This week we interviewed three practitioners serving on the field as church planters. These are their stories.
In late 2013, Kelly and Brandi Parrish left Texas behind to begin church planting work in Timnath, Colorado. A bedroom community of Fort Collins, Timnath has both cultural diversity, from newer arrivals, as well as the charm of an old, traditional establishment. Kelly originally expected several friends to relocate to Timnath and join him for the effort, but one by one, each person or couple was unable to come. God was about to help Kelly and Brandi in a way they had not expected.
Kelly Parrish originally worked in sales for the oil and gas industry for many years before God called him and his wife to ministry. Being bivocational was something Kelly loved, because it gave him an opportunity to cultivate and enjoy friendships and relationships with unchurched people in a natural way. He knew God was moving in his life when the same company he worked for in Granbury, Texas—and then Tyler, Texas—offered to transfer him to Timnath in late 2013, where he could begin the hard work of church planting while still having a stable income and those extra-Christian friendships.
Back in Texas, several families had planned to leave their established lives behind in order to help with this new church plant in Colorado. Several families originally planned to help start the church, but things happened to prevent them: job opportunities disappeared, doors closed, and one family who had even moved to the state, were still too far away to help with the church plant. God had a different plan.
Kelly and Brandi started a home Bible study group in early 2014, and the first meeting had over twenty attendees. Their first meeting turned out to be the lowest attendance they had as the group grew and grew. They focused on loving their neighbors, planting the gospel and making disciples. The work wasn’t easy but the harvest came quickly nonetheless. As their numbers grew, Kelly realized that God would raise up leaders and disciple-makers from these new Christians and other believers that God brought along, rather than bring them in from the outside.
Kelly described those early meetings as, “just Bible study and muffins. There was no worship service or music—no frills at all.” But by early 2015—one year later—they began to hold public worship services in a lawnmower manufacturing facility. Fourteen months after its humble beginnings in the Parrish home, Living Rock Church was thriving.
They worked hard all along the way to reach out to their neighbors and begin friendships where they could find them, including their neighbors right across the street: “Calvin” and “Joan,” and their sixth-grade daughter, “Crystal.”* As one of the first couples they met, they appeared to be reticent about socializing and were standoffish at first. Neither Calvin nor Joan had a church background or understanding of the gospel and were suspicious of these outgoing newcomers. But after several invitations, Joan had coffee with Brandi in June 2014. She asked a lot of genuine questions about God and the Bible and Brandi could tell she was truly seeking for God, even if she did not realize it yet. A few months later, Joan finally decided to visit the women’s Bible study. She had been given her first Bible and after reading it, she was full of questions.
As Brandi did her best to answer her questions, Joan began to weep and she asked “Why has no one ever shared this with me before?” A year after they met, Joan was saved and Brandi began to disciple her. Calvin and Crystal both began to see the differences in Joan’s life and were very curious. The next summer, Crystal was saved at the church’s summer youth camp.
One day as Kelly walked the dog, Calvin approached him and said: “I have seen amazing changes in my wife and daughter. I really want to understand what’s going on.” Kelly knew that Calvin loved to fly-fish, and so a fishing trip began an opportunity to answer questions and to share what being a Christian is all about. A process of searching and questioning finally led to his acceptance of Christ too—a family united on earth and in Christ.
Calvin, Joan and Crystal continue to grow in Christ, and when they moved to another area, they had one big request in a new house: a basement large enough to host Bible study. And Kelly sees now that they—along with others—will be the next generation of church leaders to carry on the work started in their home a little over three years ago.
Published March 22, 2017