By Daryl McCready
Growing from a church plant with 15 adults to an average weekly attendance of 320 has been one of the most amazing journeys I have ever experienced. For those who are not familiar with SonRise, we launched in October 2002 as a church plant out of Berlin First Church with 13 adults, my wife and me. We experienced amazing growth and witnessed many God-sized miracles along the way. We are now almost seven years old and it is amazing to see all that God has done. We have shared in the decision of more than 300 people surrendering their lives to Jesus. We have baptized 244 people in baptisteries, pools and the ocean. We have purchased 11 acres of land with an existing small church facility, but are still worshipping in our local high school because of our size. We have thriving ministries for all ages and are evidencing life transformation in many lives.
All of this is wonderful, yet the most exciting fruit of our ministry is undoubtedly our daughter churches, along with the partner churches we support. Early in our development we felt the call of God to kingdom expansion through church planting.
Being a church plant ourselves and having benefited by the amazing support of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) and other churches, we know firsthand the amazing potential church planting has to impact a community for Christ. As result, we committed to plant a church within the first three years of our church’s existence. We grew quickly to just under 200 a week in one year. We then leveled off there for the next year and a half, mostly because God was developing us and preparing us for the next step in His plan. Our leadership and I matured a great deal during that time. I must admit I needed to grow then and still do. But as the congregation celebrated our third anniversary, we began to really look at how to move to the next level as a church.
I have always believed that God builds His church and our part is simply managing what He gives us. So I began to feel as though there was something we needed to do to ready ourselves for the next step. It was then I realized that we were quickly approaching the deadline of our vision and commitment to plant a church within our first three years. As a result, we began the process of seeking out a planter and praying about God’s direction in the process. Our leadership committed to release anyone who felt called to go, targeting a community halfway between our location and Salisbury, MD.
Next, we began to pray about how to pay for this. I really wanted to lead our church to invest in new work more than just to support it “in theory.” Yet, the reality was we were averaging about 180 a week and while God was truly providing everything we needed, there was not an abundance of resources beyond what was necessary to meet our own ministry needs.
So, we began to pray. A short time later, we were contacted by the BCM/D and invited to participate in an application process for a New Church Development Grant. Part of the application process was to develop a plan to reach beyond 250 in attendance. To achieve this, the number one strategy we listed was to plant a church. I remember being asked during the interview and presentation of our strategy, “What if you don’t receive this grant?” My response was we would do it anyway. I believed then, just as I believe now, that faith is not about knowing how, but more importantly, knowing Who. What I mean is I really have never felt as though I knew how we could accomplish most of the vision God has given me; I just knew God was calling us to do it. As a matter of fact, I would honestly have to say that often it is very scary following the Master. Knowing my own weaknesses and the hugeness of His plan, I am often intimidated by the call. However, He has reminded me again and again that I need not know how, I only need to know Him and trust He will provide everything when it is needed. He WILL accomplish His will through my life.
God blessed us that year and we received that New Church Development Grant. Four-fifths of that money we designated immediately for use with our first church plant. Soon after that we were led to potential planters, John and Kim Coleman. We met with them and interviewed them after they had completed the church planter assessment process. Immediately we felt led to call them to come and plant with us.
The Coleman family arrived in December 2005. That quarter, our average weekly attendance was 197. We called the entire church to a time of fasting and prayer to seek God’s call on our lives. During the next month, in January 2006, our average weekly attendance grew to 243! Consequently, we released all who felt the call to go and be a part of this new church start; the Colemans launched the Church @ the Gathering Tree with about 30-35 of our people who went with them. SonRise, in the meantime, has never gone below that January attendance number again! While our average for the year 2005 was 246, the relationship with the Gathering Tree became very sweet. We shared in baptism services together for the first couple of years. We did events together, sermon series together and counted it a privilege to celebrate each other’s victories together.
And the story continues. In May of 2007 both of these, our churches, partnered with three other churches and the Eastern Association to start Nuevo Amanecer. Nuevo is our Hispanic church plant, led by Pastor Alexis Vides and his wife, Dina. Then in early 2008, I agreed to coach Pastor Dan Hyun and partner with his new plant called The Village, which launched in Baltimore in September of that year. Since then we have partnered with two other church plants, as well, providing support and resources as God leads. We are also currently talking with two church planters of potential new church plants and are prayerfully seeking God’s leading in our role there.
Our vision is to support, assist or partner with others in the starting of one or two new churches a year. How can we do that? I have no clue! It will never happen apart from His power and provision. But for me the lesson is simple. I manage whatever part of God’s Kingdom He chooses to entrust to my care. It is His, not mine. My responsibility is to handle His things well.
The desire of our heart is to be a part of a movement of Kingdom expansion that changes the world! We are always looking for partners in “the Master’s Kingdom Expansion Plan.” If you are interested in getting involved in church planting, want to lead your church to partner or parent a church plant or just want to ask some questions about our experiences and vision, feel free to contact me. I love to talk about it! It is what God has called me to do until He takes me home.
Daryl McCready is the founding planter/pastor of SonRise Church in Berlin, Md. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (410) 629-1901.