On Nov. 15 at the Annual Meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, three pastors met to discuss church planting and what it means to embrace a “sending” culture.
While that terminology is common among Southern Baptist pastors, these three pastors were uniquely qualified to discuss it.
J.D. Greear, from left, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, Andrew Hopper, lead pastor of Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, and Spence Shelton, lead pastor of Mercy Church in Charlotte, discuss church planting with Mike Pittman, pastor of Vertical Church in Lumberton.
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham; Andrew Hopper, pastor of Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro; and Spence Shelton, pastor of Mercy Church in Charlotte have all experienced sending culture in a way that not many have.
Originally, Hopper and Shelton were a part of The Summit Church. In 2012, The Summit sent a church plant to Greensboro, and Hopper became the pastor at the new Mercy Hill Church. But in 2015, a quarter of Mercy Hill’s start-up staff left the church. The Summit had sent another church plant to Charlotte – Mercy Church, pastored by Shelton – and many of the staff at Mercy Hill felt called to that campus.
“(This process was) painful and blessed at the same time,” Greear said.
To Greear, having a church with a true sending culture involves some sacrifice, but he believes that God is glorified through the process. Before The Summit planted Mercy Hill and Mercy, Greear said he could sense God had been raising up Hopper and Shelton to pastor their own churches.
Although some Summit staff left with both pastors to join the church plants, Greear said that this loss is part of his church’s goal.
“A church is not mature until it hits puberty and starts reproducing and sending people out into the world for the gospel,” he said.
“If you plant three churches a year at an 80 percent success rate, and if those churches plant at least one church every five years, by year 30-something we’ll be at 1,000 churches. The church must be planting churches from the very beginning.”
Hopper explained that his church’s commitment to missions and church planting extended beyond monetary giving, which ultimately helped when Mercy Church came onto the scene.
“(When Mercy was planted), the church was small, but your commitment can’t be small.” Hopper said.
“By year three, we weren’t just sending money and teams but actually sending people to go help Mercy.”
At the time, congregants at Mercy Hill Church were already accustomed to sending money, churches and small groups, Hopper said. Embracing the sending culture had become a natural way of life within their church.
“So,” Hopper said, “Why wouldn’t we send a campus?”
A full version of this interview is available at facebook.com/ncbaptist/videos under the title “Church Planter Interview with J.D. Greear, Andrew Hopper and Spence Shelton.” For more information, please visit ncbaptist.org/churchplanting.