My name is Spence Shelton. 3 weeks ago I was a pastor on staff at the 2nd greatest church on earth: The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. You’ve probably heard of it. I was a part of that church family from age 20 – 32. I became a man, husband, father, & pastor there. They sent me a few weeks ago to plant the greatest church on earth: Mercy Church in Charlotte, NC. You probably haven’t heard of it. That’s for the best. We don’t launch until September & we don’t know what we are doing. This series called “planting a church” is to serve 2 or 3 purposes. Primarily its a documentation of sorts for me to look back and say “awww man I remember that. Wow God has brought me a long way!” Second its to process. One of the best ways I learn is by writing, deleting, re-writing as way of reflecting on what God is doing. So that’s what this series is. Lastly, as I do this I hope it helps the guys like me who are considering planting, in the prep stage, or in the trenches with me right now. This isn’t tried & true wisdom. This is figuring it out as I go reflection.
What I did: We moved 3 weeks ago. Then went on vacation a week ago. Now feels like true week 1 of church planting. Did NOT get my books unpacked. Did NOT paint. Did date my wife. Did play with kids. Met 12 strangers mostly in our neighborhood, began friendships with some of them, invited a waitress to mercy church, met with 2 pastors, an awesome FCA director, and 7 of our team members. Wrote a message, finished a writing project. More vision sharing than gospel sharing this week. Want to change that next week. But courtney is gone for 5 days next week so lets keep expectations within reason.
What I learned: Hang on to the vision! I worked and worked and worked over my time in the Summit Network Residency to develop a strong, God-honoring vision for Mercy Church. And I believe we have an inspiring vision for the short & long term. Now that I’m out in the water, my first instinct is to abandon everything for whatever is going to help me stay afloat. It’s like I forgot how to swim or something. By thursday when we were planning our launch team gathering for the weekend one of our leaders said “I think we gotta figure out who we are.” And I was like well, I thought I did that for 9 months…but he was right. Just because I came up with it in the lab, doesn’t make it automatically who we are here in the field. I have to hang on to our mission & vision and imprint it onto the blank slate that is Mercy Church right now. In our worship, our training, our community, & our evangelism I gotta trust the vision God led us to and move our team to own it. Oh, and I might need to be willing to let the Holy Spirit tweak it…crap. Gonna have to be humble and confident at same time. I’m good at confident. While mission is more idea centric and never changes, Vision should be concrete and have mile markers. FWIW, here’s the way we’ve been talking about our vision
- We want to be a church for unchurched people.
- The prodigal son should be able to meet the true Jesus here.
- We want to see 50 people come to faith & be baptized by our 2nd birthday
- So we will build relationships with non christians
- We want to plant a church by our 2nd birthday
- We gotta raise up leaders, and we gotta be a sending church
- We want to see a gospel renewal in Charlotte carried to the ends of the earth
Cool Moment this week: I met 12 strangers. 1 of them has a church home. People said “why charlotte when so many churches are there? I knew from yoda (Tim Keller) that you should plant churches in churched areas because they reach new people & I believe & recite that when asked about planting Mercy. But now I can just start rattling off names of people. We are planting Mercy Church for the people of charlotte. and now they are starting to have faces and names!!!!