Church Planters

Pushing Past the Honeymoon Stage of a Church Plant

No church bells rang at that time. But George and Janelle Lim fell in love with Glastonbury, Connecticut, years ago. Finally called to plant a church there, they moved their family of 5 in August 2015.

“Living here was surreal,” George Lim shared. “Like most missions, we hit the ground in the honeymoon stage. Yet a few months later, we were back to reality. Like most of New England, this is spiritually hard ground. Glastonbury is an affluent and educated town. People in this community have all the material things they need.

“By October, we were lonely, tired, discouraged, and without resources to accomplish what God called us to—plant a church. A friend said, ‘Let’s stop talking about how hard the ground is and start talking about how great our God is.’

“Crying out to God, we remembered our purpose: to make much of Jesus, to bring people to Jesus, not to do something cool or to be known as church planters. Furthermore we recognized that when we do too much in our strength, the natural response is to take credit. But times of complete weakness [are opportunities] to see God’s power and for Him alone to be glorified.

A Church Grows in Brooklyn

Born and raised in Westchester, New York, James T. Roberson III was a typical high school student and athlete.

“Though I grew up in church, my relationship with God was defined more by praying for wins in football and passing classes in school,” Roberson said honestly.

After graduating from high school (which he calls a miracle), he was off to Valley Forge Military College. He later graduated from James Madison University (JMU). It was during his college years that he became involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, which intensified his relationship with God.

“[In college], I was introduced to a consistent lifestyle of living for God,” Roberson said. And that is where he met his wife, Natarsha. The couple have served a wide spectrum of people through campus ministry at 3 universities in Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and Texas and 4 church plants in Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia.

In 2013, the Robersons, along with their 2 young daughters, moved to Brooklyn, New York, to start The Bridge Church.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Josh and Tiffany Lenon

Josh and Tiffany Lenon have included relationship-building principles in planting Red Door Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Now they are extending their efforts to Cincinnati’s second Red Door Church.

City church plants, especially those with a millennial base, typically rely on electronic media to reach their communities. And Red Door Church has an especially effective online presence.

However, such sites are also used to communicate with a much wider community. The Lenons are grateful when others outside their city visit IAmRedDoor.org for updates, especially when the news those visitors read fuels prayers for the ministry. Some may be motivated to not only pray but also support this effort with gifts—financial or service-oriented.

The Value of Building Relationships

“We have a front row seat to see people experience forgiveness and freedom. We’ve seen marriages restored, relationships mended, and people discovering their purpose in Jesus. There is absolute joy in this!” Sterling Edwards said of being a church planter.

He and wife Jenna have been church planters in New York for 10 years. When the Edwards first moved from Houston, Texas, to Long Island, they connected with the first people they met: post office employees, a restaurant owner, and a man at the golf course. These people became the first attendees of their church, Crossroads Church of Long Island in North Babylon. As time passed, people introduced them to other people and their circle of friends widened. And their church’s membership grew. The church currently meets in 4 locations each weekend.

The Edwards still make developing relationships a priority, because growing churches is not about watching a structure go up—it’s about the day-to-day development of relationships with people.

Surrender Brings Blessings Multiplied

Surrendering to Jesus may require giving up something extremely important to do the unexpected.

Brenna Stull experienced that when she and her husband, Chris, felt God prompting them to relocate to plant Wellspring Church in Goodyear, Arizona.

Leaving McKinney, Texas, meant uprooting—in particular—one of their teenagers who had influence and promising opportunities at his high school.

“My thought was, ‘How could we do this to Derek—moving right before his senior year?’” Brenna Stull recalled.

The next day, she heard in a sermon that whatever a person is unwilling to lay down to obey Christ has become an idol.

“My heart was pierced,” she said. “I confessed . . . and surrendered myself to His will.”

The day before school started in August 2013, the couple and their 5 children arrived in the Litchfield Park/Goodyear area west of Phoenix. The Phoenix metropolitan area is home to nearly 5.4 million people. Only 12.6% affiliates with an evangelical congregation; 62% has no religious association.

Doing Less Brings Peace

Missionary, wife, and mother of 4 Heidi Sivonen is learning that doing less brings peace to her home.

“As a big family, we have learned as parents and as a couple that we need to prioritize life in such a way as to not be busy-bodies. Protecting the family from ‘busy-ness’ and learning to say no to the plethora of opportunities has helped us to create more peace in the home. Our ministry is full and we need to know our limits as we take up our cross and follow Jesus.”

Heidi and her husband, Mikko, serve as church planters in Finland. Mikko is the church-planting pastor of Espoon Kotikirkko and cofounder and coleader of Agricola Theological Institute, where he helps train local church members, elders, and pastors in church planting. Heidi helps a national crisis pregnancy group (her husband’s church houses 1 of 10 trained crisis pregnancy centers in Finland) and blogs at HousewifeUniversity.blogspot.com.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Nathan and Andi Knight

Restoration Church continues to reach a global population in the nation’s capital. One such example is a young Chinese girl who began attending the church more than a year ago. She could be found at many of the fellowship gatherings but continued to only “consider Jesus.” Recently, after a sermon addressing the meaning and importance of the Lord’s Supper, she came to copastor Nathan Knight and, in broken English, said, “I have decided to follow Jesus. What must I do now?” The church celebrated her conversion as she was baptized. This young girl gave an incredibly God-glorifying, Christ-exalting testimony in front of many people. Today she continues to be mentored and discipled by another girl from China in the church.

Loving Different People

Cissy McNickle; her husband, “Buff;” and their 3 children moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey, almost 3 years ago to plant a church. They believed God had equipped them, but it was still a scary move.

In the Northeast, only 5.9% of the population is affiliated with an evangelical church. Cissy had to learn to love people different from her genuinely. That includes girls working in strip clubs.

Cissy oversees a ministry to these girls called Love’s Way Out AC. The ministry is affiliated with Grace Falls Church, which Cissy and Buff planted.

“I love the ministry of church planting God has called my family to, and I will continue to allow God to use my circumstances to conform me more and more into the likeness of Jesus,” Cissy said.

She has witnessed the power of prayer in their ministry and requested prayer for the protection of her marriage and children as well as for boldness to do the work God has called her family to do.

LaNita Mitchell writes and serves from Princeton, Kentucky. She has a master’s degree in Christian ministry.

Suffering Produces Perseverance for Ohio Church Planter

Ohio

Jonathan Smith is a church planter—which he said was never on his radar—at Berachah Church in Columbus, Ohio. He was serving on another church’s staff when God changed his direction.

“The lead pastor I was working with was involved in sinful and destructive behavior,” Smith explained. “It rattled me and caused me to question things I had never questioned before.”

But in the end, he realized that God used the situation to place the passion in his heart for church planting. “In a very real way, I was called to plant a church out of a challenging situation that required perseverance when everything humanly within myself wanted to throw in the towel.”

One key step in planting a church was finding a place to meet, especially to “have greater visibility, as well as stability in our community . . . to better reach others who need to meet Jesus.” During the last 5 years, Smith has seen the church grow from a house to a grocery store to a funeral home to a private school and now to the city’s recreation center. While he tried to fix the problem of location, he learned that God was “building His church. It is His timing and plan, not mine.”

One Good Turn

Recently, I heard from a church planter in Louisiana and a Girls in Action® director from a larger church in Mississippi. Besides both being from the South, these individuals only have two things in common: they both love Jesus and value children’s missions discipleship.

Their understanding of the need of children’s missions discipleship is what brought these two together. Through a mutual friend, the churches were connected and the larger Mississippi church purchased a Children in Action subscription for the church plant in Louisiana for three years.

We’re talking approximately $200. Just a drop in the bucket to any large church. No big deal, right?

Wrong.

This gift—small to that Mississippi church—will allow the church plant to share the Great Commission and tell stories about missions work happening across the street and around the world with children who have never been part of a missions organization. Eventually, those children will participate in missions.

To the church plant in Louisiana, this is a big deal.

Pages

Back to Top