Where Church Planters Come From

Rob Stockman is tattooed on the outside and scarred on the inside. Maybe that’s why when people in his hometown of Salisbury, Maryland, see him now, they can’t help but ask, “What in the world happened to you?”

“I was a heathen,” Rob says. “I’d heard once or twice of a guy named Jesus, but I’d decided a long time ago I was going to live for the pursuit of my happiness—not for anything or anyone else.”

Rob Stockman had never been the churchgoing type. “My story is,” he says, “I was a heathen.”

One day three years ago, Rob Stockman received a seemingly innocuous text from a casual acquaintance named Richard Pope. Richard, a church planter with Send Network, the church planting arm of the North American Mission Board, was reaching out to every person on his contact list, inviting them to the first official Sunday service of Canvas Church. “We had friends who didn’t know God,” Richard says, “and so as our launch Sunday approached, we messaged everybody we knew.”

In 20201, Richard Pope, a church planter with Send Network, started Canvas Church in Salisbury, Md.

Rob ignored that first message from Richard. Maybe that’s why, a few days later, he received another text. And then another. “Richard just kept bugging me,” Rob says. “So when Canvas launched, I came.”

Rob Stockman arrived at church on April 4, 2021, with a wife, four kids, and very low expectations. “I was skeptical,” he says. “I’d gone so far off the path, I felt like there was no coming back. But then, Richard got up to preach, and I heard the gospel. Plain and simple. I mean, Richard just laid it out there. He said no matter how far gone you are, there’s nothing Jesus hasn’t paid for.”

Several weeks later, Canvas Church’s first baptism service was a Stockman family affair. “My father got baptized and then he helped Richard baptize me,” Rob says. “And then I helped baptize my 14-year-old daughter.”

Rob started sharing the gospel with his friends. “I brought people to our small group,” he says, “and we ended up baptizing one of the girls from my work.”

And then, “One day Richard was talking to my wife,” Rob says. “And he goes, ‘You know Rob’s going to be a pastor one day, right?’ Well, later, my wife told me he’d said that, and we laughed about it. My wife was like, ‘Yeah, remember that time you got X, Y and Z drunk? Yeah, you could never be a pastor.’ But then, Richard talked to me, and it turns out he has a very subtle way of saying what you already know.”

Rob Stockman, tattooed on the outside and scarred on the inside, is now a pastoral intern at Canvas Church. He’ll soon be taking a team to a nearby community where they’ll plant another new church.

Canvas Church has already started one new church. Soon, they’ll be sending Rob out with a team of people to start another new work.

This is the kind of chain reaction that’s produced when you give to support North American missions—lives are changed, believers are sent out, then more lives are changed, and more believers are sent out. “I’m not what I used to be,” Rob says. “The old me would always say, ‘Go live it up, go be the main character in your story.’ But now, all I want people to know about me is that I lived for Jesus.”

Watch Rob Stockman’s story

Published May 1, 2024