Greetings Hope Baptist and other friends.
The following is a summary of the update that was given during our quarterly meeting last evening.
The last time the elders addressed the church on this topic was in very late May. At the time, Scott, Dan and I had decided to purposefully avoid making any decisions for three or four months, so that we could go through multiple cycles of praying, thinking, and talking together. Thankfully, we all believe that we are beginning to have clarity about what we should do, and this is the next step towards solidifying a plan and getting in motion.
One of the most fundamental questions that has been resolved is whether this should be a local church plant, or whether we should be working to establish a church in a location where the principles of family discipleship and the Biblical relationship between church and home are much less understood. Along those lines, we considered locations from Toronto to the gulf coast and many places in between. In the final analysis, though, there are many compelling needs in our own church and community, and we desire to address those as best as we can through planting locally.
In an attempt to provide basic information about our current thinking, five core questions will be asked and answered.
1. Why are we planting a church? There are many more answers to the question, but I will offer two here. First, the growth our church has experienced over the past year is beginning to have an impact on the sense of community that we believe is vital to New Testament church life. We value this sense of community to a great extent, and we want to nurture it and see it grow, not have it begin to erode as a result of having more and more people. That said, let me speak out of the other side of my mouth for a moment – we are also praying that God would frustrate us, in the sense that He would pour out His Spirit on this community in an unusual way and outstrip our ability to have what we believe are ideal size churches. We desire churches where everyone can be tightly connected and where the shepherding is sufficient for the needs, but we also recognize that the Church has more glorious objectives than this. We know what we believe ideal church life looks like, and we also know that the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2, with the subsequent addition of 3,000 souls in a single day, challenges that notion. Those two things need not be in conflict, however. God gives the increase as He sees fit, and in the midst of that we should always be pointed in a direction to have churches which reflect the closeness that we see beautifully portrayed in the New Testament. The church plant is an attempt to point in that direction. Second, planting a church raises the bar for everyone. There is an instantaneous doubling of the need for everything – elders, deacons, song leaders, musicians, sound team, setup, and on and on and on. The number of people who can simply attend and receive goes down dramatically, and that is a very good thing. We are normally happy in the local church to the extent that we are actually investing, so this will increase our happiness. By way of personal testimony, I can say that I literally grew up through church planting. Many of the things that I brought forward from my boyhood into my late twenties and early thirties disappeared as a result of participating in church plants. Those things needed to be left behind, and the pressing needs of a fledgling church deprived me of the time to continue in them. People are given opportunities to serve that never would have existed for them in their old church. They are shaken out of their comfort zones and stretched and pressed on. They grow. I know, and I praise God.
2. Who is participating? Anyone who wants to. It is that simple. Families will decide whether they should stay or go. There will be no arm-twisting and no looking upon with furrowed brow. It is understood that there are many, many factors that go into deciding what local church to covenant with, and we trust that heads of households are engaging with their families to weigh those things appropriately and to guide their families accordingly.
3. Where will the church be located? Two locations are currently being considered – Youngsville, and the Zebulon/Wendell/Knightdale corridor. Youngsville is the absolute population center (ground zero) for Hope Baptist, and the Zebulon area also affords access to many.
4. What will the church be like? There are at least a couple of ways to answer this question. We think choice of location is likely to make a difference. If what we have observed historically is a reliable guide to how things would develop, we would expect that a plant in Youngsville will draw more people from Hope, which would in turn shape the demographics of the church going forward. In other words, we would have a decent size group of people who have been thinking about and practicing family-integration for a good period of time, so others that we would naturally attract would be similar. There are always exceptions to the rule, but that only proves the rule. The Zebulon area, however, is likely to draw less people from Hope simply because of geographics, and we would expect that to create the opportunity to incorporate people who are on different points of the curve in terms of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. If all that holds true (a very big “if” indeed), the Youngsville plant would be off to the races, while the Zebulon area plant would require time and attention to establish the foundations of the sufficiency of Scripture, the regulative principle of worship, family discipleship, etc.
Here is one thing the church plant is not – an opportunity to “fix” Hope. Local churches are always a mix of things that are liked and not liked by everyone who attends, so I want to disavow anyone of the notion that this represents an opportunity to carry forward the things that are appreciated and to change the things that are perceived to be wrong. For the foreseeable future, the church plant will be like Hope. This is not to say that Hope is the end-all in local churches. It is simply a recognition that the men leading Hope are unified and settled regarding doctrine and practice. We are a confessional church (Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689), and we have spent hours, days, weeks, months, years thinking through what the Bible has to say about church practice. Significant movement in either doctrine or practice is highly unlikely, and must not be an objective of anyone desiring to participate in the plant.
On that point, the church will initially be shepherded by the existing elder team (Scott Brown, Dan Horn, Jason Dohm), for as long as is necessary to raise up other elders. The Dohms will be going with the church plant, and as soon as another qualified man who desires the work can be tested and installed as a co-elder, he and I will become the new elder team that shepherds the church. We believe this is consistent with Titus 1:5, “For this reason I [Paul] left you [Titus] in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you”. From this verse we learn two things: that a church without a plurality of qualified elders has a lack and deficiency that needs to be set in order, and that the Apostle Paul was willing to begin churches in this deficient state and have the Biblical leadership structure catch up. We recognize the gap and will be working to close it as soon as we can responsibly do so.
The church will be setting me aside to labor hard in the word, meaning that I will be doing much of the teaching, and I will be leaving my current employment to focus on that work. The basis for this is 1 Timothy 5:17-18, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.'”
5. When will the church begin functioning? April or May of this coming year, if the Lord wills. This will be upon us like tomorrow. There is so much praying, planning, organization, and doing ahead of us, and all of those things will begin immediately.
So there you have it, all the basic information for the plans as they exist today. Please pray that we would clearly discern the voice of God regarding all these things, that we would carefully and faithfully obey everything that He says, and that a church would be planted that lifts up Jesus Christ as crucified for sinners, and raised from the dead to be exalted above every other name.
If you are a member of Hope Baptist and know that you would like to participate, please let me know.