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‘New Church’ in N.C. rooted in Jacksonville, Fla.
Mickey Noah, Baptist Press
September 16, 2011

‘New Church’ in N.C. rooted in Jacksonville, Fla.

‘New Church’ in N.C. rooted in Jacksonville, Fla.
Mickey Noah, Baptist Press
September 16, 2011

T.J. Ward, a 37-year-old church planting pastor in

Winston-Salem, hasn’t had a paycheck since leaving his old church in

Jacksonville, Fla., in December 2009, although he will start receiving a salary

from New Church this coming January.

Over the last 18 months, he and wife, Wendy — and their two little girls have

lived only on her Bank of America salary.

They traded their dream home in Jacksonville for a “starter”

home in Winston-Salem.

When Ward decided to become a church planter, he had no idea

where he would plant. He and Wendy just knew they would have to leave their

large network of family and friends in Jacksonville behind.

“We were happy where we were,” says Ward.

“We were effective in the church where we were serving. God

was using us, but I felt like He was leading me toward church planting. I

ignored it for six months — I

was rebellious.”

But he and Wendy continued to discuss it and were willing to

go anywhere.

The Wards began fasting, praying and pouring over a map of

the United States.

They started examining church planting in different state

conventions and associations, studied some demographics and narrowed their

choice down to the Tar Heel State.

“I liked that the North Carolina convention was pushing

church planting,” he recalls. After more discussions with the Baptist State

Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) staff and counsel from mentors like pastor

Spike Hogan in Jacksonville, they chose Winston-Salem for their new church

plant.

“God lined up the circumstances and Winston-Salem seemed to

fit.”

Launched last January, New Church — that’s the name of the church — now runs in the 150’s every Sunday, meeting in a local

YMCA.

Ward’s vision and the church’s name came from 2 Cor. 5:17: “Therefore

if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and

look, new things have come.” New Church’s slogan is “It’s church … just

different.”

“At New Church, we say we want to help people who are far

from God experience new life in Jesus Christ,” Ward said.

“New Church is some people’s first exposure to church. Our

vision is to reach them, and people who maybe have been away from God for

years.”

Since January 9, 2011, 62 people at New Church have made

decisions for Christ.

Although they meet at a local “Y,” the facility lacks a

pool. So Ward baptizes new believers —

decked out in blue T-shirts inscribed on front with “I took the plunge at New

Church” — in a horse trough.

New Church photo

T.J. Ward, pastor of New Church in Winston-Salem, a church plant sponsored by Chets Creek Church in Jacksonville, Fla., baptizes Cameron Bridges, a college student from Greensboro, who drives to New Church every Sunday to worship. Bridges was one of 33 new believers — decked out in their blue “I took the plunge at New Church” T-shirts — Ward baptized in a horse trough last Easter Sunday.

On Easter Sunday in late April, New Church drew an all-time

high attendance of 244 — its

goal had been 300 — and had 34

professions of faith, four over its goal.

“We’re humbled by what God is doing here,” said Ward, who

spent 10 years as a teacher, vice principal and principal in Christian

education before going into the ministry back in Jacksonville in 2008. “Winston-Salem is a very churched culture,” Ward says.

“A lot of people here grew up in church but have the wrong

idea of what a true relationship with God is all about. We’re seeing lives

completely changed and people getting plugged back into building relationships

and growing in their faith. It’s been amazing.”

In addition to crediting God, Ward attributes much of New

Church’s early success as a church plant to its three main sponsoring churches

and their pastors who are his mentors and advisers.

The three supporting churches are Chets Creek Church in

Jacksonville, Fla.; Avalon Church in McDonough, Ga.; and The Summit Church in

Kernersville.

Chets Creek Church Lead Pastor Spike Hogan not only gave

Ward much counsel at the outset, but “he’s been wonderful at providing

encouragement along the way,” says Ward.

Hogan, highly regarded as a church planter’s church planter,

came to Chets Creek as pastor in October 1999, patterning that new plant after

Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California.

Hogan was named to the North American Mission Board’s board

of trustees in 2010.

New Church in Winston-Salem is only the latest church plant

financially supported by Chets Creek, which also has a hand in church plants in

Las Vegas and Reno, Nev., Miramar and Tallahassee Fla., and Martinsburg, W.Va.

In all, Chets Creek has helped plant 13 new Southern Baptist churches since

Hogan arrived 13 years ago — a

new church each year.

Chets Creek Church has seen tremendous growth. Starting with

only 30 meeting in an elementary school, the attendance quickly climbed to 80

and in only three months, zoomed to 100.

“We set a goal to grow by 10 percent a year, and we have

more than averaged that. Our other goal was to baptize 10 percent of average

attendance each year,” said Hogan.

“I’m convinced that God blesses and honors initiative when

it’s reasonable and realistic.”

Hogan adds that any successful church plant must start out

with benchmarks on paper: what will worship attendance be, and what will it be

in five years? How many small groups are needed?

What about giving and baptisms?

Chets Creek now runs 2,000 people in six services — three adult services, and services

for children, middle school, and high school students.

Today, the church operates out of a new church facility on a

10-1/2-acre campus in front of

the very elementary school where they launched 12 years ago.

“Our goal is to start one new church a year,” said Hogan. “We

support the church plant financially for three years and sometimes extend to a

fourth year if they need more help.

“Money-wise, we give them $12,000 the first year, $9,000 the

second, and $6,000 in the third year. We also show them how to get funds from

other sources.”

To even be considered as a Chets Creek church plant, Hogan

said the church planter must do his due diligence.

“He must have specific expectations. We need to know that

the pastor is truly called to plant a church. We want confirmation that the

planter’s wife is on board,” Hogan said.

“We want to see a realistic but challenging five-year

calendar and plan. We want a commitment to the Cooperative Program. We want to

see evidence the planter has studied and prepared to plant a church. And we

want to know that there is a core of members for the new church.

“It’s a mistaken idea that when you plant a new church, you

have to end up with half your membership moving across town or across the

country, that you give up tons of money and that the new church is going to

drain you dry,” said Hogan.

“The answer is not to dump a lot of money in the church

plant. It’s not about the money. It’s about leadership and surrounding yourself

with good folks.”

Hogan relies heavily on Chets Creek Church’s mission pastor

Chris Price to help with their church planting.

“Acts says church planting is the No. 1 church priority — presenting the gospel to the world,”

says Price.

“It’s the church being the church, representing Christ.

Churches are the delivery agent to accomplish the Great Commission.

“If we as a church are not doing our best to replicate and

multiply what God is doing and the vision He has given us, we’re missing the

mark as a church.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah

writes for the North American Mission Board.)