In May of 2008, I joined the pastoral staff of Grace Baptist Church to assist in the areas of administration, church planting, missions, and disciple-making/leadership development. Shortly after arriving in Cape Coral, Tom Ascol (our lead pastor) was struck by lightning one day after formally leading our church to become a church planting church. The following two months was a dedicated season of prayer, seeking to know God’s heart for our church and how we could embrace the Great Commission with greater intensity. After preaching through the prayers of Paul for churches he planted, Grace affirmed the call in September 2008 and began the initial stages of planting our first daughter church.
For the next six months, I worked to gather a core group of covenanted members interested in planting a gospel-centered church in the city of Lehigh Acres, Florida. As this core group was handed off to Shawn Bergen (the lead planter and current pastor), I began to take on the role of developing a church-based apprenticeship for aspiring church planters. In 2010, we launched our first daughter church and also began our apprenticeship with our first church planter apprentice (Charlie Mitchell). We continue to move forward with church planting locally and globally, adopting two Muslim unreached people groups as well.
In 2010, Grace saw considerable growth in the midst of significant transitions, including going to multiple services and beginning gospel communities (growth groups) on Sunday nights as a decentralized missional emphasis to engage neighborhoods with the gospel. Along with the growth, I worked to develop greater intentionality with the systems and structures of Grace, including assimilation, membership, body integration, and leadership development processes.
Also in 2010, the Grace elder team forward the three-pronged “Greater Things” vision to (1) facilitate growth (2) fuel church planting and (3) foster mission globally through sacrificial giving and radical trust in God’s sovereign purposes for our church. Since then, I have led our church to develop a ministry in Haiti (The Haiti Collective) where we have invested over $125,000 and sent multiple teams to train leaders, rebuild damaged buildings, and minister to orphans. Additionally, I launched the PLNTD Network, a decentralized church planting network focused on planting and cultivating confessional, gospel-centered church planting churches. In September 2011, I transitioned to full-time with PLNTD and continue part-time as pastor and elder of Grace.
In 2011, our church underwent some of the most challenging days of its existence. The result of these days was a clear sense that God was leading us to facilitate growth through replanting our church (literally and spiritually). The remainder of 2011 included the sale of all our church property and buildings, relocating temporarily in an old grocery store, and acquiring a foreclosed health and racquet club, which we completed retrofitted during the first three months of 2012. I was on the three-member task force who led these efforts to give our church newer, more strategic facilities while accumulating no debt (paid in cash). We celebrated the completion of this transition on Easter 2012 with new building, revised church covenant, newly installed officers, and our communion around the Lord’s Table along with several baptisms.
As I have now transitioned part-time as an elder and pastor of Grace, I devote the majority of my energy to discipling new believers, training up new leaders, administrating our gospel communities, and leading our mission efforts in Haiti.