God blessed our men’s business meeting at Elmore Church of Christ (Elmore, AL) this past Sunday night (8/11/13) with our elders receiving the unanimous support of all men present to lead an effort to do staged, multiple church-planting in north-eastern Pennsylvania over the next decades. We have begun by doing those things necessary to plant a church in Bradford County (either the town Athens or Sayre) while doing research on the second church-plant to follow in Susquehanna County, then, Wyoming & Sullivan Counties. 142,406 souls await the gospel in those four counties. As the Elmore elders and our team sought out the elders of the Kittanning church of Christ in Kittanning, PA (Steve Maul, Bob Snider, Brian Steffy and Ben Wright) to oversee the evangelist who is being sought for the Sayre/Athens, PA churchplant, our elders are determined to, ultimately, recruit other visionary, evangelistic eldership with proven records of personal involvement in missions to oversee future evangelists who will move to Susquehanna, Wyoming and Sullivan counties.
If God blesses with the first church-plant, representatives of Elmore & our growing team around the country will begin, immediately and repeatedly, to seek out visionary eldership around the nation urging them to define regions (counties of states in the U.S.) to do multiple church-planting themselves. The vision includes annual meetings with such eldership and passionate brethren who God may raise up to pray and dream. One can visualize in such annual meetings, seasons of prayer invoking God's blessings and the impartation of wisdom in taking The Antioch Initiative global!
Members of The Antioch Initiative Team will include a variety of prayerful, gifted, battle-hardened, field-proven members who will bring their various areas of expertise into play to expand and improve the base of The Antioch Initiative Team--including missionaries, church-planters, web-masters, missiology scholars, fund-raisers, a CPA with expertise in configuring missionaries' salary and retirement packages to offer the greatest tax advantages, recruiters, campaigners, writers, etc. In the spirit of building such a team, Ken Upchurch (a professional fundraiser for the Andrew Conley School of Preaching in Tanzania, Africa and former elder of the Kensington Woods congregation in Hattiesburg, MS) will be retained at $300 per week for three months to inform his many contacts about this vision and to enlist their prayers and financial support. (After three months, the elders will access the progress and & revisit the Elmore men with recommendations.) The Kittanning, PA elders have agreed to serve as the sponsoring congregation of the Bradford County plant and Elmore and The Antioch Initiative Team will pour its energies in assisting those elders in fund-raising, securing a missionary and evangelistic campaigning until that work is stable. When that work results in the new evangelist’s boots and knees being on the ground in Sayre/Athens, PA (Bradford County), The Antioch Initiative Team will have long since done the research, targeted the site for a plant in Susquehanna County and, then, Ken Upchurch and all of us will direct potential supporter's attention there and to the next eldership who will oversee the missionary in that second county. Further, elders who are overseeing individual evangelists will be challenged to lead the way in proactive communications with supporters and in continuing fund-raising to cover shortfalls with their individual works. In short, when an eldership steps forward to accept responsibility for an evangelist working in their church-plant, they will become the involved, proactive leaders. The Antioch Initiative Team will serve as secondary supporters to be consulted and to assist those elders in each county, respectively, without interfering in church autonomy. Each church-plant (on the first Sunday meeting) will become a free-standing, autonomous body of believers who will be charged to take leadership in what is being done in their congregation (who serves as their minister over the long-haul; future meeting places as the church expands, use of funds collected through their contributions, etc.) Although The Antioch Initiative Team will have assisted in the raising of the evangelist's salary and other initial operations expenses, The Antioch Initiative Team will have no control over the decision-making processes and vision of the local church-plant in Sayre/Athens, PA or any other place a church is planted. It is our view that the missionary's salary should be shouldered in stages by the new church plant until no funds will be necessary from outside contributors. Further, it is our view that beyond the missionary's salary that the church meeting place and other expenses will be the decision of the evangelists and the charter members of the new congregation. (Such meeting place will, conceivably, be the evangelist's living room, a space in a fire hall or some other facility.) When the new church-plant (congregation) grows in numbers to the extent that a larger space is needed with accompanying expenses, it will be obtained by their prayers, mutual-decision making process and sacrifices. Although we are aware that we must allow for emergencies and exceptions to this rule in self-support, it is our view that the only way for the new congregation to be their work and not our work is for them to step up to their respective Christian responsibilities. Somewhere in that process, leaders emerge. (If we baby such a work for twenty years, in twenty years we will have babies--unstable churches--unable to lead and stand on the Rock of Jesus themselves in faith.) We would like to inspire those new congregations to have church-planting in their charter vision and to act independently to target areas near or far to plant churches themselves.
We will be finished with this vision (which is nothing short of the Great Commission) when there are no more lost souls on Planet Earth with beating hearts. If Mars has been colonized—that's our next target. If we are to see America taken back for Jesus, we must take Jesus to America!
Interested brethren, I am asking for your help. I want you to ponder this ANTIOCH INITIATIVE and give us your thoughts. I deeply respect your combined wisdom. We pray for your insights to offer ideas which may or may not have occurred to us or to help us probe questions in which we do not have the full answers, such as:
What must we do from an individual and group perspective to put sin out of our lives, humble ourselves in repentance and seeking God's Divine help and blessings to lead this vision?
If you do this the way you have planned, have you considered how it will impact various areas and issues?
How can this plan include interfacing and involving ministry students at our Christian colleges and young people in various sectors of the U.S. so that they might have a spark ignited in their hearts to become church-planters?
How can this be handled with involvement of leaderships around the nation and still maintain the biblical autonomy of the church? (I have consulted Dr. May and Gleaves on that question and they assures me that the plan does not violate biblical autonomy.)
Through what venues and on what time-schedule would it be wise to publicize this vision and our stated goals through brotherhood publications (e.g. Christian Chronicle; Gospel Advocate; etc.)
What highly respected brethren might become involved in this vision who would give this vision greatest credibility in the brotherhood? (Clarence McDowell--77-year old PA church-planter now living in Memphis-- is highly respected in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and other places and he is a passionate member of this team.)
When each eldership is recruited to serve as sponsoring leadership for each church-plant, respectively, what are ways the church-planting team (which is doing multiple-plants) provide an array of options, consultations and services which those elderships might access on behalf of the missionary they oversee (if they choose) and service directed to them, in specific, in their continued aggressive evangelization of each town or city, respectively? I am thinking of team members, which would include:
Researchers gathering data concerning future, potential church sites including religious and general demographics;
Webmaster to keep up-to-date information flowing so all concerned and involved parties might keep up with developments, progress and announcements on a day-to-day bases;
Christians in the region who might be driving considerable distances to church services who might become a part of the new church plant with their present elders' encouragements;
Seasoned church planters and missiology experts who might serve as consults making sure our mission model conforms to N.T. standards;
Overall mission philosophy, including the extent to which new church plants will and will not be financed;
Necessary criteria we would require in a candidate eldership, including passion for the work, record of evangelism
and missions; their mission philosophy; and, their financial commitment to the plant to which they commit;
Prospects generated by Billy Lambert's national TV program and other brotherhood outreaches;
Part time and/or full-time fundraiser(s);
Safety-net funds put at the disposal of each sponsoring eldership to handle short-falls due to occasional lost of support from a contributors;
Volunteer Christian CPA equipped to guide missionaries at church-plant sites on the legal crafting of deductible expense-reimbursements and retirement fund options and to have those CPA apprize overseeing elders to seek their cooperation in to exploit every legal advantage for their missionary;
And, those other suggestion you might offer which would help the mission vision and model to begin biblically correct and in the way most advantageous to the success of the vision.
May the Lord bless all of you receiving these communications. Pray fervently and please share your ideas with this growing group. As you share those ideas and insights via email, I would like to reserve the right to share those ideas with the entire group. From the growing group receiving these communications, it appears God is raising leaders who will step forward to serve as participants and/or consultants for The Antioch Initiative Team. May the Lord be praised!