It’s been great hearing from such great guys this week as we looked Inside the Mind of a Church Planter. We heard from Ron here in Clarksville, Jason in Spartanburg, SC, and Nate out in Missoula, MT. We’re going to wrap it up this week with another Clarksville local.
Chris is a guy that I met a few weeks before we started Awaken. I attended a service at his church right after we moved into town and we loved the worship. I’m serious. LOVED it! We also went to a worship night that they had about a week later. Incredible night. I knew right away that I was really looking forward to partnering with such a great church in reaching the city. I ended up grabbing a drink with Chris a few weeks before Awaken’s first service and he was a huge encouragement to me. He’s helped me scout out for a sound system, offered to help us with things at the church, and always been just a phone call and email away. He’s a super cool guy with a great heart who’s doing a great thing here in the city.
Here are a couple important facts about Chris:
- He is related to Ron – they’re cousins. Edmondsons are taking over Clarksville, apparently! I love it.
- I drove Chris’ son to school the other day on a bus that I was subbing on. I don’t think he saw me.
Check out One Church’s website HERE.
Check out my interview with Chris here:
1. Who are you?
My name is Chris Edmondson, and I am the lead pastor of oneChurch.
2. What is your church & what’s the vision behind it?
Our vision is to reach the unchurched (those who have never been to church before) and the dechurched (those who have been to church and said, “I ain’t never going back!”) in North Clarksville. Our goal is to create an environment where unchurched people like to attend.
3. How long have you been meeting and where did you start?
I was born here in Clarksville but left to go to seminary back in 1993. In 2006, my wife and our children moved back to Clarksville to start a church. We both got jobs to help pay the bills and started casting the vision and talking a lot about the ‘what if’s’ to anyone who would listen: What if there was a church that was more interested in people than buildings, programs, and keeping the insiders happy? What if we created a church unchurched people could actually engage with their heavenly Father? What if we followed Jesus’ example and left the 1 for the 99? We started meeting in a coffee house downtown every Wednesday nights starting in January 2007. We had two preview services that summer, and then started meeting in a movie theatre.
4. Why plant a church in your city?
Clarksville-Montgomery County is in the midst of tremendous growth. Clarksville was named the 17th fastest growing city in the United States and Montgomery County is one of the fastest growing counties in the United States. Clarksville-Montgomery County is expected to continue outpacing even the impressive 29% population growth rate that Tennessee is expected to post through 2030. All conservative census reports predict Montgomery County is projected to swell to a population of 227,300 by the year 2025, which would be a 117% increase from the 2000 Census. More than 5,000 families a year relocate to the Clarksville area.
Even though Clarksville-Montgomery County in the midst of a vast growth boom, a recent study has found that 86% of the people already in Clarksville are unchurched (never been to church before) or dechurched (have attended church and decided not to go back). That figure is astounding: almost 9 out of 10 people in Clarksville don’t go to church anywhere! Every Sunday in Clarksville, 115,663 people stay at home and do not attend church. God has given us a burden for people who aren’t being reached by the typical church.
To put that 86% in perspective, here is the broader picture: 70% of Americans are not connected to any local church in any significant way. To put it another way, there are 210 million people who don’t go to church in America. That figure is staggering. If you combined all of the people who don’t go to church in a people group, they would make the 11th largest people group in the World. That, coupled with the fact that 80-85% of the churches in America have either plateaued or declining, and the need is HUGE!!
God also gave us a specific area. Just at exit #1 off of I-24, house construction is expected to increase by 137% in the next two years. Between exit #1 and exit #8, there are 4,395 approved residential lots that either have houses on them or will have houses on them in the near future. Since the average home has 2.5 residents, this means that north Clarksville has almost 11,000 residents! 80% of that growth comes from those under the age of 45, with the median age being 30.1 years. If we are going to reach the next generation, we must act now by taking the Gospel to them and planting a church where they live.
5. How can people get plugged into your church?
Our strategy doesn’t revolve around programs that don’t lead anywhere. Our strategy involves intentional steps. Borrowing from North Point Community Church, We have created three environments that will help people take steps toward a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Our ministry environments are designed to function like the rooms in a home. We invite guests to the foyer, develop friendships in the living room and grow as a family around the kitchen table.
Our Sunday morning worship services are foyer environments. We want our guests to come back, so we do everything with them in mind.
Living room environments are medium-sized environments designed to change people’s minds about connecting. Getting involved in serving, our membership class, and our Essentials open small group on Tuesdays are designed to move people from the foyer and ultimately to…
The kitchen table. Our kitchen table environments are small group environments designed to change people’s minds about their priorities. We believe at oneChurch that lifechange takes place best in small groups.
6. What advice do you give to others wanting to plant a church?
Pray, pray, pray. If you don’t have a burden for the people you’re trying to reach–if their faces don’t keep you up at night–then don’t plant. As many of you know, it’s a lot of hard work. Many people plant a church because they can’t get along with people, have authority issues, or plant a church as a reaction to the traditional church (you can always spot these folks–they can tell you all day what they’re not, but can’t tell you what they’re for).
7. What/who have been some of your most important resources so far?
Reading books. Listening to people’s stories. Talking to people. And I know this may not be what you’re looking for, but the most important resource/help has been my wife. Without Kim, I would have been a clock tower sniper through this entire process.
8. Have you learned any lessons the hard way? What was one?
I’ll give you two. I heard so many church planters talk about the people of the launch team/core group may start with you, but they probably won’t stay with you. I would say 80% of our launch team (around 35 people) are still with us today. But the 15% who are no longer with us, I grieved over their leaving and tried not to take it personal (one of the cons about my personality!). We have always said that we’re not about keeping people but reaching people, and God made me put my money where my mouth is with a few couples I loved a lot but could not compromise the vision in order for them to stay.
The second mistake was after we launched. We are firm believers in a closed-group small group system. We has trained 4 to 5 small group leaders during the pre-launch phase. But when we launched publicly, we didn’t have enough small group leaders for all the people. We should have went to a turbo-group phase and shortened the closed time frame to around 4 to 6 months.
9. If you did it all again, what is one thing would you do differently?
Not to worry. I know preachers shouldn’t worry and should always have faith, but God is still teaching this preacher to have faith in Him. To live the results in His hands. A verse that took me through pre to post launch was Psalms 127:1…