Canada. With over half a million people it is home to every ethnicity, orientation, social group, and economic status you can imagine. I can drive 10 minutes in one direction and be able to stand amidst people doing heroin right on the street. I can drive in another direction and be in one of the most trendy/hipster social scenes in our city. It feels a lot like what I would imagine one of the ancient cities would feel like. It makes it feel like we can be an Acts chapter 2 church here and now.

5. What is your church doing to reach your city?
The Lord has called me to gather the scattered, open the doors, and get out of the way. One of my objectives is to build a church that will send out people to plant other churches. To have a multi-purpose facility that will house a free store/swap shed in Vancouver for the under-employed in the area. I am praying towards raising up people that have either been burnt out of ministry and need a time of refreshing in the Holy Spirit, or to bring new people to a vibrant abundant life in Christ finding their purpose in Him.

We are host to a Bible College outreach program close to our city. From those students we have made friends with one of them that happens to the in charge of community relations for our cities largest Christian social outreach and recovery centres. As a result we are forging a very important relationship with them where there clients can have a safe place to come to church and receive discipleship…and reintegrate into society.

6. How are some ways that you have seen God move in your church?
I started this church plant with my wife and kids, a guitar, and a Bible. We now have over 30 people regularly attending each week. While I do not have any hand in the offering process or recording I do know that the rent for our facility is taken care of and we’ve been responsible tenants where we have church. It isn’t enough to look at dollars and bodies for success or God’s blessing. I look at it in the life of a man we met several months ago who was living at a homeless shelter downtown. Since that time he has entered into a mentoring relationship with me, helps at our church, lives in his own place, and holds down a full time job. That is but one story of some really cool things that God has been doing through our little congregation this past year. I believe the clearest evidence of God’s blessing has been in the depth of community we have,the growth we’re experiencing as a result, and that the fruits of the Spirit are evident in the every day life of our church.

Though we are a small congregation we have 4 thriving home groups and will be adding a 5th very soon. We’re as much of a home group church as we are a Sunday morning church…that is something I never expected.

7. What has been the biggest challenge in ministry?
I used to coach my daughter’s soccer team. I loved every moment of it and even had the chance to be a Dad to a couple of the girls who didn’t have one. What I didn’t like about it was showing up an evening a week for practice and then Saturday mornings for games. Being bi-vocational can make it feel as though church is just like a soccer team. I show up at home group and then on Sunday mornings once each week. I simply do not have enough time at the end of my day and my energy is limited. I would like to leave my secular job all together but our church isn’t yet able to afford me doing so.

8. What would you describe your biggest need?
We need a family or two with kids to show up and stay. We have a great community of singles, youth, young adults, and married couples…but absolutely no children.

9. If you could do it all over again what would you do differently?
I would never have planted alone if I could do it all over again. I would have sought out church planting mentoring from day one. Our sending church, as much as I love them, were not equipped to send so it has been an incredibly lonely two years. My wife has had very little support and that has really made me wish I had done things differently.

10. If you could say something to a perspective church planter what would it be?
Don’t give up. There will be moments when you feel it’s all just too much…and it’s in those moments where you need to reach out to a group like this network. You are not alone. A great number of men before you have gone on to plant churches and a great number of men will go on after you. Take to heart what the Lord says in Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”

Don’t get desperate and slide into church planting organizations that focus on business strategy and worldly marketing for your church. Be a Spirit filled teacher that simply teaches the Bible, simply…God will work out the rest.

Church Planter Spotlight: Kevin Miller

Kevin Miller is the lead pastor of Awaken Church in Nashville, TN. He is also a workshop leader at this week’s ReEngage.

2. How long have you been at your current church?

We moved to Clarksville in the summer of 2009 and opened the church doors on September 19, 2009. We just celebrated 3 years last month!

 3. Describe your calling to church planting.

My calling to plant a church came at a time when I really had no idea what I was doing! I hadn’t seen a church planted (except for 1 friend who was in the process), and I definitely had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I knew it was what I was called to. I was a middle school youth pastor at the time, and every time I had a chance to “move up” in rank, I turned it down. I loved teaching the middle schoolers, and felt that my next move would be out of state, to a place that needed expositional teaching. I had no desire to take over a church, but to start something fresh with the vision God was building into me.

 4. What moves your heart the most for your city?

My city (and the South in particular) is highly religious and extremely Biblically illiterate. They call this part of the country “The Bible Belt,” but I’d say that it’s more accurately “The Church Belt.” There are lots of churches (over 300 in our city alone), but very little Bible. In addition to their Biblical illiteracy, many people are suffering due to the huge military influence in Clarksville from Ft. Campbell. Marriages fall apart, alcoholism, abuse, and infidelity are everywhere, and everyone suffers from it. I love, however, that I can be a part of what God is doing here, as we train families up before they deploy or re-station. Clarksville is a missionary hub, in a way, as we train them and send them out, literally around the world!

In addition to those needs, Clarksville is in deep need of unity between churches. Denominations and religion keep the Church divided, and God has given me a heavy burden to break down those walls and work to unite churches under one name: JESUS!

5. What is your church doing to reach your city?

The most foundational way we’re reaching Clarksville is through the solid, consistent, expositional Bible teaching that the Calvary movement is known for. For many people who show up to Awaken for the first time, they’re blown away that it’s taken almost a year to teach through the book of Revelation. Most people have never been exposed to expositional teaching, and once you get it, you can’t settle for anything else! That’s one of the major things that keep people coming to Awaken.

Another way we’re reaching out city is through a movement called The Uprising – a large-scale city-wide outreach targeting those who wouldn’t normally set foot in a church. We had our first one last March and saw 6 churches serving together, over 600 in attendance, and 40 decisions for Christ! God has already used it in huge ways and we’re excited to see what the future holds. Our next one is coming up in November!

 6. How are some ways that you have seen God move in your church?

One of the biggest ways that we’ve seen God move is through a flood that hit our church in the first year of the church plant. He not only provided financially, but even spiritually, He used it to bolster our faith, prove His power, and unite our church!

God has also provided a lot financially for us. Every church plant struggles with money, but God has always faithfully provided for us, sometimes miraculously!

We have also seen a fresh move of the Spirit in reaching the lost. Almost every Sunday for the past 18 months we’ve seen people make public decisions for Christ. We’ve gotten to see 181 people in our first 3 years of ministry make professions of faith!

 7. What has been the biggest challenge in ministry?

One of the biggest challenges has been raising up and training a team. My wife and I came out here with 3 other friends who moved with us. After the first year, 1 of them moved back, and so the 4 of us ran most of the church. Since we live in an Army town, people are often in and out, so even when a solid leader comes to Awaken, many times they’re only around for a few months or a year. With so many new believers, there often seems to be somewhat of a leadership void. That’s an area we’re praying through and trusting God for provision right now! The value of a team is often overlooked and under appreciated.

 8. What would you describe your biggest need?

My biggest need is to pray more and trust more. God has done the miraculous, and He’s not done yet, but it’s easy to doubt. I need to pray more and have even bigger faith to see the invisible. The budgets, the team, and the church building will come as we lead the way in seeking the Lord and obeying.

 9. If you could do it all over again what would you do differently?

I can’t say I’d change much. There are a thousand ways to plant a church, and ours was as unique as any. Although the first year was one of the hardest in my life, I wouldn’t change anything because of the unique lessons I learned and challenges I faced. If I did make a change, it would be a little bigger emphasis on structure and developing a team. I was a bit spoiled as a youth pastor, with my team of 30 solid volunteers around me. Being 1,500 miles from my home church made the amount of people who were willing to uproot and move with us very slim. But God has even used that deficit to teach me!

10. If you could say something to a perspective church planter what would it be?

If you’re called to plant a church, and you know that for sure, GO FOR IT! I meet so many church planters who want to take 2-3 years to slowly start their church. Forget that. Move to the city God has burdened you for, get into your community, start teaching the Bible, and see what God does. It’s not about you as a persuasive leader, it’s about God’s Word and its impact on people’s hearts. People are dying in their sin – give them Jesus!

And one more piece of advice for church planters: Buckle up. You have no idea the ride that you and your family are in for!