This week we interviewed three practitioners serving on the field as church planters. These are their stories.
Whitney Clayton, his wife, Ali, and their three boys live in Eastmark, Arizona—a suburb of Phoenix. The master-planned community is expected to grow to over 50,000 homes in the next 15 years, and the Claytons are on the leading edge of ministry there.
We have about 50 families per month moving into our community—which is a lot for a little church plant to greet and welcome. Because of how the planned community is marketed, everyone that’s moving there is expecting to experience relationships, but, really, they’re moving there as the same individualistic, self-centered, self-focused people that they were before. So we’re there to step in and show them you came here because you wanted to live in community, we’ll help you understand what that looks like.
Our home is probably open three days a week to groups of people and probably another two days a week to individual families in the community. We are trying to follow the early Church and just go from house to house and meet people. One of the big phrases we teach people all the time is you don’t have neighbors; you have friends. Neighbor is a label. Friend is a person.
Our vision is for every family that moves in, we want to greet them. We bake a lot of cookies. I mean a lot of cookies. We want to welcome them face-to-face within the first week that they move in. We want to give them something—cookies—and we also want to invite them to something. We’re inviting them to a party in the park. We’re inviting them to go to a movie—we always say that whatever you’re going to do, don’t do it alone.
I can’t explain how valuable Send Network, NAMB and SBC are working together for us. We had a block party where basically every level of support was present. I’m there being supported by NAMB. We’re using a trailer that is purchased by my local association. The state evangelism director came and trained my people to share the gospel. We had churches that had sent mission teams from across the country. Even though their giving to the Cooperative Program supported me, and supported what we were doing, they still sent people across the country who joined the mission with us. Then we’re partnered with another local church for the event. It was amazing, because, at the end of the day I’m looking around at all the people from all over the country that are all cleaning up after this event. I’m seeing every level of engagement that the SBC has to offer in one event in my community in Phoenix—it’s amazing.
Whitney Clayton is the lead planter of Living Stone Community Church in Phoenix Arizona. Follow Clayton’s journey at @whitney_clayton.
Published August 22, 2016