I had just left seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and was en route to join a church plant team in St. Louis, Missouri. I grew up in the St. Louis area and was excited to get back to where I believed God was calling me. I served as a team member and then as Community Pastor with August Gate Church in south St. Louis city. During this time God really shaped my heart for the church and for the city. While I was with August Gate, I was able to see how amazing the Cooperative Program was and how it was a blessing to church planters and church plants. The Southern Baptist leaders and churches we were connected to were serious about seeing gospel-centered, missional churches planted all over the St. Louis area and beyond! When God called me and my family to plant a new church in north St. Louis city, I knew that I wanted to stay connected to this incredible community of missionaries that NAMB had built in St. Louis. So, when I heard about the opportunity to be a church planting apprentice, I jumped at the chance!
One of the great things about the Church Planter Apprenticeship is that it allowed me to focus my attention on the work that God was calling me to. The funding provided by NAMB allowed me to step away from responsibilities at my sending church and set my mind on the vision for a new work. This freedom allowed me to get creative in how I used my time in three main ways.
One of the great things about the Church Planter Apprenticeship is that it allowed me to focus my attention on the work that God was calling me to.
Without having to bear the weight of a staff position any longer, I was able to focus almost all of my work hours on developing the vision for our church plant. This allowed me to creatively use my time to learn more about God’s call on my family, how God had gifted me and what God’s heart was for the area we were being sent to. I was working outside the office, meeting with neighborhood residents, elected officials, business owners and rehabbing a home for us in the neighborhood we would plant. The NAMB farm system was allowing me to concentrate all of my attention on the work at hand.
There are times in the life of a pastor when we can fall into going through the motions. This can work its way from our work week, to our family life and our own personal relationship with Jesus. Becoming a church planting apprentice shook off the spiritual cobwebs. It placed a heightened sense of urgency on me to grow in my faithfulness to Jesus, my wife, my kids and my community! Church planting is an exciting but trying time, and one that should not be walked into without a firm grip on the hand of Jesus. Having more time to devote to church planting gave me more time to creatively engage with the One who was calling me. Days devoted to personal prayer, prayer walking my neighborhood, taking my wife on dates to restaurants in our area, taking my kids to the park in our neighborhood were all things that, at times, I had neglected prior to my apprenticeship.
The freedom that the apprenticeship provided allowed me to see fruit in many areas of my life. Through the coaching of local leaders, I was learning more about myself, both good and bad. Meeting with people from our focus area provided many new connections and relationships that would be integral to the church plant. The space allowed for family allowed my wife to be deeply invested in planting, too.
The apprenticeship set me up for success to live every day as a missionary in my city. We have a home in the neighborhood that allows us to show hospitality to our neighbors. We have also made lasting connections in our area that will serve our church for many years. Our family is in a place where we can consistently engage those around us with the love of Jesus.
Published April 1, 2015