The Worst Time to Plant a Church

In 2006, greater than 90 % of The Falls Church voted to depart the Episcopal denomination.

In a single sense, the choice was easytwo years earlier, The Episcopal Church (TEC) had put in brazenly homosexual bishop Gene Robinson, the flash level that confirmed how far the repudiation of Christian orthodoxy had gone, wrote The Falls Church then-rector John Yates and creator Os Guinness.

In one other sense, the choice was painfully tough. Technically, every part The Falls Church had purchasedfrom the buildings to the communion silver to the choir robesbelonged to TEC. Despite the fact that 94 % of the congregation voted to attempt to grasp onto the $26 million property, they knew theyd have a battle on their fingers.

John Yates preaching at The Falls Church in 2011 / Courtesy of The Falls Church Anglican

They did. The courtroom battle was costly ($5 million in authorized charges) and exhausting (over 5 years, The Falls Church noticed a ruling for them, an enchantment, a ruling in opposition to them, a remand again to the trial courtroom, and a remaining ruling in opposition to them). Ultimately, theyd must stroll away from their constructing, the parsonage, and the checking account.

But when youd walked into the sanctuary again then, you wouldnt instantly know there was hassle. Giving was up, enthusiasm was excessive, and The Falls Church wasof all thingsplanting different church buildings.

Six years after the vote, Anglican bishop John Guernsey described what occurred:

When the disaster hit The Episcopal Church in 2003, The Falls Church responded by planting a church among the many poor in Washington, D.C. When The Falls Church left The Episcopal Church in 2006 and was sued, they responded by . . . planting one other church. Thousands and thousands of {dollars} had been drained away in litigation earlier than they acquired a first-round victory in courtroom. Their response . . . was to plant two extra church buildings. Then the constructive ruling was reversed on enchantment they usually had been despatched again for an additional trial. They responded by planting one other church. This time they misplaced at trial they usually had been pressured out of their buildings this spring. Their responseyou guessed ithas been to organize to plant one other church this summer time.

After all, it wasnt that simple. The Falls Church didnt know precisely what they had been doingover the primary 20 years Yates had been a pastor, hed by no means planted a church. They’d a variety of different issues on their mindbesides the courtroom battles, Yates was serving to to launch the Anglican Church in North America. And so they couldnt inform if the cash would maintain out. Ultimately, theyd lose virtually every part.

The sensible factor to do was to hunker down, get by this era, and preserve your assets, mentioned Skip Ryan, then a Presbyterian pastor sending a number of vegetation out of his 5,000-member Dallas church.However John prays like he actually means ithe prays lots, and deeply. And in these occasions the Lord simply gave him a way repeatedly that he was main.

In lower than 10 years, The Falls Church began seven congregations. I look again on it and shake my head, Yates informed TGC. Its exhausting to consider.

As a result of he can see higher now what he couldnt see then. Coaching up and sending out church planters was nice for the younger pastors and great for the locations they had been despatched. Nevertheless it was additionally an infinite reward to The Falls Church.

First Plant

Within the 1990s, Yates learn a ebook on church planting and rolled his eyes.

It mentioned the easiest way to unfold the gospel is to plant new church buildings, he mentioned. I bear in mind considering, This man is completely improper. I don’t agree with him in any respect.

That was no downside, as a result of TEC wasnt large into church planting both. For the reason that denomination is split into geographical dioceses, much like the Catholic Church, a church planter wants approval and assist from an area bishop to plant in his territory. In some ways, the ground-up development of a church plant can rub the improper means in opposition to the top-down construction of TEC.

The Worst Time to Plant a Church
Easter 2010 / Courtesy of The Falls Church Anglican

However after some time, The Falls Churchwhich was in-built 1734, attended by George Washington (who was on the sacristy), and used as a Union hospital throughout the Civil Wargrew till there have been no spots within the car parking zone or seats within the sanctuary.

They had been working two parallel servicesone within the multipurpose corridor and one within the historic church, mentioned Invoice Deiss, who would come on as parish administrator within the mid-1990s. Yates would preach a sermon to 1 group, then run by the halls to evangelise once more within the different area.

To ease the crush, Yates requested his bishop if he might plant a daughter church. The bishop mentioned no, reasoning that if that many individuals needed to be Episcopalian, they may head to one among many half-full church buildings within the space.

As a substitute, individuals saved selecting to squeeze into Yatess pews. In 1991, The Falls Church constructed a 850-seat sanctuary, however that stuffed up too.

Yates pressed, and the bishop allowed one church plant. In 2001, The Falls Church felt its means by coaching and sending out Jack Grubbs. However church planting was nonetheless a brand new idea in TEC. And Yates had by no means achieved it earlier than. He nonetheless wasnt offered on it as greater than a solution to siphon off a few of the attendance strain.

Timothy Program

In 2004, Yates introduced on David Glade as a rector-in-training, with a imprecise understanding that perhaps sometime he might flip right into a church planter to unlock extra Falls Church seats. However quickly after, Yates and different church leaders started to listen to about what the Spirit of God was doing all around the nation [through church plants], Yates mentioned. We sensed one thing was transferring within the hearts of younger women and men. It was not a silly factor. It was value making an attempt.

The following yr, two employees membersthe outreach minister and younger adults ministersaid they every needed to plant. The Falls Church despatched them to Portland, Oregon, and northeast D.C.outdoors their diocesan strains and due to this fact not topic to bishop approval.

As a result of TEC nonetheless wasnt keen on vegetation, Glade and Yates tossed across the thought of calling one a satellite tv for pc campus. However each males had been rising much less and fewer nervous about official approval. After a long time of a widening doctrinal divide, TEC had put in an brazenly homosexual bishop in 2003. It was just one symptom of the deeper downside.

The Worst Time to Plant a Church
Yates chatting with his congregation in 2012 / Courtesy of The Falls Church Anglican

The American Episcopal Church now not believes the historic, orthodox Christian religion frequent to all believers, Yate and Guinness wrote in The Washington Publish. Some leaders expressly deny the central articles of the faithsaying that conventional theism is useless, the incarnation is nonsense, the resurrection of Jesus is a fiction, the understanding of the cross is a barbarous thought, the Bible is pure propaganda and so forth. Others merely say the creed as poetry or with their fingers crossed.

Because the ties between the church and denomination frayed, The Falls Church weekly attendance saved boomingsome particular Easter Sundays noticed 3,000 attendees over a number of providers.

We had been seeing such a blessing from God in our church with development and enthusiasm, Yates mentioned. I felt we would have liked to make a dedication to coach younger males to exit and plant daughter church buildings.

The timing was odddenominationally, issues had by no means felt extra unstable. And planting whereas off-balance isnt advisable by anybody.

However Yates had the peoplenot solely within the pews, however in Deiss and different succesful employees members. And he had good counsel in Tim Keller, who had begun the Church Planting Centerlater Metropolis to Cityin New York Metropolis in 2001. And he had his eye on some robust college students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Yates known as it the Timothy Programa nod to the apostle Pauland the contributors had been dubbed Timothys. He paid for his or her salaries with particular donations, a part of the church finances, and a few fundraising by the Timothys themselves. He drew up a free curriculum largely primarily based on Kellers work, adjusted for context. (Mainly, extra robes, extra dependence on The E-book of Frequent Prayer, and extra references to the bishop of the abnormal.) He despatched them on hospital visits, to finances conferences, and to the pulpit.

Even then, it wasnt fairly a church planting programnot actually. It was extra of a rector-in-training program, as a result of TEC hadnt okayed any extra vegetation. Yates had every part he neededexcept permission.

Planting Underneath Strain

Yates by no means did get permission from TEC.

In December 2006simply months after the primary two official Timothys had been hiredThe Falls Church overwhelmingly voted to depart TEC. (The identical day, seven different Virginia churchesincluding Grubbss Potomac Falls Episcopal Churchalso voted to depart.)

The departure wasnt purported to be tough or contentious. Yates was a part of a committee that had laid outwith their TEC bishopwhen the vote could be taken (after a 30-day discernment interval), what would represent a majority (at the very least 70 %), and what would occur to the property (if 70 % agreed the parting church ought to maintain it, then the diocese and the church would negotiate a cost).

[Church planting] was not a silly factor. It was value making an attempt.

However nobody had taken into consideration the brand new presiding bishop.

We cant promote to a company that wishes to place us out of enterprise, Katharine Jefferts Schori informed The Wall Avenue Journal. The properties could be higher off as Baptist church buildings and even saloons, she mentioned. A departing church might solely maintain its constructing if it paid a cheap and honest value and disaffiliated from Anglicanism for at the very least 5 years.

However in Virginia, a Civil Warera regulation mentioned that church buildings leaving their denominations might maintain their property if a division had occurred. This was a division, The Falls Church argued.

A county choose agreed with them in 2008. However when TEC appealed, the Virginia Supreme Court docket discovered that since each the Episcopalians and Anglicans had been nonetheless a part of the worldwide Anglican communion, there hadnt really been a divide. It despatched the case again to the unique choose, who present in favor of TEC in 2012. The Falls Church propertyincluding the $2.eight million within the checking account in 2007belonged to TEC.

The associated fee to us is large, Yates wrote in The Washington Publish two days earlier than the final service of their constructing. Together with $5 million for attorneys and charges, The Falls Churchwhich had added Anglican to its namehad misplaced about 80 members who needed to remain Episcopalian and extra who didnt wish to be related to the damaging media consideration.

However some good issues have additionally occurred, Yates wrote. With out denominational permission holding them again, The Falls Church started cranking out these church buildings, Yates informed TGC. Lower than a yr after the vote to depart, they planted in Alexandria, adopted by Arlington, Winchester, and Vienna.

It was such a joyful factor, within the midst of all of the frustration, to see, Okay, heres David, and hes bought 150 individuals, and theyre going to begin a brand new church. Are you able to consider it? Yates mentioned. It simply appeared just like the Spirit was transferring. It was actually loopy, but it surely was simply the place we had been.

The Worst Time to Plant a Church
John introduced eight Timothys to the stage throughout The Falls Church Anglican’s remaining service of their outdated constructing. / Courtesy of David Hanke

On The Falls Church Anglicans final Sunday of their outdated constructing, Yates introduced all eight present and former Timothys up on stage.

John mentioned, Lets rejoice in what occurred over the previous few years, mentioned David Hanke, one of many Timothys. The entire cheering crowd rose to their toes. There was a palpable pleasure. Unwell always remember it.

There’s a educating within the New Testomony: When you’re at your weakest you really are at your strongest, Yates informed The Washington Publish readers. In weak spot we’re pressured to belief in God. We all know that the place God leads is an efficient place.

Planting Whereas Homeless

The Falls Church Anglican now not had an workplace for the Timothys, or a board room the place they may meet, or a sanctuary the place they may preach. However that didnt sluggish anyone down. 4 months into homelessness, they planted one other church in Washington, D.C. The following yr, they planted in Williamsburg.

In 2014, The Falls Church Anglicans final shotthe U.S. Supreme Courtdeclined to listen to their case. TEC would maintain the constructing, the organ, the cash.

5 months later, The Falls Church Anglican employed on one other Timothy.

The Worst Time to Plant a Church
Dan Marotta planted Redeemer Anglican Church in 2016. / Courtesy of Dan Marotta

Our first Sunday, they introduced our household up entrance within the Bishop OConnell Excessive Faculty auditorium [where they were meeting], Dan Marotta mentioned. Hed been cautioned by a couple of friendsHey, Falls Church has been by lots. Now won’t be one of the best time to go work there.

However from my perspective, these individuals had been on the entrance fringe of experiencing the price of discipleship, Marotta mentioned. Theyd simply walked by the hearth collectively and are available out the opposite aspect. They had been nonetheless there, nonetheless kicking. I used to be considering, These are precisely the form of individuals I wish to be taught from.

Marotta did the identical factor because the Timothys earlier than himshadowing Yates, rotating by ministry groups, preaching weekly.

It was good to have Dan there, Deiss mentioned. It confirmed we had been nonetheless following Christ, nonetheless attempting to dwell in line with Gods Phrase. The Falls Church had misplaced lots, however they hadnt misplaced God.

In 2016, Marottathe final Timothy to dateplanted Redeemer Anglican Church in Richmond.

Properly, he was virtually the final Timothy. There was yet another.

Final Timothy (So Far)

Sam Ferguson grew to become a Timothy in 2011.

Im from Philly, he mentioned. I assumed Id plant a church proper outdoors Philadelphia.

The Worst Time to Plant a Church
Yates and Ferguson on the new constructing dedication / Courtesy of Sam Ferguson

However by the tip of his three-year stint with The Falls Church Anglican, I actually felt I needed to do a PhD, he mentioned. So the church put him on employees part-time and known as him the affiliate pastor for analysis and educating. Ferguson did a PhD in New Testomony at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest and got here again to evangelise on weekends.

When The Falls Church Anglican purchased a five-story workplace constructing on 5 acres of land barely a mile from its outdated dwelling, Ferguson bought an workplace. When it added a $9 million parking storage and constructed a 20,000-square-foot, $17 million church constructing, he helped make the choices.

And when Yates retired this summer time, Ferguson grew to become The Falls Church Anglicans subsequent rectorless than 4 months earlier than the church moved into its new sanctuary.

To some on employees, Yates appeared like Moses, peering into the Promised Land of an exquisite new constructing however not coming into. To Yates, it felt like letting a church planter root The Falls Church in recent soil.

Once you lose your constructing, you ask, Who’re we? Ferguson mentioned. Weve by no means been a church right here earlier than. To our neighbors, had been a church plant. Internally, all people is getting used to a brand new place. . . . Its like The Falls Church is a church plant with the biggest core staff and finances and employees in historical past.

Daughters and Granddaughters

By the point we despatched out our final daughter church, it felt like we had been a lady who had given start to 10 kids in 12 years, Yates mentioned. Shes not even interested by having extra kids for some time. That sums up the way in which we felt. I count on will probably be a number of years now earlier than we plant one other church.

Not each church survived. Potomac Falls, which break up from TEC as a new child, closed after 10 years. All Nations DC stopped after 5 years.

Its like The Falls Church is a church plant with the biggest core staff and finances and employees in historical past.

However the others are wholesome. This month, Restoration Anglican Church will rejoice its 10th anniversary. It has a brand new constructing, a mean weekly attendance of 600, and a one-year-old plant of its personal. Marottas church in Richmond additionally planted final yr. And Johnny Kurcinas Vienna church has assets put aside for when the fitting planter comes alongside.

Fergusons sacristy is already asking him about including a Timothy, however he desires to seek out my sea legs first. . . . I actually anticipate church planting will proceed to be a part of this churchs DNA. The individuals find it irresistible.

Stepping Out in Braveness

When The Falls Church Anglican began planting church buildings on the rockiest time in its historical past, theology professor and Anglican rector Chris Hancock wasnt shocked in any respect.

As a result of coaching the following era was already within the DNA of the church, he mentioned. And since The Falls Church didnt exist solely for members, however for non-members too. In different phrases, The Falls Church Anglican wasnt insular. It had grown exactly as a result of it reached outdoors itself to those that wanted Jesus.

The Worst Time to Plant a Church
David Hanke planted Restoration Anglican Church in 2009. / Courtesy of David Hanke

The transfer was per the John Yates I knowa one who would consider the Lord had directed him in prayer after which have the obedience and braveness to comply with by, Ryan mentioned.

And it took a variety of braveness.

Religion within the Lord strikes us ahead even once we dont know the result, Ryan mentioned. We dont know the way it will come out. It is likely to be a really exhausting scenario or a really diminished situationas it was once they left their property. . . . John didnt know what was going to occur. He didnt know what the outcomes of the vegetation could be, besides that the gospel could be furthered by this work.

I look again on it and shake my head and chuckle, Yates informed TGC. The entire thing was an enormous shock. . . . It actually was a present of God.


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