March 16, 2011 by
Categories: Church planting
This spring, John Butler is planting Sovereign Grace Church in the Dayton, Ohio, area.
Brad and Paula Sanders are part of the church-planting team, and in part 1 of our interview, they began telling the unusual story of this church. It’s been six years since they first emailed Sovereign Grace Ministries to ask for a church to be planted in their area.
In the second half of the interview, Brad and Paula talk about what they’ve done over those years and what they envision for the future.
Check back tomorrow for our interview with John Butler, who's just moved from North Carolina to the Dayton area lead the church plant.
So it was a total of five and a half years before a church planter came. Did you ever consider giving up?
Brad: God has provided for us and met our needs. Through the resources we’ve gotten from Sovereign Grace and the people we got to know, we felt like we could keep going. I never felt like I was tired and wanted to give up.
Paula: It amazes me the way God provided for us, during the time of not being a formal church and not having a pastor. Other Sovereign Grace pastors have been phenomenal—visits, phone calls, encouragement. Many times our whole group made the trip to Covenant of Grace Church near Akron. On several visits their congregation even hosted a luncheon for us, taking time to fellowship with us and encourage us. We also attended all the Sovereign Grace conferences and seminars that we could.
The list of people who were instrumental along the way is too long to name. People like Mark Prater, Don and Tricia DeVries, Jason Reyes, Darren Lander, Randy Stewart, and the members of all these Sovereign Grace congregations. There has just been this army of people who supported us. When we would go to conferences, people would introduce themselves and say “We have been praying for you guys.” I believe that’s why this never became too heavy to bear. It’s been a peaceful thing—God has provided for us so well through these five or six years. And along the way we’ve changed and grown ourselves. It’s so clear that God had the perfect timing for this.
Brad: All along the way, they kept referring to us as a “unique group!” Most of the time when you’re planting a church, the church planter takes a team, finds a place, starts the church, and then people start coming. We’re doing it backwards—we already have a group of 75 people or so here.
Then when we found out John Butler had agreed to come lead the church plant, we thought, “John Butler? You’ve got to be kidding!” We knew of John and were amazed that God was sending someone with his wealth of experience in ministry to lead this group. We all rejoiced in God’s provision!
How has the group gotten to know John? And what’s this about a sauerkraut festival?
Brad & Paula: We’ve loved getting to know John and Beverly Butler and their two children. They began visiting our group last fall. John made weekly trips from North Carolina for quite some time, coming up to speak to the group and to get to know the families. They’ve now moved to the area, and John has been carefully and deliberately walking us through the process of preparing to plant.
And yes, Waynesville has an annual sauerkraut festival. Believe it or not, it’s one of the largest festivals in the state. We had the opportunity to run a booth as a fundraiser for the church plant. We had 53 volunteers working this booth over the course of the weekend. John was schlepping pork and sauerkraut right along with everyone else—and he doesn’t even like pork or sauerkraut! There’s nothing like standing over steaming sauerkraut for two days to get to know the people you’re working with!
What do you picture for the future of this church plant?
Brad & Paula: In terms of demographics, we think this area in southwest Ohio is a prime place to plant. We’ve always had the sense that it’s not just about this single church—we’d love to see more churches planted from here, moving into other areas of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.
For us personally, we have four children, and we really long to have a place for them, a legacy to pass on to them. We want to see them take up the things that we believe and hold dear, and pass them on—a multigenerational faith. Our vision certainly extends beyond the present. We would love nothing better than to see our children’s children reaping the benefits and carrying on the vision.
Photos of the sauerkraut festival provided by John Butler, who seems to have found something he likes better than sauerkraut.