During his lifetime, Clint Clifton asked many individuals to consider planting a church, but his son Noah wasn’t one of them.
“He just focused on being my dad,” says 22-year-old Noah Clifton.
It’s this space that allowed Noah to wrestle through his calling to church planting and the clarity to continue down this path even after his father was killed in a tragic aircraft accident in January of 2023.
“There’s a lot of power wrapped up in the fact that this is something that God was calling him to well before and despite the loss of his dad,” says Colby Garman, who pastored Pillar Church of Dumfries alongside Clint for more than a decade. “Something like losing your father is a seismic shift in life, but to see Noah know that God had called him to something and to do it with devotion and honesty makes me really hopeful.”
Now, Colby’s church that Clint pastored with him is the Sending Church for Noah and Send Network planter Alex Chatman as they in turn plant Pillar Church of Crestview, Florida.
The Crestview church plant is one that Clint’s widow, Jennifer, said they had many conversations about. Clint was excited to see Noah embrace his call to church planting, and, as Jennifer puts it, “When you pair him with Alex Chatman, who is an experienced, Jesus-loving military member, the sky’s the limit for what God can use the two of them together to do.”
According to Jennifer, planting churches in military communities was an idea Clint stumbled upon shortly after planting Pillar Church of Dumfries near Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.
“Our church is full of military members,” says Jennifer, “And so Clint was like, ‘Instead of me going out and planting a bunch of other churches, let’s train these guys who are going out already when the government changes their duty stations. Let’s train them, disciple them, so we are sending out all these disciple-makers, these missionaries, as they move about.’”
Alex was one such Marine who caught Clint’s eye. First, Clint asked Alex to lead the youth ministry at Pillar Church of Dumfries, and then several years later, Clint began asking Alex when he would plant a church.
Pillar Church of Dumfries planted dozens of churches during Clint’s lifetime, but this particular church plant in Crestview held special significance for him.
“It brings together all of the things I think that were deeply important to Clint,” says Colby. “His love to see the gospel proclaimed and God’s kingdom advanced, his excitement about church planting in military communities, and then what I would say is the thing that was most important to him, which was his family and the relationships that they have shared.”
Noah says his father had a strongly developed philosophy of blending ministry with family, saying, “What we do, we do together.” This family motto gave Noah a front-row seat to the ministry of church planting and left him with a unique breadth of practical wisdom for the task.
“Everything he and my mom did was to expand the kingdom of God and to make our family a family of men and women who love the gospel and want to see Jesus’ name glorified among the nations,” Noah says.
At the time of his death, Clint was serving as the senior director of resource and research strategy at the North American Mission Board. He authored countless articles, wrote handbooks on practical church planting topics, and hosted the New Churches podcast.
“He loved the Send Network family,” says Jennifer. “He always came home so excited to have spent time with them, so excited for the things that they were pushing towards, the vision that was passed down to them from leadership. He loved the direction Send Network was going.”
Published January 12, 2024