God is working through His people right here in Western New York! He is doing this in many incredible and powerful ways, both large and small. It truly does take the whole church to bring the whole gospel to our world. One of the ways through which our Lord has worked this past year is the Church Planting Initiative’s church planting residency, which began in September 2019. This nine month journey included five residents and was able to be accomplished by the collective effort of many different congregations and church leaders.
CPI’s residency was designed to equip residents to think and plan strategically around how they can play a faithful role in the broader work of God in our region. This included a robust Soul Care component, which invested in each pastor on a personal/spiritual level. The goal was to see healthy missional churches pastored by spiritually healthy leaders who are meaningfully connected to the broader church of Western New York.
Each month had a particular focus necessary for planting a church on mission, ranging from being geographically intentional to meaningful Kingdom partnership. Other monthly topics included the nature and purpose of church leadership, empowering Christ’s people, measurable values of discipleship, and more. Different topics were facilitated and hosted by different congregations and pastors, providing the residents a broad exposure to the Body of Christ and a deeper connection with it. Throughout the month there were classroom discussions, one-on-one mentoring, reading, and strategic assignments all geared toward helping the planter build a comprehensive strategy for their congregation in keeping with God’s larger work in our area, nation, and world.
One of the main challenges we faced was the state-wide shutdowns due to the pandemic. This caused the residency to pause, but only for the month of March. In April, we were able to adjust and move the entire program online. It was inspiring to see everyone work together and the residency not just continue, but make it all the way to the end. In May, we held an online graduation ceremony, which celebrated God’s work and the five residents themselves.
As we look to the future, CPI is going to press pause on the residency for one year and will begin again September 2021. During this time we hope to build on what we have learned from this first residency. Some of the aspects we look to improve on are expanding the CPI team, establishing a more formal partnership and expectations with a resident’s sending church, and developing a tool kit around administrative aspects of church planting. Additionally, we will work toward strengthening the connections among the church planters that have been a part of CPI the last four years. Our prayer is a genuine planting culture of care, shared learning, and mutual encouragement would be built across Western New York. It will be into this culture that future graduates will transition, so that planters at all phases can walk together for the glory of God, the good of one another, and the reaching of our communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As we look over this past year, the CPI team is profoundly grateful for the mercy God has shown us and our region. We are also extremely grateful for all who played a role in CPI. Whether it was through sacrificial financial giving, faithful prayers, facilitating one of the monthly topics, sharing what CPI is with someone else, or participating as a resident . . . God worked through it all!
As I wrote earlier, God is working through His people right here. He is building, strengthening, and expanding His Church. Through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, each follower of Christ has an important part to play. Each congregation has an important part to play. It truly does take the whole Church to bring the whole gospel to our world. CPI is a beautiful and tangible picture of this. As a CPI team, we pray this work grows so that a greater number of healthy churches, planted by healthy leaders connected to the broader church of Western New York can saturate our area with the gospel and mobilize all Christ’s people for the glory of our Almighty God!
By Jim Murphy, Restoration Church/Church Planting Initiative