Hello! I hope this post is one among many you read from other people like me whom God has gripped with a dream for starting new churches across the United States and across the globe. My vision for God’s glory amidst the hurt of Chicago’s South Side and West Side is not unique. I’m just one guy among an army of planters, pastors, and other believers just like you who want to see Jesus high and lifted up wherever people are dying without Him, particularly in our nation’s cities.
Some of you have been following this dream as I’ve shared it over the past 3 years; for others, this is your first glimpse, and so I’ll provide here a little bit of background.
What ultimately makes my story unique is our relationship with one another. You received a link to this site either because you have previously expressed an interest in our work or a friend has suggested that you would be interested due to past interaction with Elizabeth and me.
After living and serving in the northwest side of Chicago as a student and then bi-vocational associate pastor for 9 years, Elizabeth and I recently relocated to Raleigh, NC, to enroll in a church planting residency program (similar to an internship) under the leadership of Pastor Sean Cordell at Treasuring Christ Church. The residency will give us the mentoring and assessment of our strengths & weaknesses to propel us back to Chicago within the next 1-2 years to start a new church there. This decision to relocate to North Carolina and dive more into Gospel work has brought significant transitions, including the need to drop my status as a full-time employee with my company to part-time and begin relying on supplemental financial support from friends and family members.
Why are we headed for Chicago, and why the South Side or West Side? Because ever since I was a kid, God has beat a drum in my heart for spreading the grace of His Gospel to the least reached corners of the globe where access to the Word of God was limited. But within the past six years, He simultaneously has been stirring me to the predicament of the Gospel wasteland of the northern United States, and He’s shown me how our nation’s cities are teeming with millions of unbelievers, thousands of cultures, and very complex, deep-rooted hurt, while His Church is disproportionately absent.
The Chicago South Side and West Side neighborhoods in particular possess a low volume of the good news of Jesus, and more bad news than the newspapers can print. As one reporter recently wrote of a West Side neighborhood, “the sound of gunfire has become part of the neighborhood’s soundtrack.” Although I’m not naïve enough to believe that my mere presence in a troubled Chicago neighborhood will turn the tide of violence or gang activity, I do believe that the more churches exist in those environments, and the more the Gospel is spread there, the more the communities will flourish, and the more God will show off his power of reconciliation, hope, peace, and forgiveness of sin. These neighborhoods are starving for God’s grace. I can’t turn off the desperate desire to be there, sharing in this great work by starting one church that will one day, I pray, start many churches.
When are we going? The official church planting residency started September 9, and we will continue here in Raleigh for about a year. After this time of preparation, we’ll be returning to Chicago to lay the groundwork for the new church. Elizabeth and I have been involved lately in local opportunities at Treasuring Christ Church to pursue the joy of loving people with Gospel grace. We have accepted the leadership of a small group of believers who now meet weekly in our home. We are spending our time eating together each week, learning to be a single family (made up of various families) on mission, and “Gospeling” one another throughout the week. I have also made several connections with people in our local community who have sought the church out for financial assistance. One unbelieving homeless man in particular is meeting with me weekly to discuss ways to budget his finances, and I’ve been able to share the Gospel with him in every conversation. Elizabeth and I are also continuing to lead a weekly Bible study in the home of a neighbor whom we met during an evangelistic event, and her sister has begun attending the study as well.
We spent a little over a week in Chicago in July, and attended the Legacy Conference. We heard some excellent teaching on discipleship and church planting in the urban context, and had our hearts even more energized for the work ahead. Some of our African American brothers we met at Legacy pleaded with us to not give up on the dream of multicultural, racially reconciled, Gospel-centered churches in the South or West Side. I plan to travel back to Chicago for a short trip in late September to attend a forum, Planting in a Violent City.
How can you help us? Many of you have already significantly assisted us with your prayer and encouragement. We are grateful for this, and urge you to continue. Due to the transition at my job from full-time to part-time status for the sake of engaging my time in the residency, we are now also in need of financial support. If God has blessed you with means beyond supporting your own local church, would you consider partnering with us?
How much financial support do we need? Right now, the ultimate goal is to supplement my part-time salary for 2 years to support a family of four. In my last letter, I shared how the expenses of health insurance and supplemental income would total $2,000 to $2,500 per month. But now I have incredible news to share. Due to further conversations with my employer, I will be able to work additional hours to still qualify for health insurance at least for the first year, and the extra income will lower my support needs to only $700 per month! God is overwhelmingly faithful! Any support we receive above and beyond this amount will be allocated to the future expenses of the new church plant. If you are able to support us in this way, please use the contact form at the bottom of this post to submit your mailing address for receiving further giving details by postal mail. Know that we are sincerely grateful for the freedom to prepare and train you are enabling with your gift.
How can you pray? Pray for daily renewal in the Gospel for ourselves as we move forward into the formal residency program. Pray also for deeper humility, and continued mindfulness to one another’s needs within our family. Finally, pray for sovereign connections to likeminded brothers and sisters who would share a desire to minister alongside of us.
“Thank you,” doesn’t carry enough weight to express our gratitude for all of you. Your prayer, phone calls, text messages, and face-to-face encouragement are invaluable. We are excited to be partners with you in God’s activity of growing His Church!
Craig, Elizabeth, Elijah, and Anna