Training is over!!!

Emmaus Asheville has been Commissioned 

Asheville & Charlotte Church Plant Commissioning from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

Two weekends ago, our launch team and staff members were commissioned at the Summit Church in Durham, NC. Together with the Charlotte team, we were sent out in the name of Jesus to go and plant this church. Last weekend we were commissioned at Chapel Hill Bible Church in Chapel Hill, NC.

God is already doing some amazing things. A total of 30 people are moving to Asheville for two years with us, with an additional 20 already living there. We have found a meeting space for our Sunday evening gatherings this summer. We already have a team on the ground in Asheville, and they have gone from eight members to 15 in just one week. Only four of them were a part of the initial launch team. We have also found a meeting space for our Sunday morning gatherings beginning Sept 20th. A contract is being formed between Emmaus Asheville and Evergreen Community Charter School.

Important for donors
We have received our own 501c3 status and now have our own account. We are in the process of implementing an online giving portal soon. Because of this, you will need to switch your donations to this account. When everything is operational, we will contact each of you and walk you through the process. In the meantime, any additional funds that go to the old account will be periodically moved to ours. No money will be lost. If you are currently sending physical checks, please make them out to “Emmaus Asheville” and send them to:

Emmaus Asheville
P.O. Box 9817
Asheville, NC 28815

Please keep us in your prayers. Specifically, pray for the below items

  • The Gardner’s move to Asheville on May 11th.
  • We’ll be starting a 2nd small group in May. Pray for its growth and health.
  • We are slowly connecting with people that are far from God. Pray that they would accept Jesus as their Savior.
  • Pray for the launch team as they move. Pray that He would continue to provide jobs and housing.
  • Pray for us as we go through the book of Ephesians this summer. Pray that it would ground us in the gospel and motivate us to live out God’s mission in our new city.
  • Pray that our group of 50 will grow to 75 or 100 by September.
  • Most of all, pray that God would bring glory to Himself and to His Son through our efforts.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support. Without the leading of the Holy Spirit and your partnership with us, Emmaus Asheville would have never been launched.

 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

March Update

image (4)I was able to get up to Asheville last week for about three full days. It snowed around 5 inches the first night we were there, but by 7am, all the roads were plowed and salted and ready to go. (They know how to do it up there!)

It was by far the most encouraging visit so far.

As you plan things like this out, there’s always the thought in the back of your mind, “Ok. This looks good on paper. We’ve done our research. But…we’re not there yet. We have no idea if this will work.”

We met with two men who have been doing ministry in Western North Carolina for decades. As we sat across from them and explained what God has been doing and what we believe God has called us to do, they went from disinterest to intrigue and then to excitement within 5 minutes time. These are guys who sit down with every church planter who comes their way (which, in Asheville, is a lot). They are the spiritual “gate keepers”. They’ve heard it all. But as we unpacked our vision and strategy, their eyes lit up. They were asking for more information, for print outs, for material and websites that they could study after we left. At the end, they both agreed that this strategy is the only strategy that will reach the pockets of lostness in Western NC.

We also were able to sit down with a few locals who are interested in joining our church. They, too, encouraged us that the timing for the church is perfect, the location is very strategic, and that the model we’re using will bear fruit. It’s the type of church they’ve been looking for.

It’s difficult to explain how encouraged and humbled I feel. From a small dream of one day starting a church, to a 22 member launch team, 4 person staff team, location, funds, and a clear vision in 1 year’s time. I’m amazed at all that God has done.

We have three more trainings left in the Summit Residency. 3 MORE Trainings! That’s crazy. We’ll be moving in around 8 weeks to Asheville with our team.

Please pray for us. Over half of us have found jobs already, but there are plenty more needed. The rental market is horrendous in Asheville. Houses and apartments move quick. We’re zeroing in on a building to hold our gatherings. Pray for that. We’ll keep you updated.

Here are the names of the people who have committed to serving with us in Asheville for 2 years. Pray for them by name.

Jared, Noelle, Marshall, Heather, Chase, Jenny, John, Emily, Zach, Tori, Jim, Emily, Kyle, Gabri, Logan, Brittany, Margo, Alexis, Tailar, Hillary, Amber, Chelsee, Brandon, Mallory, Maleah, and Marcella.

Also, fundraising is going very well. In order to reach our first year’s budget goal, we need to raise our monthly donations by $3,500. If 7 people committed to giving $500 a month, we would be there. Or if 14 people committed to giving $250 monthly, we will reach out goal.

It’s extremely busy right now, but I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated. Thanks for all the prayers.

 

Week 3 Reflections

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We just finished our third Launch Team Training.

You probably read that sentence in about three seconds. You just pronounced the eight words in your head, and then your eyes moved down here in search of something important or inspirational. Perhaps a “30 things only launch team members understand” list or something.

Not me. When I typed those words and put a period at the end, I just sat…and re-read them…in awe.

WE JUST FINISHED OUR THIRD LAUNCH TEAM MEETING!!!

That’s how I read them.

About a year and a half ago, God began stirring our family’s hearts towards church planting. It wasn’t clear at first. It was just a burden…a weight…a deep desire for….something. We weren’t sure what. But there were feelings of being unsettled and not content with our current reality.

And this was very confusing. We had a great church and great jobs ministering the amazing people there. I was able to use my gifts for God’s glory. But something was just…off.

And then the scary season began. As I talked with a handful of pastors in the area, it began to grow clearer that Church Planting was a direction I should check out. Now…I know church planting is kind of in vogue right now. All the seminary grads dream of planting a church one day…because no one has clued them into what it actually entails. But when the reality of that calling hits your life…when you have a good job, and a family to support, and no idea where or how God wants to use you…it is just plain scary.

But it was clear this is what God wanted of us. So we decided to follow Him.

Through an amazing process (which would take up a few blog posts by itself) God put us in contact with the leaders of the Summit Network and we began the process of applying (along with over 100 other potential planters) in January of 2014. AND WE GOT ACCEPTED.

Now it wasn’t a matter of testing the waters to see if this is what God really had for us. It was real. We were going to do this. We put our house on the market and moved to an apartment. I transitioned out of my current church and worked as a carpenter for five months working four days a week in Maryland while Jenny took care of our daughters.

Fast forward through partnering with Chapel Hill Bible Church, figuring out how that partnership would actually work, formulating and clarifying the church’s mission, vision, values, plumb-lines, location, three year budget, discipleship strategy, leadership pipeline, creating a prospectus and brochure, website, raising the first year funds of $200,000, holding interest meetings, traveling to Denver and DC to visit church plants, assessing the launch team members, gathering a staff of three other folks, traveling to Asheville numerous times, searching for a place to live in Asheville, loving my wife and two precious daughters, securing a space for our meetings, conducting the first and second launch team meetings, and…..

WE JUST HAD OUR THIRD LAUNCH TEAM MEETING!

Don’t let me give you the impression that it was because of hard work and American ingenuity. I did do all those things up there…but I did most of them badly. The other ones I did very badly.

It has been God’s faithfulness every step of the way. From the vision to the details, from the staff to the launch team, from the connections to the funds…it has been God…every…step…of…the…way.

And we just had our third launch team meeting. It’s real.

I looked around tonight at Hillary, Jared, Amber, Marshall, Heather, Logan, Gabri, Jonathan, etc…. All of them have stories just like mine. Some of them are in the scary season and some are just coming out of it. And now, our stories will be intertwined.

In a few months we’ll look at each other and say “We just had our third person come to know Jesus!”… “We just had our third service!”… “We just launched our 3rd Missional Community”…”We just finished our third year!”…”We just planted our third church!”…

And it will still be because of God’s faithfulness to build his church, grow his kingdom, and love his people.

We will do all of those things very badly….and a long time from now, we’ll look around at each other, along with the hundreds and thousands he chose to bring to Himself through us, and say “We just finished our 3rd eon praising Jesus on the new earth”… not because we did anything well…but because of Him…the one who is faithful…the one who does all things well.

 

 

 

January Update

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Psalm 9:10

We haven’t updated the site in a few months. A lot has gone on between our fall trip to Asheville and now, but the details would have been a little boring.

But now…now things are really starting to progress. We’ve been blown away with God’s faithfulness. The dream and desire he placed in my heart just a year ago has grown and blossomed and is taking shape quickly.

Last Thursday night we began our Launch Team training. We will meet weekly for the next 12 or so weeks and train our team how to be missionaries in the context of Asheville…how to be disciples that make disciples. We’ll spend time in worship and prayer and walk them through the in’s and out’s of what Emmaus Asheville is all about.

Around 28 people came to the training! It was awesome to see all of them interacting, praying, and worshiping together. Needless to say, I was in awe by the end of the night. These folks are moving their entire lives to Asheville this summer and are devoting at least two years to making Jesus famous in our new mountain home.

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On Friday, the staff team for our new church left for a leadership retreat to Asheville. We traded stories and life experiences and explored the city last night. Today we spent a long time in prayer and discussed some leadership topics and strategy issues regarding the church plant. I’m honored to work alongside such talented and sold out people.

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Tomorrow we’ll attend a local church and get to know their staff a little better, and then head home to train and fund raise until the big move. What was once just a desire and dream is slowly becoming a reality.

I, personally, am at such a different place than I was just a few months ago. Anytime God calls you to a large task feelings of insecurity and fear tend to surface. But day after day God has proven his faithfulness and power to accomplish his plans. There’s no fear anymore. Just a deep trust and excitement.

Pray for our team as we train and learn how to present to gospel by word and deed in a way that makes sense to the people of Asheville. Pray for us as we seek to raise the remaining funds for our first year. And pray our leadership team as we love and shepherd the people God has given us. Most of all, pray that Jesus would be glorified in our hearts and lives on a daily basis, and that people would come to accept and rejoice in this amazing Gospel.

P.S. We have an official web site up. www.EmmausAsheville.com  You can get updates from their in the future, but I wanted to make sure everyone who had subscribed to this blog is in the loop.

Fall Update

As I type this post, I’m drinking some coffee on a porch overlooking the East Side of Asheville. It’s warmed up to about 40 degrees, and the clear skies allow an amazing view. I am in awe of what God has done in the past few weeks and can’t wait to see what He continues to do. I’m reminded of the words of George MacDonald:

IMG_20141115_140621We can walk without fear, full of hope and courage and strength to do His will, waiting for the endless good which He is always giving as fast as He can get us able to take it in.

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Over the past two weeks we finally held our interest meetings at Chapel Hill Bible Church and Summit. A total of around 70 people showed!!! I have a list of 50 people who are interested in moving with us. Between now and the new year, we’ll be talking to each person individually, going over the assessments they filled out, and helping them through the decision making process.

As we’ve been through this process, there is one thing that has remained elusive…THE LOCATION OF THE CHURCH. Well, I have news on that subject.

I was able to have a really encouraging lunch with a man who’s lived in the area for 30 years, served in numerous churches in the city, and now serves as a Church planting catalyst. He reinforced some of the things I was already feeling. Let me give you a church-planter’s snap-shot of Asheville.

Ashevillemap

Most of the new ministries that have started in the past two decades have been in the downtown area (“on the hill” as they say around here). As the downtown area began to be revitalized, so did the areas surrounding it. For years the north area was filled with wealthy, upper class professionals. A lot of the homes were second or third homes. But as the South, near Biltmore, began to grow, a lot of these folks moved there. That left some room for new families or students to move in. Over the past few years, the north has become a destination for entrepreneurs, movie stars, and professionals. A lot of ministry activity is happening here, and a lot of fruit is being seen in places farther north. The same goes for the South. There are a few very healthy church plants near Biltmore Park, and Biltmore Baptist, further south near Arden, is doing extremely well. They are now opening up multi-site venues across town. The West has been a center for revitalization for the past decade. Many young families have moved in the area, along with a ton of small businesses. Because of this, most of the new ministry activity is centered here. I know personally many pastors who are doing excellent work in this area.

And that leaves the East. This area is comprised of the 74 corridor out towards Reynolds, and the 40/70 corridor that runs east all the way to Black Mountain.

EastAshevilleMap

This place is exploding with new families. Most people can’t afford the rent or housing prices in the other areas, and are finding their way to places like Black Mountain and Swannanoa. It is where most of the conference centers are located, including Billy Graham’s “The Cove”, YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, and Ridgecrest. The ironic thing is that, even though this is a Mecca for visiting Christians, very few new ministries have started here. With dozens of church start ups and healthy ministries located in the West, as well as the South and North, the East seems like a no-brainer. There are about five key schools from Elementary to Highschool that our church could serve and invest in and really “put our arms around the whole community”.

Over the coming weeks our team will be praying about this area and doing an in-depth study. We’ll keep you updated on our progress. We just wanted to fill you in so you had specific things to pray for.

I’ll leave you with one of God’s promises in Isaiah 55

“As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

Does the South Really Need More Churches?

This is an excellent blog post by Jay Thomas, Pastor of one of our partner churches, Chapel Hill Bible Church. I highly recommend checking out his blog.

Our church is beginning a very exciting new chapter. We are beginning to embrace the reality that a healthy church is a multiplying church. A healthy church is a church-planting church. What is true for individual disciples, that they be disciple-makers of disciple-makers, is also true for local churches.

Now, almost every pundit on matters ecclesial agrees there are pockets in North America that are under-churched. Marin County, CA and Portland, OR are two examples. But, what about the South? Does the Bible-belt really need more churches? Aren’t there enough churches in the South that Southern churches can take their limited resources and pour them into the places of real need, like the unreached people groups of the other nations?

Clearly, healthy churches need to be devoted to bringing the gospel to the nations. This is not an either/or. It is a both/and. But, should churches in the South spend a lot of time, energy, and money on planting new churches in what seems to be one of the most established Christian areas in America, which seems to be the most Christian nation in the world?

Yes. Absolutely. I think we would actually be neglecting our call if we did not. It would be unhealthy if we did not.

But, some of you might need to know why. And, some of you may still not agree with my reasons, but at least you will see there are good reasons. Each needs much more unpacking, but let me at least list them out.

1. Biblical theology argument: The New Testament shows that the model of kingdom expansion was church planting. As soon as the Apostles began their ministry outside the initial revivals in Jerusalem, churches were planted in Asia Minor, often directed by Paul and his cohort. The kingdom had its pivot foot in local churches, and still does. This New Testament paradigm is not just descriptive but prescriptive, and there is a library’s worth of nuanced Biblical and theological treatments that establish this. Take a look athttp://www.redeemer.com for some resources.

2. Healthy church argument: Simply tallying up how many churches are in a given area and how many people attend them is not the way to do the math on this issue. The issue is: how many heathy churches with converted Christians who are on mission comprise the ecclesial make up of an area? Many people define a healthy church as: orthodox, stable attendance,  and stable income. That is not the right definition. A healthy church is rigorously Biblical with a value for expositional ministry, has godly leadership, it equips believers for ministry, it has a strong community, it has a clear and robust gospel-centered vision, it invests mercy locally, it emphasizes and trains people for personal evangelism, and it is committed to multiplying healthy churches locally and globally. So, are there enough of those churches in any area, even the South? No. Nope. Nada. Uhuh. From Chapel Hill to Nashville, Birmingham to Jackson, Richmond to Memphis, more truly healthy churches are needed. By the way, when more heathy churches are planted in an area, two things happen in that community. The churches that have potential (Biblically faithful but not healthy yet) are stoked to life, and unhealthy churches (dysfunctional, theologically liberal, legalistic) are brought to a quicker end. Adding more churches only helps the true churches of that area. Everyone benefits.

3. Demographic argument: Even though the South tends to have more healthy churches than other parts of the country, most people in the South are not Christians and do not have a strong connection to a healthy church. In the Triangle, there are over a million people who do not know Christ. We could triple the amount of local churches and still not adequately reach these people. Different churches, while sharing the characteristics that make for health, can still be quite different in ethos. Different ethos attracts different people. The more churches that are contextual to a certain sub-group or demographic, the better.

4. This only helps a commitment to the nations argument: Churches that plant churches, as long as they are truly healthy, will be more committed to international church planting and ministry, not less. Multiplying churches are also better internally. There tends to be more growth as a local body. There are more resources to take care of internal needs. A multiplying church is robust and full of gospel energy. A lot of that energy (and finances) can be directed at the nations.

5. History proves the above arguments argument: The biggest thing going against those skeptical of this is history. In the last 25 years, as this vision of the church has taken off as a fact of Biblical obedience (not trendiness), the above four arguments have proven to be the case. Now, can church planting churches not be healthy? Of course, and history has shown that, but that is why I defined health not solely upon church-planting but also other indicators like godly leadership and Biblical fidelity.

Therefore, the South needs more healthy churches. But, so does the Northeast, West coast, Midwest, and the Rockies. So does Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica. Let us be committed to all of these. Let us not forget who lives across the street, not just across the oceans. Let us not forget that the church is the hope of the world.

Misconception / Truth

Josh Miller is the Church Planting Catalyst for the Summit Network. He wrote an awesome blog this week that I had to share.

As a church we’ve sent out 238 people to plant 23 churches in North America.  We’ve watched as God has swept normal people into his extraordinary mission of making disciples.  The result?  Last year more than 6,000 people worshiped at Summit church plants across North America and 317 were baptized.  

We’re convinced that God is just getting started.  This year we’re training planters who are headed to Asheville, Charlotte and Denver, CO.  Three great cities in need of churches.  Churches that are comprised of normal people.  People like you.  So here’s the question “Could God be leading you to join a church plant?” Are you #239?  There are several misconceptions that could keep you from considering church planting, let’s debunk them together:

Misconception: I’m not spiritual enough.  I’m under qualified to join a church plant.  I skipped my quiet time this morning and cut-off three people in traffic (while displaying my Summit sticker). 

Truth: I’ll fit right in.  Church plants are made of work-in progress people striving together to be more like Jesus.  God wants to plant the gospel deeper in me as he uses me to plant the gospel in a new city.  

MisconceptionI’ve got a family. Church planting is only for young people.  I have a family, career and mortgage.  I can’t move my life to help plant a church.  That’s for college grads and young professionals.

Truth: I have a crucial role to play.  My life experience, wisdom and career stage are essential to the health of a church plant.  New parents and college grads can benefit from the wisdom I’ve acquired and I’ll grow by being around the passion and energy of young people.

Misconception: I’ll be lonely.  All of my relationships are here in R-DU.  I could never move to a strange city. I’d be lonely forever.

Truth: I’ll be part of a tight knit community.When a couple dozen people unite around a common vision the potential for deep community is immense. I could develop relational depth I’ve never experienced before.

So the question remains “Are you #239?” That’s a big question, and this post is just a glimpse into the world of church planting. But we’d love to give you a deeper look.