Archive for category Church-planting

Benefits of Studying in Coffee Shops

Since our church is still less than 2 years old, we do not have a permanent facility. Naturally, this provides some challenges, among which is not having a church office. This “challenge,” however, has been one of the biggest blessings so far in my young pastoral ministry.

As a consequence of not having a designated study spot, I have been driven to the local coffee shops (kicking and screaming too). On any given day, you can find me at Stone Creek, Starbuck’s, Black Canyon, Caribou, or my old faithful — Milwaukee Street Traders. I rotate them throughout the month. If I need to get a ton done and don’t care about keeping warm, I go to Starbuck’s because I don’t know as many of the “regulars” there yet. If I want a comfortable chair, I go to Milwaukee Street Traders, because it’s quite literally more comfortable than my living room. And then there’s the coffee! If I want a really good cup, I go to Black Canyon since they brew Alterra, which is clearly America’s best. Anyway, I digress. I am so thankful that I do not have a church office at this point, because I have been sent into a public place for a portion of my study and sermon preparation. Here are the benefits:

  • As I dig through commentaries that often spend way too many pages on matters unimportant to a good sermon, and as I simultaneously am surrounded by real people, I am reminded that my sermon is for people. Shocking, huh? The sermon is not for the scholars who wrote my commentaries, but actually for the electrician who I met in line or the retired man reading the paper next to me. This helps me avoid simply regurgitating commentaries and being too technical in the pulpit each week.
  • As I interact with the lost of every variety, I am reminded to preach apologetically. I am confronted with objections to Christianity every day. These discussions remind me to answer questions for the sheep in my flock, as well as to equip them to answer difficult questions themselves. Because of my experiences at the coffee shop, I usually try to weave apologetics into a sermon by answering potential objections from the passage. Further, I am reminded that some of the objections I regularly hear stem from inaccurate biblical teaching and preaching.
  • As I simply observe the people around me and listen to conversations, I understand more and more about the community to which God has sent me. Church-planters must think like missionaries, seeking to understand their local culture. I’m convinced that places like coffee shops are the present-day version of the Greek agora, i.e. marketplace. Thus, my regular presence there places me in the ministry tradition of the Apostle Paul, my hero and example in evangelism and apologetics.
  • As I’ve gotten to know the “regulars” at each coffee shop, I’ve cultivated many great friendships — ones that have spilled over into shared meals, emails, fishing trips, phone calls, and even visits to church. Because of the coffee shop, I’ve had many opportunities to share the gospel within the context of a genuine relationship.

I praise God that I do not yet have my own “office,” and am purposing now that when the day comes for a church office, I will still study in the coffee shop on occasion!

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1 Year in Church-Planting: Lessons Learned

Recently our young church marked her one year anniversary. We magnify God for His mercy and grace in using us, mere clay pots, in His amazing gospel-work. I recently told our people, “I can honestly say that being allowed of God to shepherd Lakewood is one of the deepest facets of God’s goodness to me, planned before the foundation of the world to resound to His glory and praise!”

Here’s some lessons learned and reaffirmed after year one:

  • My primary responsibilities to my people are to further cultivate my relationship with God as well as my relationship with my wife.
  • The Gospel gives hope to every human sin problem.
  • Jesus is the builder of the Church; Jesus is the builder of local churches (Matt. 16:18).
  • Pride is the root problem in my self-sufficiency as well as the root problem in my feelings of insufficiency. As the great builder of the Church, Jesus is able! While I am certainly not able in my own strength, He has made me an able minister of the New Covenant! A perpetual Christ-focusedness prevents both problems (2 Cor. 3).
  • God wants me to work hard, but He does not need my schemes.
  • God will work powerfully through His Word! It is a hammer that breaks things, a fire that consumes things, and a sword that cuts things. Like our innards (Jer. 23 & Heb. 4).
  • God did not intend for churches operate like big-business-corporations and pastors like executives of said corporations. Whatever the NT means by “overseer,” it certainly does not mean that we pastors ever are to stop being pastors, i.e. shepherds. In my grad school years, I read a book that taught us to try to become “ranchers,” not “shepherds.” Hogwash.
  • Waiting to confront problems in the church almost always makes things worse.
  • The ones overly eager to publicly teach or preach are probably not the ones that should be doing either.
  • It’s hard to stop providing pre-service doughnuts for the entire church after doing so for 6 months.
  • There are people who think dance choreography is a ministry for the local church. And other strange people too. These sort of people will call you on the telephone. They are sort of like leeches, only they suck time instead of blood. But in church-planting, the two are almost equal. Hindsight is 20/20, but it probably would have taken less of my time to simply let them coach/choreograph my walking up and down from the pulpit.

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Baptist History in Wisconsin

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My grandfather, David Cummins, had several great passions during his life — my grandmother Mary, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the local church. Just below his relationships with his wife and his Savior was his love for Baptist history. His books, each entitled This Day in Baptist History, can be purchased here, here, and here (3 volumes). He had completed much research for his final volume before the Lord called him home this summer. I loved my Papa dearly, but regret that my interest in his research, i.e. Baptist history, is a recent phenomenon.

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Since I’m from Tennessee originally and then from Michigan until I went off to college, I have little knowledge regarding the history of Wisconsin, where I now reside. My wife Emiley, a native of our incredible state, is presently teaching her 4th grade class a unit on Wisconsin history. That being said, I have a learned a great deal about Wisconsin in the past few weeks as a result of her preparations and teaching.

As I understand it, our first city, Green Bay, was established in 1764. Almost three quarters of a century later (72 years), a missionary named Richard Griffing was used of God to establish the first Baptist church in Milwaukee in 1836. To put this in perspective, the first Baptist church on American soil was founded in 1639 in Rhode Island, of course. That puts the development of Baptist churches in Wisconsin roughly 200 years behind the development of such churches in at least one other state, and roughly 150 years behind the development in many others. Each of these states: RI, MA, ME, SC, PA, NJ, DE, CT, VA, NY, NC, MD, NH, GA, VT, WV, TN, MS, OH, IL, IN, AK, MO, AL, LA, MI, and IA had Baptist congregations before WI did!

That aside, Baptist churches were started in WI and eventually began to thrive. The following is a copy of the obituary of Julia Griffing, Richard’s wife (found here), which indicates that Griffing did not just plant in Milwaukee, but was used of God to reach many in this state:

Pewaukee, April 21.—The death of Mrs. Grifflng occurred on Wednesday morning April 15. In better health than usual through the winter, a short time ago she took a severe cold, which was followed by pneumonia. After a short illness, she peacefully left us.  Her daughter, Mrs. Edward B. Smith, of Howard Lake, Minn., was with her through her illness and has the satisfaction that she was with her through the winter.

Mrs. Griffing was a woman of remarkable strength of mind and character and in a marked degree retained her mental powers until the end of her earthly life. She came to Wisconsin when the Indian trails were the only highways and has lived in our village in the same house for fifty-five years. In these days of change, this fact is worthy of note.

Julia Bacon was born in Granville, Mass., Jan. 8, 1816. She became a Christian at twenty and was baptized by Rev. Richard Griffing, to whom she was married in August 1836, 67 years ago.  They came directly to Milwaukee, when it was only a hamlet. Mr. Griffing was sent as a missionary by the Baptist Mission society, his field extending to Green Bay on the north and as far west as he could reach. He organized the first Baptist church in the state, once the first Baptist church of Milwaukee, now the North Greenfield church, of which Mrs. Griffing was the only surviving original member.

After one year there and four in Prairieville, now Waukesha, they returned east for one year, came again to Wisconsin, lived nearly three years in Washington Co., and about two years in Lisbon, before settling in Pewaukee.

Twenty-seven years ago April 10, Elder Griffing died.  Mrs. Griffing was the mother of six children.  Only two survive her, her daughter and one son, Sherman B., of Dakota; also twelve grandchildren and one great grand child.

A history of early life in the wilds of Wisconsin would make an interesting tale.  Sometimes Mr. Grifflng was necessarily absent on his preaching tours for three months at a time. Meanwhile his wife bravely did her part, whether encountering the frequent visits of roving Indians or listening to the howling wolves by nights. To relieve her loneliness she taught her nearer neighbor’s children, thus earning the distinction of being the first school teacher in Waukesha.

Despite the late start of the Baptists in our state, this thanksgiving season, I want to thank God for using Richard Griffing to establish a Baptist work in Milwaukee!

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Lakewood Baptist Church

logo2For over a year now, my wife and I, along with several other believers from Lake Country have been praying and working towards the establishment of a local church in Delafield, WI. God has shown himself powerful to open each door as He builds his Church for his glory. This Sunday, we look forward to the beginning of a brand new local body, Lakewood Baptist Church. In an area where the preaching of the Word is often not the priority on Sunday and where the gospel has been muddled by seeker-programs and liturgical ritualism, we are praying that God will shine his gospel light brightly through this new and imperfect body that is simply seeking to be faithful to the teaching of Scripture while maintaining a vibrant evangelistic presence in the community. 

The preparations for this day have been long and stretching. We began meeting for Wednesday Bible studies about one year ago. After several months of study and prayer, it became apparent through some difficult circumstances that it was not yet God’s timing for this work to begin. So, we took a step back and re-evaluated the timeline and the method and then regrouped. When we launched our team-building phase on April 8th of this year, about 20 believers began studying the book of Philippians together at a local hotel conference room, all the while praying that God would take our small Bible study and turn it into a local body for the sake of his glory in our community. 

One week into June, sensing that God was indeed working through us, we launched our outreach phase in which we: 

  • Made 18,000 phone calls with the help of our mother church (Calvary Baptist in Watertown
  • Held a Cola War with the help of the youth groups from Calvary Baptist and Brookside Baptist 
  • Sent 3 bulk mailings to the 1,300 people on our mailing list 

This week, we will be following-up with each of the 1,300 on our mailing list and preparing for our first Sunday morning worship service this Sunday at Cushing Elementary School in the City of Delafield at 10:00 AM. We are praying that God would: 

  • Be glorified through the ministry of our church (Ephesians 3:21) 
  • Continue to raise up believers in this community who are in need of a place for their families to grow (Ephesians 4)
  • Continue to open doors for faithful gospel witness (Ephesians 6:19) 

I ask for your prayers!

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