RENEW South Florida

Did you know that there are brand new churches popping up all around us in South Florida?  Check out Sojourn Church (sojournsouthflorida.com), Truth Point Church (truthpoint.org) and Crossway Church (crosswaychurch.net), for example. All three of these South Florida churches have sprung up in just the past couple of years. These young, vibrant congregations are on the cutting edge of what God is doing in a fresh way here in our community. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Don’t we already have plenty of churches here in South Florida?”  Consider the following quote from church leader and church planting guru, Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City:

“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else—not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes—will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting.”

Rick Hunter, Founder and Director of RENEW South Florida, has a passion for seeing new churches planted right here in South Florida. The Good News had an opportunity to sit down over a cup of coffee with Rick to hear about the vital work that RENEW is doing to support the planting and growth of new churches here in our community.

GN: What is RENEW?
RH: Renew is an organization that has one goal.  To help assist churches leaders and organizations start new churches inside Florida that are gospel-centered, city positive, reproducing, and have a holistic understanding of how the gospel motivates us.

GN: How did God call you into this ministry?
RH: Back when I was in seminary, I began to have a desire and sense that God was calling me to church planting.  After seminary, I worked in an existing church [Rio Vista Community Church in Fort Lauderdale], and that desire developed even more.  It became very clear that God was calling me to plant a church in Fort Lauderdale.  Rio believed in the vision to start a broader church that would take a slightly different approach to ministering to the people in our city.  The desire was not just to grow a big church, but to start a church that would be an asset to the city of Fort Lauderdale.  We started to develop a vision of working with other churches inter-denominationally. Churches that are defined denominationally are sometimes hesitant to work outside of their denominations. What we are able to do through RENEW enables different church leaders to be the best they can be within their denominations, but also to partner outside of their denominations to see South Florida influenced for the gospel.

GN: How do you go about practically accomplishing  your vision of bringing spiritual, social and cultural renewal to South Florida?
RH: We cast a vision for church planning in South Florida and what it looks like. The strength of RENEW’s ministry is relational ministry. People come into our community through relationships with other people. We partner with churches to identify leaders and people in the congregation that have gifts and skills.

We have a monthly RENEW group where church planting pastors and leaders gather from all over the tri-county area.  These are guys that come together from all different denominations and unite for the sake of furthering the gospel in our community.  We come together to pray for South Florida and to be resourced and equipped for church planting in the uniqueness of South Florida.

We link the guys up for peer coach consultations.  An exciting thing we are preparing to implement is a more localized and less centered approach to what we do.  We are gearing up to launch localized cohorts throughout South Florida where pastors in a specific town, city or neighborhood can connect with each other to see how their churches can work together to do ministry and really impact their immediate communities.

GN: There are a lot of churches in South Florida. Why do you think it is important that new churches be planted and existing churches be strengthened?
RH: Why new churches?  New churches are the most effective means of evangelism that we know of.   New churches are more adaptable to their communities.  They act as  R & D [research & development] centers for established churches.  They attract younger Christians.  They act as a feeder to older establishments.  You would think that churches that start new churches would lose numbers and finances because of losing people, but they actually grow.  People get excited when they see their church outreaching and mobilizing to see a greater impact.  Experts define “saturation church planting” as one church for every thousand people in a city.  Studies show that, at that ratio, everybody in a city is touched by a church positively in some way.  We are far from that in the United States, including right here in South Florida.  The average church size in America is 75 people.  Maybe we just need a lot more 75 person churches across the world instead of aiming for huge churches.  To think that the success of a church is defined by its size is a misunderstanding.  Churches need to be in areas and neighborhoods where they currently aren’t.

GN: Last month’s issue of the Good News highlighted a number of social justice issues. Do you believe the American church is succeeding in our call to be the hands and feet of Jesus?
RH: The church has missed the boat as far a social justice. When we look at the ministry of Jesus and the way He did his miracles, His ministry was not only calling people to repentance, but also a ministry of healing and restoring.  We miss His miracles if we only view them as a proof of His divinity and authority.  All of the miracles of Jesus are examples of Him restoring the creative order. He heals the blind man. He raises the dead. Jesus, through his healing, is actually restoring.  If he wanted to do something to make people really “listen” to him, he could have put on a huge show. But he didn’t’ do that.  There would have been no real purpose in that.  The purpose of Jesus’ miracles is restoration.
When Christians start to embrace the biblical understanding of social healing, it’s more than just a technique to share the message of personal salvation. It’s done from an understanding that God is working through those means. It’s a both/and not an either/or.

GN: If someone is interested in planting a church or in getting behind what RENEW is doing, how can they get involved?
RH: There are many different ways to get involved. We love to partner with existing churches or new church plants.  We love to see new churches planted.  We love to equip those called to church planting with the tools they need to be successful for the sake of the gospel.  Certainly there is a cost involved with what we do so we welcome donations.  Or, if anyone just wants to sit down and grab a cup of coffee to find out what God is doing through ministries like RENEW I would love it!

To connect with RENEW:
Emal: [email protected]
Twitter: twitter.com/_RENEW_
Facebook: facebook.com/RenewSFL
Web: renewsouthflorida.com

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