Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), a longtime missionary to China, once said, “There are no shortcuts to planting the church. And suffering, self-sacrifice, and a servant spirit will be prerequisite to faithfulness and success in any setting.” The very term “planting” used by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:6 (referring to gospel ministry resulting in the start of new churches) implies the need for time and seasons.
Steady, faithful, persevering and prayerful planting describes the work of ministry we have been involved in these past 6 months. The Apostle Paul and Hudson’s words were just some words that have brought encouragement to us.
If I have learned anything planting Everglades Baptist, it’s that church planting is more often like cooking with an oven than a microwave. Some church planters see results fast, most do not. Please pray often for this work. Kingdom work is definitely dependent on the King. But King Jesus Himself prayed for (John 17) and requested prayer for the work of the Kingdom (Luke 10:2). We are needing people who will partner with us to pray daily for this work. I share the following as a request for prayer and an update for those who have already been praying:
1. Participation with Grace Baptist
Getting Acquainted: Our family has been getting acquainted with the church family at Grace Baptist in Cape Coral, attending services once or twice a week. This has been an important part of planting a church from Grace. Grace’s support and encouragement has been vital to Mary and me.
Serving with the Elders: Over the first 6 months, I have worked with the elders at Grace, serving as the Pastor of Church Planting. Each week I meet with the elders contributing to the leadership responsibilities at the church. I have helped in various duties of pastoral ministry, and contributed to the leadership of some exciting new things the Lord is doing in growing Grace. On three occasions I was afforded the privilege of preaching, finishing a three-sermon series of Nahum in October.
Becoming a Church Planting Church: Grace has decided to be a church planting church. Not many churches have that ambition. I am contributing to help make that happen. I have worked with the elders at attempting to start a church planting network that will assist church planting around the globe.
2. Praying, Planning, Partnering
Praying: We have been praying for God to lead us in this work. We’ve been praying for God to give us a clear vision. Because Mary and I know church planting takes team work, we have been praying for God to put together a team for us. In the meantime, we’ve had great team support from the elders at Grace.
Planning: It has been helpful to plan with the pastors at Grace. Everything from learning the area to starting and structuring community groups is discussed with the three pastors at Grace. I am blessed to have these men to learn from and run ideas by. They function as our team until a leadership team is assembled for the new church, Providence Church.
Partnering: Kingdom priority is one of our core values. No one church is meant for all of one city. Unfortunately, some pastors tend to believe their church is all the city needs. We are trying to partner with like-minded gospel-centered churches. We have been fortunate to establish meaningful relationships so far. We pray for God to give us more partnerships with churches, especially in these first couple of years.
3. Community groups
Authentic community is another one of our core values. Before having our first worship service, we hoped to start 5 or 6 community groups throughout East Lee County. Community groups are groups meeting in homes to pray, study Scripture, and develop gospel-centered relationships. Our first CG (which meets here) has a new leader starting November 1. This is an answer to prayer!
Our second group was started in our home back in September, and will begin meeting on Sundays at 6pm in November. Both groups are family-friendly, and have a good variety of people coming (all ages, and family dynamics, including single). Our prayer is for these groups to grow and to be able to start a few more groups throughout Eastern Lee County by the end of winter.
4. Neighborhood involvement
Several of our core values relate to our society. We want our church to be full of people who live sent to the area we live as gospel people. We want to be a church of missionaries. We don’t want to be a church that runs from culture, or isolates ourselves from culture. We want to be people who engage culture with the gospel. Christians are sent to the culture with the gospel. And in the gospel, the church has what is able to transform culture.
Over these past months, I have joined the local Rotary club. I have also interviewed businessmen in the area trying to learn more about our city. The church has met in local parks and went to local shops to share the gospel. We are praying for ways to establish more relationships with those in our city.
Your prayers are an encouragement to us. The following is a short and concise list you can use if you wish to partner with us in this gospel ministry of planting Providence Church:
1. Pray for the Gospel to go forth and change lives in our midst.
2. Pray for God to bring together a leadership team of people who are humble, teachable, yet passionate for this work.
3. Pray for our community groups to be gospel-centered, to grow and multiply.
4. Pray for partnerships with other churches wanting to assist in planting churches; and churches who want to cooperate in advancing the Gospel in Lee County.
5. Pray for more people who will commit to, pray for, and live sent lives with the Gospel, leading in the planting of Providence Church, and other new churches.
We are grateful for your prayers, and for taking the time to read this update. May Christ be glorified in our work together.
Shawn (& family)