Easter church plants see joy, growth

By Timothy Cockes

NASHVILLE (BP) – For many churches, Easter Sunday is not only a special day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, but it also represents the start of their ministry.

One of these churches, Christ Community South Brevard in Palm Bay, Fla., held its inaugural service this past Easter Sunday. The church has already experienced spiritual growth in its first few weeks.

This growth came in the form of six salvations and several upcoming baptisms. All of the salvation decisions have happened since the church launched just a few weeks ago.

The Core Leadership team of Christ Community South Brevard in Palm Bay, Fla. Lead pastor Cody Chester is in the top left corner.

Cody Chester, lead pastor at Christ Community South Brevard, said the six salvation testimonies come from three different families from the 60- to 70-member congregation.

The church is scheduling a baptism service for early July.

Chester said his favorite part of the church-planting journey thus far has been seeing God work through his small group of church leaders.

“The biggest joy and reward has just been seeing God’s people in action,” Chester said.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the people that are on our core team and their passion for ministry and their passion for this church plant. We could not have asked God to send a better group of people with us. It’s just been 100 percent buy-in and that’s been amazing to see.”

After serving in ministry at a Southern Baptist church in Texas for several years, Chester and his family moved to Florida in 2018 to a join the ministry of First Baptist Melbourne, a congregation located near Chester’s wife’s family.

First Baptist Melbourne had been developing a plan to plant 10 churches in 10 years, and within a year selected Chester and his family to lead the first church plant as a part of that goal.

A small group of leaders from First Baptist Melbourne, led by Chester, would eventually become Christ Community South Brevard a few years later.

Although Chester said the church-planting journey has been easier than he thought it would be so far, he wants to prepare his team for inevitable challenges that will come.

“We’ve shared and reminded our core team that church planting is difficult and it’s not always going to be a ‘mountaintop’ experience,” he said.

“It’s inevitable that difficult seasons are going to come and we have to be ready for those. We also want to celebrate every victory with our core team, so that when those difficult seasons do come, they have something to look back on to see how God moved.”

Another new church plant experiencing positive growth is Above The Hills Church in Lynn, Mass.

Lead Pastor Simon Sim told Baptist Press that the church, which launched around Easter last year, has also had six people make decisions for Christ and has a baptism service being planned for later this summer.

Sim said he has been a pastor since 2003, but never considered church planting and it was almost like a “foreign language” to him.

God slowly changed his heart, and he began to see the value of the endeavor.

“I used to be the type of person that I complain about now,” Sim said. “I used to be the person that would go into a church or community and say ‘this community isn’t really for me or what I’m looking for.’ I used to be that kind of person even as a pastor.

“It wasn’t until later that my mentors pointed out to me that you are actually called to build the community that you lead, and to instill that philosophy in the congregation. Oftentimes the best way to reach communities is to plant new churches in areas that churches do not exist.”

Sim explained the area surrounding the church is made up of many different cultures, so he attempted to apply this philosophy of reaching the community right where they are.

Above the Hills Church, led by North American Mission Board church planting missionary Simon Sim, hosted a vision night before their official launch that included a preview service for their church planting team. Photo submitted by Simon Sim.

This intentional effort has already proven successful at Above The Hills.

Sim (who is Cambodian), said the congregation is around 40 percent Asian. Additionally, the church family, even though it’s relatively small, is made up of Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, African-Americans, Russians and Haitians.

“A lot of times we think there are blueprints to how churches are built, but a lot of times these ‘blueprints’ are not exactly cut-and-paste everywhere you go,” Sim said. “It ultimately comes down to building relationships to reach your community.”

In addition to their Easter-time launches, another similarity between Christ Community and Above the Hills is their affiliation with the North American Mission Board’s Send Network.

Vance Pitman, president Send Network, said in a statement to Baptist Press he always rejoices in the launch of new church plants and is thankful for the partnership of churches within the Network.

“I am always thrilled to see church planters stepping out in faith to join in God’s activity of expanding His kingdom by launching a new church, and I’m especially encouraged to see churches embrace the Send Network value of family,” Pitman said.

“When we shift our focus from starting a church to instead expanding the kingdom in cities and nations, we realize that no one church can accomplish the mission by itself. Send Network is a family of churches, and we need one another to accomplish the mission. Understanding this biblical reality, we then join together to engage cities and communities with the Gospel, that results in disciples being made and new churches being born that ultimately leads to lasting gospel transformation.”

Sim concluded with some advice for church planters.

“My biggest encouragement is be prepared to let go,” Sim said. “Sometimes we have this misconception that when someone is called to church planting that all of their experience will be a culmination to this very point or this very ‘mountaintop’ moment.

“This is not necessarily the case. Sometimes God can call you to church planting and break you along the way of a lot of things in your heart holding you back so I can pour into you what you need. Be prepared to die to a lot of things as a part of the refining process.”

Editor’s Notes: This story originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Published June 10, 2022

Timothy Cockes

Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.