Church planting is a wild ride. And honestly, none of the books on church planting have all the answers. None of the blogs can tell your city’s unique story. Sure, we still encourage you to read the books, listen to the stories, and read others’ experiences, but the best advice we can give is to seek first the kingdom.
When you say yes to step into planting a church, you might feel overwhelmed. Yet, you also feel a sense of alignment knowing God has the solutions for the problems ahead.
Our church planting story started off like many people’s do. We thought God was calling us to leadership, but we figured it was way down the road, 20 years from now when our kids were grown and we were ready to retire. Then God gave my husband and I some clear prophetic words, visions, and dreams about the church he wanted us to plant, and even the country we would partner with for missions.
We thought we would plant in a quaint mountain city in a hip modern area. Then God told us to move back to my husband’s home county, a rural area of 15,000 people. It’s so rural that there are no places to order sushi. Really God?
Yet, God filled us with love and compassion and a clear calling to this place. We tested the waters by running an Alpha course, a program that encourages sharing a meal with people and creating a space for them to ask questions about Jesus. Each class we ran had forty or more people attending.
We eventually moved from hosting Alpha to worship nights and small groups in homes or at local restaurants. Forty people in those places felt really crowded. We have many young families and lots of kids running around. Sometimes we needed more than one place to meet.
We all loved our small group, but we all had a desire to have our families gather on Sundays and to create a space for the kids to have lessons tailored for them. We wanted a place to invite new people. After about one and a half years of gathering, we began to look for a building.
Finding the right space in such a small town seemed like it would be easy, but was actually full of challenges. The downtown buildings needed big renovations and had limited parking. Vacant properties would need a lot of new brick and mortar, and we didn’t have the funds for that. We trusted in God even when there were more questions than answers.
Matthew 6:33 has been our verse through every stage of the church planting process. It says,“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”.
In every step of the process of finding a building, we asked our team, “what do you see when you close your eyes? What is the Father saying? How do we seek first the kingdom right now?”
Eventually, we got a call about a local grocery store that was about to lose their property in foreclosure. It seemed so fitting that God would allow us to transform a building that sold physical food to our community into a place that would provide supernatural food for hurting souls. Our team jumped at the opportunity to purchase it.
The next day, we received a call from an inactive church offering us their fully finished property for exactly the same amount we had agreed to buy the broken-down grocery store.
We called an emergency meeting of the core team. Together, we prayed seeking what God wanted us to do. Our team unanimously decided to continue with the purchase of the grocery store.
We did six months of renovations, primarily all done by our core team. All of the funds have come from our friends, families, and Vineyard churches near and far. We really have found when we seek first his kingdom, God provides. When the bill for the HVAC service fee for $2,600 came in, so did a check from a donor!
We are still in our infant stages as a church and learning how to love our community in a tangible way. Our mentor always says, “We don’t want to be the best church in the community; we want to be the best church for the community”.
Our old grocery store is transformed into a place of worship. Now our assignment is to keep seeking first the kingdom asking what spiritual food God has for our community.
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About the Author
John and Danelle are bi-voctional church planters and worship leaders living in Martinsville IL. John works as a woodworker in a custom cabinets shop and Danelle is a Family Nurse Practitioner. Their family includes four sons, Garrett, 14, a future leader and drummer, Dane, 7, a transformer of the nation’s and also a drum player, and Bo, 4, who wants to play the electric guitar when he learns how to pronounce it, as well as Balthazaar, 19, who currently lives in California and is living a SoCal life.