“Where would Paul go today?”
Chris Causey, pastor of Boston-area church plant Encounter Church, asked himself this as he read the accounts of Paul’s missionary journeys in the book of Acts.
Photo courtesy of Larry Aultman
Chris Causey and his wife, Ginny, left, alongside Jason Hodges and his wife, Rachel, right, have been the founding leaders of Encounter Church. After being sent out by Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., Causey entered the North American Mission Board’s assessment and equipping program. Encounter Church launched in September 2015.
What started off as a reflection during his personal study, Causey noted, would become the Holy Spirit drawing him in a new direction. Causey noticed that Paul often went to the major cities, cities with a global impact, and as he reflected and prayed on that fact, he started to sense a calling from God.
“I didn’t realize that this movement was developing in the church to minister in these global cities, but the seed was planted at that point,” he said.
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul describes the different roles Christian disciples play in cultivating such seeds. And Causey eventually found himself surrounded by a church family, locally and nationally, that confirmed the calling God had placed on his life to become a church planting missionary.
At first, he wasn’t so sure that he, a guy from a small town in South Carolina, could cut it in a culturally diverse, global city.
“I was judging my call based on my qualifications rather than the heartbeat of God,” he said.
Causey shared what God was doing with his good friend and co-laborer, Jason Hodges. Together, they developed a vision with the rest of the pastoral staff at Taylors (S.C.) First Baptist Church (FBC) to plant a church in the greater Boston area. Ultimately, Taylors FBC would send out seven of their families, so they could love, serve and share Christ with those in and around that influential city.
The pastors at Taylors FBC connected Causey with the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
“They wound up sending me to assessments,” Causey recalled, “and that process confirmed and affirmed what God was doing in my life.”
Causey credits NAMB’s training and coaching process for helping Encounter Church “start stronger and wiser, like a laser beam instead of a light bulb.” During their first Sunday gathering on Sept. 13 in 2015, they saw more than 200 people attend.
The encouragement of Causey’s sending church and the equipping ministry provided through NAMB’s Send Network demonstrated effective cooperation between the church and the national missions entity. But not long after the hearts of Causey and Hodges were stirred, the Lord seemed to also be moving among the leadership at First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Ga., just north of Atlanta.
First Redeemer started as a church plant in its own right in 1996. Though they had done significant work to help plant several churches internationally, they felt God moving their hearts to do more domestically.
So, senior pastor Jeff Jackson and missions pastor Larry Aultman approached NAMB. Those discussions eventually led Aultman and Jackson to discover Encounter Church.
“God placed Boston on our heart. We took a look, and God led us to a good partner,” Aultman recounted. First Redeemer ultimately joined a group of 15 churches who have come alongside Encounter Church.
“Chris and Jason are exceptionally sharp,” Jackson said.
First Redeemer decided to become what NAMB calls a supporting church by regularly sending financial resources. They did not stop there, however.
“It made sense to do more than send just money,” Aultman noted, “So, we sent a Families on Mission team.”
Causey welcomed the extra hands that First Redeemer brought.
“It’s churches whose hearts beat for the churches outside of their zip code that help build a broader kingdom impact,” Causey said. “They deserve the bolder headline.”
The mission team from First Redeemer, made up of families serving together, put on Encounter Church shirts and served the community in the name of Jesus and representing Encounter Church. They picked up trash, raked leaves and visited nursing homes among other things.
“At first, I thought these tasks were a waste of time,” Claudia Cornelison, a member of First Redeemer shared, “but my attitude changed as I began to hear stories of people visiting the church because of the good they did for the community.”
Encounter Church desires to be known for what they do for the community, not by what they want from the community.
First Redeemer provided Encounter with some extra hands to do that, and Encounter gave First Redeemer a glimpse of what missions could look like back home.
First Redeemer’s team realized “that ‘missions’ can happen anywhere,” Aultman said.
Prayerfully, those in Boston, those in Cumming and Christ-followers from all over will continue to learn the truth that “all things are possible with God” (Matthew 19:26).
After all, as pastor Causey would put it, we are all “ordinary people in ordinary places called to extraordinary things through the God who sent His Son to bring redemption.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)