Answering the Call of Church Planting
Through a collection of eclectic ragamuffins, naive to the grit of Gospel-planting, disenchanted with “the way church had become,” and boldly impassioned to see north Pinellas and the greater Tampa Bay Area reached with the message of legit Christianity, God birthed BLDG 28 in the spring of 2011. With a name that more closely resembled a night-club than a church, and a pastor who looked more like a grunged-out hippie (embarrassingly so) than a bishop, the first thirteen months were a journey of attrition. Many of our loyal congregants (admittedly now) wondered if we would survive the first year, and they were joined – though they weren’t aware – by their newly appointed pastor. For my part I can now easily admit that the planning was atrocious, the workload unbearable, the grind unsustainable, and the practical vision for survival alone far less than clear.
However, the core that had planted with me were an immense blessing, the other two elders a God-send, and our overarching vision – to cling to the pure Gospel, value true community, and be intentional on mission – never wavered. Baked into the DNA of B28 was also the reality that even in our flailing we would partner with at least one church plant every year and financially support church planting efforts across the globe in the belief that the birth of new churches is essential to kingdom advancement. Our meager budget was sliced and diced to make these goals priorities, and within two months of planting we were financially supporting church planters. That July we took our first mission trip to serve two church plants in New Brunswick.
Through our struggles, failing, naivety, and countless attacks, God has been faithful to His Gospel and through His people. With the dust finally beginning to settle, we can look back this very weekend to remember fondly and celebrate joyously seven years of Gospel ministry that has not only survived but is thriving. Children are being instructed in true Christianity, parents are being equipped, souls are constantly being transformed, the hungry are being fed, the orphans are being cared for, the saints are being established, the truth is being heralded through a multiplicity of channels, and God is being honored. Our mess has come to order thanks to good books, blogs, research, networks, training and conferences. Our “on the ground” vision has taken shape. The name of BLDG 28 – for the fame of Jesus – is known throughout Pinellas and beyond, and our commitment to see healthy, well-led, Biblically-faithful churches planted in our region and throughout the world has only deepened.
In his stellar work Center Church, Tim Keller writes: “The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for the numerical growth of the body of Christ in any city…” Both Scripture and history confirm this. We know that the local church is God’s plan-A mission strategy in rolling out His kingdom. We also realize that it is easy to acquire a burden for planting/planters, and to reiterate that vision to a collection of people, but getting boots on the ground and actively engaging in church planting is quite a different or much more difficult story. By God’s grace our boots have hit the unchurched (or newly churched) soil and we are excited for how BLDG 28 will be assisting in the planting of healthy churches this year! At this juncture the obvious question from you would be, “How…?” and I am thankful for the inquiry.
The statistics related to church planting abound, some reliable while others fallacious. Not necessarily true is the testament that 85% of church plants fold in the first three years (the answer is far more convoluted than a stat can provide). However, the stark reality is that most (some research says up to 90% of) church plants never reach 100 people in total average attendance. According to Lifeway research, planters who are properly assessed through a network or denomination are 250% more likely to last in ministry and lead an effective and growing church. To be clear, assessment does not necessarily mean that after the assessment period the answer for the would-be planter will be “yes.” Assessment teams are responsible for determining if a fella has the integrity, ministerial competencies, gospel grit, and other necessary qualifications to plant a church.
Through Acts 29 I have been given the privilege of traveling to Charlotte twice a year and serving on a formal assessment team to connect with and evaluate men who will potentially be planting in our region. Additionally, the leaders of BLDG 28 have been asked by local churches to provide assessment for non-vocational pastors in hopes that these pastors can move toward planting.
From being a young man sensing a call to plant, to being a seasoned planter advising others, coaching received has been imperative throughout every step of my journey. Planters typically have loads of passion, raw skill, and confidence, but typically lack (I can speak from my own personal experience in planting B28) ministerial wisdom, organizational skills, patience and planting know-how. Coaching meets these needs and fills in gaps.
Currently BLDG 28 is coaching 4 men in the process of planting churches. Additionally, we are consistently able to provided counsel and direction to other planters throughout our state.
Observing how planting is done and being able to tackle, in advance, the struggles that will be faced is absolutely critical for the health and longevity of a planter. Training is a process and perhaps the blight that sticks most easily to would-be planters is their unwillingness to “take the time needed” to be trained before deployment.
BLDG 28 has created and retooled a residency that allows a minister to connect with our staff, develop under our leaders, serve alongside our church, and receive practical training to encourage and equip them for church planting. Though we have frequent discussions with potential planters about residency, we do not currently have a fella in our residency program. We agree with what several network directors and pastors have advised: “you can’t force a church plant out of your church if the planter isn’t there.” Therefore, we are praying and waiting on the Lord to raise up a potential planter to deploy from within BLDG 28.
Most church plants are not financially sustainable until at least year three. Even with sustainability achieved, many more do not have the resources necessary to market to their neighborhoods, print necessary promotional materials, outsource graphic design, create compelling videos, plan for seasonal cycles, and connect with the families and children of their community. In 2018 BLDG 28 is stepping up to provide these exact resources – to varying degrees – to three church plants. We will give more than $75,000 total toward church planting efforts and in support of church planters this year alone. We will take a group of 21 from our church to Grace City Wissinoming to serve alongside this incredible church in seeing the city of Philadelphia renewed with the Gospel.
Please pray for BLDG 28 as we assess, coach, train, and support church planters and church planting. Please partner with us in giving and going. Please remember Grace City Wissinoming, Confessors of Christ in Champions Gate, Grace Church Miami, and all our network churches in Acts 29. We are stoked to see how God will continue to accomplish His mission this year through the intentional planting of Gospel-centered, Biblically-led, kingdom-advancing congregations.