Big God | Little Faith
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1.9
We prayed for 50 people in Raleigh-Durham to come hear the vision God was placing on us for planting a church in Charlotte. 100 came. A few people said they couldn’t come because they live in charlotte and it was a work night. So, we decided to do a small meeting for those 10 or so people. And last night in uptown 75 people came. What I love is that regardless of anything else that happens, 175 people in 2 cities drove out to hear about an opportunity to leverage their lives for the mission of God. We are following up with each person to discern whether or not the Charlotte launch team is the spot for them and we know it isn’t for all of them. BUT, we believe God is going to build a core team from that 175 that will believe God for the people of Charlotte. When I said what I said in this video, I believed it. But to see that faith already begin to become sight? A month later?
These next two to three months we get to hear individual stories of what God is doing as he directs people towards our team. And I believe it will be one of the most inspiring seasons of my life. Pray with me that my faith, our team’s faith, will begin to match the greatness of the God we are placing it in!
Hello friends! We had an incredible vision night at the Summit Church for our upcoming church plant in Charlotte, NC this past Monday. Next Thursday night we will be holding a vision night in the great city of Charlotte! If you are in Charlotte and are interested in hearing more about our upcoming church plant, please join us! We will be gathering at the Metrolina Baptist Association Building* in uptown. To plan well for everyone it will help us if you RSVP. Please RSVP as soon as you know if you can make it! Below is the video we showed at The Summit Church about our upcoming plant in Charlotte. We are getting excited!!
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV)
The other day former governor – turned conservative talk-show host Mike Huckabee said a few words that apparently caught enough viral traction to make it to the daily news podcast I subscribe to (The World & Everything In It…Rocks).
One of the things he said as more of an off-handed comment struck me the most out of everything he had to say. He opened with a statistic: of the 80 million self-identified evangelical Christians only 50% are registered to vote. Of those 40 Million, less than half will vote in any given election.
To be transparent, I searched for a while for some hard research to back that up and while I found many who cite it, I’m still looking for a verified study for it.
Of course, “Christian” is not a political party. In our church alone there are christians that represent all shades of the red and blue spectrums. Yet If these statistics are even close, it is likely we’ve neglected a significant part of who God calls us to be in our day. One of the favorite church fathers for today’s budding theologians to quote is St. Augustine. He wrote a book called The City of God where he talked about the fact that every christian is a Citizen first of the City of God and second the city of man. We often use that to talk about how our first allegiance is to God and his purposes. And this is a good and true idea. BUT what about the other citizenship? As Romans 13 above points us to, a healthy biblical worldview would say that our citizenship in heaven should compel us indeed to be the very best citizens in our respective countries here on earth, submitting ourselves to the governing authorities and investing our lives for the flourishing of the city.
I’ve decided not to drill down too deep into the theology of citizenship in this post, but at bare minimum I think we’d agree Christians should be involved. Christians should vote, not because of their political affiliations but, because their heavenly citizenship compels them to seek the flourishing of their earthly nation. On November 4 our nation will give us the chance to serve it by influencing the election of public servants who will govern us. I urge you to choose to be an informed citizen and vote your conscience.
So look at your calendar NOW. See November 4 there a couple of weeks away? Go ahead and make plans now to go to your local precinct and leverage your citizenship.
The Summit Network Residency Program is no joke! As a church planting resident, I’ve been in the trenches trying to discern our vision, philosophy, and strategy for our new church that will launch next year in Charlotte. Now the time is finally coming to begin sharing that with the world! On Monday night, November 3rd, we are hosting an interest meeting for our Charlotte Church Plant. Our target audience is intentionally very wide open for this meeting. We want you to hear what God has been stirring in our hearts about this new church. The Summit Church is an incredible incubator for new churches and we believe this year is going to prove that to be true yet again and I can’t wait to tell you why.
Should you be there? Of Course you should be. If you read this blog that means we are in some way connected and this is easily the biggest thing my wife and I have done in ministry. You should come hear what is driving us towards this new phase of life. Yes, Courtney will be there but sorry, our gaggle of little ones will not be.
In all seriousness, I’ve had conversations after conversation where someone will say “i’ve never thought about being a part of something like that.” You know what, neither had we…until we had a conversation about it. I’ll share more about that when we get together but I want you to know you are not alone if you’ve never thought about it before.
The longer I serve as a pastor the more I witness first hand the pain of sin as it attacks friendships, marriages, and families. One of the things our pursuits of our own desires often blinds us to is the effect those empty pursuits are having on those around us. Reading Jonathan Edwards’ book LEFT immersed me into the emotional roller coaster of life when a parent leaves. More like a guided memoir than a book, Jonathan bares his own story to bring hope to those who share it, and needed awareness to those who do not. I’ve always appreciated Jonathan’s refusal to sugar coat a journey that is filled with turns, setbacks, and unexpected wins and losses. This makes his writing relatable to each of us which is why you will probably finish the book in one sitting. And what I love most about this work is that his hope comes through in the soul level security he finds as an adopted child of God.
Listen, this book should probably be on the NYT best seller list. Yes Jonathan is my friend so I hope it gets there one day so I can say “I knew him when”. But more importantly I hope it gets there to bring light to the tragic epidemic of dysfunctional manhood in our culture and the fruit it is bearing on the next generation. Maybe you need to read this to find healing from the pain someone has caused you. Maybe you need to read this and then repent of the pain you’ve caused. Or, maybe you are like me and you need to begin to feel the weight of what some people you know are carrying around so that you can function as a better friend to him or her.
Bottom line, you will be well served in one or more ways to dive into Jonathan’s story and then experience the hope he’s now living with.
We received an incredible amount of support in response to our announcement last Friday to which we can only say Thank You! Over the coming year’s diet of blogposts I’ll without a doubt put up some posts relating to this journey we’ve started in on. It’s a way for us to process everything and a way to keep you updated on how to pray. If you’d like more information about our plans for Charlotte, LET US KNOW HERE
When Courtney and I began to feel a sense of confirmation that we were going to plant a new church, the next obvious question was…where? How do you decide on a place to go plant not just a church, but the rest of your life? Thankfully I am surrounded by some pretty strong Christian men whose wisdom helped me as, once again, I try and figure out what God is calling me to do. After praying, fasting, and having a lot of conversations I think we came to the decision by working through a familiar set of three filters*
1. Opportunity: Where does the community say I am needed? 3 reasons Charlotte rocketed quickly to the top for us:
1. The People - I’ve been visiting charlotte for 10 years since my college roommate moved to the QC. I love the energy and sense of pride that permeates Charlotte that says “whatever ATL, we are the true southern city!” These people embody the good parts of southern culture (hospitality, sweet tea, and work ethic) while also embracing the progressive personality of a true metropolitan city (hating traffic, loving the arts, & hopeful for what’s next). Charlotte is projected to grow by 71% in the next 15 years making it the co-fastest growing city in the US (respect RDU). While much of that growth is coming from the Northeast and internationally, people are coming from everywhere to the Queen City! Which means…catch this…we can reach the nations through Charlotte. Seriously, one estimate is that there are close to 100 languages spoken in the charlotte metro area. People groups Americans could never go visit are represented by refugees living in Charlotte. My prayer is that you get as excited as me about what that means for a church. Now lets keep going. Young Professionals are flocking to the city and they represent a key demographic that responds to new movements like a church plant. UNCC is the 2nd largest university in the state and will likely become the largest in the next 5 years…and they now have a football team! Add in 4 other growing colleges and you have a huge population who often make the faith decisions that will determine their life trajectory during these undergrad years. I decided to live for Christ my freshman year and ever since I’ve felt a real calling to be a part of a church that reaches and disciples college students.
2. The Spiritual Climate – One thing I feel a real burden to make sure our launch team, friends, family, and supporters understand is that Charlotte of 2014 is not Charlotte of 1980. More churches are closing their doors than opening them every year in Charlotte. Despite population increase, church involvement is on the decline. The top 9 most unreached neighborhoods in North Carolina are inside the city limits of Charlotte.** The growing population demands more gospel-centered church families! Many more! Even so, God is doing great work through several faithful churches in Charlotte and we are honored to bring reinforcements Studies confirm that the average new church gains 1/3 to 2/3 of its new members from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body, while churches over 10 to 15 years of age gain 80 to 90 percent of new members by transfer from other congregations.*** So a booming city like charlotte needs new churches to engage those who don’t have a church family yet!
On top of the stats, The idols of financial security, social significance, success, and leisure have become the unspoken gods worshipped by most of those in the city. Underneath these idols is a deep insecurity marked by fear of failure or exposure. I know these idols because they are mine as well! And I’m so thankful God saved me from them. The gospel brings freedom from these idols that many have become enslaved to. The Charlotte of today needs the gospel more than ever. We are hopeful and honored that, with God’s grace, we will get to build a gospel-centered church family for the Queen City.
3. Our Sending Church – A theme in this post is relying on the input of others. Charlotte was identified by The Summit Church and many missions agencies as a strategic city to plant a gospel-centered church. I recognize I have biases that I cant even see so I relied heavily on the counsel of our church. When their desire matched mine, I knew we might have something really good in the making.
2. Passion: What am I passionate about? For me this was one of the instigators of the entire process. When i started my position as a small groups pastor I was hungry. My passion to see the church be a healthy body of Christ made me hungry for creating the best possible small groups the church could have. building a healthy church was a moral imperative for me. I HAD TO DO IT. And you know what? By God’s grace that passion has not subsided one bit. If anything, it has grown. I am confident God has called me to vigilantly disciple & shepherd his church for the rest of my life. But, recently God began to stir two other passions: Leading the church and teaching the scriptures. As I processed those with the elders here at the Summit they challenged me, rightly so, to make sure that wasn’t pride or wander-lust, but genuine God-given desire Paul tells timothy about in 1 Timothy 3. This took time. the better part of 2 years actually. I’m so grateful for that process as I feel much more prepared now than I did two years ago.
3. Ability: What do others say I’m good at? This was the scariest part for me. I wanted to be good at preaching and leading. But just because I want to be doesn’t mean that I am. I cannot stress this enough: The best thing I could do for my future was to submit my pride to the counsel of others. And this is another reason I am so grateful for 6 years of preaching practice here in different arenas at the Summit. because while i might have had some natural gifts, I needed a lot of practice. Many are in that same camp I think. They desire to do something so they assume they are good at it. What a humbling process that was for me! Basically my coaches 6 years ago said “you might be good one day, but you need work. go get some practice.” Now, I still need a lot of work but man I’m a different preacher than 6 years ago. By God’s grace I’ll be a different preacher 6 years from now. But, ultimately during this process those around me have affirmed that God has called and equipped me for teaching the bible and leading the church.
* These criteria are adapted from a post by J.D. Greear who took it from Tim Keller…who probably got it from Paul. Here is J.D.’s post on it.
**Tracked by NCBSC in analysis of the most recent U.S. Census
*** see Center Church by Tim Keller. pg 359. Multiple studies cited
Over the past year Courtney and I have been in the process of praying and seeking God about a growing desire I’ve had to give more of my time and energy to preaching the gospel and leading the church. The Summit Church, our church family, has walked with us through assessments and sought God’s leading on our behalf. With the affirmation of the elders fully behind us, we are being sent by the Summit Church to plant a church in….wait for it….CHARLOTTE, NC!!
That’s right. Queen City here we come! Home to 2.4 Million people and projected to be (along with our dear home city of Raleigh) the fastest growing city in the U.S. over the next 15 years, Charlotte is becoming a truly metropolitan city. Though traditionally known as a “Bible Belt” city, an influx of international business and the rapid secularization of Charlotte are quickly creating a great need for gospel-centered churches. It is estimated that there are over 1 million people in the Charlotte area with no clear understanding of the Gospel. With over 100 languages spoken in the Charlotte area we believe it is a strategic city to reach the nations through.
This week I transitioned into the Summit’s Church Planting Residency where I will receive coaching as we begin building a team, raising funds, and developing a strategy for planting a healthy local church in 2015. Until June 2015 I will continue serving part time as the small groups pastor of the Summit while during the residency.
There is a lot to do, but if you leave this post with any action step, it is to pray. When you sit down to pray, open up to Joshua 1.9-10 and pray the following:
Pray we’d remember the presence of the Lord goes with us. Pray against fear and insecurity that so easily defames the glory of God in our hearts.
Pray about how you can be a part of this journey by giving financially or by going. Few who read this (more like none who read this) were already thinking “I need to go with Spence to plant a church in Charlotte.” We know that for each person who goes with us, it will take God creating a holy interruption in their lives for them to commit to such a big step. So for now, we just ask you to pray.
To friends of the Summit and/or of the Sheltons who are already in Charlotte, we cant wait to join you! To friends elsewhere, we wish we could take you all with us. And since charlotte has everything you need, we can! So, go ahead and mark your calendars to move with us next summer.
In the meantime, If you’d like to learn more about the church plant please contact me at email@example.com.