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




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

Helpful Launch Questions

One of the biggest decisions for a new church planter is when to start meeting Sunday mornings. Here are five questions I found helpful in determining our church launch date:

1. Do we have the resources we need?

Churches require resources. There is a lot more involved in meeting Sunday morning than for a midweek Bible study or prayer gathering. This is an official church service after all, and you want the people coming to feel like you are serious. Do you have enough money to pay for rent, children’s ministry crafts, and other startup costs? What about sound equipment, cables, and lighting? Have you thoughtfully considered the entire service and concluded that you have what it takes? Jesus Himself said we should count the cost. We don’t want to come up short on something so important.

Jesus Himself said we should count the cost. We don’t want to come up short on something so important.

2. Is it the right time of year?

This question may sound silly, but the reality is that different times of year provide different opportunities and challenges for the church planter. For example, many people are looking for a church around the New Year. They are ready to start afresh in their spiritual lives, so they will often come to a Sunday service. Early fall is another good time to start a church because people are getting back into routines after the summer vacation. Generally, winter and summer are not considered great times of year to start. That being said, however, you should not determine start dates solely on what time of year it is. We started the end of November when it was getting cold and rainy, and God gave success.

3. Are my volunteers and core team members ready?

When we started The Bridge Bellingham we had a consistent group of about twenty adults meeting for prayer and planning. The size of the group is not as important as the readiness of the group. Talk with the team members and get feedback about the Sunday morning service launch. Are they confident? Do they feel like you are able to lead them into this new and intimidating territory? In my experience, it was the team members who encouraged me to start when we did. I wanted to wait until January to launch the church, but the team let me know that they were ready, and we started in November.

4. Do we have a place to meet?

Venue is extremely important in deciding when to start. When we first arrived in Bellingham, I was convinced that we would get this old white church building. It was awesome, and in a perfect location right between Western Washington University and downtown. A few weeks before we signed a lease on it, we discovered that it was about to fall down. Fortunately, we had an inspector look at it and determined that it was unusable before we started meeting there. Having a building fall down on your congregation is not a great church growth strategy! We ended up getting a beautiful old manor that is used for wedding venues and events. The owner is a Christian man, and said we could use it Sunday mornings rent-free! The point is, wait for the right place before you start meeting.

5. Do I feel a peace from the Holy Spirit?

This question is the most difficult to quantify, but the most important to determine. Ultimately, you have to step out in faith and set a start date. You may not have all the resources you need, and it may not be the right time of year, but God is calling you to begin. My own personal opinion is that church planting strategies and techniques can be helpful, but ultimately, it must be God who leads you by His Spirit.  Church planting is more than just following the man’s directions, it’s about following the one who said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”

Church planting is more than just following the man’s directions, it’s about following the one who said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”

Pastor Brian Kelly is a former missionary and Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel Kampala, Uganda. After returning from the field and serving for a time at Maranatha Chapel in San Diego, he and his family moved to Bellingham, to plant the Bridge. You can find more information about the Bridge on their website or on Facebook.