If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.
A Brief Word from Michelle:
I’m frequently asked by readers what to do if, despite their best efforts, they can’t find a doctrinally sound church within reasonable driving distance from home. One of my suggestions has been to look into church planting. When Laura told me about her experience, I knew it was a perfect fit to that question, so I asked to share her story here on the blog, and she graciously agreed.
Planting a Church Where there Is No Church
by Laura Moses
This is our story of the painful decision to leave a church and the joy of planting a new one. In the last few years, the Lord Jesus has been gracious to teach us the depths of His Word through the faithful preaching of we regard highly as doctrinally sound. The more we learned the more we desired to be fed this way in our own local church. Over time, we had watched our church slowly begin to allow wider doctrinal stances. Further, we were concerned that authors and Bible teachers with questionable theology were not being vetted properly. (Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lysa Terkeurst, etc.) One of the many resources we used to discern for ourselves truth from error, in comparison to Scripture, were the source links Michelle provided that enabled us to hear what was being taught directly from the mouths of .
We would caution anyone not to leave a church too quickly. Stay and do the work involved by having discussions with leadership to effect change, if the Lord may be gracious to honor that, and PRAY! Pray for wisdom, pray for humility, pray for discernment, pray for truth to be spoken and heard by all those involved in the hard conversations.
Initially, my husband and I met with a few of the pastors and elders of our church and expressed our concerns and also our desire for deeper and more defined teaching. Unfortunately, they did not share these concerns and affirmed they would continue a lighter teaching to meet the needs of the unsaved and newer Christians. The elder board saw no issue with teachers we asked them to reconsider using because what they taught fit within the wide doctrinal positions of the church. After many months and many hard meetings it became evident that we were not going to agree on the direction the church was headed and the model of leadership they chose to use. There is value to walking away quietly rather than to continue and cause conflict and friction.
This was a heartbreaking decision as my husband was an elder and we had been a part of this church family for more than 20 years. We have many dear friends that still make this their church home. However, we felt the decision to leave was necessary for our family’s spiritual growth. As we began to search for another church we looked very intentionally for a church with a well-defined statement of faith. We realized that many of our concerns could be traced back to a limited doctrinal statement which allowed even opposing doctrines to be taught from the pulpit and in the classrooms. This makes it almost impossible to teach clearly and precisely on any given doctrine, and results in disunity among the elders who are able to have differing positions.
In many churches, the Gospel may be clearly proclaimed, but the doctrines that support it are handled without clarity. These secondary doctrines are of utmost importance, not to salvation but to lift a congregation to a high view of God and His Word. They gird the firm foundation of the Gospel, affirm the authority and sufficiency of the whole body of Scripture, and give the most glory to God who has revealed them to us.
After searching for many months, we did eventually find, through and , a church 45 minutes away. Along with two other couples who had also left our former church for similar reasons, we began attending, albeit with hesitancy, as we had always served regularly at our church and had no idea how that would be possible at this new church because of the distance. Our main goal at this point was to be fed “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and the Lord provided this for us. We were able to observe a Biblical model of Christ’s plan for the church. They held to a specific doctrinal statement (almost identical to ), carefully vetted those applying for membership for many months before welcoming them into membership, and required Believer’s baptism. This church applied church discipline in a way that was soberly administered. We also saw the congregation joyfully praise the Lord together when the brother was restored to fellowship. The Lord graciously gave us a year there to be taught. After several months, we became members, as we knew that we needed the protection of the men in leadership for however long the Lord would have us there. Even membership class, (12 weeks long!) was a blessing as we were taught from Scripture the doctrines of our faith and the responsibilities of membership.
However, after several months, we found it increasingly difficult to attend weekday meetings and activities, as well as minister to the body due to the distance. We began a couples Bible study at our home using with Dr. John Snyder. We cannot recommend this study highly enough. Other couples from our former church joined us.
We continued to feel a burden for our community in Bucks County, PA, located between Philadelphia and Princeton, NJ. We knew others who were searching for a church that had expository teaching and sound doctrine, but for some the church we were now attending was even further.
Since we were attending a Grace Advance church and John MacArthur had been so instrumental in our growth we decided to humbly submit an application to Grace Advance in hopes they would support us in establishing a Biblically sound church here in Bucks County. The application was quite lengthy and thorough as they wanted to make sure we had left our former church properly and there was a valid need for a church plant. Our boldness to ask for help came out of a deep desire to have the Lord build His church. “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Cor 4:7
We prayed He would honor the meager offerings of a few people willing to serve Him in whatever way He saw fit to use our gifts. We have had many conference calls with the elders of Grace, a personal visit from one of the pastors of Grace, more calls, and meetings with those that may commit to helping us. And then, just a few weeks ago, we rejoiced at the most wonderful news…our application was approved!!
We are now officially, The Master’s Church – a simple statement of truth affirming that this is Christ’s church. We chose this name based on Luke 12:36-37 and in appreciation for Grace Community Church and The Master’s Seminary training our future pastor and supporting our request for help.
We are praying and waiting for the Lord to make known the man He will call and has gifted to come shepherd us (1 Tim 3:1-7). The elders from Grace have instructed us to begin meeting on the Lord’s Day in anticipation of that call. We have the elder oversight from Grace for the time being and our Sunday mornings have been a joyful time worshipping with likeminded believers. The Lord has provided some qualified men willing to preach occasionally and in the interim we also have been learning from Pastor John’s regarding our responsibility to the church and God’s strategy for church growth to prepare us further for the task ahead.
Finally, it is important to mention that Grace Advance offers a two week Academy in July to train up their seminary graduates in preparation for the unique task of church planting. One of our core group members was permitted to audit this course as we wait for God to call our pastor. The information they provided will be invaluable as we move forward.
This is our testimony to the power of God to equip and provide for those who are willing to be obedient and continually “dressed for action” (Luke 12:35). We can make no boast except in Him (2 Cor 10:17) and His promise to build His church (Matt 16:18). The providential circumstances that have led us to the humble beginnings of planting a church have been a blessing more abundant than we could have asked for (Eph 3:20). We have seen His Hand at work and it is a powerful one! We pray this testimony encourages and spurs many of you on to do the hard work of ministry that the Lord places in your sphere of influence.
We are grateful to Michelle for offering the opportunity to share our story and we want to encourage those who find themselves in our situation. The Lord may not call you to church plant as He has us, but He is faithful to feed His sheep. We must do our homework to find a church and be willing to drive or even move if necessary, as we are responsible to our Savior, in gratefulness to His sacrifice, to be fed pure truth from His Word. If you would pray for our beginnings as we watch our Master “add to our number” (Acts 2:47) we would be grateful. We would also welcome anyone nearby to join us on Sunday or in our one of our weekly Bible studies. Visit our website: The Master’s Church.
“Give us a church that loves Jesus Christ much. You will have mighty prayer meetings, you will have a Holy membership, you will have liberal giving to the cause of Christ, you will have a hearty praising of His name, you will have careful walking before the world, you will have earnest endeavors for the conversion of sinners.” Charles Spurgeon
Laura and her husband Scott have been married 24 years and have three children. They live near historic Washington Crossing, PA a suburb of Philadelphia, Princeton and NYC. She has homeschooled for the last 11 years, with one son still in high school. Their oldest two daughters are blessed to be at The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. She and Scott love to open their home for men, women, and teens who desire to study the Word of God and enjoy fellowship with other believers.