Our Story: The Long Beginning

In October 2007, our family hit the ground in Columbia, SC. We knew God moved us here to plant a church. But, we didn’t know when, how, with whom, or what the church would look like. Not sure I’d recommend that to anyone else, but it’s what we did.

Two years later, on September 13, 2009, Awaken Church held its first public worship gathering. The time in between included more twists and turns than I can count. I’m pretty sure I had at least one “I Quit” moment per week. But, little by little, God was sharpening and maturing me, sharpening our focus and vision, and bringing people together who were committed to that vision.

The greatest benefit to the 2 years in between our arrival in Columbia and Awaken’s public launch is we had time to build trust-filled, discipling relationships with non-Christians, new Christians, and people who had been away from church for a long time. Those relationships led to two things:

Before Awaken’s public launch, we saw 8 members of our launch team surrender to Jesus and get baptized! On our 4th Sunday, we baptized 5 more! Awaken Church was started by a team of people who largely had been disconnected from Jesus and His people for most, if not all of their lives.

As our team invited their friends, most of their friends were not Christians, new Christians, or de-churched. In our first 8 weeks, we saw 11 people surrender to Jesus! And, we never experienced the huge drop in attendance most church plants experience in the first few weeks after launch. We held steady between 105 and 125 people at our first 8 worship gatherings.

I think one of the critical mistakes church planters make…I know because I have done it before…is to get in too big of a hurry to build a team to launch their church. They feel the pressure that every conversation has to end with them recruiting the person to join their team. They feel the financial pressure to quickly get a bunch of people tithing so their family can eat and live indoors.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend waiting 2 years to launch your church. It wasn’t a strategic decision for us – it’s just what happened. But what if you decided that for the first 3-6 months after you move to town, your focus is on building trust-filled relationships, not just building your launch team? What if you could get to know people without immediately feeling the pressure of having to get them on your team? What if you had that time to really get to know the heartbeat of your city and what God is doing and let God use that to form your vision? If you do it this way, I promise your prayer-life will grow!

In my next post, I’ll write about the biggest challenge that came for our baby church as a result of launching the way we did.

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3 Comments on “Our Story: The Long Beginning”

  1. Steven Bouknight says:

    Thanks for the post! Thankful God is using you and your family to grow Awaken. Praying for you guys.

  2. […] love hearing how churches start.  Here is one of Jay Hardwick’s blog posts about what it took to start his church, […]

  3. Rindy Walton says:

    Amen! I’ve been on the other side of jumping in and trying to get everyone on the launch team & not building relationships…and it didn’t work.


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