Explore distinctives of NAMB's five regions
Find cities where you can plant a church
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
Equipping Churches for Evangelism
Promote missions giving in your church
Get your free subscription to On Mission magazine
Ready to take your next step on mission? Click here:
By Makayla Sykes
Many of us still
remember our childhood best friend’s name. We remember their hair color,
freckles and the countless after-school adventures. Fast-forward to high
school, and our friends were crucial during late-night study sessions, pizza
runs and painful breakups. But somewhere through the hustle of graduating,
finding a job and creating a family, many of us run out of time for intimate
friendships that are outside of their family and work life.
scripture, God calls people together. God sent Aaron to Moses, Barnabas to Paul
and Jonathan to David. More often than not, God calls two or more people
together. We were created for a relationship with God and for community. We
were not created to do life alone.
Pastor of Midtown Church in Atlanta, Ga.,
met a new friend over a phone call. Briggs, was praying for a friend in
to come alongside him in ministry.
“One day, I got a
phone call. The guy on the other said, ‘You don’t know me, but my name is Woody
Johnson, and I want to talk to you about coming into the city.’”
Woody Johnson was
a member at New Hope Baptist church in Fayetteville, Ga. He served as a deacon,
chairman, volunteer pastor of children’s ministry and all in between. After 28 years at New Hope Baptist church,
Johnson and his wife, Vicki, felt God call them to move into the city. “We just
really felt like our time in Fayetteville was over and that God was basically
saying to go into the city,” Johnson said. “I just didn’t know where in the
city I was going.
“I’ve found a lot of my life is spent waiting
on my wife to get ready. One morning, I was waiting on her to get ready for an
out-of-town wedding. It was 5 AM, and I was just on the computer,” Johnson
said. “I pulled up Midtown church online, and I was reading what it was all
about. It was talking about discipleship, which is what I have been about my
whole Christian life. I called Todd, and we had a great connection over the
phone.” The next week, the Johnson’s visited Briggs and his wife, Barbie, “I
just heard God say that this was where I need to come and be planted, even
before I had heard Todd preach,” Johnson said. The first time that Johnson
heard Briggs preach was the first Sunday after he joined.
The Johnson’s put
their house up for sale and moved down to the heart of Atlanta a couple months
later. Johnson told Briggs that he did not want any sort of title during his
first year as a member of Midtown church. He served in various ministries while
he fell in love with the people of Atlanta.
After a year,
Johnson took on various positions. He became an elder in the church and helped
direct different ministries, all while standing by Briggs’ side. “He really
understands my vision and embraces it. Johnson has become my right hand man and
sometimes even more than that. We’re in this together as partners but also just
as friends,” said Briggs.
Briggs and Johnson
both enjoy playing golf together, although Johnson said, “I’m tired of Briggs
always beating me.”
Together they have
started several different ministries within Midtown church including Plant
Atlanta. “We have partnered with World Wide Discipleship Association and have
been raising money around it. So far we have recruited two young pastors.”
Plant Atlanta disciples young pastors with a heart for urban missions. Johnson
stands as a model for new pastors to look up to.
Briggs and Johnson
rarely disagree, but Briggs admits that, “I am a Yankee that only came to
Christ 18 years ago. I’m very impulsive and very entrepreneurial,” Briggs said.
“But we’re also wired completely differently.” He continued, “We had to learn
early on that there are certain things that Woody does really well that I need
to listen to him about, and there are certain things that I do really well that
Woody listens to me about.” Briggs and Johnson describe their relationship as a
team effort. “It’s not about what each of us brings to the table alone but
together. There are times when we don’t agree, but what makes the difference is
that we share the vision for seeing the city reached.”
Johnson and Briggs
share the same vision for Atlanta. They both want Midtown church to be a
hospital in the midst of the chaos in the city. “We want to multiply out really
connected missional churches that are dealing with the damage in people’s
lives. There are so many people in the city that have been hurt by the church,
and we want to be different,” said Briggs. Johnson and Briggs want Midtown
church to be a vibrant body of Christ that serves as a community of healing.
“A friend in the ministry is not just a nice thing,
but it is absolutely crucial,” Briggs said. He described isolation as one of
the most dangerous things that pastor’s face. “There are so many pitfalls that
you can face. We all need someone that is forcing you to get out of your pastor
role and into your being a friend role.” Briggs continued, “Successful urban
church planting is almost always done by church planting teams. You need
somebody that has your back. It’s a different world in the city.”
Sykes writes for the North American Mission Board.For more information
about how to join a church-planting movement, visit http://www.namb.net/sendme.
Date Created: 11/24/2015 6:06:11 PM
comes to leading a church, character trumps everything. A long standing church
can often survive the calamity of a disgraced leader, but a new church rarely
can. There is much on the shoulders of a church planter.
shows that the greatest source of a church plant’s implosion comes from
deficient character. Lofty public preaching is not sufficient to overcome our
personal brokenness. Our sin, however
carefully concealed, will more accurately describe the dark nature of our real
also instructive to realize that in the New Testament ‘belief’ is not a noun,
but a verb. We can never own a belief – we only can live a belief. Our best
theology is never believed until it is integrated into our lifestyle.
The character of Christ
Implicit in Jesus’
call to discipleship was a call to personally take on the radical character of
Christ. When Jesus ushered a fresh charge to his pre-disciples in Mark 1:17, “follow me, and I will make you become
fishers of men,” he was describing both his Kingdom assignment and the only
process that makes that assignment possible. ‘Follow me’ always precedes
‘fishers of men.’
necessary for multiplying true disciples of Jesus grows directly in proportion
to our personal follow-ship of Jesus.
So, what does the character of Christ actually look like?
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount shows a
three-dimensional picture of Kingdom character that warrants a lifetime of
study and personal application. John 1:14 observed firsthand that Kingdom
character was displayed in Jesus through the perfect blending of two spiritual
realities – ‘grace’ and ‘truth’; “And the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of
the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Grace and truth
eternally and inextricably fused together. In Jesus, grace and truth were not a
balanced duo, but both dished out lavishly and unreservedly toward an
So it stands to
reason that the process of following Jesus should build a life branded by the
character of Christ. So why is our character often so very different?
Sin, by definition,
is missing God’s intended mark. Our damaged character finds appeal in one of
two character-distorting forms of sin:
How can I lead with the character of Christ?
It seems intuitive
that when we are out of balance, we moderate and find a healthy equilibrium
with grace and truth. However, seeking an artificial balance will never shape
our character into that of our King’s. It is impossible to reduce one part of
Him in an attempt to become more like Him.
The good news is
that the gospel is actually great news to our sad theology. We have two
spiritual realities to assist when we over steer.
And so the
spiritual protection that keep us in the character of Christ are His grace and
His truth. When we embrace both, the world takes note.
Date Created: 11/24/2015 6:03:34 PM
Mark Vance and Brian
In the last few decades a building angst has grown around
reaching college students with the gospel. Church leaders have long seen the importance
of making disciples among collegians, but many churches are stymied by the time
and resources required to engage universities around them.
Is the college campus a mission
History shows that what happens on a campus in one generation,
impact the next. Today’s campus trends change tomorrow. From this perspective,
it is not just important churches more effectively engage campuses with the
gospel; it is essential.
Based on these realities a new ministry is gaining traction in
and around college campuses. It’s the concept of collegiate or university
The Cornerstone – Salt
In 1972, Jack Owens arrived at Iowa State University (ISU) in Ames,
IA to plant a Baptist Student Union (BSU). Owens began sharing the gospel on
campus and soon his ministry grew to a dozen students.
Over the next decade the ministry grew, and leadership changed,
and in 1986 Troy Nesbitt became the ministry director. Nesbitt and his students
began to ask how they could reach the campus more effectively and as a part of
their answer, they changed their name from BSU to Salt Company to demonstrate
their commitment to living a Matthew 5, salt of the earth and light of the world
By 1994, Salt Company’s growth (200 students) was eclipsing the
size of their sponsor, Grand Avenue Baptist Church. Salt Company’s focus on
reaching the campus had caused the ministry to get too big, and after extensive
prayer, the decision was made to plant Salt Company as a church. Later that
year, Cornerstone Church was planted with 24 community members and 200 college
students at the first service.
Cornerstone made the commitment “to be a church that puts
college students on the front of the bus.” They resolved to “never quit being
the church that loves university students,” and embedded in their ethos that
they would never fail to “win at reaching the campus.”
Cornerstone flourished steadily and maintained the Salt Company
ministry and brand to continue engaging the campus. Nesbit and the church
brought on a staff member, Jeff Dodge, to take over the college program, and
over the next decade Salt Company grew to over 500 students. As the church
grew, Dodge transitioned to Cornerstone staff and students who had been reached
through the ministry (Paul Sabino, Mark Arant and Cody Cline) took the helm of
the college ministry – breaking through to over 1,000 student by 2012.
Iowa State and beyond
In two decades, Cornerstone has grown from a church plant of
224 to gathering 2,400 in weekly worship. While these numbers are exciting,
other data is even more compelling. Over their history, Cornerstone – Salt
Company has seen over 1,900 baptisms, sent more than 1,500 students on short-term
missions trips and had 76 students spend two years or more overseas.
Eventually, as Cornerstone continued to send missionaries and
church planters overseas they recognized that their core value of reaching
collegians was unfilled on other campuses in Iowa. In 2010, Cornerstone
launched Mark Arant, a leadership team and 80 people from Ames, IA, to plant
140 miles down at the University of Iowa. Currently, Veritas Church is now
seeing over 650 in weekly worship and 350 engaged in Salt Company.
In 2013, Cornerstone and Veritas worked together to send Paul
Sabino and Stan Hayek plus 80 people out from Veritas to launch Candeo Church
and Salt Company at Cedar Falls and the University of Northern Iowa. Two years
in, and Candeo is averaging 700 in worship, 300 students in Salt Company, and
since January 1, 2015, they have already baptized 108 people.
Cornerstone, Salt Company and Iowa leaders are working
diligently to plant churches planted near every college campus in Iowa, and
they continue to identify locations and planters in the Midwest and beyond.
Why this should be
In many ways, Cornerstone Church
has become an unintentional and unusual mega-church. When they began with 24
community members and 200 college students in 1994, their initial leadership
team hoped to see God provide enough financial support through community
members to continue to see the ministry to college students expand. Out of this
relentless focus on reaching the next generation, God birthed a thriving
multi-generational church that has reached thousands of college students. Two
critical factors to this unusual growth must be noted – location and passion.
Location: Cornerstone Church is in Ames, IA; a simple town that
happens to be home of 36,000 Iowa State University students. This strategic
location takes advantage of the unique geographic bottleneck where the next
generation is most densely clustered.
Passion: From the beginning, Cornerstone resolved to be a church
that loved college students. They decided they would die as a church before
they stopped reaching college students. Reaching college students was their
number one priority.
A strategic location plus a
focused passion has equaled amazing results in reaching the next generation.
And as this decision to plant churches that reach college students has extended
beyond Ames, God’s grace has continued to be seen as more students are being
reached with the Gospel.
Throughout our country, college
and university campuses serve as a natural bottleneck where the best and
brightest of the next generation are clustered into tightly packed geographic
areas during a uniquely shapeable period of their life. What might happen if we
would seize this God-given opportunity by engaging these strategic locations
with a focused passion to plant churches to reach college students?
In the cornfields of Iowa,
Cornerstone Church stands as a living testimony that a strategic location plus
a focused passion can yield incredible Gospel fruit in the next generation.
If you would like to learn more about the story, systems and strategy of Cornerstone - Salt Company, consider taking part in their free Hitchhikers event, April 14-16, 2016 (details here www.hitchikerssaltco.com).
For ideas and tools for helping you or leaders in your church engage campuses near you, check out www.collegiatecollective.com for articles, podcasts, video content and tools.
Date Created: 11/24/2015 5:52:42 PM
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®© Copyright 2015 North American Mission Board, SBC