We are excited to bring you a brand-new blog series: Honest Thoughts of a Church Planter.
We have been working with some of our ministry partners to give you a glimpse into the lives and thoughts of a church planter. Each post in the series will feature an interview with a pastor who is currently planting a church or has planted a church in the past. Our prayer is that this series will offer encouragement and advice to anyone who is in the beginning stages of church planting. Even if you aren’t looking to plant a church, this series will help you understand how to better pray for and serve the church planters in your life.
First up is Jon Wolfinger who pastors Union Church in Prescott, AZ:
1. How did you know that you were called to plant a church?
Jon: Simply put, I didn’t know FOR CERTAIN that I was called to church planting when we first stepped out in 2011 to plant our first church. I did know I was compelled and had the affirmation of trusted friends and mentors. My wife and I decided to submit ourselves to a church planting assessment early on and invited other men and women to evaluate our lives and desires, then speak into where there was needed growth and development. The assessment process was one of the most valuable seasons for both me and my family.
2. What hesitations (if any) did you have before you planted?
Jon: The hesitations in the planting of Union Church in 2019 was mainly around the timing and support. Would we be able to train leaders, find a location, and begin the disciple making process in the short timeline that we had set? Would there be enough support to purchase equipment, rent a facility and bring on the needed staff?
3. How much time did it take from your initial desire to plant and your actual church launch?
Jon: We began planting Union Church on July 1, 2019. One of the first steps was contacting Luke 9:23 Ministries! Matt, Andrea and the team have been very helpful many times in starting both churches and nonprofits in the Prescott area. We had our first gathering on September 29th, 2019. The timeline was accelerated due to a few unique factors.
4. Tell us a little bit about your church plant. Ex: where it is located, how old it is, etc.
Jon: Union Church is almost a year and a half old. Our heart is connecting people together in Christ and in life. Our Sunday gatherings are held at the Adult Center in Prescott Arizona. We are a mobile church and have a few Gospel Communities that are in the broader Prescott area.
5. What was your biggest challenge in planting a church?
Jon: The timing and acceleration of our church planting process presented some challenges. Also, a pandemic presented a few difficulties over the last year.
6. What surprised you the most in the church planting process?
Jon: What surprised me in this process has been the way in which God has shown His faithfulness through unexpected people. The individuals and families that have come, the support that’s been shown, and the connections that have been made have exceeded what I anticipated. Also, church planting through a pandemic was surprising.
7. What has been your favorite part of church planting?
Jon: Continuing to be a pastor with a people in my hometown is the best. To know a particular people in a particular place, while being known by these people is a gift. I hope this work lasts a lifetime.
8. Tell us something that happened during the early days of your church plant that you will never forget.
Jon: The season leading up to planting Union Church felt disorienting and like we were in a wilderness of sorts. In the first vision meeting, and subsequent launch of our weekly gatherings, there was a concrete sense that God had led us out of that particular desert and into a new stage and season of life and growth with Him that has been restorative and healing.
9. Is there anything that you wish you would have known before launching your church plant?
Jon: It would have been helpful to know that a global health crisis was around the corner and that I’d need to be a little more tech-savvy and get used to preaching to an iPhone for a bit.
10. What words of encouragement would you give to a fellow pastor who is preparing to plant a church?
Jon: One of my favorite lines comes from the book The Imperfect Pastor, by Zach Eswine,
where he says “Almost anything in life that truly matters will require you to do small, mostly overlooked things, over a long period of time with Him.”
The truth of that is seen again and again in scripture, but can be quickly lost in the hustle of church planting. We breathe the air of culture and think success is simply anything bigger and faster, when it seems God is pleased with faithfulness to him and one another. For the church planter, that is one of the main battle grounds, staying faithful to the Jesus thing in the Jesus way.
We want to extend our thanks to Jon Wolfingerfor his willingness to participate in this blog series about honest thoughts of a church planter! His church’s website, Facebook and Instagram are all linked below so please go check them out and leave Jon and Union Church some love!