How did you know you were supposed to plant this church?
God told me to. I fought it hard and was pretty certain that I was hearing God wrong. But His call was clear and His confirmation was compelling. When I first knew what I was hearing Him say, I spoke to one of my mentors about it and said an emphatic, "No!" He encouraged me to pray about it and for a long time I refused to do so. My reasoning? As long as I didn't ask God a direct question, He wouldn't give me a direct answer and I was running from this responsibility big time.
Was this a difficult choice to make?
Yes and no. Yes - Because I had worked so closely with pastors I knew firsthand the full scope of their call. It was very hard for me to believe and then to accept that God would call me (this little Muslim girl from the West Side of Chicago) to this monumental and awesome task.
No, because once I did pray about it and knew with certainty that this was what God had for my life, the decision was no longer mine. His Will always has its way.
We all know when we desire to do the things of God, the devil gets busy to try and discourage us, or stop us, how did you handle any difficulties?
Let me tell you, when I finally said yes the devil got BUSY! Men and women who have known me and worked with me and prayed with me and praised me all of my saved life, all of my ministry suddenly either wouldn't speak to me at all or said cruel things about me and my ministry. Some, who knew and were in prayerful agreement with the church plant, quickly changed their tunes when others began to speak against the church. Worse still, some praised me to my face and rip me and the church to shreds behind my back.
I knew it was coming and I purposed in my mind early on that (1) God had not made a mistake in His purpose for me - Period. (2) I would handle all opposition, all demeaning comments, all roadblocks, all the moves of the enemies with grace and class. (3) I never, ever let anyone see me sweat.
What steps did you have to take to get the church opened? And how long was the process?
The process was about two years long from hearing God's voice to the opening service.
I am a huge proponent of reading. Books are the most economical, most easily accessible form of education available. I read every book I could get my hands on about God's will, church planting, leadership, church growth and prayer.
I set up a network of coaches. These men and women (some local, some all over the country) have been an unbelievable source of strength and advice. All are Senior Pastors, some are monumental in the COG Movement, and some are former church planters. Together they supply me with a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that is invaluable. Every church planter should have a team of coaches and support.
I attended conferences specifically for church planters and surrounded myself with people who have successfully planted churches.
I shared my vision and built my team carefully using discretion and prayer. I searched for and selected a facility. I prayed a lot.
Who helped you or inspired you in this endeavor?
God. The coaches mentioned above. My Senior Pastor. My family (husband and four children). CMA - the Church Multiplication Association. Dr. Ron Fowler. Bishop C Milton Grannum. Far too many people to list.
Now that the church has been open for a while, what things have you seen that encourages you about the work? What do you hope to accomplish?
The genuine interest in a different way of doing church. God's Word is unchanging, but the methodology that we use to reach His people does have to change with the times. The slow but steady acceptance of The Grace Place has been very encouraging. My family (mother and siblings) acceptance of the church is an amazing source of encouragement to me. The most encouraging thing, hands down, is the look of the face of someone in the congregation when the Word 'clicks' for them. Way cool.
What is it that the body of Christ can do to help you in this mission?
The extended Body of Christ can help me in this mission in simple ways. Be accepting of my role as Lead Pastor. Be accepting of my congregation. Be willing to share resources. If none of those things are possible, the next best thing to do is to just let us be - just let us be whom God called us to be and pray for us that His Will be done - that's my prayer for the Body of Christ worldwide. Period.
We often think of missions as going over seas, but what would you tell someone about reaching the lost "in their own backyard" or the mission being where God plants them?
I firmly believe that the church does have to be missional, but, yes, I think that has to start at 'home'. Look around you and see what needs there are in your community. Meet the real, day-to-day felt needs of God's people rather than giving them what you think they need. If you ask people, they'll tell you and if you pay attention to them, they'll show you.
Be original too but don't reinvent the wheel. For instance when we do our back to school drive, rather than handing out a back pack with all purpose school supplies, The Grace Place will invite parents and students to bring in their school supply list and then we'll purchase the items on that list. We'll also extend back to school time to our local community college and buy college text books for selected students. Often that added cost is prohibitive for many. Also, we might not cut grass but we will paint trim, or install new windows or give a single mom a day off from mommy-ing, or a married couple a chance to have a date night.
You mention that reading was a key instrument that you used to help you, what books would you recommend for someone interested in church planting? As well as what books would you recommend to use even to help one in their devotional life? We know the Bible is key, so what other books would you recommend?
Whew! I'd recommend any and every thing written by John Maxwell but especially Talent Is Never Enough, The 360 Degree Leader and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
Any and every thing by Chuck Swindoll. Brilliant!
Any and every thing by Steve Sjogren. Good. good stuff.
The Big Idea by Dave Ferguson. Simply wonderful. Common sense on paper.
Unchristian by Dave Kinnaman. A good look at what the past and current generation thinks about church and how we can help shape that view and best meet those needs.
Planting Fast Growing Churches by Stephen Gray.
Transforming Church by Kevin Ford. Courageous reading for courageous pastros.
Shaped by God's Heart by Milfred Manitrea. Good reading about the mission of the church.
Did I Get Out Of Bed For This? by Dave Edwards. Encouraging and humorous.
Ten Most Common Mistakes Made By New Church Starts by Griffith & Easum. I'm a firm believer in learning from other peoples mistake, so as not to repeat them.
You mentioned that your family has accepted the Grace Place and that has been encouraging for you, what specifically do you think drew your family to the church?
I think they came to support me and in the process of that, are opening up to the Word of God and its effect on their lives. The reason anyone comes to church is not as important to me as the fact that they come and that they keep coming and let God lead them to change their lives.
You mentioned that the body of Christ can help in several ways, sharing resources, acceptance of the body of believers there at Grace Place and your role as her pastor. As a minister what resources specifically could I lend to you to help your work at Grace Place? What about a lay leader, or a believer that simply wants to see you succeed in this mission, what specific things can we do to help?
Pray, pray, pray! Then visit, encourage and invite others to visit, sow a seed.
I love your ideas regarding meeting the needs of people, such as filling the children's list for back to school. This shows a clear look at where people are, why do you think this is important for a pastor and/or church to understand?
Decide whether its more important for you to help than it is for someone to be helped. Too often churches and even people in every day life help in ways that don't really help. Rather than give people what you perceive their need to be, ask them, or better yet pay attention to them, and give them what they actually need.
As a new church, what are some of your methods to developing leaders, ministers, etc.? And do you think it is important to develop and train leaders?
One of the most asked questions in the world is, what on earth am I here for? People are looking for ways to serve. It's important that we develop leaders in two directions. Leading out - finding what the Body of Christ needs and being willing to meet that need. and Leading in - finding out what God's purpose is for you and taking the lead in getting the training needed to fulfill that purpose.
You mentioned one of the most important things is to see when the word clicks for someone, why do you feel this is so important?
A sermon is just a lecture until it moves in someone's soul. When the message reverberates in a person for the first time and moves them to change their lives - there is no more important moment in life for that individual or for that pastor or leader who lead them to see the absolute need for Christ.
While we cannot predict where we will be in the next year or two, what is your vision for The Grace Place for the next year or two?
I pray that God will lead us right to where He wants us to be. That might be in a 2,000 seat church ministering all around the world. It might be in a 100 seat rented facility meeting the needs of our community. In two years I hope we are meeting needs physically, emotionally, spiritually, even financially as needed in the live of God's people. In two years I want the GP to be a felt presence and a place where real people encounter a very real God.
I forgot to ask this first, but what did you chose the name the Grace Place for the church?
I wanted people to understand that this new church is a place of acceptance and compassion. None of us are perfect or worthy or deserving of the favor of God but we're all recipients of His love and grace. I chose the name The Grace Place because all of us are hanging on by the grace of God. "There but for the grace of God, goes I."
In closing, I am thankful for Pastor Turner's time and my prayers are that God continues to bless.