Its been ten months since we hit the ground running in partnership with Grace Baptist Church to plant a new church in SW Florida. We have much to praise God for, and much to submit to Him in prayer. Mary and I will make sure to post an update on the family sometime soon. In the meantime, here’s an update on the church planting efforts and requests for prayer:
1. Leadership – There are now four of us men meeting weekly to plan and pray concerning the forming of Providence. These three men and their wives also joined Mary and me at the Global Church Advancement Conference in late January. Thank you for praying. In our last update before the conference, we had two couples attending with us. But God surprised us, and sent a third couple. I wrote a review of this conference here. (We enjoyed ourselves and had some team bonding at the conference too! Right: Kelly getting “framed” by Crissy at Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ. Left: Me trying to fit in at the Apple Store.)
During the month of February, we have been meeting to continue what we learned together at GCA, discussing Vision, Focus, Philosophy, Purpose, Values, Styles, Models and Launching Plans relating to the formation of Providence Church. Please pray for these men, (Jamie, Frank, & Kelly) and for the eleven families currently involved as we depend on God in starting PC.
Also, we now have two potential new community group leaders. Please pray God provides two new host homes to start groups. Our current two groups are going well. Two new groups would double our gospel-centered home groups!
2. Gospel – The central purpose of our community groups is to continually impress the gospel upon our hearts and for us to become gospel-centered disciples. We believe God wants us to do this in authentic community with others who are following Christ. This is a core value I wrote about in the fall. We currently have 11 families represented and 40 people attending our two groups.
By families, I am referring to households, not limited to “married couples with kids.” We have a mixture of singles (or divorced), married with kids or without, and empty-nesters. We have children and adults who profess faith in Christ, and some who do not, but continue coming seeking to understand the gospel, and enjoying the loving relationships found in the group.
With diverse groups like this, the Gospel has great potential to be elevated, and we benefit learning from others experiencing different perspectives in life. Each week we read the Bible passage of the sermon from our most recent church service and discuss together what we heard in the message and see in the passage. As the group leader guides our discussion, we learn from each other how the Gospel impacts various aspects of our lives. Even those who do not attend our church service find these discussions helpful.
We then conclude by praying for one another. And yes, the children are with the adults, and they participate! It can be messy at times (yet far less messy than most of us first thought who always felt we needed childcare), but “messy” is not always bad if it reveals our greater need for the gospel. This is why we call them gospel-centered community groups. And honestly, most weeks the kids surprise us by how much they “get” from our discussions.
The unity in our groups can take some time, but we have greatly benefited by meeting weekly together in our homes. Bart, a faithful attender since December who attended church growing up, but doesn’t attend today, said recently how disappointed he gets when we miss a week of community group because he looks forward to every Sunday night now.
On February 24th, three in our group were baptized. Baileigh (19), Cody (16), and Wyatt (13) Bowlin publically professed their faith in Christ and shared their testimonies of grace at Grace Baptist Church. The Bowlins host one of our community groups and their father Jaime leads their group.
We thank God for the work of the Gospel in our two groups thus far. Thank you for praying. Please continue to pray for gospel transformation in our groups. Also, pray that as the Gospel shapes us, more from our groups are compelled to share the gospel with others as they live their daily lives.
3. Prayer – Please pray that we do nothing outside of trusting God. We desire the gospel to so work in us that we become more a people of prayer than ever before. Pray that we see God engrave this in our DNA, the characteristic of a praying church.
The ultimate purpose of this “Planting Update” is to inform prayer partners with important info for praying. Anyone would be foolish to attempt such a challenging endeavor as starting a church, knowing who our enemy is, without pleading with friends to pray. Please pray. And when you have time, send back one or two words reminding us of your prayers. When you do, it gives us great encouragement.
Other updates for your prayer consideration:
- Partnerships: Please continue to pray for partnerships to materialize, both with individual and churches, and that doors will open to work with other local gospel-centered churches. We especially hope to join with other local churches for Kingdom purposes, believing we are coming alongside other churches in this area to advance God’s Kingdom together. And, as the foundation of Providence has progressed over the past 10 months, I am all the more encouraged to appeal to others for formal partnerships who will invest in us for the sake of making disciples in SW Florida.
- Financial Gifts: We thank God for His provision when you send gifts to keep our work going. Our God provides. If you wish to financially support the planting of Providence Church, please send your gifts marked “for Providence Church” to Grace Baptist Church, 204 SW 11th Place, Cape Coral, FL 33991 (a receipt will be sent to you for tax-deductible purposes).I am encouraged by some of you who previously invested in us to plant Everglades Baptist (by God’s grace still continuing on and growing), and are today partnering in planting Providence. One thought that has floored me as I consider the impact of my own investments (as God has enabled our family), “If God allows, this new church we are helping to start will be here making an eternal impact, long beyond the extent of my own life.” We have such a privilege to leave legacies that remain useful to God’s mission surpassing the extent of our lifetimes.
Thanks for your willingness to join with us in prayer. Thanking God we have you standing with us.
For Christ and His Church,
Shawn & Mary
If you live in the area and you are interested in participating in the planting of Providence, pray about teaming with us. You’re invited to attend any one of our meetings. Comment to this post and I will email you soon.
If this is your first time reading about and/or praying for our church planting effort, please browse around this website to read more about our work (Newsletters & Providence Core Values). It is our desire to communicate all we can about what God is doing in this endeavor to plant the Gospel and eventually Providence Church in eastern Lee County, Florida.