The marketplace of church-planting methodologies is a crowded one—from the franchise and multi-site models to denominational strategies based on local demographic research or the number of churches in a radius of a certain number of miles.
But what if there were a simpler way, and what if it were built around a pattern of reproduction and multiplication as old as humanity itself—the family?
That’s the vision of The Father Initiative (fatherinitiative.com), an organization founded by Pastor Scott Wilson of The Oaks Church in Dallas. The initiative pairs up aspiring church planters (“spiritual sons”) with veteran pastors (“spiritual fathers”) who walk alongside them as they dream and prepare for launching into church-planting ministry. Not intended to take the place of church-planting networks or denominations, The Father Initiative provides a covenant relationship for the rest of one’s ministry—a long-term relational connection.
“In 2009, my wife and I got a clear vision from God to plant our church,” Bryan Briggs recalls. “And we knew the exact place. It was going to be at a movie theater at a mall. The only problem was I had no clue about church planting at all.”
At the time, Bryan had been serving for eight years at Life Church Assembly of God in Chester, Virginia.
“God told me, ‘Don’t rush this thing,’ that I needed to have a time and a season to learn to grow,” Bryan explains. “And it was really clear and excited me. And what God told me was, ‘Reach out to pastor Stan Grant. He’s going to help you.’ But then the reality set in, which was that I didn't know Pastor Stan, and he didn't know me.”
Stan has been pastor of Clover Hill Church in Midlothian, Virginia, for 24 years, and the next day, Bryan sent him a quick email and asked if they could get together. Stan replied within an hour and suggested they meet for lunch the following day.
“I felt an excitement,” Bryan recalls. “I knew God was doing something.”
Although Stan was busy with the responsibilities of leading a growing church and didn’t know who Bryan was, he sensed he had a role to play in guiding young people through the daunting process of planting a church.
“We’d always wanted to be a multiplying church,” Stan notes. “So we'd been praying for years that God would connect us to church planters. We wanted to multiply and expand the kingdom.”
Stan and Bryan met for lunch, their visions connected and Stan says, “I really felt like this was something Clover Hill was supposed to be involved in.”
It’s one thing pick up a lunch tab and share some war stories. But Stan wanted to make a bigger investment—an investment that was more than Bryan could have dreamed of.
“Would you consider coming to Clover Hill for a season?" Stan asked Bryan. "I've been praying about helping someone plant a church for over five years."
To say Bryan jumped at the chance is an understatement. He and his wife left their youth pastor position and became interns at Clover Hill for a year. During the internship, Stan let Bryan sit in on staff meetings, paid for him to go to conferences and training and gave him every opportunity to learn about the process of planting a church. More than just an observer, Bryan also had chances to preach and teach.
“Bryan was an excellent communicator and an excellent gatherer,” Stan recalls. But ultimately the day came for Bryan to launch out on his own, to plant a church in Hopewell, about 30 minutes away from Clover Hill’s campus in Midlothian.
It was a risky move, but Stan took an openhanded approach to the launch.
“It was somewhat scary to give him such access to the people,” Stan says, “and there was a fear that more than I could afford would go with him. It had taken us five years to get to a hundred people. But when Bryan came on, he was talking about having over 350 on launch day.”
When Destination Church launched, there were 450 people at the first service—only 25 or 30 of whom had come from Clover Hill.
“Sure enough, he went out there and excelled,” Stan recalls. “There's nothing more rewarding than seeing young people that you've invested in excel above anything you could ever imagine.”
At the heart of the philosophy of The Father Initiative is creating a culture of openness toward sharing resources and experience with those who don’t yet have it, all for the purpose of building the kingdom and seeing healthy churches multiply.
“We don't want to be hoarders and just build Clover Hill,” Stan says, “but we really want to raise up leaders to impact and build the kingdom.”
Stan believes that the role of a pastor is to either plant new churches or partner with those who are. Although Bryan was Stan’s first such spiritual father/son relationship, Stan has since launched two more spiritual sons into new church plants, and he is in the process of hiring a third church-planting intern with the goal of launching him in two to three years.
“If we will keep that the main thing, just one more for Jesus,” Stan says, “we’ll touch this world and reach this generation.”
Because he is a recipient of the benefits of this approach, Bryan has the same goal for Destination Church: to pass on the DNA of spiritual fathering that was passed on to him by Stan. Bryan will be a spiritual father to four church planters with The Father Initiative starting in June, personally coaching and funding church planters.
“One more campus. Let’s help one more planter. Let’s give one more dollar,” he says. “Let's do it one more time.”
This article was extracted from Issue 5 (Spring 2021) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.
Matt Green serves as editorial director for AVAIL journal.
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