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  • Andrew Avery

“Why are you excited about the launch?”

It is a culmination of God faithfully guiding our family’s steps into his plan for us. 

It was the summer before the announcement of Port City Church, and my wife and I were living in Boston, MA, for an internship I had before my senior year of college. This time was especially difficult. Not only were we freshly married and thrown into a new environment, but we also had to make the tough decision of whether we wanted to move 15 hours away from our family and friends to Boston. After three months of prayer and hard conversations, we ended up agreeing that Boston was not the right move. However, that left us with no options to consider as I entered my senior year.

I distinctly remember one conversation from that summer though. It was about what kind of church we would want to attend once we inevitably moved from Greensboro. We both agreed that we wanted to be within a five-hour radius of our family. We wanted to be in a diverse area. We loved college ministry, so we wanted to be in a place with a strong college presence. Finally, we wanted to find a smaller church where the community would feel tight-knit. A few weeks after we returned to Greensboro, Port City Church was announced.

Upon researching Norfolk, we found it to be almost exactly five hours from my wife’s family and just three hours from my family. Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University’s sports and college presence radiate through the area. The population is incredibly diverse. Finally, what is more tight-knit than a start-up church?! 

It was as if the Lord was saying, “Here it is!” For that reason, we spent one evening talking about it, and we decided to go.

A year and a half later, we are two days away from launch. I said before in my answer that the launch is a culmination. That is because the goal is not for us to say that we did it but to point upward in recognition that this is a microcosm of God’s work. The launch is a continuation of God’s plan to use us to restore the world, Norfolk included. He is restoring while we encourage the discouraged person at work, while we make our appeal to atheists on a jog, while we are grabbing lunch with that apathetic neighbor in our complex. The launch announces to Norfolk that there are people ready to befriend them, serve them, and invite them into God’s family.

  • Katelyn Sheets

“As cities go, so goes the world.” From the moment Norfolk was named over my dinner table, I was not able to get it out of my mind. Being from southeast Virginia, I was vaguely familiar with this port city and its impact. A city known for its civilian and naval ports, people, ideas and supplies flow in and out like the subtle rise and fall of the tides. The city is in constant movement, with many here to stay and even more here only for a temporary period of time. It is a city where many come to work and play but not all stay to do everyday life. It is a city that displays human ingenuity through colossal ships and complex bridges and tunnels. It is a city used to navigating around the many trains that traverse the city shipping in supplies. It is a city of diverse people that will be moving to diverse places in the future. So, why Norfolk? My heart was initially captured by the strategic impact this city could have if the gospel shipped out through a people that loved Jesus. 

But as we have been here for five months, I have faces that answer the question of “Why Norfolk?” I have become less compelled by the strategic and more about the personal. I am friends with neighbors and frequent spaces that were designed by a God for God. There is a search for meaning and value that can only be found in the identity God wants to give us. There is a search for resolution, healing and peace that can only be fully brought about in the gospel. There is a search for the spiritual in some very dark places that need to be exposed to the light of the Holy Spirit. These searches are no longer obscure ideas but are tangible concerns of my new coworkers, friends and acquaintances in this city. And, while thinking about how much I want those in this city to reach the world is a consideration, my heart has become more captured by the idea of the people here that will stay. And I want to be one of them.

“Why Norfolk?” We are here for the long haul, as long as the Lord will let us. In a city that is always changing, we seek to display an immutable God, a God who does not change. We will do this through our flawed stumblings for consistent conversations at work, support of our community centers and schools, weekly meetups with running friends and intentional conversations to know neighbors. We are hoping and praying that these fragments of conversations and life will be used for God to draw hearts to himself. Caring for Norfolk because God cares about Norfolk compels us.

Before moving, I was asked, “Why would you want to move to that God-forsaken place?” I was shocked at the abrasive nature of the question, feeling offended for my soon to be new home and even more offended for the great God that we serve. We serve a God that loves this city and has great plans for its thriving. He is a God worthy of reframing the question: “Why NOT Norfolk?” 

  • Writer's pictureTanner Hogue

It could be argued that Jesus’ entire life ministry was preparing for the launch of the church in his ministry with the disciples. Here are nine things we learn from the first recorded church plant in the bible.

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them.
Acts 13:1-5

Church planting is God’s idea.

The Holy Spirit directly told the church at Antioch to set Paul and Barnabas apart for the work of church planting (Acts 13:2). Mankind did not invent the idea of church planting, and no matter what emphasis it garners in different eras of time and locations in the world, it always was God’s idea. Therefore, when we enter into church planting we are not entering into our cool ideas but the work of God himself.

Church planting is born out of worship.

Church planting came about not because they were seeking to be known, but because they were seeking to worship God and make him known. Church planting begins with worship and has God’s worship as its goal.

Church planting is born out of dependence on God.

The church was not only worshiping God together but seeking him through fasting. Fasting is a way to pray with your body. It’s a way of crying out to God for him to move and reign supreme in our lives and the world around us. The person fasting is saying “God you are so valuable, we want you to be known and valued more than we want to eat.” When a congregation comes together in a posture of worship and dependence, it makes God look good. Church planting is the result of wanting God to be known and needing him to move in order for the opportunity for him to be known to come about and be effective.

Church planting is carried out by local churches.

People don’t get to declare themselves as church planters. Local churches set apart people for the work of church planting. This is a call of God that is initiated by a local church from a posture of worship.

Church planting is about proclaiming the Word of God to people.

Luke, the author of Acts, is highlighting the centrality of the Kingdom of God and Jesus’ role in that Kingdom (see Acts 1:3 and Acts 28:30-31). Once a work of church planting is embarked upon, the purpose for which the planter(s) was sent is realized when the Word of God is proclaimed.

Church planting is about loving people.

Not only does God get glory from the process of a church plant coming to fruition, but people hear the Word of God proclaimed (Acts 13:5). Apart from the Word of God being heard, it can’t be believed (Romans 10:17). Apart from the good news of what Christ has done to reconcile people to God in order for Him to live with them, churches have no Word to proclaim. Church planters don’t proclaim what they think, they proclaim God’s Word which is the most loving thing we can do.

Church planting is a team sport.

The process of planting is always a process that involves multiple people together doing the work (Acts 13:2). This glorifies God because no one individual gets credit. The process of planting makes it clear that one man may plant, another may water the seed, but only God gives the growth. Church planting doesn’t make individual people or churches look good, it makes God look good.

Church planting is playing the long game.

Does anybody know where the original church of Antioch is that sent out Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1)? How about the church Paul started when he got to Salamis (13:5)? I have no clue either. No individual church is planted that will last forever. But the fact that you are reading this article today and I am writing is a testament to the fact that the global church will last forever. God’s Kingdom will keep expanding until Jesus returns. Whatever comes to our individual churches, when we commit to church planting we are declaring that God’s Kingdom is bigger than our lifetime and is sure to succeed; come what may to us.

God doesn’t need church planting; God chose to use church planting.

I saved my favorite reason for last. This commissioning happens in Acts 13. The church was born back in Acts 2 when the Spirit fell at Pentecost. The disciples had been growing in number ever since. We see in Acts 8:1 that God used the church in Jerusalem being persecuted in order to expand the kingdom; “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Let it be known that God didn’t invent church planting because He couldn’t grow the number of disciples some other way. God chose this method. We don’t plant churches because God needs us but because God chose this as his preferred method to grow his church.

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