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Church in a Box

STL teams with ministry networks and districts to launch congregational portable sound systems.
Speed the Light (STL) has partnered with the Potomac Ministry Network (PMN) to give a complete portable church system valued at $78,000 to church planters Brandon and Hannah Baldwin, who are launching New Community Church in Richmond, Virginia.

In the past, STL typically has provided $3,500 for church planters who apply in districts or ministry networks. However, STL Director Eric L. Hoffman recognized those funds only provided for a small portion of a new sound system. Conversations with the Church Multiplication Network leaders about supporting planters sparked the Church in a Box grant idea, which provides the full sound system for new congregations.

“Our heartbeat is to really grow the Assemblies of God in the United States and abroad,” Hoffman says. His desire is for the program to empower church planters to sow back into future church plants and missions works. As churches invest in STL, the ministry provides vehicles, communication equipment, and compassionate demonstrations for missions at home and abroad.

The Baldwins are the first to receive the Church in a Box grant, but Hoffman hopes to work with CMN and districts/ministry networks to provide funding for between half a dozen to a dozen new congregations a year.

The Potomac Ministry Network decision to partner with STL is no surprise, given its historic investment in church planting. John W. May, PMN youth director, supported the effort.

“I have known the Baldwins for years and felt that this was a great opportunity to connect STL with local ministries through planting,” May says. May hopes that congregations that receive STL grants in turn become churches that instill STL values in students in order to continue the cycle of youth providing the equipment and transportation ministries need to reach the unsaved.

PMN Superintendent Frank H. Potter believes the STL grant signals a new day of unity.

“Even though we have multiple ministry approaches, Kingdom expansion will dramatically move forward when we synergize our efforts,” Potter says. “This was a great moment for the General Council, STL, and the Potomac, and hopefully it will be the seedbed to many more of these moments across our Fellowship.”

The Baldwins, who grew up in Richmond, began the church planting journey in 2017. While driving and praying about which area of the city to plant, they noticed a mosque, a Hindu worship center, and two Buddhist meditation centers in an area with no evangelical presence. New Community Church will begin services in the neighborhood on Sept. 27.

“The Lord spoke to my heart that people are searching, but they are not finding,” says Hannah, citing Nehemiah 3. “There is a hole in the wall for the city of Richmond, and we are coming out to do the work of reconciliation.”

As they looked more into the area, the Baldwins learned the Baptist Missionary Board had identified it as the most unchurched area in the growing city of 230,000. The couple felt further confirmation about the locale when they spoke to Rob J. Rhoden, Potomac Ministry Network director of education. Rhoden told them he had been praying for a church to start in the area for years.

New Community Church is in a parent-affiliated relationship with Richmond’s Cornerstone Assembly of God. Baldwin cites the backing of Cornerstone and lead pastor Shawn R. Franco as crucial to being able to launch.

The Baldwins received the surprise STL gift at a July CMN event in Richmond. Immediately afterward, North Carolina District Superintendent Rick Ross announced at the event that a church planting couple in the Tarheel State would receive the same treatment.

Ross committed the district to partner with STL to support Keith and Heidi Waller, who will launch New Life Church in Apex next January.

“This is a huge blessing to be able to step into what God has called us to,” Keith Waller says. “It is allowing us to launch strong and healthy.” The Church in a Box grant will provide sound equipment for the plant.

Rebecca Burtram

Rebecca Burtram is an Assemblies of God pastor in Charlottesville, Virginia, a pastor's wife, mother to three, and an English teacher. She is the author of Our Broken Hallelujahs, and she blogs at rebeccaburtram.com.