Mining Grace

…the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified

Posts Tagged ‘church planting

Taking the Gospel to Exurbia

Part of church planting is studying the community to which you are going. As I’ve gotten to know Culpeper by talking to it’s people, strolling it’s sidewalks, and pouring over its demographics one word keeps coming up: exurban. What is exurban?  Wikipedia has it’s own decent definition (half way down the article).  My working definition is that an exurb is an embryonic suburb.  Suburbs have an uncanny way of metastasizing all over the American landscape. They simply sprawl.  Exurban is a town that is caught between rural-quaint and suburban-sprawled.

A good friend recommended a book to help me understand the Exurb better.  It is On Paradise Drive, by David Brooks.  I’m just getting into it on my Kindle (and wishing I owned a Kindle 2).  Here are some early quotes from Brooks.

We are living in the age of the great dispersal. As Witold Rybczynski has observed, the American population continues to decentralize faster than any other society in history.  In 1950 only 23 percent of Americans lived in suburbia, but now most do, and today’s suburbs are sprawling out faster and faster and farther and farther, so in the past few years, many exurban places have broken free from the gravitational pull of the cities and now float in a new space far beyond them.

For an example of this, just think of the suburbs around Atlanta that have now grown to have identities all their own quite separate from urban Atlanta.

Brooks goes on to explain the unique lack of a societal center as compared to every other community in America.

This suburban supernova subtly affects every place in America.  The cities and inner-ring suburbs are affected because only certain kinds of people get left behind.  Quiete often the people who stay are either the very poor, because they can’t afford to move ; or the very rich, because they can afford to stay and live well in upscale enclaves.  In the exploding exurbs, there are no centers, no recognizable borders and boundaries, and few of the conventional geographic forms — such as towns, villages, and squares — that people in older places take for granted.  Up till now in human history, people have lived around some definable place — a tribal ring, an oasis, a river junction, a port, a town square.  You could identify a certain personality type with a certain place.  There was a New York personality, an L.A. personality.  But in exurbia, each individual has his or her own polycentric nodes — the school, the church, the subdevelopments, the office park — and the relationship between those institutions is altered.

Not only is suburbia become the location of decentralized America it is also where office parks are housing the businesses that are making the advancements which are changing the face of our society.  This produces tremendous power housed in seemingly disconnected societies.  Brooks asks,

How do these bland-seeming places produce so much change, and how will they manage it?  What happens when people acculturated in these sprawling suburban zones are given the power — through the biotech firms they are now starting amid the Fuddruckers — to remake human nature?   What values will guide them?

Even from these few quotes you start to see the absolute necessity for church planting in suburban and especially exurban areas.  People are moving to the exurbs.  Businesses are moving to the exurbs.  The pieces of our decentralizing societal core are moving to the exurbs.  And so it is the privilege of the church to take the gospel to the exurbs.

This is one of the many reasons that I’m excited about the new work I’m a part of in Culpeper, VA.  I get to be a missionary to this new America.  I want to see Jesus glorified in the Exurbs.  What a privilege.


Written by Joe Holland

February 12, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Posted in haste

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The Need for Church Planting: Some Stats

One of the misconceptions I had about church planting before I became a church planter was that North America was already evangelized.  The truth is that the American church has never kept up with population growth and is very much a mission field.  To prove the point here are two different statistics from Ed Stetzer’s excellent book, Planting Missional Churches.

The church-to-population ratio based on statistics form the U.S. Census:

  • In 1900, there were 28 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
  • In 1950, there were 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
  • In 2000, there were 12 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
  • In 2004, there were 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans.

George Hunter’s research concludes that,

  • There are 120 million secular undiscipled people in the United States.
  • The U.S. is the largest mission field in the Western hemisphere.
  • The U.S. is the fifth largest mission field on earth.

These startling statistics point only in one direction.  If we want people to hear the gospel then we must plant churches in the United States.

Written by Joe Holland

February 9, 2009 at 3:03 pm

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Back from Orlando

I’m back from the GCA conference on church planting.  I had a great time in Orlando but am glad to be back.  All this traveling is beginning to wear on me.  Here are a few updates since my last post that you might find interesting.

  • The website for the church plant in Culpeper is now live.  Go and check it out.
  • I designed the Culpeper website with  While I was designing the site I thought I had shutdown access to it.  I discovered however that I had shutdown rather than  So if you haven’t been able to view Mining Grace for two weeks, now you know why.  Oops.
  • I just received this book and this book in the mail.  Can’t wait to dive into them both.
  • I saw some old friends and met some new ones while in Orlando.  You should check out their work.
    • Tony Giles discipled me while I was in college.  I had no idea that he was going to be at GCA.  Imagine my surprise and elation to catch up with such a dear friend.  He is laboring in Nashville with Ian Sears.
    • I got to catch up with some old friends from church planter assessment this past November.  One of whom is McKay Caston who is planting a church north of Atlanta.  Check out his work on the Dahlonega Church Plant. (facebook group)
    • James Park is another one of my assessment alumni.  We shared a room at GCA.  He is planting a church north of Los Angeles.  Check out his work on GracePoint Mission.
    • One of the great things about going to conferences is meeting new friends.  I got to spend some time with Tim Brister at GCA.  Tim is one of the guys who I know from online social networks: twitter, facebook, and blogging.  Virtual became tangible as we got together over chicken wings to discuss church planting, Puritans, and triathlons.  Check out his blog, church planting work, and church.

Those are all of my updates for now.

Written by Joe Holland

February 2, 2009 at 3:59 pm

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On the Road

We’re on the road this week.  We worshiped at Redeemer, Lynchburg this morning.  Hallie’s family attends there.  It’s a great church.  They’re about three months into their first foray as a mulit-site church.  It was really exciting to worship with them this morning.  My plan is to pattern our work in Culpeper after the Lynchburg model.

Tomorrow night we’ll be in Charlottesville for a fund raising dessert.  It will be held at Grace Community Church and will comprise people from both Grace Community and Trinity.  What makes it so profound is that Grace Community was a plant of Trinity.  So tomorrow night will be a meeting with three generations of church plants: Trinity, Grace Community, and now Culpeper Mission.  How amazing to be a part of God’s Kingdom extension throughout this portion of VA.

I keep telling people that we are claiming Jesus’ promise that when he is lifted up, all men will be drawn to him.  Our goal is to lift Jesus up, to exalt him and his work.  He accomplishes the rest.

Lift him up!

Written by Joe Holland

January 11, 2009 at 2:39 pm

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Blogging is going to look a little different over here at Mining Grace from here on out.

As you know from my announcement, my attention has turned toward church planting.  You’ll probably see a good bit more about that in terms of content.  I’ll also continue to provide my thoughts on parts of the Bible or on old creeds that interest me.  In addition to that you’ll probably also notice some more personal posts updating you on what is going on with me, my family, my ministry in Mississippi, and my preparation for church planting in Culpeper.

Another big change is that I’ve done away with comments.  Its not because I don’t love you or don’t think you have anything profound to say, its just that I don’t have time to moderate all those gems you lob in my direction.  For every helpful comment there are three that are down right goofy unhelpful.  So if you want to talk about something I’ve written please feel free to email me, friend me on facebook, or interact with me on twitter.

What has consumed my time most recently is trying to come up with a three year budget for my church plant.  That will enable me to approximate how much I need to raise from donors–churches and individuals–before we can go to the field.

People keep telling me, “It is a horrible time to ask people for money.”  My response is, “Yeah, but its never a horrible time to plant a church.”  I truly believe that God has taken the money for the Culpeper work and scattered among people who need to be involved in it.  My privilege is to find those people and invite them to invest in a work God has already planned for them.

In the end, I want to see people who don’t know Jesus come into relationship with him.  I want to see the people in Culpeper without a church find a church home where they can be encouraged and built up in grace.

For now it is the difficult work of excel sheets, donor charts, and lots of phone calls.

I’m also working on an official prospectus for the Culpeper work which I’ll link to once its done.

Keep praying for what Jesus is doing in Culpeper!

Written by Joe Holland

December 18, 2008 at 2:00 pm

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Its official.  Finally.  [sigh of relief]  I have been called to be the church planter for the Culpeper Mission Church in Culpeper, VA.  Excitement and terror are throwing a big party inside my soul right now.  I couldn’t be more excited to help the growing core group start a church for the honor of Jesus.  At the same time church planting is no walk in the park.  In fact, all the church planters I know say it is incredibly difficult.  I’ll keep you posted as things progress.

It’ll be another six months until we’re on the ground in Culpeper.  Most of that time will be spent,

  • Praying like crazy
  • Raising financial support
  • Raising prayer partners
  • Growing in my knowledge of the fundamentals of church planting
  • Preparing to leave my current church well

Needless to say, I could use prayer for my family and my ministry.

For more information on Culpeper you can check out:

Written by Joe Holland

December 8, 2008 at 3:38 pm

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Back and Exhausted

I’ve arrived back from a week in Atlanta, GA.  Hallie and I spent the week at our denomination’s church planter assessment.  How should I describe the week?  It was intense.  It was at times fun.  We made some new friends. We had our known strengths and weaknesses confirmed and found some of each we didn’t know about.  It was a time that our relationship with the Lord was strengthened.  We were forced again to admit, “Jesus, it is about you, your strength, your kingdom and your glory, not about Joe and Hallie and theirs.”

Where does that leave us now?  Well, we’ve never been more excited about being involved in extending Jesus’ kingdom through starting new churches.  In addition to that, we received the assessment of “recommended for church planting.”  That is a humbling and scary thing.  To tell you the truth, I still haven’t grasped the full significance of those four confirming words.  Beyond that, we are praying and seeking the Lord’s guidance.

If you think about it, pray for us.  And if you’re excited about church planting too, let me know.

Written by Joe Holland

November 17, 2008 at 3:04 pm

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