One of the key elements of Church United is changing the narrative of the Church. We want the churches of our community to be known more for what they are for rather than what they are against. Unity for the sake of Kingdom mission changes everything — walls come down, new friendships are formed, and unlikely partnerships are born.
Layton Germann, lead church planter and pastor of Celebration Church, discovered this as he and his wife moved to South Florida last November to start a new church in Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale High School was the dream location for Layton and his launch team. It was the first place they went and the first “no” they received. Three more “no’s” later, they had all but given up on the dream of meeting there. Over the course of the next three months, Layton was told “no” over 400 times as he and his team knocked on door after door, venue after venue searching for a place for Celebration Church to call home. But all of that was about to change.
Layton recounted recently, “My wife and I were at a local coffee shop, and we happened to overhear the name of Fort Lauderdale High School mentioned over and over again in a conversation behind us. Seeing that we’re church planters and our dream location was Fort Lauderdale High School, our ears perked up, and we listened in. We knew this had to be God and ended up literally interrupting the conversation. We met a local pastor named Scott Carson from Rio Vista Community Church who was warm and welcoming and invited us to their regional Church United gathering. He listened as we shared our story and desire to see our church meet at the school he was talking about. We knew that after all of these “no’s” God was opening up a door for us to partner with another church, and to partner with a school, to better Fort Lauderdale.”
Scott, whose church happened to have a close partnership with Fort Lauderdale High, agreed to make a phone call on Layton’s behalf and a “no” finally became a “yes.” However, the story doesn’t stop here.
Moving beyond differences
Layton and Scott come from different traditions and denominational backgrounds; however, when asked what promoted a phone call on behalf of a pastor he had just met, Scott replied, “After hearing Layton’s heart, I knew he shared a belief that the mission of the Church was to bring renewal to a city — to a community — and in this case a local school. In a previous meeting with the principal, I knew that one of her dream projects was to see her auditorium renovated. I shared that need with Layton, and he said that would be something their church would love to help with.”
In Layton’s words, “In my history of church it is very rare for another church to help another church, especially one of a different denomination and a different background. However, because of Rio Vista and their partnership with us, we have gotten in the door at Fort Lauderdale High, have met with their principal, and have talked about how we are not just looking for a lease but a partnership. We want to serve this community and serve this school. I’m so excited that we have been extended an invitation from Fort Lauderdale High to begin over $100,000 in renovations on their auditorium and are pending final approval from the district to launch Celebration Church there in August.
He continued, “I attribute all of this to the movement of Church United here in South Florida. These guys are reminding us that we are all on the same team even though we may have different beliefs or different approaches — at the end of the day we are all here to serve people, serve our cities and see this region spiritually, socially and culturally change. We are all on the same team. We have to serve each other and serve South Florida as a whole. Without Rio Vista and Church United we’d still be knocking on doors.
This unlikely partnership between Rio Vista Community Church, Celebration Church and Fort Lauderdale High is just one of many examples of churches connecting and collaborating together throughout our region. Unity for the sake of mission changes everything. In this case, it’s changing East Fort Lauderdale for Christ.
Edwin Copeland serves as the Director of Church United with the National Christian Foundation of South Florida where he works to unify the Church through collaboration and celebration to see faith, hope, and love spread throughout South Florida.