I come from a religious background where churches always just existed, I didn’t know they were planted and grew. Now I find myself planting a Vineyard Church in a small town in the Georgia. My wife Nisha and I are preparing to launch the plant in a town about 40 minutes from our home church — The Vineyard Church in Augusta, GA.
God has been doing a lot in our lives over the past seven years of us arriving to the Vineyard, as we found our tribe to do church with. Then God began to speak to us about a small town down the road — Thomson, GA. Slowly he began giving us a heart for this town. That’s when our Pastor, Reese LeRoy, invited us in a local training program for Church Planters. After seminary I felt a bit burned out on the rigor of paper writing and engaging the scriptures academically. As we began to feel the call toward church planting I wanted to be in a place where I was heard and could be poured into. The Residency+ Program in my local church was just the right fit.
I wanted to share three reasons why I thought more church planter training was important even after I completed my seminary degree.
Discernment is always relational
After leaving seminary I thought I would be the head pastor at a small church, or maybe as an associate for a larger church. However, the path God has provided me has been much more relational. It has been through discerning through the program and with my senior pastor, my wife, and family and friends that our calling to church planting has become clear. The calling was affirmed in others even without me mentioning it to them. A heart for our town was being developed in both my wife and I before we had talked with each other about it.
In the Residency+ Program a lot of the content is geared toward helping planters discern well. It is much deeper than the nuts and bolts of planting a church. If we as planters don’t have clarity and affirmation of our call, then we are likely to wilt when it gets difficult. I’ve heard Michael Gatlin say, “Discernment is a team sport.” For me, that has been the case over and over again.
Spiritual formation is the foundation
The picture we see in the scriptures is that the work of spiritual formation is done locally in church.
Seldom in academic settings like seminary do you attain deep spiritual formation practices in your life. Rightfully so, most seminaries are structured around academic rigor and knowledge. The picture we see in the scriptures is that the work of spiritual formation is done locally in church. The Residency+ Program was structured around knowing, being, and doing. This holistic picture of learning allowed me to go much more deeply into the personal aspects of some of the courses.
This was especially true with the first course “Formation of the Inner Life.” It served as a foundation for the rest of the work by focusing on our identity in Christ. I’ve always told people my favorite theologian was C.S. Lewis, now I add Ruth Haley Barton right up there with him. Barton’s text “Sacred Rhythms” was one of the most helpful readings in the program. Especially as someone who finishing seminary and didn’t want to open a Bible for 6 months. Barton offered tools to connect with Jesus that I hadn’t heard of, or hadn’t practiced yet.
Church planting necessitates unique skills
Through the program I continued to see the different characteristics of church planters and how they varied from that of a pastor of an established church. I saw how I needed to grow in a few of them if we were going to be successful. We began to build relationships in our local community in a missional way. Because we are planting a multisite from our sending church, we needed to learn the specific skills to prepare us.
One area we needed to grow in was building partnerships in our new town. Toward this end, I began looking for work in the town we are going to plant in. I started working for a local YMCA. My relationships there have already been bearing fruit. Recently, the Executive director said that they were looking for a church to begin regularly using their space. Our leadership team just toured and it looks like we will have a home as we begin services in the Fall of 2017. I am now continuing to see the need to live missionally in our small town, meeting, gathering, and introducing people to Jesus.
Please pray for us as we launch our new church this year. If you would like to visit us when in the beautiful south stop by!
What is Jesus calling you to?
Are you discerning your calling or looking for more training as a leader? You may be a great student for the Residency+ Program in your local church. Learn more here: The Residency+ Program
Are you desiring to further develop your leadership pipeline with tools like the Residency+ program? Join us for a conversation on how to do this in your local church at our Developing a Discipleship Pathway in Your Church webinar on Tuesday, May 9 at 7pm CT. Find out more and get registered here.
Patrick Campbell is a church planter and campus pastor launching a new multisite this year in Thomson, GA.