One of the questions we get asked is why we chose to plant a church in Greenville, SC. What they are asking is not our motive for planting but why the location. How did we decide to move our family to this city, parachute in, build relationships, and launch a new church? The question they really want to ask is what crazy person would do that! (I wonder that myself every other day!)
It’s a question that I have the joy of answering weekly here but it’s also a question that we had to wrestle to the ground before we moved. Once we sensed God stirring our hearts to plant a new church, location was an issue we spent hours processing and praying about.
Chelsea and I really are firm believers that you have to love where you serve and that geography matters. When you love where you serve you are ready to embrace the culture as home and embrace the people you are called to care for. Many years ago, we spent 4 years serving a little town called Bloomfield and God created a deep love in us for the community that helped us love the people well. We also embrace the importance of geography because over and over in the Bible we see God place leaders in specific areas to do specific work. God already knew our hearts needed boundaries as we faced the immense challenge of spreading the Gospel. When God reveals us a city or region to serve we have the freedom to focus more on that culture so we can be most effective.
Where you plant matters as much as what you plant when you are launching a life-giving church. Where you plant is going to impact what you plant no matter how you are determined to be unique in your efforts to shape the culture. Where matters! Here are some steps that helped us decide where to plant…
- We prayed with open hands. // After 20 years of ministry, we had already learned the lesson of not telling God where we would or would not go. We choose to pray through this with open hands and we agreed that God could send us where He wanted. Open-handed prayer means I am willing for God to change my plans.
- We evaluated our gifting and who we lead well. // It’s critical to know both who you are and who you’re not. Take time to look back and see who you lead well in your past ministry settings. You are who you are for a reason so don’t try to be someone you are not by aiming your plant toward people you don’t serve well and a city you don’t connect with.
- We looked for natural connections. // I am a relationship builder so I looked for relational connections in cities that could help me connect with other people in the community.
- We developed a list and invited people to pray with us. // At some point, you have to narrow your search and your prayer effort. It sounds simple but it helps you focus. This is when we asked people to link arms with us in prayer and give us input.
- We filtered cities through our calling and vision. // Knowing what you are going to plant helps you see clearly if that is needed in a city or area of town. Our vision shaped our call to a very religious city because we long to reimagine church in a very churched culture.
- We looked for trends and regional dynamics. // Do your research and become an expert on the cities you are praying about. Discover the statistical details of the regions you are exploring. You have to know the city and ask good questions.
- We took time to visit, connect with people, and pray. // Take time to break away and walk the city you are praying about. Meet leaders in the community. Share your vision. See how God moves your heart when you are there. (We have several stories because we did this what were clear God moments!)
- We allowed God to stir our hearts and change our minds. // We did not make a call until we knew God worked in our hearts and brought clarity. We remained open-handed with our dream until God moved our hands to embrace our city.
- We took steps of faith and looked for God to confirm the move. // Start moving forward in the planting process and allow God to confirm your call. Faith demands steps forward. Step out and allow God to bring things into place.
- We moved and started the journey. // You really have not embraced a city until you leave everything behind to start a new journey. You will never fully understand any city until you wake up every morning there with nowhere else to go. Your real choice to invest in a city begins when you live there and learn what it means to be a part of it.
This is how we landed here in Greenville, SC. Knowing where to plant is a process and the best advice I could give you is to not rush the process. Planting a church is brutal and your calling to your city if one element that helps you push through the opposition. Got questions about your journey? Just look on the connect tab and shoot me an email!