The United States is the largest mission field in the Western Hemisphere and the fifth-largest in the world. Unfortunately, 3,500-4,000 churches close every year in the United States, according to Ed Stetzer, church consultant and researcher. In 2008, Bay Area commissioned our first church planting team to establish Downtown Hope in Annapolis, and in late 2012 we launched a church-planting organization called the SENT Network. SENT's mission is to equip leaders to plant gospel-centered churches.
This month, as several of these church planters join us at Bay Area to preach during our series on parables, SENT Network Director Mark McGeever shares exciting news about how God is moving in the Mid-Atlantic.
What’s the latest news with SENT Network?
Mark: This spring a number of churches that have been preparing and laying the groundwork launched their Sunday gatherings for the first time. Several just had their public launches, and I was just having so much fun – one week I was up in New Jersey, then down in Virginia, over in Baltimore, then near D.C. In one of those first gatherings, seven people indicated interest in wanting to follow Jesus.
Tell us how you’ve seen God at work in one of those churches.
Mark: Peace City Church came out of The Well Community Church (an existing SENT Network plant) in Silver Spring. Pastor Eric So was one of the first three guys The Well’s pastor, Matt, ever met when he moved to Silver Spring, he was in his first life group, he was part of the initial core group that started The Well, and now he’s planted Peace City. They’re targeting the refugee population in Riverdale. That’s a great example of Eric being discipled, then developed in a church planting residency, then multiplying out and birthing a new church plant. We want to see that happen – planting churches that plant churches.
Are there any recent testimonies or stories of life change that you can share from a SENT church?
Mark: In the roughest part of downtown Wilmington, Delaware, where church planter Derrick Parks just launched a church, we’ve seen guys coming out of prison who have gotten involved in their work. Two weeks after Derrick moved in, there was a murder on his street. Wilmington was written up in the news – they called it Murdertown, USA – but Derrick said, “No, it’s Mercytown, USA. We’re bringing the gospel and we’re going to see change.” Here’s an example – a young guy was murdered, and there was a lot of anger on Facebook about it. Derrick went on Facebook and invited three of the friends who were really angry, got together with them, started a relationship with them, and is showing them the love and mercy of Christ. He also talked about a guy who came out of jail who connected with them, gave his life to Christ, and is now walking with Christ, connected with their church community.
What’s next on the horizon for SENT?
Mark: One of the things we’re praying about right now is in the next several years we want to see a total of 30 church plants in our region, 33 percent in under-resourced areas. And we have a vision to see three regions where SENT is planting. Right now we’re just in the Mid-Atlantic region, so we’d like to see God open doors in two other regions. As of now, we’ve got 17 of those 30 churches planted and active, and one-third are in under-resourced areas. We have several more that are preparing to plant, and we’ve got other people in the pipeline.
How can our church family at Bay Area support the work of SENT?
Mark: We have prayer meetings on the first, third and fourth Tuesdays at 7:30 a.m. in the prayer room for SENT and Bay Area. If anyone knows somebody who’s aspiring to be a church planting pastor, we’d love to talk with them.
To learn more about the SENT Network, its churches and opportunities to get involved, go to sentnetwork.org.
Having completed Bay Area’s pastoral residency program, Jorge Solorzano is preparing to plant a bilingual church in Annapolis through the SENT Network. As God continues to build his team and go before them, Jorge shares about the vision and mission of Axis Church.
What is the vision of Axis church?
Jorge: The vision is to become a bilingual community centering on Jesus, transforming our world. It’s an inclusive, multi-ethnic approach. The mission statement is to inspire people to make Jesus the center of their life.
Why bilingual? The demographic picture of the United States has been dramatically changing over the last 20 years. God is bringing all nations to this nation, which is a great opportunity for the church to reach the nations for Jesus. The Hispanic community has become 17.4 percent of the population. In the City of Annapolis, 20.3 percent of the population is Hispanic.
Why Axis? Axis by definition means the central line about which an object revolves. For us, that central line is Jesus and that central object is everything else, including us. Our lives should revolve around the person of Jesus. There’s a difference between making Jesus a priority in your life and making Jesus the center of your life.
What’s your timeline leading up to your launch?
Jorge: Our first church service is going to be January 27, 2019. Between now and that date, our focus is developing what we call Axis Communities, which are basically Missional Communities – a Bible study during the week – and what we call Axis Circles, which is like a Life Group – three to four people meeting during the week for discipleship. The prayer is to have three Axis Communities and 12 Axis Circles by the end of 2018. We’re also praying for 12 families or individuals to join our core team.
How has God been moving in Axis church already?
Jorge: God is going before us, and it is His plan, His vision, His church. We weren’t even looking for a place to have our Sunday gatherings because it’s so far down the road. I did research, drove around Annapolis, and talked to a couple pastors that have churches in Annapolis, and after doing that and trying to discern what would be the best spot to plant a church, I came to the conclusion that the intersection of Bestgate Road and Admiral Drive was pretty good because Admiral Drive is primarily Hispanic and Bestgate Road is more American, and the mall is a meeting point where both worlds come together.
Someone said to me, “Did you know there’s a school there?” They were talking about Annapolis Area Christian School. Long story short, I got together with AACS, and they said there was another church using their facility on Sunday morning that just stopped renting, and they’d been praying for a new church that God would have steward their facility on Sunday morning. I told them, “We’re not launching it right now,” and they said, “No problem, we’ll block that whole year for you.” It was a cool way of God saying, “Hey I’ve got this, I’m going before you, it is my Kingdom and my church, and I’m taking care of it.”