Big Announcement!

successfulchurchplants

Yesterday I announced at Calvary that at the end of this year, and after much prayer, counsel, and deliberation, Jess and I are leaving Calvary staff to plant a new church here in State College. The call to plant a new church represents the fruition of things God has been doing in Jess and I for some time.

I was born into a rapidly growing new church. When I was 10, my dad planted a church. I was part of a college church as an undergrad, which can feel like a perpetual church plant. Fresh out of seminary, I joined a church plant and pastored there for 5 years before we moved back to State College—where I started a new campus ministry. A few years ago, a coached a church planter who was taking 30 Penn State seniors to plant a new church in Philadelphia. I remember thinking at the time, “1) this is fun, I’m really enjoying this process of raising up and equipping a leader; 2) why can’t we do this every year?”

In recent years, I’ve come to know some dynamic leaders and church planting movements that are multiplying across the country. It’s what my heart beats for.

You might ask, “Why a new church? Don’t we have enough churches in State College? Shouldn’t we focus on filling those up first?”
The answer, in a word, is “No.”

– The existence of people who don’t know Jesus justifies planting new churches!
– Churches always need to be planted, because in any area there are churches that are closing their doors;
– because population growth requires more churches;
– because it’s been proven that new churches do a great job of seeing people come to Christ and helping people use their gifts.

But even more than that, is this: the perennial push of the gospel is to send us out. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” He said, “The Kingdom of God is forcefully advancing.” The Kingdom of God is on offense, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it! It is risky to step out of established structures—but it is far riskier, spiritually speaking, to stand pat. So we must move forward, following the Lord’s lead. We dare not miss the opportunities God is giving us for intimacy with him and growth through him.

What will this church be like? Several things you can expect:

– Gospel-centered We will make the person and work of Jesus Christ central and woven into everything we do;
– Spirit and Truth We aim to be both Spirit-filled and theologically informed in our worship and community formation;
– Discipleship Our aim is glorify God by making disciples who make disciples. This will include a clear pathway for growing in relationship to Christ, punctuated by rites of passage and celebrations along the way.
– Equipping and developing people to live out their faith in every day life—at home, at work, in the neighborhood.
– Heart for the Campus Elements will continue, and with it, our ministry to reach the 44,000 at Penn State who aren’t Christ followers; I want the church to reflect our community, which means 50/50 student/non-student.
– Sending Out We won’t measure success by seating capacity, but by sending capacity. Our goal to is grow our little piece of the Kingdom of God exponentially, not merely growth by addition. We hope to be planting our first churches within a few years of launch in two kinds of places: college towns like State College, and cities where our grads go.
– An ongoing partnership with Calvary. This will be obvious in things like CityServe and City Church. We’re also pursuing a partnership with Converge, Calvary’s denominational network;

This is a big vision—so would you pray for us? God has already begun to assemble our Launch Team, who will design and start this new church. I believe God is calling some of you to join us. The first Vision Meeting will be on Sunday, October 16th at 5pm at CommonPlace. Would you pray about joining us? I’m looking forward to seeing what God does in this next chapter!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “Big Announcement!

  1. Wow, this is exciting, Steve! I look forward to seeing how God uses you, the new church and the big vision you have!

    I’d be especially interested in hearing more about, “…punctuated by rites of passage and celebrations along the way.” What kinds of things do you have in mind? I think I have much to learn in that area, both in DiscipleMakers and Grace Fellowship contexts.

    • Hey Tom, thanks for commenting. Most of that is TBD, though I have some ideas. I gained a lot from reading Robert Webber’s book Ancient Future Evangelism years ago, which is really a book that translates early church discipleship to modern practice. One takeaway is that baptism is a rite of passage that punctuates one phase of discipleship–but there is more to discipleship than a profession of faith. And there should be requirements and experiences as people journey further. So I have some ideas for that. Perhaps a conversation at some point!

      • Yeah, I really agree. There seem to be relatively few “rites of passage” these days – and yet there’s something in people that seems to respond to such rituals. At my bachelor party, for example, each of the men in attendance shared about ways I’d impacted them in some way. I still go back to that event in my mind on the days when I question whether I’m making a difference.

        I also think of the kinds of things I’ve had friends tell me about their fraternity involvement (I’ve never done it myself), and how sites like Kickstarter allow you to “unlock” rewards as you give more. I’ve often wondered what would be appropriate for Christians to do similarly – not to be “like the world” or to be “Jesus plus ____”, but to offer some missing social aspect that men & women are craving.

  2. Hi Steve! Congratulations on your endeavor! When will the church begin and where? And are you targeting mainly young people or people of all ages?

    • Thanks Vicky! We’ve named it Wellspring Church! The launch team is forming now and we’re raising funds. The launch team will start meeting weekly in January ’17, with a “soft launch” on Easter Sunday April 16, 2017. We hope to reflect the demographic make-up of State College, which will be half student and half non-student. We appreciate your prayers!