Written By Todd Humbert
"Why does Athens need another church?" It’s a common question and a good one. I often get asked this from friends and other community members when they find out that we are in the area planning to begin a new church. Honestly, just a few years back I wasn't entirely sure how to answer this when God had laid this on our hearts through our pastor at that time. We just knew people needed Jesus in Athens, everywhere.
Michelle and I began to pray. God began to reveal more of His plan. He brought us to Public Church, which was Candies Creek City Church at that time. We fell in love with the people, community groups and the culture of the church. We hadn’t quite grasped how to engage the culture in a way that made gatherings relevant and approachable. Public Church gave us a vision for that.
As we began to pray, God kept allowing us to cross paths with others who were interested in the same work. One person here. Another family there. Pretty soon what started out as just my little family has now turned into a group of nearly 40 people. Isn’t that amazing?! God is so faithful.
Since this past summer (2017) the church plant has started three different community groups meeting regularly, and our Thursday night community group has run out of parking space. We need to replicate leaders! So what has God done? He brought us a couple of families who have experience leading ladies/moms, children, community groups, and even helping in the band. This intimate, authentic setting is important, I believe, for effective discipleship and after all Jesus’ mission for the church is to make Jesus followers.
Besides in-home Bible studies, our Athens Church Plant Team has had two ministry events, a bonfire and a night of prayer and worship, both of which were well attended. We even had new people commit to joining us at both events. From my perspective it was amazing to see our team come together aligned with common goals, everyone using their particular gifts! These events hopefully will turn into monthly gatherings starting the month of January.
I am amazed at how God is accomplishing all of this!
There are a couple families that moved to Athens in faith and God has provided jobs and homes for them. It’s funny that Jesus says not to worry about those kinds of things (Matthew 6) but that’s exactly what I’ve worried about for these families. Ouch! Yet, He never proves to be unfaithful.
So why does Athens need a new church? First and foremost, it needs one because God said so. Ha! (Sounds like a parental trump card.) The Athens team all feel as if we have a “collective calling” to the work here. It is evident that God has joined our hearts and lives together to make friends in Athens and introduce people to Jesus. Even in the buckle of the Bible belt, according to citydata.com, 25% of residents in this area claim no religious affiliation. There’s plenty of friends to make and plenty of work to do.
Additionally, it is my conviction that there are plenty of Jesus-followers that are not using the talents, abilities, resources, and spiritual gifts that God has given them to contribute to His work in Athens and the world. A new church plant means “all hands on deck”, and I love watching people grow passionately in love with Jesus as they see Him developing the gifts that He has given them.
Last, Athens needs a new church because the world needs Jesus. Athens is not the goal, the nations are, and God is clear in the Bible that the Jesus-movement spreads through multiplication, “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). We want God to use Athens as a launching point for spreading the saving message of Jesus around the globe.
I can’t wait to see how God continues to show Himself faithful.