When one church believed that nothing was impossible for God, their leap of faith led to a new church being planted with God’s provision.
May 6, 2018, was a special day at the Sparta Church of the Nazarene in Sparta, Tennessee. It was the first Sunday of a new church year, and it was also “Baby Day.” Decorations of pink and blue were distributed all over the church. Baby quilts, stuffed animals, toys, and more dotted the stage. As I stood to preach the morning message, I made my way to a baby stroller at the corner of the platform. Pushing the stroller, I began to share the importance of supporting families that might soon be having children.
All eyes were fixed on me as I made my way down each aisle.
I began sharing the story of Abraham and Sarah. Is it any wonder that the 90-year-old Sarah laughed when she heard that she and her 99-year-old husband would soon have a baby? I can imagine the many questions down at the Senior Center. It just didn’t seem possible. It just didn’t make sense.
The Sparta Church of the Nazarene was established in 1910, making it now 108 years old. In those 108 years, the church has never “given birth” to a new church. I am not sure the church had ever even considered it. Like Sarah, many in the church wondered if God could bring something new into existence from something so old. Could a 108-year-old church really plant something new?
Genesis 18 records the words of God to Abraham and Sarah through one of the heavenly visitors God sent: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son” (v. 10). The moment had arrived. The vision was ready to be shared. I hesitated and had a lump in my throat as I spoke: “About this time next year, our church will plant a new church in McMinnville, Tennessee,” I proclaimed. Then I shared the vision for the Arbor Church of the Nazarene.
For several months, God had been leading the pastoral and lay leadership of our church to accept the challenge to plant a new church.
Like Sarah, perhaps some in the congregation laughed to themselves as the thought of such a task was introduced; however, the Lord responded to the disbelieving laughter with a question: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v. 14).
Our church is learning that the answer to that question is a resounding “no.” Just as He did for Abraham, God provides for us. The church board stepped out in faith and extended a call to Rev. Mark Smith and his fiancé, Megan Paradis, to be our church planting pastor. Pastor Mark bought a home in McMinnville, Tennessee, and will move into the community to live, serve, and love as he prepares to help launch the new congregation. People in the McMinnville community and the Sparta congregation are forming a launch team together. There are already several leads for potential members of the Arbor Church of the Nazarene.
As a pastor of the mother church, I have shared the vision for our church plant wherever I have gone. I received a card in the mail from a retired radio executive who shared with me: “I have been blessed during my working years, and the Holy Spirit has directed me to give $5,000 to help start the new church in McMinnville.” God provides!
A retired pastor’s wife from a sister denomination heard the vision as I shared in a local Bible study group. She called me to let me know that the Lord told her to leave the new church some money in her will. One Monday, a few hours after attending that same Bible study, this precious saint of God passed away. This happened the week before Pastor Mark’s first Sunday with the Sparta Church of the Nazarene. About a month later, the woman’s brother brought me a check for $50,000. God really does provide!
We have a responsibility to be obedient to the call God places on our lives and on our church.
What He asks us to do may seem impossible. It might even be laughable, but absolutely nothing is too hard for God. As a 108-year-old “expecting” congregation, we may not be exactly sure of what will come in these months of preparation. However, we believe that God called us, that He provides, and that a new church has come.
On Mark and Megan’s first Sunday at the church plant, I preached a message about the vine and the branches. I reminded the congregation that God is planting the church in McMinnville. As branches, we are simply to stay connected to the vine (Christ), so we can grow and produce fruit. Megan brought a canvas upon which she had painted a barren tree. At the end of the service, each member of the congregation came forward and placed a leaf on the tree by dipping their thumb in paint and pressing it on the canvas.
The following day, we took the canvas to an assisted living facility where the local Bible Study took place. The residents there rejoiced in placing their thumbprints on the canvas, symbolizing their participation in the work God was doing. Week by week, we add more and more leaves to the tree as the canvas has made its way through District Advisory Board meetings and services at other churches. The tree will continue to grow, as will the church, as more and more people get involved in the work that God is doing.
Jamie McCormack is senior pastor at Sparta Church of the Nazarene in Sparta, Tennessee, USA.
Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2019