By Tobin Perry
CINCINNATI – Church planters find their way to where they start churches in a variety of ways. Steve Staton (@smstaton) arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio, at least in part, because God gave his wife, Samantha, an elite opera singing voice. The couple first moved to Cincinnati in August of 2005 for Samantha to further her study of opera at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, one of the nation’s best places to study opera.
Yet it didn’t take long for God to show the couple He had a larger purpose for them in the Queen City—to plant an evangelistic church on the city’s west side.
“We’re right where God wants us to be,” Staton said. “It isn’t an easy place to reach people with the gospel, but God is using us to reach people who wouldn’t step into another church.”
Staton first sensed God’s call to plant a church 10 years ago while attending a conference near Atlanta. The speaker asked attendees to stand if God had given them a dream to do something for Him. Staton realize his God-given dream was to plant a church that reached unchurched people with the gospel.
“I stood to my feet in faith, not knowing how or even when this dream would become a reality, but trusting that one day God would bring this dream to a reality,” Staton wrote later.
But God also showed Staton, who was then serving as a youth minister in North Carolina, that the timing wasn’t quite right. Throughout the next eight years God prepared Steve and Samantha for church planting.
After Samantha’s acceptance into the conservatory of music, Staton began looking for youth ministry positions near Cincinnati. When Rolling Hills Baptist Church, north of Cincinnati, offered him a position, he was honest from the start about his calling to plant a church.
Rolling Hills Pastor Danny Rollins didn’t just accept Staton’s calling—he embraced it. In May 2012, when Staton left the church to plant Velocity Church, Rolling Hills sent five couples to help and support the new church financially and they continue to do so.
|Steve and Samantha Staton, pictured with sons Syler (left) and Sterlin, moved to Cincinnati eight years ago to allow Samantha to pursue her opera career at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. The move also confirmed God’s call to plant a church in the Cincinnati area. Photo courtesy Velocity Church.|
“After you launch, you have a lot of excitement, but a year and a half into this it’s great to know you still have their support,” said Staton, a North American Mission Board missionary. “It’s a very reassuring feeling.”
Velocity focuses on one of the most difficult-to-reach areas in the city: West Cincinnati. The area is heavily populated by non-practicing religious people, who often think they have religion covered but lack an understanding of the gospel.
Because of the reticence of the community to accept a new church, the less-than-a-1-year-old plant has gotten involved in serving a local school, handing out water bottles and initiated a helicopter egg drop with more than 20,000 eggs. Staton says that between 2,500 and 3,000 people participated in the egg drop.
So far the church averages about 70 in Sunday worship. The church has baptized four since launching last October.
Staton said one particular new believer typifies the people Velocity is trying to reach. She grew up religious but had only internalized the rules of her faith—and never had a born-again relationship with Christ. Staton said she believed her church attendance would get her into heaven.
“[One] Sunday she prayed to receive Christ,” Staton said. “It was awesome. Here’s a lady who had been journeying with us for some time and finally it clicked. She had thought it was about a commitment to a religion and church attendance. But all along she was missing this relationship with Christ.”
Though Staton puts evangelism at the core of the Velocity’s mission, he continues to look for the most effective ways to disciple new believers.
“I want to see people come to Jesus,” Staton said. “So we’re continuing to do evangelistic outreaches, but we want to tie it in to discipleship. We want people to see that once they become a Christian, they aren’t crossing the finish line. They’re coming out of the starting gate. That’s when they need to start growing in their relationship with Jesus.”
For more information about how your church can partner with church planters like Staton in Cincinnati, visit namb.net/Cincinnati.
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.
Published July 8, 2013