“But He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth'” (Mark 1:38 NKJV).
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV).
This coming Sunday, September 27, 2015, we are launching a new church location in Rocky Mount, North Carolina called Eastgate Community Church. We have been planning and working on this launch for two years. My son, Jonathan Combs, will be the Lead Pastor. He worked with us as a church planter intern for a year, learning about church planting and leadership, doing demographic studies of nearby towns, raising startup monies, and other ministry tasks, all while still working full time at a drugstore in Wake Forest, NC and serving as a Chaplain in the North Carolina National Guard.
This past year, Jonathan and his wife, Nicole moved to Rocky Mount. They took over leadership of our Castalia community group, whose members were driving an hour to attend WCC. And they have now helped launch two new groups in the Rocky Mount area. In June, they held their first public worship service at Rocky Mount Academy. This was the first of three “preview services” that they have held. The purpose of these preview services is to attract interest, train volunteers and to build momentum before the launch. A lot of work has gone into preparing for this coming Sunday!
As we pray and prepare for the Eastgate launch this coming Sunday, there are still some who may have questions about why and how we’re doing this. Questions like…
“Why plant another church? Isn’t there enough to do in Wilson?
When the Lord was asked by his disciples about focusing on ministry in one town, he answered, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”
Jesus was crystal clear about his purpose. He came to preach the gospel throughout Israel. Then, after his resurrection, he commissioned his disciples to carry the gospel throughout the whole world. He even gave them a strategy as recorded in Acts 1:8, to be witnesses of the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. In other words, start at home, then to your region, remember the people groups near you, but not like you, and finally reaching out to the world. Applying this strategy to our setting we might say, “We want to be witnesses in Wilson, in Eastern NC, to unique people groups near us, and to other nations in the whole world.”
“Why Rocky Mount? Don’t they already have enough churches?”
The short answer is: Rocky Mount is in our “Judea,” it’s within our Eastern NC regional assignment. It’s the “next town” near us. But there are also many reasons that we felt called to go to Rocky Mount over another Eastern NC town.
One reason is demographics. At a population of 57,136 (Wilson’s is 49,610), it is the largest city within a 30 minute drive of Wilson. According to surveys, over 31,000 of them don’t attend church. We’d like to change that. The current churches in Rocky Mount have reached 45% of the population. There is not only a need for one more church, there’s room for many more.
Another reason is that we already had people driving from the area to WCC. We wanted to go towards them, so that they would have access to a local church and so that they could actually help us plant and grow Eastgate.
Christ’s command to reach out to our “Judea,” the evidence of demographics, the people already driving from there to us, these all contributed to our decision to go to Rocky Mount. Yet, the most important reason was a sense of confirmation from God through prayer. Our leaders have been praying about this for several years now. We feel called to Rocky Mount.
Of course, as we continue to answer Christ’s call to reach out to Eastern NC, we will be prayerfully considering other locations for future church plants. Recent studies indicate that Eastern NC is the most under-churched region in North Carolina. We need more gospel centered churches here!
Is Eastgate a separate church from WCC?
No. We are one church, three locations (Don’t forget our Hispanic service). Eastgate will have its own pastor, local leaders, volunteers, and budget, but they will follow the same leadership and DNA culture as WCC. What we are doing is called “multisite” church planting. But we will not be doing video broadcasting of my sermons in all locations as some multisite churches do. We have developed a preaching team that will preach the same sermons live in all locations. If I’m preaching on prayer, then Pastor Jonathan will be preaching on prayer (and so will Pastor Miguel).
How can WCC afford to plant another church?
How can we afford not to? We haven’t been called to build our own kingdom, but to join Christ in His work of kingdom building. Yet, we are being very conservative in our finances as we seek to grow. For this reason, up until now, other than sending volunteers and sharing physical resources that we already owned, like trailers and sound equipment, we haven’t had to support Eastgate financially. They have raised their own financial support.
Pray for our “Judea.”
I don’t know if I’ve answered all the questions you may have about Eastgate. We’ve tried to be transparent and clear about our process all along the way. If you have more questions, let us know. We want you to be confident and clear in our vision to follow Christ’s Acts 1:8 strategy.
So, will you join us in praying for our “Judea.” There are many who are far from God in our region of Eastern NC. We have a calling on our lives to share the gospel with them. And especially pray for our Eastgate launch this Sunday!
“Let us go to the next towns” that we may plant churches and preach the gospel there!