I love how Hebrews 12 begins: “Seeing then that we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” In the context the author is urging his readers to live in faith, following the example of the many men and women of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11.
As I begin my church planting internship and anticipate many years of church planting ministry in the years to come, I love every opportunity I have to interact with the church planters who have gone before me.
My internship has not lasted a full seven days yet, and already I have had the amazing privilege of meeting several church planters and getting to know them and their unique ministries. Being surrounded by these godly men and women, I think I can rightfully consider them a cloud of witnesses, eager for me to follow in their footsteps.
Coming to Bennington I knew I would get to spend time with the Wilmeth’s, the Jenks’, and the Bennett’s. They all have church planting experience to various degrees, and working with them is a dream come true.
Over the weekend, I got to meet several other church planters associated with Baptist Church Planters. BCP had a promotional banquet at Maranatha Baptist Church in Grimes, and I was invited to share a short testimony about my internship and then pray for the meal.
In conjunction with the banquet, three men have been at FBBC&TS with Bob Bennett for a few days to expose the students to missions and church planting in particular. So I got to meet all these men and hear about their ministries at the banquet.
Timothy Weeks is a retired missionary from France currently working at a church in Milford, CT. The church, now known as Riverview Baptist Church, is a church revitalization ministry that is experiencing growth under the leadership of the Weeks’ and another missionary couple.
Paul Robinson is a missionary from Camden, NJ, leading an inner city church in a dangerous community. Hearing the stories of these two men and their service for God was such a huge encouragement and challenge!
The third missionary I got to meet is Pastor Steve Little, the new president of BCP. After planting a church in Brasil and two churches in New York, he was called to fill the role of president that his older brother Dave Little previously held.
Knowing about my internship, he sat down with me and spent a couple hours getting to know me. He also shared with me his own experience and his vision for BCP in the days ahead. He is especially supportive of my internship because of how it will prepare me for future ministry.
Pastor Little also shared some helpful advice about planning, setting goals, and prioritizing my tasks and responsibilities. One thing he suggested was doing my daily devotions in a public location (such as a gas station or coffee shop) so that I am intentionally exposing myself and my ministry to the community.
While at the banquet I also met the Wood family for the first time. Chip Wood is BCP’s recently-installed director of JOY Club, and the Wood family has been working with youth for many years.
Last year at school I got to know Elizabeth, the oldest of three children in the family. We played in orchestra together and had numerous fits of laughter on orchestra tour with our other musical friends. So it was fun to meet the rest of her family.
It was a joy (pun not intended…okay, maybe it was) to talk with Mr. Wood about ministry, especially camp ministry because he was a camp director for 16 years. One thing that I am going to miss more than anything this year is IRBC, the camp where I grew up and worked for several years.
Finally, I got to visit with Pastor Derek Phillips, my youth pastor during my final two years in high school. He is now in Chicagoland planting a church with Pastor Scott Greening, also an associate pastor at my church while I was in high school.
One thing that was especially encouraging about my conversation with Pastor Derek and his wife was their emphasis upon God’s provision- for me, for them, and for everyone else.
Jehoveh-Jireh: The LORD will provide.
Indeed he does! He has provided for me all my life, and this new ministry for me is no different.
And the LORD has provided “a cloud of witnesses” for me to follow in church planting.