A steady flow of blessings at The Fountain
By ANDY LETT
This past year has been an exciting adventure of trusting God and being used! My wife, Mandy, and I moved to south Forsyth County in July of 2011 to plant a new church. We started with no people, no official local church partner, no official church name, no structures in place, some start up money, and a huge vision from God to connect un-churched people in this new area to Jesus.
The most common question people ask initially is: Why do we need another church? The answer makes me proud of the work of New Church Development and our conference leaders for recognizing the need. There are currently more than 140,000 people within a five-mile radius of where we worship, but more than 80 percent of those are not connected with a local church -- and that is not just a statistic. These are people who Jesus loves, pursues a relationship with, and calls the Church to connect with as well. That is my greatest passion: connecting new people to the Lord and a community of faith where their belonging can lead to transformation.
Being a church planter is actually more like being a missionary. You have to go where people go and do what people do. You have to put yourselves in the shoes of others and ask the Lord for help to see needs in people’s lives and why Jesus can make a difference. When we started the process, I drove around the area everyday learning, listening, and praying that God would touch lives and use us to connect people to Jesus.
When you start from essentially nothing, you realize your extreme dependence on God. That’s scary, but it’s also a great place to be. I remember going to Starbucks, high school football games, and other places in the community on high alert to meet people. I would pray, “Okay, Lord, open a door to a relationship here and somehow use me in a way I don’t expect.” It was amazing to see how God connected us with people as we were paying attention.
The Fountain UMC is not a cookie cutter church model. The worship, children’s ministry, small groups, and the way we serve have been tailored to connect the gospel with unchurched people. These people are not in church for a reason and if it was easy to reach them, it would have already been done. We had to come up with new ways to share the age-old gospel in an inviting and relevant way while providing a place where people can find authentic community that is grounded in Christ. Everything we do supports our purpose of “Leading people to life, hope, purpose, and wholeness through Jesus Christ.”
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it takes patience and hard work to plant a vital church, especially one that will reach people not already connected with a church. We could not begin worship services immediately because we only had two people and a big vision. We spent the first three months sharing God’s vision with many strong Christian leaders and invited them to join the movement to help plant a church designed to reach un-churched and de-churched people. The Lord caught the hearts of some who were willing to help with this new adventure. Some were willing to jump “all in” right away. Others initially came to help, but eventually caught the contagious energy of what God was doing. We also worked to bring organization, receive a name from God, and to gather people for the church. It was exhausting, exhilarating, creative, scary, and extremely exciting all at the same time.
It takes time to build solid relationships. That is another reason why patience is needed to plant a church. If we were going to reach people who were not in church, a gimmicky, quick model would not stick. People are looking for genuine community where people truly care about them. We exerted a lot of effort serving extravagantly in the community to show that we truly cared about people. After much ground work, we are becoming an important part of this new community and our scope of kingdom impact has grown exponentially.
We had preview worship services once a month starting in early October designed to help gather people. We launched our weekly worship in March 2012 and were blown away by the results of the nine months of labor. Car after car pulled into the parking lot and we had 164 people in attendance. The Fountain has found an early niche with families with young children. Our worship services continue to bring in 1-5 new families every week! People are growing, lives are being changed, and new people are learning to follow Jesus.
Most of the people at The Fountain have never been in church or have not been connected to a church in several years. I hear story after story of people who say, “The Fountain brought me into the Church and it’s changing my life”. That is what we are all about.
Phase one of planting The Fountain has been a huge success as we are hitting our target with God’s help. However, reaching un-churched people takes patience and time. The challenge is that many come to church just once a month. To keep that in perspective, once a month is more than many have been in church their whole lives, so that is a big deal and a huge “win” for the kingdom. Mostly, we are thankful for your prayers and support as God is using The Fountain UMC to connect new people to Jesus.
Andy Lett is Lead Pastor of The Fountain UMC, www.TheFountainUMC.org, 770-356-9928.