n early Spring 2009, there began an unsettling in my soul about what would be next for me personally and for Missio Dei Church Asheville corporately. I moved to Asheville, NC in 2006 to establish a gospel-centered community that would join God on His mission of transforming people into the image of His Son so that culture would resemble the image of His Kingdom. This is God’s mission everywhere and it’s accomplished through faithful preaching of His Gospel.
In less than three years, through such preaching, God has raised up a congregation of folks in Asheville whose lives were shaped by bold proclamation of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and the transformation of souls. Missio Dei Church experienced healthy growth both qualitatively in terms of leadership and expression, and quantitatively in terms of numbers of people. In August of 2010, the congregation made a move to two morning worship gatherings to accommodate the number of folks who had plugged into the mission.
Not only was Missio Dei Church established, but I also started the Greenhouse, a missional church planters cooperative. The Greenhouse is a resource network for pastors of various backgrounds and denominations for their equipping and encouragement. It allowed us to influence the WNC, Eastern TN, Upstate SC region with a Gospel-centered mindset for pastors and their churches, a desperate need in an area that is overly churched and under gospeled (or under Jesused).
Being wired and gifted to be a starter, the realization of these visions caused me to ask, “What’s next? Where do we go from here?” The process of answering these questions was saturated in patient, consistent prayer, an earnest quest for wisdom from within our community and from trusted coaches and mentors, and lots of heartfelt discussions among our family.
What started as a gentle push to consider our next church plant has turned into an overwhelming pull to church planting in our hometown of Cincinnati, OH. There are a few reasons why Cincinnati makes sense.
THE NEED REASON
With a metro population of 2.1 million, Greater Cincinnati has the largest metropolitan population in a state of 11 million people. At least 1.5 million have no affiliation with Jesus or the Gospel. Anecdotally, I have numerous friends and family, people I love deeply, that aren’t influenced by truth and are as sheep without a shepherd. I am sometimes kept awake at night with Paul’s words from Rom. 10 “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Our healthy community in Asheville is able and willing to send us and will financially support me through the end of 2010.
THE STRATEGIC REASON
My spiritual wiring is to be a starter. This has been my experience since coming to faith 15 years ago. The opportunities to start up multiple congregations around Cincinnati and to be involved in church planting among other cities like Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville and Lexington, which are nearby as well as cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, which are just a little further out, is very appealing. As we move toward Cincinnati, our first plant will be pregnant with at least two more congregations from the start, with a hope to plant more.
THE “TRIBAL” REASON
Having grown up outside the faith in Cincinnati, I have a shared history with the people and a more intrinsic understanding of the unbelieving culture. This not only informs my missiology, but increases my love for a people who in many ways shaped me. For my wife, who moves not as a church planter but as a wife and mother, the idea of having family involved in our lives is very appealing. We realize the introduction of family on a daily basis will be an adjustment, but having prayed this through, we move with excited anticipation.