Over the last few years I have noticed that there are a number of new church plants in my area. Pair this with the explosion of church planting networks around the country and you would have to be blind not to see a trend occurring within Christianity.
I love the church and I love the idea of church planting. As such I wanted to interview a few church planters and get their take on the current culture of church planting and what they see is going on from the front lines. As such I contacted a handful of church planters and ask them to answer a series of questions. The first planter I spoke with was Wade Allen, the second was Crockett Davidson. Today we are talking to Neil Crouse lead pastor at Forward Church in Georgetown Indiana. You can connect with Neil via Facebook or the church website.
1. The History Of Forward Church
In the Spring of 2011, God birthed a vision into the hearts of a few families from the Southern Indiana area. A vision to begin a church that would be committed to boldly worship Him, equip, empower and disciple believers, and to lead those separated from the Lord, into a covenant relationship with Him. In the early Summer of 2011, Forward’s founding families, began to meet in a home for Bible study. After many months of prayer and seeking the scriptures, God provided a facility for Forward to begin to meet and officially launch. The Georgetown Nazarene Church, in Georgetown, IN, graciously opened their doors to Forward on Sunday evenings, allowing Forward to begin holding weekly services. In July of 2011, the founding families began meeting for worship and prayer each Sunday night , trusting for God’s provision for His church. Over the next few months, others began to join these worship and prayer nights. During those months, the founding families and new attendees continued to dream, plan and prepare in accordance to God’s design for Forward. A Launch date was set for November 6, 2011 without a Lead Pastor! The founding families believed this was God’s leading and that he would provide the man that He had been preparing for the position of Lead Pastor for Forward Church. On November 6, 2011, Forward Church launched it’s very first official service with 93 people in attendance, and Reggi L Beasley filling in as a guest preacher for the first two weeks. On November 20th, 2011, I preached for the first time at Forward Church, and opened up with the statement…”Who launches a church without a Lead Pastor?! God does! Because, every book, conference, bootcamp, and assessment out there would tell you that this would fail. However, when you trust in the Lord and follow his ways, and lean not on your own understanding, God does immeasurably more than you could ever dream!” God’s provision is a testimony to the families that stepped out in faith to launch Forward, and has increased our faith tremendously as we are trusting Him to continuously guide us as we obediently trust and follow Him. God made it abundantly clear to me and my family and the Forward Church family that He had brought us together, and I have been the Lead Pastor of Forward Church ever since that third week after the launch.
2. Why Do You Think There Is a Rise Currently In Church Planting?
That is a great question. One that could possibly take a whole book to explain! In short, I think that through the years, we have seen different Ministry Models come and go. Those models work well for a period of time, and then the church must shift in order to change to the new model. Change in a church can be very difficult, and can sometimes cause splits and church fighting. New Church plants are able to start fresh, with a clean slate, and develop a new model that fits the vision and create a culture within that church that is not afraid of change. I believe that is appealing to people, and the statistics show that new churches are reaching people for Jesus Christ at a much greater rate. Therefore, it makes sense to start new churches that reach the lost.
3. What Three Pieces Of Advice Do You Wish Someone Would Have Told You Before You Started Church Planting?
- As a Church Planter, I knew without a doubt that God was calling me to plant a church. The issue I struggled with was timing! My personality is very competitive, and if something needs to be done then I want to do it right now! I wish I would have listened to the advice to wait, and allow God to prepare me and grow me, and to be patient for the timing that God had in mind. Instead, I ran ahead of God. I tried to force the issue because I was so confident that God wanted me to plant a church. I burned some bridges, damaged some relationships, and tried to force two church plants that did not get off the ground because of my zealous intensity. Some of the best advice I could give from experience is to BE PATIENT. If you know that God has clearly called you to plant a church, then wait for Him to show you exactly where and when. Ask Him…and wait…He will show you.
- The second piece of advice would be to become a Prayer Warrior! You cannot make it without prayer. Get on your knees and face before God. You have to have a growing prayer life in order to be on the front lines of ministry and launch a new Church to expand God’s kingdom. You will face Spiritual Warfare like you never dreamed of, and you will need that intimate connection with God to pull you through. Do not allow busyness to cause you to neglect your prayer time!
- If you think it is cool, or hip, or trendy to plant churches…DON’T PLANT A CHURCH! Because I am totally called to do what I am doing, I love it! However, planting a church is the most difficult thing I have done in 17 years of Ministry. That also makes it the most satisfying, because I see God at work all around me. Planting a church is so much bigger than me. Those that I served with in Ministry for several years would never expect me to have planted a church. That is because it is not about me. It is about our awesome God who chooses to use normal people…humble people…the least of these…so that HE gets all the glory. If planting a church has anything to do with defining who you are, your ego, your fulfillment…then run in the other direction. If it is about you, it will fail. If it is all about God, NOTHING CAN STOP IT!
4. What Has God Taught You Through The Experience?
That if I live humbly for His glory, then anything is possible! If I take my gaze off of Him, failure is around the corner. Earlier in my ministry years I made many decisions out of selfishness and desire for self promotion. I would not have admitted that at the time, but looking back I can see where I desired that higher position, that next promotion, that appreciation, that accolade for doing a job well done! I wanted to be in the spotlight. I have learned that when I serve for God’s glory alone…I end up in the best spotlight of all. In the radiance of His glory!
5. Have Any Books You Would Recommend?
Church Planting Books:
- When God Builds a Church by Bob Russell
- Church Planting from the Ground Up by Tom Jones
- Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll
- Starting a New Church by Ralph Moore
On My Desk Now:
- Who is This Man? By John Ortberg
- Multiply by Francis Chan
- InSourcing by Randy Pope
- Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler/Josh Patterson/Eric Geiger