Our world, our very lives have had quite an upheaval over the past year since I sat down to write my last blog post. We have had a global crisis concerning a virus. America has seen the rise of social issues. Government administrations have changed. Many families and friends have made the decision to distance themselves from people they were hugging and kissing only 1 year ago. Those close to us got really sick, while some died unexpectedly. And the church has had their practical ecclesiology exposed (some for the better, other for the worse). It has been a tough year, seemingly, for most.
For me, I went through personal difficulties that include ministry pains, betrayals of supposed friendship, personal depression, and almost losing my my mom to death.
What is interesting about all of this is God’s work, will, and plan. After both my senior pastor and I being dismissed from our church for unbiblical reasons (preferences that had nothing to do with faulty character — this is the words of the church we left), we decided to explore the possibility of beginning a new church. We did this for a few reasons: (1) we had people at our previous church ask (in reality, plead with) us to start a church after they left the previous church because they did not like the decision by our previous elders and could no longer trust them as leaders. They wanted us to be their shepherds. (2) we had both tried to look for new church positions, but the global lockdown due to COVID-19 prevented us. So we were both stuck in NW Arkansas with no ministry and no jobs. (3) Brad and I loved working with one another in church ministry the past 6-years. We know each other well. We understand how we tick. And we wanted to keep working together. (side note: we looked for a church somewhere that was hiring two guys so we could stay together to no avail). (4) we were encouraged by a few Master’s Seminary grads who have planted new churches to start this church (here’s to you Jason Vaughn!)
So, we began to explore — which really just means talking with other guys and reading A LOT! During this time, Brad and I would meet multiple times a week to discuss what we had been reading from various blogs and books, as well as conversations we had with church planting pastors. We found much help. But, through that process, we still didn’t feel like we had the passion and drive and extraordinary calling that we believed church planters must have. We felt this right up until we were given the book “Church Planting is for Wimps” by Mike McKinley.
Although we have never met Mike, he instantly became a best friend to both of us. The line that hit us both was in the introduction: “I have learned that God uses messed-up people like me and you to plant churches that look utterly unremarkable to the world. The marvelous this is that, in his kindness, God does amazing things through those churches.”
But, those words were exactly what Brad and I needed. As we read on, we discovered that the one necessary thing that every church (regardless of size or age) needs is its pastor(s) to preach God’s Word “in a clear, systematic, and compelling way.” Why? McKinley writes, “Because the Word of God stands at the center of the life of the church. … The way that God speaks to shows us what he’s done, what he’s like, and what he wants from us is through his Word. And God’s church comes into contact with his Word through reading it, preaching, it, and hearing it.” Mike then goes on to quote from 1 Tim 4:13 & 2 Tim 4:1-2.
In other words, Christ’s church doesn’t need (or want) a unique kind of man to be a church planter. He wants men who will read and preach His Word. Jesus doesn’t have an extraordinary calling for church planters then established pastors. Both are called to preach the Word. Christ is not attempting to create the best church ever through us. Rather, He desires and strengthens and blesses faithful churches who stand before God’s people and boldly, and clearly, and unapologetically proclaim His Bible, so that the lost will be saved and His people will be more like Christ.
Now, Mike goes on to recount his journey of being a 1st-time church planter. All of that was helpful. But for Brad and I, we needed to hear familiar words from the apostle Paul in the Scriptures above — to preach the Word — and what Martin Luther once wrote: “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philipp and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything. ”
We had our Bibles. We knew our Bibles. We were to lead with God’s Word at the center and out in front of us. This we knew how to do. So that is what we did. We gathered up these people who were pleading with us to start a church, and told them that we will be faithfully biblical in all that we do. The Word will be the center. The Word will be the guide. We will be a church in NW Arkansas that anchored to the Scriptures.
Born was Anchor Bible Church on July 5, 2020 (yes, during all the lockdowns!). And we have kept things simple: preach the Word, counsel with the Word, exhort people with the Word, comfort with the Word, shepherd with the Word, fellowship around the Word, pray the Word, follow the Word, etc. We are anchored to the Bible and are thankful that it is the Scriptures that guide us.
All to say: if you are considering starting a church, pick up Mike McKinley’s book (and many more!) and then, if you choose to begin, open the Word, point your people to it, and never close it!