Church Planting in the Bible Belt
Preaching the Good News when the Bible is considered Old News
By David Merrell, Online Student in North Carolina
I was 25 when I felt the call to go into pastoral ministry. More specifically, I felt like God was calling me to plant a church. At the time, I had no clue when, where, or even how to do this. I was a part-time worship leader who had stage fright when I didn’t have a guitar in my hand, but God had given me a clear word that would use me to plant a church. I knew I needed to go back to school to sit under sound teaching and prepare me for the work to come. Eternity Bible College was immediately the school that was put on my heart, only to be affirmed by my girlfriend (now wife) who suggested it before I even told her what I was feeling.
Looking back, I cant imagine any other college preparing me so well for the ministry God has set before me. Eternity’s focus on exegetical study of scripture, and letting the Bible speak for itself without being filtered by any preconceived notions has prepared me to speak to a culture that is jaded towards Christianity and thinks the Bible is irrelevant.
What I especially loved about my education was that it felt as if every class was taught with the sole intention of mobilizing students to be kingdom builders. My professors didn’t push me to chase A’s, they made sure to keep my eyes on the bigger picture. This education, while invaluable, was not for knowledge alone, but was for the main purpose of building God’s kingdom in whatever context God has placed us. And while it often scares me, humbles me, and brings me to my face — the Holy Spirit is helping me utilize the tools I learned at EBC to stand boldly as witness for God.
A Big Vision for a Small Town
Waynesville is a small town in the Bible Belt. Many of the young people here grew up with some connection to a church, and didn’t like what they experienced. Most claim to be Christian, but for the most part they have nothing to do with the church, which they see as hypocritical, irrelevant and hindered by rote tradition.
A year and a half ago, while finishing up my last few classes at Eternity, I felt like God was calling me to quit my job as a worship leader to step out in faith. I took a job as a waiter and spent this season studying and praying for direction. God gave me a vision for ministry that I have never seen in my context: a church that was strictly volunteer-based and elder-lead. A church where everyone takes up the call to serve and make disciples together. A church that doesn’t spend all our money on staff salaries, buildings and programs, but sends out at least 50% of the tithes we receive to serve others in our community. I saw a church founded on the Word, empowered by the Spirit, built through loving community, and madly in love with the Jesus of Scripture and not the Jesus we tend to create Him to be.
One year later…
We started the church with twelve people in a carport. A month later we grew to thirty people. We got an incredible offer to move into a movie theater, which we soon outgrew so now we meet for worship in a warehouse complex that can accommodate our services and children’s ministry. All along the way, God blessed our initial vision. Over 70% of our members are involved in serving and discipleship in some capacity, and we’ve been able to give over $15,000 to our community over the year. We’ve baptized 16 new believers, and have seen marriages restored, addictions broken, and many people released from religious oppression.
I thank God for Eternity Bible College because it has given me the tools I need to step out in the Spirit and let God move. I believe in the program so much so that as a part of our ordination process, we require everyone to go through a program at Eternity. We currently have one man going through the bachelor’s program and one more praying through this call. I can, with full confidence, say that if you’re thinking about attending EBC as a student or partnering with them financially, that you will get to be a part of a movement of God. God is using Eternity to advance His kingdom one person at a time, and while we may never know the full global impact of how God has used this program, I can testify to the way that God has used it in the small town of Waynesville, NC.