December 18, 2017

Helping Church Planters

Scott and Becky Swinton

We moved here to the San Francisco Bay Area at the end of 2001 because the Lord had given us a burden to help a small but dynamic church in Pleasant Hill, California. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, which only an omnipotent God could have orchestrated, we were introduced to Cornerstone Baptist Church. Correspondence and an obligatory survey trip ensued, during which the Lord unmistakably knit our hearts with the pastor and the church and, in direct answer to our prayer, convinced us of our place here. Our Lord’s amazing providence made it obvious that we were in the center of His will and gave us a peace that neither of us can explain, in spite of the pain of leaving family and familiarity behind.

We left for California with only our earthly possessions, some leads for jobs, and the prayer support of our friends and family. Two of our friends spent half of their honeymoon helping us move, and two more who were relocating to California at the same time shared our moving truck. Was moving across the country difficult? Of course it was. The third night of our trip we found out that our new apartment was still occupied and that we would have nowhere to unload our belongings. It was also that night that we realized (in Arizona) that the honeymooners’ luggage was still sitting in the hotel parking lot in Texas. We had one couple realizing that they were to be alone in southern California the next day, us realizing that when we arrived at our destination in northern California we would have no place to live, and the other couple with no deodorant. Was that evening difficult? Absolutely. But Philippians 4:19 began to become real to us, and the wonderful comfort of our Heavenly Father and the peace gained by corporately bringing our needs before Him was more than sufficient to meet our needs.

Naturally, we all had nothing to worry about because God took care of everything in His perfect time and way. In fact, He had begun preparing for our apartment “disaster” way back in July. During our survey trip we met a young Christian couple who graciously offered to house us if we were to need it when we moved. We never imagined that we would have to take them up on their offer, but we did, and we saw God’s hand even in that. Since then, that couple and their small son have joined and become a vital part of our church.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced since our move is the change in culture. In Greenville, S.C., where we came from, everyone is a “Christian.” In the Bay Area, the best time to drive the highways is on Sunday morning! The attitude toward Christ in our area is largely indifferent or even hostile, which makes church growth—both numerically and spiritually—a little more complicated. So we have plenty of opportunity to serve in our church and to keep our pastor and his family encouraged. Our ministries right now include teaching Sunday school for all the children, nursery work, leading our Discipleship Group, and music.

Innumerable obstacles in a church planter’s path require divine patience and confidence in the sovereignty of God. One obstacle is not having a building of our own in which to meet. Our church is praying and looking forward to the day when we see God provide us with a building. For now, though, several people in the church will continue to transport, put up, and tear down everything we need for each service. Another obstacle in a church-planting situation is not having enough qualified or willing people to teach. Our children’s Sunday school class consists of nearly every age from 3 to 9. Plus, the nursery for a toddler and a baby is in the same room. Making sure that everyone gets what he needs can be difficult. One other obstacle we face is very little solid musical training in our church. Our piano player is an unsaved teenage girl whom we hire to accompany the Sunday morning services. We pray constantly for her salvation, knowing that the Lord has intentionally placed her in our church. However, we cannot help but pray that God will send someone here soon whose playing is filled with the Holy Spirit and who can minister in music in all of our services.

Regardless of any obstacles we face, we cannot imagine giving this up and returning to the comforts of “home.” The comfort that we had feared losing before has been replaced with a new comfort of knowing God can and most certainly will provide for all of our needs. Our only desire is to move forward with what God has given us to do and continue to see what He can and will do here in California, in our church, and in our own lives.

Almost exactly a year since our move, we both look back and marvel at the unmistakably clear leading of the Holy Spirit, the peace we have been given to do His will, and the constant provision for our needs. In that time we have been privileged to see our church grow from about twenty to more than fifty in attendance on Sunday mornings. We have also started a couple of weekly Bible studies in church members’ homes. It is rewarding to watch as the Lord answers our prayers and to see how the longstanding prayers of our pastor have begun to be answered.

Biographical information from original article: Scott and Becky Swinton are new members of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Pleasant Hill, California. Scott grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, as a member of Faith Baptist Church.

(Originally published in FrontLine • January/February 2003. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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