This morning, I met with Gary Wallis, Brian Capshaw, and Kevin Hasnack for breakfast. Kevin is the pastor of Calvary Denver, a very young church plant in Denver, Colorado. We had breakfast as we talked about what God is continuing to do at the church that Westside Baptist has partnered with for about 3 years.
As Kevin shared some of the exciting things with us that have been going on in his church, I couldn’t help but reflect back on the domino effect that led us to this place. I love stories (part of the reason why I like to journal and blog), so let me recount how we got to this point and what God is currently doing.
Back in late 2013 or early 2014, I received an e-mail from the North American Mission Board. I had been invited to attend a conference in downtown Nashville where I would get to hear about a new direction NAMB was taking. They were going to become more intentional about reaching some of the largest urban communities by planting churches.
I called Kim and we jumped at the opportunity. Not only do we enjoy investigating adventures that God might call us to embark on, we also needed an emotional break. I hadn’t even been at Westside Baptist for a year and Kim had already had three surgeries – one for early stage breast cancer, the other for reconstruction, and another to remove a colon pre-cancerous mass. Our Florida house was underwater and we legitimately feared it would go into foreclosure. Close family members were going through a divorce. I was pastoring a church larger than any I had led before. Believe me when I say that I could keep going with this list of things that were weighing heavily upon our shoulders.
We desperately needed to get away to recharge but we also wanted to see if God was about to call Westside to become even more intentionally missional.
So, Kim and I made our way to Nashville for the informational meeting on March 31st and April 1st.
At the conference, we heard from NAMB President, Kevin Ezell. We also heard from the man who would be the next elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ronnie Floyd.
It was also at that conference that Kim and I met Larry Riley and his wife. As we sat down at their table the second day of the meeting, I discovered that he was the pastor of First Baptist Church in Clarksville, TN, the city I was born in. We engaged in some great discussion before listening to the second and final day of the vision-casting by the NAMB leadership.
We said our good-byes and headed back home to Murray.
Within a couple of weeks, I heard from Larry. He told me that some of the leadership of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and some pastors were flying out to Colorado to explore church planting partnerships. He invited me to join them on the trip that would take place on May 19-22.
I knew that I wanted to lead Westside to get involved in church planting and the conference was great – but this was a chance to discover what it would look like to actually roll up our sleeves and get to work. So, I prayed and I prepared to pack. God had opened a door and I was walking through it.
As we arrived in Denver on May 19th, we literally hit the ground running. From Monday until Thursday, I counted 15 separate church planters that we met. We drove to their facilities, listened to them share their vision and their experience, and then engaged them in some Q&A. We visited church planters in Colorado Springs (55 miles south of Denver), Loveland and Fort Collins (95 miles north of Denver) and many locations within Denver.
As I flew back to Nashville and then drove to Murray on Thursday, May 22, 2014, I was exhausted but excited!
Henry Blackaby says that we need to look around to see what God is doing and then join Him. Well, I had seen how God was moving and I wanted to get Westside to join Him. Particularly, I believed that we needed to partner with Kevin Hasenack.
But I had only been Westside’s pastor for a year, and they had never done anything like this before. So, I prayed and believed that I needed to borrow some credibility as I continued to build Westside’s trust. I believed that Westside needed to hear some of their own people talk about the need to join in this partnership.
We made plans to send out an exploratory team to Denver to meet with Kevin Hasenack, a team made up of trusted folks from the Westside family of friends. I would not go with them. When they got back, they would report to me and then to the church about what they observed.
Within the next few months, a team had traveled to Denver and came back to report to the church on Sunday evening, September 28, 2014.
As I suspected, they came back and reported that they were excited about what they had observed. They enjoyed their trip and believed that God was in the partnership.
After the report, there was plenty of conversation in the church about what we were waiting for. People were sold on partnering with Calvary Denver.
Within a short period of time, I stood in a business meeting to let the church know that I was calling them to a time of prayer. I wanted us to partner with Calvary Denver but I wanted them to follow me on this because they, too, were convinced that God was leading us into this partnership. I said that I would bring the motion at the next month’s business meeting.
The following business meeting, I proposed a motion to formally partner with Calvary Denver through prayer, sending teams to Denver each year to help, and with monetary support. Not a single hand was raised in opposition when we voted.
The following year, I invited Kevin to Westside. He preached the Sunday morning sermon on August 2, 2015. The partnership was solidifying.
If I remember correctly, we sent a team from Westside to help Kevin and Calvary Denver in the summer of 2016. Unfortunately, my family wasn’t able to make it because Kim had gotten a week-long fellowship working at the National Gallery of Art and we were exploring Washington, D.C.
But, I led a team on mission to Denver the following summer. With four different vehicles traveling at four different times with 13 people, we all arrived in Denver on Saturday evening, July 8, 2017. We had a great time of worship at Calvary Denver the following Sunday morning.
After the Sunday morning church service, the work began. We had an impromptu soccer game that afternoon and evening at a large apartment complex with immigrants from all over the world. Then, from Monday to Thursday, we led a soccer camp each morning and then helped with another ministry in the afternoons.
It was exhausting, especially because of the very hot temps, but it was so rewarding! We were glad to have helped Calvary Denver continue to build bridges with their community.
As 2017 was coming to a close, I was continuing to wonder how we could get more buy-in from Westside folks. I wanted more than just a handful of people to take the mission trips to Denver in the summer. I was pleased that we had 13 on the previous trip but if Westside was really going to get on-board, it would mean that we were sending a lot more people than that.
So, as our new Student Pastor, Brian Capshaw, joined the ministry team, I sold him on the idea of planning a youth trip to Denver. I thought that the youth would be better fit for the physical fitness required for a soccer camp and there would probably be a bigger group that wanted to go.
Brian took it and ran with it. He worked out the details that made the trip extremely affordable for anyone who wanted to go. He led an incredibly successful trip to Denver this past summer. And as you can see from the picture below, the number of those who took the trip was greater than 13.
When the youth and adults came back to Westside and reported on their trip, it was exciting! They had bonded but they had also enjoyed the trip. They had seen God do some wonderful things through them and they were already excited about going back again. I suspect that the number of youth and adults who take the trip in the summer of 2019 will be even larger.
So, fast-forward to this morning’s breakfast at Cracker Barrel…
As we sat and talked, Kevin told us that his church, Calvary Denver, is about to do something that may be a first in the church planting movement under the oversight of the North American Mission Board.
There is someone in their church that they are about to send out to plant a new church. As exciting as that is, the impressive part is that it will be a fourth generation church plant. Within only a handful of years, a church plant has started a church plant that started a church plant (Calvary Denver) that is about to plant another new church.
Oh, and by the way, there were only 4 “Calvary” churches in Denver when I visited that city the first time 4 years ago. Now, there are 18! God is doing something incredible with Calvary Denver!
The fun part is that Westside has been a part of this. And it just might be that the best is yet to come!