Interview with 2 Young Church Planters in Tampa (pt.2)

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Part One of this Interview

Part Two:

  • Why have you decided to stay and participate with the SBC?  Or have you?
    • As we discussed how we would affiliate, we began weighing our options, namely SBC and Acts 29.  We affirm the doctrinal statements of both A29 and SBC.  We found ourselves asking this question – “We affirm the doctrine of the SBC, but our methodology will probably be quite different from what we currently see in SBC life.  So, do we jump ship and go with A29, stay with the SBC, or dually align?”  From here we began to ask the Lord to use us as agents for change in the SBC, especially in the area of church planting.  Because of our deep involvement in the North Wake Church Planting Network we felt dually aligning would spread us too thin.  For these reasons we have decided to stay with the SBC.
  • How have you all incorporated church planting and multiplication into your own vision despite being a church in infancy?
    • From the beginning stages of prayer, it has been our desire to “plant pregnant.”  Being a church planting church is a distinct part of our strategy and we have been clear to represent this well in our founding documents.  As we moved to Tampa, we began identifying segments of our city where we will seek to plant churches as well as praying for the upcoming elders to be sent out of Covenant Life to plant.  We have adopted the elder training and church planting residency training that we were a part of at North Wake Church.  From the outset, we have made church planting a discussion among the entire body, not just among us as elders.  Lastly – from day one, we have budgeted separate funds that will be given explicitly to church planting work.  It is our desire, that even as Covenant Life is 4 months old, we would be supporting church planting in some way.
  • What advantages come from planting as a team?
    • The fastest way to answer this question is this: We wouldn’t plant a church without a team!  We both had opportunities to plant on our own and praise the Lord we didn’t!
    • Realistically, the number of advantages to planting as a team could fill 100 pages, but here are two:
      • § Going solo and putting all the responsibility on one guy can lend itself to “superstar syndrome” (a.k.a. pride).  Going as a team forces us to fight pride and cultivate humility as every turn.  For example, approaching decisions as a plurality of elders allows for us to think and articulate well our positions on various issues, as well as to learn how to navigate through differences with charity and humility.  If left alone, I am afraid that this church would look too much like me…praise God that because of a team we now push each other to ensure that this church looks like Christ!
      • § Shared responsibility provides accountability across the board.  More importantly, because the weight is shared, we are freed up to love and shepherd at home.  And if we neglect this, Paul tells us we are not fit to lead the church as elders.
  • What advantages come from being planted from another church?
    • Our framework for “being planted from another church” may differ from most so let us define what we mean when we say “planted from another church.”
      • § What we do not mean:  That a local church prayed for us during a service and commissioned us to go and that we have the general blessing of the congregation and its leaders.
      • § What we do mean:
  • We were invested in by the staff and elders
  1. Doctrinal training/pastoral internship
  2. Appointed to positions of leadership and evaluated consistently over
  3. Church planting residency provided church planting specific material
  4. Elder training – doctrine/character formation
  5. Commissioned by the body as the culmination of 4 years of training and oversight.
  • Ongoing investment
  1. Ongoing training/oversight via video conferences with elders
  2. We have a church committed to praying
  3. We have a church committed to giving
  4. We have a church committed to sending people
  5. We have unique opportunity to continue training future planters alongside our sending church.
  • There are two of you as leaders in the plant, how are you all dividing the duties of an elder?
    • Our leadership structure is a plurality of elders.  Taking into account our giftedness, desires, and wise counsel of the elders at North Wake – Justin serves as the Teaching Pastor and Drew serves as the Missional Communities Pastor.  We, along with our wives share the responsibilities of evangelism, counseling, service, and discipleship.
  • What are the vision, purpose and mission of your church?
    • We exist to display God’s glory by becoming a gospel-centered community that works for the gospel-renewal of our city and world.
      • § Display God’s glory – We organize God’s church after the pattern that He has shown us in His word and by living for Him with a life of holiness and love.  We exist not for our name’s sake, but for God’s glory.
      • § Gospel-Centered Community – To be a Christian means being gathered out of isolation into the corporate life of the body of Christ.  In Christ we belong together.  As we commit ourselves corporately to the gospel, authentic fellowship will mark our lives.
      • § Gospel Renewal – Faith in Christ restores people to God and to one another.  We care for the wellbeing of our city and a host of related issues because we love God first and this leads directly to love of our neighbor.  As people are restored to God they become agents of restoration in the city.
  • What relationships (if any) have you built with churches in the Tampa area?
    • It has been our desire to visit local churches and meet with their pastors/staff with hopes of finding like-minded congregations with whom we can lock arms with for the purpose of serving our city.  We have met with the pastors and staff from 16 area local churches and are now working closely with 8 of them.  Our desire is to not only see new churches start, but also to help strengthen existing churches through cooperation and relational investment with pastors and church leaders.
  • Will your church do home groups? For what intended goal? Why are home groups better than traditional Sunday School/on site fellowship groups?
    • Some move to a city and gather people together as fast as possible with hopes of starting a service quickly.  We are taking the opposite approach, which we feel lends itself to a mentality of “slow and deep.”  We have identified 7 cultural hubs/sectors within a three-mile radius of where we live.  It is our hope to first see small groups of people, what we are calling Missional Communities, begin to meet in these different sectors and as we gain traction in the community then we will start thinking about gathering these MCs together for corporate worship.
    • Each MC will begin living on mission in our city for God’s glory.  This means that, in a way, the ministries of Covenant Life will be decentralized.  Instead of “church” or “service” being the place one comes or the event one does on Saturday morning to get on a bus to go downtown to feed the homeless – the MC structure will ensure that we are being the church in the community as we:
      • § Seek to guard one another against the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:13), always considering how to stir up one another to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24,25).
      • § Live on mission with the gospel in our city because the gospel gives us a deep respect for the city and a great hope for its restoration (Acts 3:19-21).

Each MC will take ownership of some ministry within the city and as a small group will serve in that ministry as representatives of Covenant Life Church.

  • What steps have you taken to make diversity (age, race, socio-economic) a part of the DNA of your church?
    • In His providence God has allowed our families to live about 300 yards from one another.  On our block alone we find black, white, Asian, Italian, and Middle-Eastern folks.  We are in the process of simply getting to know these people, being intentional with the gospel at every turn.  Also, we are praying that the Lord would bring us a brother of color to lead our music.  We know that if diversity is one of our values it has to be displayed in the leadership of Covenant Life.
  • How specifically can we pray for you?
    • Pray for God to awaken the residents of South Tampa in specific and Tampa in general to awaken to the glory of God.  Please plead with us for God to draw men and women to Himself.  Ask that He would use us in mighty ways that would point others to Him.  Oh we long to see our neighbors, bankers, waiters, friends, and acquaintances know the riches of the love, mercy, and kindness of God
    • Pray for us as we continue to meet neighbors and others throughout our city.  Pray that we would not only have marinated our thoughts in the truths of the gospel, but that the fruit of that would be that the gospel is ever on our lips and evident through our lives.  We want to display His glory well, and we know that only happens as thoughts, actions, attitudes, and conversations are gospel-infused.
    • Pray for these formative days of meeting together as a core group.  We’ve begun meeting on Sunday nights, preaching through our mission and values.  Pray that God would unite our team on these matters and that others would join us.  Also, pray for others who are waiting to relocate to Tampa pending provision of jobs and selling of homes in NC.