Pastoral & Church Planting Residency
Austin stone community church
For the past two years, I have been pursuing a Pastoral & Church Planting Residency with the Austin Stone Community Church. The Austin Stone was planted in 2002 and has since grown to more than 7,500 weekly attendees across 5 campuses around the city of Austin that seek to bless the city by declaring and demonstrating the gospel. The focus of my residency has been with the largest campus: Downtown, serving roughly 3,500 people every Sunday. The hope of this residency was to grow in my theological conviction, character, and calling to pastoral ministry and, specifically, church planting. Here are some of the highlights:
Men's & Women's Development Program
For the first 8 months, I had the privilege of leading a cohort of 4 guys (pictured below) through a seminary based class each Wednesday night covering the basics of Systematic Theology - taking doctrines of our faith and examining what the whole Bible says about them. It was a formative time for all of us, deepening our knowledge and love of Christ and obedience to his Word.
My time with the Downtown Campus was primarily being part of our Connections Team, using a number of means to invite the new and disconnected into the life and mission of our church. This included
Connect Class (pictured right) - a seasonal 5-6 week class where we raise up new leaders and help 100+ people form new groups through relationship and teaching on biblical community.
FOCUS (pictured below) - a bi-monthly event where we seek to take the confusing questions of culture and bring clarity using God's Word. Topics have included: "Does the Church value women?" and "Should I kiss dating good-bye?"
Service Team Leadership: From Parking to Connecting
About 350 people help make Sundays happen every week helping transform a high school into a gathering space. I was first tasked with revamping and building our Parking Teams, the first people you see upon arrival - recruiting volunteers, training them, developing leaders, and creating a more efficient system to empower our volunteers to serve with excellence.
After a few months, I transitioned inside to overseeing our Sunday Connections Teams. We find those who are new or disengaged and connect them to God, his church, and his mission. It's a lot of “Hi I haven't met you, what's your name?", hearing stories, sharing the gospel, casting compelling vision for community, and caring for them through prayer.
KIDS Writing & STUDENTS Teaching
I had the opportunity in the first year to teach several times in our Downtown STUDENTS Ministry comprised of students from 6th grade to high school. I also wrote curriculum for our KIDS Ministry who learn lessons in the Bible every Sunday. Both have taught me to take some of the more complex tenets of our faith and distill them down to simple, digestible, and compelling truths.
Goer Missional Communities: Phase 1 & 2
The Austin Stone has a passion for bringing the gospel to the unreached people groups of the world. Through their mobilization pipeline of recruiting, training, and sending missionaries all over the world, they've sent over 200 people to live overseas amongst those who have little to no access to the gospel. From Genesis to Revelation, the entirety of Scripture speaks of God's desire to be known and loved by all the peoples of the earth. God loves the world and wants the world to know his love for them through his Son, Jesus Christ. And yet, millions have no idea.
Part of the Stone's sending process is training people through 2 phases of "Goer Missional Communities." Each GMC phase consists of a small group of people meeting together throughout the week to pray, share meals, study God's Word, and engage the neighborhood with initiative evangelism and Discovery Bible Studies with nonbelievers. The phases build on one another in duration and intensity, developing a sense of what it would be like to be a disciple-making team in a different context overseas.
Through our Phase 2 (pictured above), we've been able to pray for hundreds of people in our neighborhood, read the Bible with dozens, and see several give their lives to Jesus. Evangelism has never been easy for Meliss or myself, but now we're learning the essential nature of having tools in your belt and a team to encourage and hold you accountable to it.
One of the highlights of my second year was meeting Ming, a Chinese graduate student. From knocking on his door and meeting him for the first time to getting to share a story about Jesus and the gospel to the privilege of baptizing him (pictured right), I've gotten to witness the Spirit's work in bringing Ming to new life. It's fascinating and refreshing to disciple someone who has never read the Bible before and has little to no frame of reference for anything related to Christianity.
In the midst of our Phase 2, we got to lead a Phase 1 and teach a new community about God's heart for the world and their role in it as disciple-makers. Through engaging the lost in our neighborhoods and early morning prayer (pictured below), it's been exciting to see passion for God's mission come alive in this group.
Teaching Reps & New Ministry Relationships
In the 2nd year, I've had the opportunity to teach for our Resident Development Program, Missional Community Leaders & Coaches, and for another local church in Austin. I've gotten to meet and learn from other church planters and pastors around Austin, as well as Los Angeles, and NYC.
This residency has been invaluable in helping bring clarity and conviction toward the calling to plant a church. It's helped shape my biblical understanding of the local church and its purpose in advancing the kingdom of God. This residency has give me and my family a passion to see disciples multiplied throughout the nations. For now, that begins with planting a church in LA. Will you join us?