Leaving a great church to plant a new church has been the toughest thing I've ever done --
but, it's also been the best thing I've ever done!
When I was first approached by Rick Lucas, the Director of Missions for many local churches in our area, about the possibility of starting a new church, I wasn't interested at all. Rick had asked my pastor, Troy Dobbs, if he could talk with me about this possibility and Troy gave the idea a thumbs up and told me about it.
Julie and I spent some time with Rick Lucas driving around our county and asking questions about why he felt a new church was needed -- there were so many churches already in the area I couldn't imagine why another one was needed. Rick shared a statistic that haunted me and grew into the haunting thought that God used to spur me on to eventual action: "There isn't a county in North America where Christianity is growing faster than the rate of population." That was troubling but I shoved it to the back of my mind and wouldn't let that thought seed settle into my heart -- yet...
At that point I was the Youth Minister in a vibrant, growing church with a fantastic staff and an even more impressive team of volunteer youth workers and we were rocking and rolling with great things happening in our Youth Ministry and church overall. I had always imagined that I would retire from Youth Ministry on staff at that church. So, I tried to let the church planting notion pass so that I could keep doing what I loved with people I loved for a long time into the future.
Over the course of the coming months which turned into several years the notion of planting a church kept coming back to me. It came back from trusted friends who mentioned the idea out of the blue with no prompting and no prior knowledge that I had been approached about this idea. It came through the voice of Jeff Eaton, a church planter from Lawrenceburg Kentucky and through course work while I was working on a Masters of Arts in Global Leadership with Fuller Theological Seminary and that haunting sentence that Rick Lucas had planted in my mind on that van ride a few years earlier: "there's not a county in North America where Christianity is growing faster than the rate of population." Honestly I thought he was nuts because in Oldham County where I served the church I was serving was growing, two other mega churches in the area were growing -- one could argue for one of them, even exploding with growth.
So, how could Rick's notion be true? I was pretty certain he was wrong in our case so I just tried to brush it off and get on with my pre-planned progam for my life.
As I was learning more about evangelism and the fact that North America was one of the largest English speaking mission fields in the world I began to have a nagging, wouldn't let me sleep kind of notion that he may be right after all....
It had been about 3 years since the initial idea had been pitched to me and I was in the middle of a two week on campus intensive session out in Pasadena, California as part of my Fuller coursework when God and I had it out on a Saturday in the Fuller Library. I was supposed to be writing a paper on something I don't even recall but the overarching message I was taking away from all that I was doing at Fuller was that America was truly lost and that I had a part to play in moving the gauges in the right direction. And, I was not happy and I was hacked off with God and I really just wanted Him to drop the whole thing.
He wouldn't leave me alone and that day God and I had smackdown in the Fuller Library and I finally surrendered to this wild church planting idea and handed God the keys to my family's future and invited Him to wreck my life. And, He did. And, I'm grateful.
You see, I not only had a thriving youth ministry in a great church with a team that I loved and that was highly effective -- I also had 3 children, one of whom was a Junior in High School that would be heading to college very soon, a fantastic wife, a Mortgage [ with a capital M ] and other bills to pay, etc. Simply said, the idea that I should leave a perfectly good church and MY perfectly solid plan for my life for a head first dive into a shallow pool of nothingness did not make sense. When I look back on it -- it still doesnt' except for God...
For now, suffice it to say that I did leave that church and I did start a new church that is thriving and I get to see a lot of people transformed into full-on Children of God who are taking adventurous steps to follow Jesus and live the life God crafted them to live. It's fantastic. And, I'm glad that we took the deep dive into a very shallow pool head first because then only God can get the credit for making it come together and be amazingly effective.
I have made a ton of mistakes along the way. You will, too, if you dare embark on this journey.
I made mistakes in how I left my former church.
I made mistakes in how I positioned our church to launch.
I made mistakes in who we invited into leadership.
I made mistakes in how I invited people to do life with us.
I made mistakes in not inviting enough vibrant Jesus followers to take the adventure with us.
I made mistakes in nearly every way imaginable, but God taught me a lot through my mistakes and He preserved us in spite of them.
Early on I made some major mapping errors based on learning too much from book writers & seminar speakers who were not practicing what they were writing & giving seminars on -- they just had cool sounding ideas and were the hot names on the church -planter speaking circuit so I bought their stuff, studied it, built a vision and team around their theories and took off.
We almost died in the 'wilderness of theory' before we made course corrections built around solid coaching from real live, real time church planters who had done, were doing and in most cases were still engaged in working with a church that they had planted in similar North American context to ours. [ I know there is a lot of 'church planting' going on in India, etc -- but the context is so different that even though they share a common purpose and heartbeat that it's not practical to assume what works there will work here and vice versa. ] Context & culture do matter as any good missionary and successful church planter will tell you. You won't live long on theory alone! And, your dream & team will suffocate and die in the scorching realities of real people in real life of Anytown, USA if you don't learn from people who have done and are doing what you dream of doing.
In spite of all my mistakes, we have enjoyed success in planting and growing a vibrant church known as Phos Community Church near Louisville, Kentucky. We've seen dozens of people called to faith and begin lives of adventure in following Jesus. I am having the time of my life and I wonder why I didn't do this sooner!
I have found coaches, mentoring, and organizations that have breathed life into the dream of starting and building Phos Community and that has made all the difference.
Our story could help you succeed and save you a lot of trial and error on your way to launching a Jesus-centered life-giving new church.
To that end I will post occasional ideas in this section of JeffFuson.com for you to learn from, but you'll need a password to get into that section.
I'll only coach people who are actively & seriously pursuing a calling and mission to plant life-giving churches that lift Jesus up. And, I don't want to haggle with theorists and tinkerers and lay people who will just waste my energy and time and investment. Not saying that lay people cannot start a church -- they can, but they need to shift gears, jump in the game in a committed fashion and then I'll be glad to help out. And, they'll need to submit to the idea that just because they have been sitting in a church for many years that they don't have any notion of what it takes to really get this done. You don't have anymore idea about how to do this than you do about how to coach a Super-Bowl Winning NFL team. You have armchair quarterback skills, i.e. jaw-jacking, but you've not been in the trenches yet. If you'll admit that you'll be in much better shape to compete and win in this arena. And, you'll be in the position of a learner which is in the end, what allowed us to succeed so far. I've always positioned myself as a learner, asked a lot of questions and then took a lot of notes and then took action on what my coach was saying.
If you'll position yourself as a learner then I'll do all that I can to help you succeed in launching a life-giving church!
Just let me know.
Complete the form below and I'll send the password for the rest of this site to you in the near future.
Here's to Godspeed in Planting a New Church!