First post…

At last week’s meeting Rich Earl challenged us to participate more in this blog. It’s always seemed a bit disingenuous for me to do so, because as a non-reader, I don’t read many blogs, so what right do I have to write and expect someone to read? …but I digress…

Seems the best thing to point to in this first post is my experience in church planting. I did not grow up in the living church (went to mainline “social” churches as a kid). Frankly I didn’t know there was such a thing until I got saved in my early 20’s and began attending a home missions Assemblies of God Church. The burden of my heart almost immediately was that others in the city of Pittsburgh where I grew up would hear what Jesus has done for them.

While in Bible college in Florida during the early 80’s, the Lord directed me to plant a church in McKees Rocks, an urban community just outside of Pittsburgh. After completing an internship at a home missions church in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh in 1986, and discussing the matter with my Pastor, I began to meet with Presbyter Ron Baily.

On June 7, 1989, we held our first mid-week Bible study in our home with my wife’s mom, grandma and a couple people from our home church. The Lord began to bring people in and on Easter 1990, we held our first Sunday morning church service in our home, continuing to do so until 1991 when we purchased the building we currently still occupy. I quit my secular job and the church became General Council Affiliated in 1993. It’s been an amazing 20 years with significant ups and downs, but God continues to prove Himself faithful.

In 1999, after a couple years of discussion, a man in our church stepped out to do a mid-week study in his home with an eye toward planting. Having personally been to a Church Planters’ Boot Camp and seeing the value of it, we made arrangements for him to go. In spite of several years of slogging it out, the plant effort failed. Thankfully, the man did not and is serving as a Deacon today, looking forward to another shot in due season. Since that failure the Lord has unearthed and dealt with some things in my brother which would have potentially been destructive had the plant succeeded…can anyone see God’s grace?

While serving on the Sectional Committee in January of 2005, we were informed that the Pastor of Brookline Assembly of God (in Pittsburgh) was leaving. The church had been home missions for a number of years, first as an incredibly successful children’s outreach ministry under Karey Schaffer, then struggling to continue as a community church after Karey left, in spite of the new Pastor’s best efforts. In March of that year the Lord directed me to assume responsibility for the church as a sister church to McKees Rocks. He gave me a plan which was presented to the Sectional Committee, my own Board, as well as the membership of McKees Rocks, with unanimous approval. McKees Rocks had 40 active members and was living week to week…

God had raised up a man to be our Associate Pastor and we installed him in 2004. We couldn’t pay him and based on constituency didn’t need an Associate, but God knew what was coming in 2005. Mike Russell was installed as the Pastor at Brookline in 2007 where he remains in a bi-vocational role. The church continues to slowly move forward under his leadership and the oversight of our Board. We share several combined services a year, alternating preaching. We also do pulpit exchange a several times a year. We also believe God wants to use us to rescue and/or plant more in the future. Losing such a key man and his family from such a small congregation seems suicidal from a human perspective. Yet because God ordained it, McKees Rocks is moving forward as new folks come in and others are stepping up.

Next time: Pittsburgh Neighborhood Church Network (PNCN)

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