A Record Church Planting Effort
On Sunday, also known as National Church Planting Day in the Assemblies of God, a record 70 new AG churches were launched — besting last year’s record launch by 26 additional new churches. In addition, there are 90 new churches confirmed to launch in the month of September, again besting last year’s record of 75 churches in one month.
“Last year we saw a record-breaking number of churches launched on National Church Planting Day,” observes Chris Railey, the Church Multiplication Network (CMN) director. “Now, we’re already shattering last year’s record with even more communities about to be impacted by the presence of healthy, Spirit-empowered churches. It’s clear that God is working in our Movement through pioneering church planters who want to see the Kingdom multiplied!”
According to CMN, 24 districts are launching new churches this month. “We are confident that we have at least 70 churches launching on National Church Planting Day and 90 in the month of September,” states Dustin Evans, CMN’s communication and content strategist. “By the end of the month, we may learn of even more.”
Although many districts planted multiple churches, the Potomac Ministry Network, a district notoriously difficult to plant churches in, launched 25 churches on Sunday and already have at least 12 churches committed to launch in 2018.
Rob Seagears has been the pastor of Mountaintop Church in Manassas, Virginia, for the past 13 years. He’s also been the church planting director for the Potomac District for over 8 years. He says that in the past, the district typically planted six to eight churches a year, but for the past two years, there has been a strategic effort to get churches back into the district’s larger urban areas, so they created the C32 Initiative in 2015, which combines communication, cooperation, and collaboration on a district-wide scale in order to plant 32 urban churches.
“Many AG churches moved out of urban areas and into the suburbs decades ago,” he explains. “Now, in this millennial generation, young people are moving back into the cities and there’s a huge void of AG churches. Our heart is to plant eight churches in each of the four major urban areas — Baltimore, D.C., Richmond, and Hampton Roads area.”
What is unique about the planting effort and the church planters themselves, is that instead of working as individuals to plant individual churches and claim “their share” of the urban population, they are working together in an effort to reach a region. Half of the new churches are also Parent-Affiliated Churches (PAC), meaning that they have a strong body of believers behind them and helping to support them.
Seagears believes that this is the start of something very special as each of the 32 new churches that launched (or will soon be) in the district have the goal of not just “holding their own,” but are being mentored towards multiplying and planting new churches as well.
Drew and Megan Dunbar have been lifelong members of the Church of God, who both knew, even before they got married, that one day they would be planting churches, say that their journey to planting Risen Church in Midlothian, Virginia, a suburb of Richmond, has God’s hands all over it.
Drew, 31, says that they came to be a part of C32 when God confirmed in both of their hearts on their first trip to Richmond that “this was the place.” After relocating to the area, “divine appointments” began to happen. The Dunbars encountered several C32 church planters and began developing “incredible relationships” with them. And then they met Stan Grant, pastor of Clover Hill AG. Grant became a friend and mentor. Also, at the time, Clover Hill wanted to plant a church, but didn’t have a church planter to sponsor; The Dunbars wanted to plant a church, but didn’t have a church sponsor. God worked, credentials were transferred, and on Sunday, a new AG PAC church was launched in a Regal Cinema in Midlothian.
“This wasn’t just a choice we made, this was God strategically placing us here,” Drew says. “We’ve seen God do some really miraculous things in the last year — financially, the people He provided, where we’re meeting — every single step the handprint of God is on all of it.”
Ken and Teryl Baker are planting their second church, Resurrection Church, in Fairfax, Virginia (about 20 miles from Washington, D.C.), as part of C32.
The Bakers are reaching out to a new urban culture referred to as SUV — Small Urban Village — where vertical living provides for a mixture of commercial retail and residential living in a relatively compact area.
Ken, 54, explains that there is little to no spiritual component in many of these SUVs, and everything is driven by secular businesses and lifestyles. “But that’s more of an opportunity than a challenge,” he says. “The challenge is finding an affordable place to meet.”
And God provided that as the Bakers were able to rent a theater for their services. “People walk out and cross the street to the movie theater where we are holding services — and when winter comes, no problem. As it’s a commercial district, the snow and ice will be taken care of for us as businesses want to stay open!”
The Bakers believe they will not only draw millennials in, but some boomers —their peers — as well.
“Our vision is changing hearts, renewing minds, and transforming lives while we embrace, encourage and equip people for the work of ministry,” he says.
Not all of the C32 churches are launching in a theater. Jonathan and Audrea Gray are launching their new work at the Dance Institute of Washington, D.C.
Jonathan and Audrea, who pastored for 23 years before becoming the directors of National Capitol Area Teen Challenge 5 years ago, say that planting a church in the D.C. area, the inner-city, is a passion for them.
The Grays have a team of 28 people assisting them in the launch of New Song Community Church in addition to the help of some of the Teen Challenge residents. Jonathan, 45, was born and raised in D.C. – saved on a basketball court and called to the ministry.
“I see a lot of guys like me who haven’t got what I got, and they’re dying, literally dying — too many funerals going on,” Jonathan says. “Today, there are various ethnic groups in D.C., but the drugs and the loneliness are still the same as when I was young.”
Jonathan says that what makes his church perfect for the area is his connection with Teen Challenge. For although Teen Challenge won’t be an openly visible part of the church, if someone making a decision for Christ has an addiction, the option of Teen Challenge is readily available.
The city is ready for a Pentecostal presence, Jonathan says. Over and over again, God has confirmed His calling to the area as God has impacted person after person over the last two years of preparing for this launch.
“Going into the city is key for us, our Fellowship, our brand of ministry,” Jonathan says. “Our cities really need it. I’m a zealot in that regard. We need to perpetuate and multiply [Pentecostal ministry] in the city.”
John and Kristin Ware, who were one of the church planting couples Drew and Megan Dunbar stumbled into through mutual friends in the Richmond area, launched Lifehouse Newport News, Virginia, on Sunday. In yet another divine connection, John and Kristin helped in the planting of the parent church, Lifehouse church in Hagerstown, more than a decade ago when they were both participating in Masters Commission.
Having both grown up in Newport News, the Wares, like the Dunbars, were looking to find a parent church. Unknown to them, Patrick Grach, senior pastor of Lifehouse Hagerstown, Maryland, was looking for a church planter.
In what John calls a God-ordained moment, Grach and the Wares met, and soon after, each had what they had been praying for!
Returning to what appears to be a popular church location, the Wares launched Lifehouse Newport News in a Regal Cinema. Although church planting has a lot of demands and risks, John says that this is his dream job.
“If you were to ask me what I wanted to do with my life, no hindrances — if money or gifting were not a problem — this is it,” John says. “This is what I was created for. God has confirmed that. It hasn’t always been easy, but there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.”
Seagears, who recognizes that in one day, the Potomac Ministry Network increased the number of its churches by nearly 10 percent and saw roughly 150 to 300 in attendance at each of the new locations, credits churches and church planters in working together, selflessly and generously on fulfilling a common goal.
“When you have a heart of blessing pastors and leaders, and giving them liberty just to follow their dream and God’s vision, it just opens the door wide for opportunity,” he says.