My name is Matt Waldron. Our family moved from Indiana to Fort Lauderdale in January 2016, to participate in church planting. I’ll tell you some of our story. This is not the prototype of church plants and I am not an expert. Please read this as narrative, not prescriptive. If God can use us and our story for His purpose, sign me up!
Why church planting?
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that all those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, ESV)
How do you feel about the love of Christ? Does it compel or constrain you? Does it impact your life, family, finances, and participation in the gathering of believers? Can you escape the desire to live for yourself? That’s a seemingly impossible goal. May my life and yours be more completely lived for Him who died for our sins, and was raised. Might we call others to do the same. This is the journey, and the adventure!
As a Christ follower, your regenerated heart wants to walk in community, to participate in the local gathering of believers. You want to see growth in numbers and individual depth. You long for the excitement of seeing God add new souls to the group!
Where it all started
The first response of sensing the call to church planting is prayer, fasting, and reading the Word. If you long to discover what the love of Christ is compelling you to do – ask Him and read the letter He wrote to you.
A church planting conference is a unique opportunity to spend some time with Christ followers who feel this call on their lives and are turning the call into a reality. We attended the BMA Church Planter’s Institute in Brooklyn, NY, in May 2014. We were looking for God’s leading about when, where and with whom to church plant. It was a great weekend of fellowship and teaching. Late Saturday evening I chatted briefly with Allen Roth about church planting. He looked me in the eye and said, “You’re not getting any younger.” Yowch! The time is now. We left Brooklyn with motivation to pursue this road, not knowing where it was headed, but knowing that waiting a decade was not an option.
Through my mom, who lives in South Florida, we made a connection. A family in Fort Lauderdale had used Mennonite home school materials and was motivated to look for Anabaptist fellowship. They realized that this type of church was not present in southern Florida. We traded emails and phone calls, leading up to a wonderful visit in their home over Thanksgiving in 2014.
Change in the air
A big change is the result of countless small steps. You’re on a road. Picture five red lights in front of you. You’re idling at an intersection and the light turns green. The destination is not visible and only one light changed color. Go ahead: push the gas pedal, drive a block to the next red light. Pursuing the path God has for you is the cumulative result of countless small steps of obedience.
I applied for a Florida medical license in January 2015. I contacted two different physician recruiters, sent several emails, and nothing happened. For months, there was neither job offer nor medical license. The reason for the delay or its anticipated duration remained a mystery.
In the Anabaptist tradition, there are few leaders who use the church as their sole source of income. As part of preparing to church plant, I would recommend developing marketable skills. Moving costs money. You’re going to land somewhere and support yourself and your family. It might be years until there is a group big enough to provide for you. Seeking employment in your new community is likely part of your church planting adventure.
In July 2015, I received an email from Memorial Health in Fort Lauderdale. A phone interview was followed with an invitation to fly down for a visit. We scheduled this for the first week in August.
I wrapped up a busy day of seeing patients at my office in French Lick, IN. I drove home, looking forward to stuffing clothes and shoes in the backpack and carefully zipping my dark green suit into the garment bag. We were leaving the following morning, headed to Fort Lauderdale for a job interview. There was an envelope from the Florida Medical Board on the bed. I tore it open – a Florida medical license!
The interview went well. Memorial called a day later to assure me that they would like to offer a position. It was an open door. On 8/25/15 I signed a letter of commitment to join Memorial Health Care in Fort Lauderdale.
Making the move
September of 2015 found us back in South Florida looking for a home. The highlight of the trip was sitting in a circle with our new friends, my mom and my little family – praying, singing, worshipping, starting something! My oldest daughter prayed: “Dear God, thank you that we could plant a church today.”
The final quarter of 2015 was a whirlwind of packing and parting. Leaving is painful. These friendships won’t be the same ever again. It will be a closed chapter. You will leave a hole in your community and in your church. Trust God to fill it.
Gray clouds rolled in with a misting rain and the promise of snow. The truck was packed; it was time to go. There had been so many good-byes, tears, and prayers. We were ready. Paoli rapidly dropped behind us. At 11 AM on January 11, 2016, our little caravan of a car, minivan and U-Haul entered Florida. The sun was shining. It was warm. The jackets came off. We reached our home in Fort Lauderdale at dusk, welcomed by my mom and an incessant burglar alarm. Exhausted. Joyful.
I’m typing this in early October 2016. We have figured out where the post office is and where to go for groceries and gas. We made the plunge on a BJ’s membership. There is a wonderful park close to our home. We walk there often, enjoying the gentle movement of the wind in the evening and the pinks and purples of the setting sun.
Church planting is stewarding the collection of relationships God entrusts to us. This requires flexibility, and wisdom to handle unanticipated invitations. Communication is crucial – texting, phone calls. We invite people into our homes and lives and enter theirs. Hosting happens often which means the kitchen should be stocked and the house clean. Shopping, food preparation and clean-up are part of the rhythm of the week.
We survey the progress and yearn for God to grow the Christian community here. There are days that are lonely, moments that we wonder if this will ever happen. We have a mid-week Bible study in our home and have had a few Sunday worship services, thus far only when we have out-of-town visitors. You can find us at Regenerate.church.
This urban area has a total population of 6 million spread across three counties. We hope to connect with those who long for intentional pursuit of Christ, who seek meaningful fellowship with believers and who imagine the local church as integral to daily life. We would love to see a network of small groups: multiple gatherings of Christ-centered communities in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
We pray for God to call a family to join us. It would be awesome for someone else to grasp the vision in southern Florida so strongly that they are willing to move here for the next decade of their lives. There is no greater investment than in His kingdom!
All of this is just the beginning: sensing the call, being compelled by the love of Christ, fasting and praying, and moving forward in obedience. May we individually and corporately walk in trust and pursue with excellence what we are given to do this day.
Find out more about Matt Waldron, author of this article at: www.regenerate.church