The cost of discipleship is high. But the profit is great. Changed lives. Changed families. Changed communities. Jesus set the precedent for the life of discipleship and creating disciples. In the Gospels, Jesus called many men and women to follow him. Many of them were rough around the edges—working blue-collar jobs, difficult, slow to understand, cowardly, with sordid pasts, and of little reputation.
Basically, they were a lot like most of us. Over time, some stuck with Jesus and devoted their lives to him and his ministry—and others devoted themselves to things like wealth, power, and pleasure, tragically chasing things in creation rather than loving the Creator of all things.
For over three years, Jesus lived with and trained the people who stuck with him on who he was, what that meant for them and the world, and how to tell others about him. Jesus lived life with them. He ate and drank with them. He prayed with them and taught to them what the Scriptures said. He cried for them. And he died for them. After three years of travel, work, and toil, the disciples watched their teacher die on a cross because he claimed to be God. And this is where most stories would end. But this isn’t just any story. Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over Satan, sin, and death. And the first thing he did was go back to teaching and training his disciples over meals and through conversations.
And before he left this world to take his rightful place on his throne in heaven, Jesus said these words to his disciples, as recorded in Matthew 28:18–20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And he gave them the Holy Spirit to help them live for him in this world. It’s the simplicity of these words that drives Vintage Grace Church, as we seek to make disciples of all nations, starting with our families, neighbors, coworkers, and friends.
What is a disciple?
Disciple. Strange word, isn’t it? Chances are, if you’ve never been to church, you’ve never used that word. But the word “disciple” is rich with meaning and purpose. For Christians, it’s at the very heart of the mission that Jesus himself gave us. So, we use it proudly but also know that we need to define it.
At Vintage Grace Church, we believe a disciple is someone entirely devoted to learning about and living for Jesus—after all, it is all about Jesus. We accomplish in four ways: identity, worship, community, and mission.
Whether we know it or not, we all find our identity in something. For some, it’s money and power. For others, it’s sexuality and pleasure. For still others, it’s morality and popularity. As disciples, we’re called to find our identity in Jesus and him alone. All other things are either secondary to—or completely against—Jesus in our lives.
Whether we know it or not, we all worship something. This is most often tied to where we find our identity. Some worship money and power. Others worship sex and pleasure. Still others worship morality and popularity. There is a seemingly endless list of things that we can find to devote our worship to in this world.
As disciples, we’re called to worship Jesus and him alone. He is the Creator and sustainer of all things.
We’re made for community. In each one of us is a desire to love and to be loved, to have friendship and to give friendship, to have a place of safety and belonging. These are God-given desires and essential for becoming a disciple. Just as Jesus trained his disciples in the context of community—living with them, traveling with them, eating and drinking with them—we seek to build disciples through community.
We accomplish this through Sunday worship services and Discipleship Groups that meet throughout our cities on various days/nights during the week.
All of us long for a sense of purpose. The idea that the world is meaningless grates against every fiber of our being. While many come to the conclusion that life has no meaning, the Christian takes joy in the fact that God has a purpose for this world—a mission—and that he calls us to help him with his mission. Jesus didn’t train his disciples in a classroom. No, he trained them as he went about his work to accomplish his mission—to die on the cross for our sins and to rise from death three days later to conquer Satan, sin, and death. And he gave us a mission, too: to make disciples.
Part of becoming a disciple is being on mission to make more disciples. As we seek to fulfill God’s mission, we know him more and experience the life-changing joy of seeing others begin to know him.
For Vintage Grace Church, planting churches is a natural extension of God’s mission for us to make disciples—and a priority for us.
We desire to plant churches so that more people can meet Jesus. The way the first disciples of Jesus fulfilled this calling of his to make disciples was by planting churches that preached the gospel and cared for each other and their cities. Through churches, people hear about Jesus, make Jesus their identity, worship Jesus, find community, and become part of Jesus’ mission here on earth.
We are in conversations with other local pastors and church planters, networks and denominations to steward our resources the absolute best way possible to stating new churches.
Today, our church planting efforts are primarily rooted in leadership development training and raising up leaders through our Leadership Pipeline.
Rather than cast a wide net, each year we pour our resources into a handful of men who we believe are ready and called for the challenges that come with growing a church from the ground up.
Don’t we have enough churches?
With over 50,000 people in Pinellas Park, we could plant 20 churches of over 1000 people each and still have a great need for more churches to reach our city.
Church planting is biblical
At the heart of Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) is His desire for His followers to make disciples of all nations. We see in Acts 2 that 3,000 people came to faith, and they began to gather as the church (Acts 2:42-46). By the time we get to Acts 13, we see the church of Antioch sending Paul and Barnabas to the cities in the Mediterranean region for the purpose of evangelistic church planting. In Acts 14:21, when Paul and Barnabas went into a particular city, they preached the gospel and people would respond. In 14:23, they appointed pastors over the churches for the continued spiritual growth and edification of the people, and then they moved on.
Why not revitalize?
Research shows that new churches grow 12 times faster than established churches! In fact, many denominational studies have confirmed that most members of a newly planted church have not been a part of any other congregation before. Therefore, new churches are reaching lost people.
On the other hand, churches that are over 10 to 15 years old gain 80–90% of new members by transfer from other congregations.
Moreover, statistically, the un-churched and the de-churched are more likely to step foot in a new church rather than an established church.
Why Pinellas Park?
Pinellas Park is one of the most densely populated cities tucked into the middle of the 17th largest metropolitan are in the United States.
With over 50,000 residents, 60% of them claim absolutely no religious affiliation. Out of the remaining 40% that do claim some type of religious affiliation only 10% are protestant.
Therefore, an extremely conservative estimation would be that there are over 40,000 people in the city of Pinellas Park who do not know the Lord.
We are committed to seeing a resurgence in Pinellas Park through the planting of churches rooted in the vintage, biblical faith.