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Mission to North America
Churches planting Churches

Spring ‘98

Enabling the Presbyterian Church in America to Plant, Grow, and Multiply Churches

 

How an African-American church in Fayetteville, Georgia, is reaching the middle class and apprenticing church planters to do the same.

 

The Makings of a Movement

Redemption Fellowship, with Perimeter Ministries, aims to plant many more African-American churches.

When it comes to PCA church planting, Louis Wilson has some definite goals in mind. For one, he wants to see many more PCA churches that reach middle-class African Americans, a rapidly growing segment of the population. For another, he believes there is a better way to prepare church planters than to teach a set formula. "My idea of preparing church planters," Louis says, "is to help them identify and develop their gifts and show them how they can apply these gifts in organizing a church." To achieve these goals, Louis has established a church planting apprenticeship program at Redemption Fellowship where he is senior pastor.

A daughter church of Atlanta’s Perimeter Ministries, Redemption is strategically located in a growing area of south metro Atlanta — in Fayetteville, near Fulton and Clayton counties. The church reaches primarily middle-class African Americans. In 1995, Louis led in organizing Redemption which now has its own building and averages about 110 at Sunday morning worship.

Redemption’s apprenticeship program officially launched in the early part of 1998 when Weldon Williams moved to Atlanta from Philadelphia to begin approximately 24 months of training. The objective: to prepare for organizing a PCA church in the Chicago area which will target middle-class African Americans. Reflecting Louis’ concept that building personal strengths is the most effective way to prepare for church planting, the apprenticeship program is not typical.

"Often," says Louis, "apprentices are brought into a church and assigned a specific function — such as youth pastor — which fills a need for the church, but doesn’t necessarily help the man learn how to plant a church — or how to identify and cultivate personal gifts that can be employed in organizing a church."

As an apprentice, Weldon will focus on building relationships with people in surrounding communities typical of those he expects to reach in the Midwest, such as large subdivisions and apartments populated with blacks and whites. "I believe in networking," Louis explains, "so Weldon will have the support of church members who can help him meet people in these communities and form small groups."

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Pastor Louis Wilson says, since he arrived in Atlanta in early 1995 to start Redemption Fellowship, “It has been one mountain-moving episode after another.” The church has grown rapidly and changed many lives. About four times a year, members gather after Sunday worship for a fellowship meal.

 

Through these experiences, Weldon will be able to test and prove what works best for him. Rather than learning a textbook model for organizing a church, he’ll learn which of his gifts are most effective in church planting. "Some pastors are great with people, but not good vision casters, while others are outstanding evangelists," Louis points out. "There’s no one way to do ministry — no perfect model. God can build churches in different ways."

 

 

“If the PCA is to be successful in accomplishing its vision as a denomination, it must be effective in reaching African Americans. To be successful in reaching African Americans, we must be successful in starting African-American churches. To be successful in starting African-American churches, we must have a plan to effectively train African-American leaders. Louis Wilson has such a plan as well as the heart, the skills, and the experience to execute that plan.”

Randy Pope, Director of Perimeter Ministries International

Redemption’s apprenticeship program also addresses another of Louis’ objectives: to establish more PCA churches that reach out to African-American leaders — leaders who can have a long-range impact on church multiplication and the African-American community as a whole. "I want Redemption to be a resource church who will facilitate the planting of other like-minded churches. Then, all of us, partnering together with churches throughout the PCA, can influence and serve this population in all areas, from the inner city to the suburbs."

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Left to right: Weldon Williams with wife Shelly and Midwest pastors Mike Marcey and Ted Powers. Weldon began a church planting apprenticeship at Redemption this year in preparation for starting a church in Chicago where Mike and Ted will give guidance.

 

 

Redemption, together with Perimeter Ministries, expects to plant five African-American churches in the Atlanta area over the next five to ten years. Church leaders already have their eye on a Stone Mountain location for a 1998 church plant; next will come churches in Roswell and Smyrna. Redemption also plans to reach African Americans on college and university campuses in the metro area. "Our objective is to reach future leaders by building a pipeline to university students — not only for the sake of winning people to Christ, but also to seek out and to motivate men who will multiply churches."

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When Louis and Ella Wilson moved to Atlanta from Dallas, they knew only one family in the Fayetteville area. A few months later, they were in search of a site for their first worship service.

 

When Weldon Williams moved to Atlanta with his wife and three small boys to begin his apprenticeship, he gave up a part-time pastorate; he and his wife, Shelly, gave up full-time jobs and relinquished their house in a Philadelphia suburb. "This is a major life adjustment," says Weldon, "…we left a fairly secure lifestyle that we know, to move to a strange city and live on much less money. But we feel called to take this step and we’re expecting God to do great things."

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In less than a year, Redemption purchased this $900,000 facility in Fayetteville with a sanctuary that seats 500. Throughout the week, it’s in full swing with workshops on various topics and tutorial programs in math and reading, as well as worship services and fellowship.

 

 

A native of the Chicago area, Weldon went to Duke University on a basketball scholarship and later earned a degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He didn’t know Louis Wilson until the Atlanta pastor telephoned him last March to begin the dialogue that would eventually lead to the internship. The contact was initiated through a member of Redemption Fellowship who knew Weldon and recommended him to Louis as a good candidate for church planting.

"I was immediately interested because the issue of church planting has continually surfaced since I was in seminary," says Weldon. "I see myself as a lover of people and an aggressive leader who wants to be used by God, and I’ve felt God moving me in the direction of church planting."

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Tom Lewis, pictured here with wife Vita, is one of the transformations at Redemption. As a boy, he passed out tracts for Malcolm X; today, he’s dedicated to the Gospel. Tom and Vita are both key members who serve the church in numerous ways.

 

He looks forward to returning to the Chicago area and, when the time comes, will work with Ted Powers, MNA midwest regional coordinator and pastor of Christ Presbyterian in Downers Grove, Illinois, as well as Mike Marcey, pastor of Naperville Presbyterian in Naperville, Illinois, in planning the location for his first church plant.

"We’re on the crest of a major movement in reaching out to a part of the population that needs PCA churches," Weldon says. "I’m excited to be part of that movement — I believe it will help bring about reconciliation between the white and black races and that God will use it to do a massive work."

Ted Powers says they’ve been praying for years that "the Lord would send leaders to plant movement churches to reach the growing minority groups in this area." There are currently one million African Americans here, nearly half of them living in the suburbs. African Americans are reported to be the fastest growing group within the middle class. In the Chicago area, there are 1.2 million Hispanics and 250,000 Filipinos. The population includes 400,000 Muslims.

"We have already identified twelve potential locations for PCA churches. Our goal is to plant twenty-five churches targeting minority groups over the next couple of decades, and one hundred minority churches throughout the Midwest over the same time period."

 

 

 

Church Plant
  Highlights

  The Vital Church

   Campus scenes

A Mother   Daughter Relationship Benefits Everyone.

From the start, Wheatland Presbyterian in Lancaster, PA, had a steady influx of new people, including a number who have come to faith in the Lord. Organized in June, 1996, and led by Christopher Labs, the church was averaging 220 at Sunday worship by the first of this year. Wheatland is a daughter of Westminster Presbyterian, five miles away, which is pastored by Michael Rogers. It illustrates that a mother-daughter relationship not only benefits the church plant, but also prospers the planting church.

Asked what he considers the essentials of an effective church plant, Christopher says: "First, know why you exist — we exist to glorify God by equipping believers to lovingly confront our generation with Jesus Christ’s transforming power. Second, have a mother church who is 100 percent behind you."

Westminster demonstrated their support by giving Wheatland seed money to buy a facility (a former Christian Scientist church) and by supplying 43 families for the core group — a tremendous boost for the church plant. At the same time, giving up so many families was a tremendous sacrifice for Westminster. "It was 10 percent of Westminster’s congregation," says Chris, "…we urged them to come only if they had a compelling vision to reach out to Lancaster." Within a year, the core families were replaced at Westminster and the church’s budget was not impacted negatively.

The same principles that were employed in this church plant can be duplicated throughout the PCA with the same results. True, Westminster is a large congregation, but the mother-daughter model has been proven effective again and again, no matter the size of the church.

Chris Labs, pastor of Wheatland Presbyterian in Lancaster, PA, with wife, Brenda, and leaders of his growing congregation. The mother church is Westminster, led by Michael Rogers. Chris served there for nine years and was influenced to become a church planter by Stephen Beck at Grace Toronto and church planter recruiting events at General Assembly.


Prayer:
the Hope
of Revival.


In 1853, Andrew Bonar wrote: "God likes to see His people shut up to this, that there is no hope but in prayer. Herein lies the church’s power against the world."

One of the great motivators for prayer is desperation. A growing number of church leaders sense the desperation of our times and are participating in days of prayer and fasting. For example, Presbytery Days of Prayer and Fasting for Teaching Elders are set for May 15 in New Jersey and for May 19 in Mississippi Valley. For information about conducting a day of prayer and fasting in your presbytery or local church, contact Bill Thompson at First Presbyterian in Dothan, AL: 334-794-3128; e-mail: wpthom@ala.net. Or contact Archie Parrish, MNA Coordinator of Church Vitality: 404-320-3330; e-mail: aparr9673@aol.com

A PCA-wide Convocation for Revival is being planned for October 13 - 15 at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS, which will focus on preparing leaders for the coming revival. If you’re interested, call Mike Ross, senior pastor at Trinity: 601-362-8244.

 

 

Henry Koh . . .


. . .has been named MNA Korean Ministries Coordinator, currently a part-time position. He is also pastor of Emmanuel Presbyterian. "Henry has great gifts in ministry," said MNA Coordinator Cortez Cooper, "and a passion for developing first and second generation Korean churches. We pray that funding will be available by year end so that he can become full-time."





Learning a
Christian World-and-Life
View

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Above: Fred and Carrie Schumpert, left, and David and Hannah Kennedy, right, live in Atlanta where they’re active in ChristChurch (PCA). Hannah gives RUF credit for preparing David to be an outstanding husband. David says that Hal was an excellent role model. “It was always a blessing to be in his home and see how he related to his wife and his children.”

In his sophomore year at Vanderbilt, David Kennedy was having a tough time. "I was a believer, but God seemed so distant," says David. "I kept praying and reading the Word, but wasn’t getting much out of it — that is, until I started attending Reformed University Fellowship meetings — then, the consistency of the Truth being taught really got through to me. My circumstances didn’t change, but God changed my heart and gave me new insights that made a remarkable difference in my life."

That was more than five years ago. David graduated from Vanderbilt in 1994; today he works as an institutional stock broker with Volume Investors in Atlanta and as a consultant to foundations for W. T. Kennedy, Inc. He and his wife, Hannah, are members of ChristChurch Presbyterian.

David’s experience with Reformed University Ministries illustrates what sets this campus ministry apart from most others. According to Hal Farnsworth, RUF campus minister at Vanderbilt when David was there, "RUF is theologically driven and focused on helping each individual grow in the Word. Wherever you are spiritually — even if you’re nowhere — you can fit in."

Hal is now pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Athens, Georgia, a church he planted in 1996. From 1989 until then, he served as a campus minister and feels strongly about the importance of RUF. Since Athens is home of the University of Georgia, his campus experience is invaluable. "We’re employing the RUF approach in our church and we’re committed to reaching non-Christians in this culturally diverse community," Hal points out.

Another Vanderbilt alum, Fred Schumpert, can’t say enough about the influence RUF had on his life. "Hal helped us find answers to life’s big questions. He taught me the validity of the Christian faith and reinforced my beliefs. Best of all, I gained a Christian world-view that I can take into every area of my life."

 

Showing God’s Mercy Gospel in uniform
 

Barbara Williams of New City Fellowship North in St. Louis, MO, and Randy Nabors, pastor of New City Fellowship in Chattanooga, TN, were among the 175 PCA members involved with urban, cross-cultural, and mercy ministries who took part in last fall’s CCDA conference.

Urban & Mercy Ministries Goes to CCDA. The Christian Community Development Association, founded by African-American evangelist John Perkins, is a coalition of urban, cross-cultural, and mercy ministries located throughout the US. Each year, CCDA holds a highly practical, skills-oriented conference which is attended by about 2,500 people associated with such ministries. For the past three years, PCA members involved with urban and mercy ministries have used this three-day event as a means of networking and providing updates of their activities. At last November’s conference, held in Birmingham, at least 175 attended who are affiliated with PCA ministries.

The primary focus of MNA Urban & Mercy Ministries is to develop minority leaders who will go on to lead church plants and other ministries targeting minorities throughout North America. At the recent CCDA Conference, MNA hosted a luncheon for those involved with PCA ministries. The 1998 conference will be held during November in Chicago. For more information, contact MNA Coordinator of Church Relations Fred Marsh at 404-320-3330; e-mail: fred@mna.pca-atl.org.

The Stewardship Factor
What can one person do? Studies show that often it is not pastors who lead individuals to Christ, but friends, coworkers, and lay people in the church. Certainly, pastors preaching the Word plant seeds that bear fruit, but one-to-one relationships will always be vital to advancing the Kingdom. One person, in fact, can influence countless people for years to come, as those who are led to Christ go on to share the Gospel with others. And so it goes.

And so it is with planting PCA churches. All the work can’t be accomplished by a committee or a congregation. There must be individuals willing to pray, to encourage, to give financially. Individuals able to do so can make a huge difference by getting personally involved in a church plant — by observing the work and reporting back to the supporting church, taking part as a core group member, or serving in other ways. MNA’s campus and chaplain ministries need people as well who can give their time and talent, as well as their treasure.

Have you ever experienced the joy of giving financially to a person who was in desperate need, knowing that your gift made the difference in that person’s life — was possibly the turning point in his or her circumstances? Giving to help support a church plant, a campus ministry, or a chaplain can be like that. And it can produce resounding results for all eternity.

Throughout North America, there are people hungry to learn about Christ’s love — groups waiting for a church planter — pastors waiting to be sent. What can one person do? Perhaps more than you can possibly imagine. To learn more of how you can be involved, contact Fred Marsh, MNA Church Relations coordinator at 404-320-3330; e-mail: fred@mna.pca-atl.org.

 

A PCA Chaplain Joins Ranks with Top Military Leaders. The US Army War College is the training ground for future military leaders. Founded in 1903 and located in Washington, DC, the college was moved to historic Carlisle Barracks in


Carlisle, Pennsylvania, after World War II. Among its distinguished graduates are General (and former president) Dwight D. Eisenhower, Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey, and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Only the creme de la creme are chosen to attend the college’s one-year course, which means PCA Chaplain (Lt Col) Douglas Lee is in good company.

A 20-year Army veteran, and a PCA chaplain throughout, Doug is a reservist on active duty. He began the course last July, along with about 300 others and is one of less than five reserve chaplains to be selected over the college’s 95-year history.

The War College teaches an intensive program focused on worldwide issues concerning the military, religion, politics, and government. The goal is to prepare military, civilian, and international personnel to assume strategic leadership responsibilities.

"This experience has given me an eye-opening view of the world and a much better understanding of how it operates on several levels, " says Doug. "It has also deepened my conviction of the need for a Christian influence."

In addition to learning about strategic global issues and strengthening his leadership skills, Doug has benefited from close interaction with people in leadership positions and the opportunity to influence them. Besides handling a full schedule of classes, accompanied by outside assignments, Doug participates in a Bible study on post, teaches young people in Sunday school, and occasionally fills the pulpit at the post chapel.

PCA Chaplain Doug Lee is one of only a few US Army Reservists on active duty ever selected for the Army War College which he is attending with about 300 students. He considers it God’s providence that he was chosen from among hundreds of candidates.

 

 

Address comments to Fred Marsh, Managing Editor / Photographer.
Design: Studio Supplee.
Copy Editor/Writer: Joan Quillen. Material in Multiply may be reproduced with permission.


Mission to North America serves the churches and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America by enabling the PCA to plant, grow, and multiply churches. Church Vitality, Urban and Mercy Ministries, Chaplain Ministries, and Campus Ministries all contribute to that greater goal.