In November of 2007 when the Lord spoke to me about planting LifeStone Church in Pittsburgh, my initial response was “Absolutely! But how are you going to pull this one off God?” I had never planted or pastored a church before. God didn’t tell me details on how much money I would need, where the money would come from, who was going to plant with me or how many people we would have on the team. He didn’t even tell me what the name of the church would be or what community in Pittsburgh we would plant in. He just told me one thing, “Jack, I want you and Jamie to move to Pittsburgh and plant a church”. That’s all I got from Him! So from that moment on we began to pray and think about what this church might look like and how this whole thing would happen. As we continued to stay faithful to the call that someday we would plant a church in Pittsburgh, God opened a door that completely took me by surprise! Through a mutual friend, God connected me with two great leaders, Jeff Leake (lead pastor of Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA) and Nick Poole (church planting pastor at Allison Park Church). What I didn’t know was that Allison Park Church had been planting churches in the Pittsburgh area since 1996 through the MultiChurch Movement Network. And before I knew it, I was having dinner with these guys talking about the potential of planting this church together, and as they say, the rest is history. Today, our church is nearly two months old (launched June 6, 2010) and we are living the dream! Even when we were extremely confused on how this whole thing was going to happen, we still trusted! God provided a way for us to be effective church planters and he used Allison Park Church and MCM Network to make it happen.
Now that I have briefly shared my story with you, I want to share a few dynamics of why planting a church within a network is extremely beneficial:
1. Leadership Accountability
From the moment I agreed to partner with APC and MCM Network, I have had this covering of accountability from some amazing pastors and leaders. I am accountable to those people financially, spiritually, relationally, and ministerially. I love this because it keeps me moving forward, on my toes, growing, and not willing to settle for the status quo in my personal life or ministry. I know how important it is as spiritual leaders to have this structure of accountability in our lives for protection and growth. In MCM Network, we have that!
2. Leadership Coaching
Another dynamic that I began to experience from day one with MCM Network is leadership coaching. My leadership and ministry have been impacted through coaching in areas such as conflict resolution, dynamics in pastor/staff relationships, church leadership structure and church financial/budgeting dynamics. The point of leadership coaching is not for my coach to tell me what to do and then I go out and do that very thing. The point of leadership coaching is for my coach to dig deep and ask the right questions that will propel me into coming up with my own solutions and therefore, causing my leadership and influence to grow. My coach helps me get to where I need to be without telling me where to go and what to do. I have received such great coaching from Pastor Jeff and I am so appreciative of this dynamic of MCM Network.
3. Ministry Resourcing
One great thing about having sister churches is that we all are able to share resources across the network. Recently our church was given the opportunity to purchase storage bins from another church in the network for a really low cost. This church was mobile and is moving to a more permanent location so they have certain things that they won’t need anymore. Since our church is the only fully mobile church in the network, plastic bins will obviously come in really handy. Because of this dynamic of MCM Network, we are able to resource and help each other in so many ways. In the network we have different ministry events, summer outreaches, message series, and much more that we share and give to generously. I am so appreciative of the resourcing MCM Network facilitates.
4. We are Family
If there is one dynamic that MCM Network naturally produces, it is this element of being one big family. Think about it, you have Allison Park Church, the parent church, and nine church plants or daughter churches. This structure is set up much like a family, but the environment is what I am really talking about. What does that mean? Well, I view my fellow network pastors like brothers. We work together, we assist and support each other, we pray for each other, we do what we can to make each other successful, we celebrate together, we mourn together, we do lunch and coffee together and since we were born into this family, we will always be family! This natural family environment helps me to know that I’m not drop-shipped into the middle of nowhere all alone. I know that I have brothers and sisters in the network here to help and support my ministry and they know they can count on LifeStone Church, too. Another thing that I absolutely love about this family is that we are so diverse. There aren’t any two churches that are the exact same. We are all very different, but we are all a part of the same family.
I have found that planting LifeStone Church through MCM Network has helped me to become the most effective church planter I could be. Sure, I have a tons of growing to do as a pastor/leader and LifeStone Church has a long way to go, but if it weren’t for MCM Network, I’m confident that myself and LifeStone Church wouldn’t be where we are today!
By Jack Thomas, lead planter of LifeStone Church, a Parent Affiliated Church, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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