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For Tom Wagoner, being a pastor is “all I ever wanted to do,” he said.
“God called me,” he said. “He really started speaking to my heart before He ever saved me. It’s awesome to be able to serve Him in this capacity.”
The lead pastor of Central Baptist Church in Dunn says God led the church to open multiple sites in the area.
“God led us that way,” he said. “We wanted to reach people.”
Central Baptist Church Facebook page photo
Central Baptist Church in Dunn, led by Tom Wagoner meets on its campus in the tabernacle but also has a worship service in the chapel. With two sites off its main campus, Central is looking for ways to engage the community.
Because of the multiple sites, Wagoner said the church has a more traditional feel on the main campus. There is a chapel where the first service on Sundays meets. It provides a more intimate worship experience while the second service meets in a building called the Tabernacle where there is a large choir. A Hispanic group also meets on the main campus Sundays.
The movie theater offers a more current vibe, Wagoner said.
“The atmosphere is totally different at the middle school,” he said, which is mainly targeted to the at-risk boys that live in that area. “We want to be all things to all men.”
Multi-site has worked for Central because it allows the ministry to multiply.
“You can only blow so much air into a balloon,” Wagoner said. “But you can get another balloon and blow some more air and another balloon and blow some more air, and before long you can have all kinds of capacity for a lot more people.”
But the multi-site idea is rooted in the New Testament, Wagoner said. The disciples scattered to other countries and areas spreading the church into multiple homes as they went.
“Obviously there’s some costs but the blessings far outweigh the responsibilities,” Wagoner said.
Now that Central has begun adding sites, they plan to add a campus each year for the next eight years.
One of the cons of starting sites is finding qualified men to lead, Wagoner expressed.
“We believe God works on the minister before He works on the ministry,” said Wagoner, although he admits administration is not his gift. He meets with the theater campus leader weekly but only monthly with the other site which is led by a layperson.
“They are not completely autonomous but they have a lot of freedom,” he said.
One of the main indicators for starting other sites has been listening to God, Wagoner said.
“He’s teaching me to listen to Him and to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “We listen for what God is saying. We plan and pray.”
Like other pastors pursuing a multi-site model, Wagoner read The Multi-Site Church Revolution: Being One Church in Many Locations by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon and Warren Bird.
But Wagoner and Central’s leaders prayed through the decision.
Wagoner also mentioned another book called Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work by Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird as a possibility for healthy churches to merge with struggling, fledgling congregations and “breathing new life into those,” he said.
According to Wagoner, there are two criteria crucial to starting another site:
God brings a person.
God opens an area.
Each campus and its leadership are “part of the DNA of this church,” Wagoner stressed. “We want to make sure we are philosophically and doctrinally in the same place.”
Wagoner said the main campus works with each site’s leadership to help and resource them to do the ministry.
“We bathe these in prayer,” he said.