The Antioch Initiative resulted from a sincere passion on the part of a few in the Montgomery, AL area who were moved several years ago to plant churches in the same fashion as the Apostle Paul in the First Century.
Perhaps, it was providential that many moving and vital parts of this growing movement were woven together in such a manner as only God can weave. A desire to bring Faulkner University students into contact with actual church-planting experiences lead to a survey trip to Butler and Kittanning, Pennsylvania. A later trip to cooperate with Kittanning congregations evangelistic VBS offered an opportunity to meet with regional PA brethren for prayer and brainstorming.
It was at that meeting that Clarence McDowell challenged those serious in this endeavor to plant churches in four Northeastern Pennsylvania counties that did not have a congregation of the church of Christ in any of them, namely Bradford, Susquehanna, Wyoming, and Sullivan. After two years of planning and searching for an evangelist (Arthur Barry), the first congregation was launched in Sayre, PA serving that town along with two other towns in the Valley Cities, namely Athens, PA and Waverly, NY.
The work of the Antioch Initiative is overseen by the elders of Elmore congregation in Elmore, AL. With no intension to circumvent church autonomy, this work has carefully advanced with autonomy in mind gathering individual partners and congregations who cooperate in funding the mechanism of the leaders of the Antioch Initiative in doing research through survey trips to select specific church planting towns in the remaining counties through consultation with those who are in the best position to know of the need and strategic placement of a new church plant in each county, respectively. Clarence McDowell (PA church planter and former long-time resident) guided the team to the first church plant town of Sayre, PA aimed at outreach to the tri-town area of Valley Cities. Dr. Orin Nearhoof (retired teacher of French and former long-time resident of Athens, PA) convinced the team of the second church planting site of Tunkhannock (the county seat of Wyoming County, PA). Factors such as: 1) Christians living in the region of church-plant respective sites who may be driving considerable distances to worship and whose local congregations and leaderships would encourage them to participate in the new plant; 2) knowledgeable brethren who live in practical proximity of new church-plant areas who commit to rotational preaching, teaching, and follow-up evangelism; and, 3) strategic factors of major arteries of travel and are attraction all enter into elements in such study.
Two target PA counties (Bradford, 10/19/14 & Wyoming, 6/5/16) now have congregations of the Lord’s church where they did not formerly exist. A growing group of financial supporters have and are joining hands to take the nation back by taking Jesus to the nation (the marching theme). Fifty Christians from multiple cities & states (AL, KY, TN, AK, NY, & WV) will have participated in areas of need and expertise such as publicity, administrative activities, door-knocking, evangelistic follow-up, Bible studies, preaching, teaching, fundraising, renovation of church meeting place, recruitment, etc. all building spiritual fraternity, igniting vision for church-planting initiatives far outreaching present efforts on multiple fronts, and, potentially, tracking their evangelistic fervor back into their own home congregations far and wide. Moving out of the circle-the-wagons mentality, the leaders of the Antioch Initiative are planting churches instilling three foundational dreams in each new church—that they be self-propagating, self-lead, and self-financed. Such mission philosophy cuts across the traditional mission philosophy of mission works of most domestic and foreign mission brotherhood efforts. Each Christian and congregation must possess the spiritual DNA to reproduce themselves like a starfish. Hence, much more than planting churches, the Antioch Initiative is igniting a vision of churches that will plant churches that will plant churches until the return of Jesus. The Great Commission (the mandate of King Jesus) must no longer be practiced as the Great Suggestion.