advice for Christians in college

Recently I had the opportunity to speak at Welch College. I began each message with a very simple mission statement:


My purpose these next few days is simple. I hope to encourage every student to use their unique situation (education + experience) to further the gospel in this country and around the world. Take this wonderful gift called education and use it to strategically place your life in the kingdom.
Regardless of your major, you can use your gifts to further the gospel. It will look different for each of you. For some it will mean moving around the world to reach foreign cultures for Christ. For others it may mean using your business or education degree to move into a strategic city in this country and partner with a church planting effort under way.
Don’t miss the opportunity to squeeze God-sized purpose out of your life here on earth. Forgo the assumed path of the American Dream, and devote yourself to something bigger than you. Live for more than the car, the house, the spouse and 2.5 kids.


I could have used the opportunity to really “sell” Portsmouth. I deliberately chose not to. I know the buzzwords to use when selling a city or region and it’s lifestyle to college students (coastal city, boating lifestyle, beaches 20 minutes away, downtown hipster environment, here’s a promo video that only shows our region’s highlights ). I did, however, speak with a few students one on one about their desire to attach themselves to Project Portsmouth or projects like it. One student has expressed a desire to move here, get a job and help out. Others may be open to partnering with Home Missions or International Missions in the future. I’d like to speak for a moment to college students pondering their future.

  1. Yes, we’d love for a handful of students to move here and help us reach this community. We’d absolutely embrace their involvement as we desire to start campus student ministries on the 4 college campuses in Portsmouth and Norfolk. We want to build a strong college ministry alongside this church plant.
  2. However, we aren’t the only opportunity out there. I want to encourage college kids to use their advantage (college degree) to move their influence alongside our missionaries and church planters around the world and within the US. What if every student with a general degree prayed about attaching themselves to a church plant or mission work around the world?
  3. Pray. Pray. Pray. At this point I know for a fact that I’ve talked a few people out of joining us. People generally expect me to try and sell them our plant. I do the opposite. Everyone that has contacted me about moving to Portsmouth with us gets the same line: “I’m not going to try to talk you into it. I’m going to encourage you to pray for guidance. I don’t want you to move here, get jaded after 18 months, and blame me for convincing you to do this. It has to be God that leads you here.” Let me make this clear to college students: every church planter or missionary would love to have you. We don’t turn down help. We have a knack for making God’s plan for our lives sound like God’s plan for everyones life. Make sure you talk to God about any plans you have for the future.
  4. When you don’t have a clear answer/calling, get to work where you can. In the New Testament Paul planted churches in areas he felt a specific calling or Spirit leading (Macedonia and Rome). He also chose to plant in areas of influence along the coast (starting next to his home region of Cilicia in South Galatia, moving on to Ephesus and Corinth). <great article on Paul as a planter> I believe some will receive a clear calling in life. Others will have a general desire to serve God. Right out of college I had a general desire, so I asked for advice. A professor told me “When given options in ministry, choose one and serve the best you can. If it’s not for you God will close the doors.” I joined Home Missions a few months later because it seemed like it could honor God and I was given an open door to walk through. I would encourage you to do the same. Make Christ and His kingdom your aim. Specifics and details will fall into place. Serve where you are now. Move on purpose to serve somewhere else.
  5. Realize that ministry is messy. I remember thinking I knew ministry. I can recall what I imagined it must be like. It’s awesome. I love it. However, it’s super messy. I regret to inform you that I’ve been hurt and I have hurt good people in the church. It’s an unfortunate consequence of humans being human. Be prepared to see the real side of ministry that sometimes can be tough, lonely and discouraging. Here’s where it gets better: it’s so worth it though. I’m just over 7 years in and I can’t imagine spending my life on anything else.

Our first 10 days fundraising

 

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We got off to a great start at Gateway Church in Virginia Beach, VA. Pastor Brent Patrick is a great friend, and hooked us up with a great service. It was great to see friends and family. We thoroughly enjoyed presenting the work to our home church. Casie and I have fond memories of growing up here.


The following week we flew to Nashville to visit New Hope. Corey Minter (Casie’s brother) is the lead pastor. We had a great time visiting with Corey, Rachel and our niece Claire.

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Monday through Wednesday, Marc had the opportunity to speak at the Welch student-led revival. The students put out buckets to collect spare change for a few days leading up to the revival. Can you believe they raised over $1300 for Project Portsmouth? Here is a photo of Marc and President Matt Pinson.

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Wednesday night Marc presented Project Portsmouth at 180 Church in Clarksville, TN. Chad Kivette is also a church planter with Home Missions. It was great to be at one of our church plants Wednesday night.photo-5

 

Before the service, many families gathered to eat together. It reminded me so much of CrossPointe. I was also impressed, because they had 100 people on a week night!

 

photo-4The 180 kids helped lead worship. What a blast!


God is good. We’ve already raised about 20% of our needed monthly income for church expenses (rental facility, insurance, equipment purchases, etc). We’ve raised about 6% of our total needed launch money (advertising, startup costs). The next 6-9 months will be crucial. Pray we can raise the funds necessary to plant a church. Thanks to everyone who has already partnered with us!

 

 

 

Would your church consider having us for a service?

10264060_10203956574422137_2545674728339289029_oWe get it. Not every church has room in their budget for new missionaries/church planters. That’s not what we’re asking for. Our support generally comes in 50/50 between church budgets and individual contributions. So, even if your church budget is tight, we believe some of your congregation may be willing to partner with us on an individual basis. We want to be clear: we will visit any church, any size. We’ve been in services with 8 folks before, and we’d go back. We don’t turn down opportunities to share Project Portsmouth. Even if you can’t put us n the church budget, please consider having us for a service.

Here’s how it works:


1. We come to your church and we (Casie helps me) present the Project.

2. We pass out our prayer cards (our picture and bio) as well as support cards that allow people to give monthly through Automated Giving.

3. Marc preaches a brief message. We always operate within the time allotted to us. People don’t generally support us when we make them late for lunch. :)Untitled-2

4. We greet your people in the lobby following the service offering Project Portsmouth wrist-bands (to those who sign up for newsletter) and coffee mugs (to individuals supporting us at $10/month level).

5. We mail your ministry one newsletter per month to keep you updated.


That’s it. That’s all. If your church has an opening in the Spring/Summer of 2015, please feel free to contact us directly:

Marc’s email: marcneppl@yahoo.com

Marc’s cell 757-714-2257 (feel free to text)

PS: here’s where we’ll be in 2015

January: NC, AL, and TN

February: NC, VA, CA

March: NC, VA and TN

April: OH, IN, KY

May: TN, NC

June: OK, TN, VA

July: MI, MO

August: OK, TN

Our first 3 months in Portsmouth

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Casie and I have lived in P-town for 3 months now. We will have more opportunities to learn this city as we raise support over the next 12 months. Here’s what we’ve realized already.


  1. It really is in the middle of everything. Unfortunately all 3 methods of crossing the Elizabeth River are toll bridges as of this Spring (not cool). EZ-Pass makes it easy, but we’re averaging $75/month in tolls. Sigh.
  2. The crime is real, but it’s highly concentrated. I’d feel safe walking 80% of this city by myself.
  3. The city gets a bad rap. Numerous people have questioned our choice to move here. Many assume it’s worse than it is. My neighbors are friendly and love this city. Everywhere I go I meet people who love this city and reiterate that they feel Portsmouth has a reputation that isn’t fair.
  4. The flooding can be a nightmare. This happens about 3-4 times per year because Portsmouth is less than 10 feet above sea level. Fortunately most of the city is high enough to navigate, but the low-lying areas tend to shutdown all traffic routes.
  5. We landed in the right spot. The elementary school is 1,200 feet from our front door. The soccer complex is a block away (nightly pick-up games are regular). The little league baseball fields are on the other side of the school. It’s not unusual for 1,000 people to be cheering and playing sports within 2 blocks of our home on Saturday morning.

God led us here. I didn’t know any of this when we moved here. It just happened to be a house we could afford in what seemed like a central location. God knew where to put us.

The last update from CrossPointe

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September 14 at 6pm CrossPointe FWB Church organized. About 80 people signed up to become charter members. The church is no longer under Home Missions in Nashville. This means a few things.

1. CrossPointe will no longer receive financial support from the domination

2. The church formed it’s membership and elected a pastor

3. The church is self-supporting

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We ended the service in a time of prayer and dedication. This begins a new chapter at CrossPointe Church. We’re excited and nervous at the same time. None of this would be possible without the support and prayers of hundreds of churches and thousands of people like you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you! Your partnership in this planting endeavor means the world to us. We appreciate the opportunity and privilege of being your missionaries to Suffolk, VA.

A few days ago we wrote our last CrossPointe newsletter to be mailed out next month. It’s so hard to believe what has taken place these last 7 years. It’s bittersweet writing you this last blog update concerning CrossPointe. It’s sad because we’ll miss these awesome people. It’s exciting because we’re on the verge of planting again. Look for more info coming soon about Project Portsmouth.

Marc & Casie

Big News

Over the last few months we’ve met with State and National leaders about planting a church. As of last week, we’ve been approved to plant a church in Portsmouth, VA. As you know CrossPointe will be going self-supporting in a few short weeks. We’ve enjoyed the process and training that CrossPointe has allowed us since launching in 2008. It’s been eye-opening and encouraging to see what it takes to start a church. We have already started scheduling some fundraising services for this new project in 2014. Starting January 2015, we will be on the road every weekend raising funds for this new project.

For more on why we are planting in Portsmouth click here.

Here’s what we need to do over the next 18 months in preparation:

Our salary has been raised for the past few years, but we’ll need to raise an additional $2500/month for rental facilities and church equipment expenses. The only way to accomplish this is to schedule about 100 mission services in churches around the country [hint: I'll be calling you pastors :)].

We’ll need to raise about $35,000 in reserves for church startup costs (trailer, sound equipment, portable chairs, mailers, brochures, etc). We’ll have a detailed list of items the church will need coming soon.

We are in communication with two families about moving to Portsmouth with us to get started. Pray for God’s direction.

why Portsmouth?

 

PortsmouthVAPortsmouth isn’t the fastest growing city in America, Virginia, or even the region. It isn’t a suburban utopia filled with middle class families looking for a new church to attend. It’s actually on the decline population wise. The crime rate is very high in Portsmouth (the murder rate is 4x higher than our previous city of residence). It will also be a very different scenario for us demographically. Casie and I are caucasian (I know, shocking), which will make us the minority in Portsmouth. The truth is caucasians will be the minority nationwide by 2050. Therefore, if we don’t start planting diverse churches now, we are just wasting time. The good news is Casie and I aren’t new to the city. I grew up in Virginia’s largest city, Casie grew up in Virginia’s 3rd largest city. We’ve actually missed city life, and are looking forward to being in one of the most densely populated cities in the region. It is also one of the youngest cities in our region (average age: 35.7). There are 100k people inside Portsmouth, but Portsmouth is also small geographically (less than 50 sq. miles). Over 600k people live within 10 miles of our home in Portsmouth. Each red dot on the map below indicates a church in our association.

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When I was 17, I remember coming through the downtown tunnel between Portsmouth and Norfolk on a bus filled with teenagers. We were headed home from youth camp. I remember a group of us praying, “God, help us reach these cities!” Well, we were teenagers. We didn’t know how or what to do in order to reach a community. Eleven years later, Casie and I believe we know how God wants us to reach this community.

Long term, we believe Portsmouth is a great place to start a church. It is within a 20 minute drive of most of the areas 1.6 million people. It has tons of job opportunities: shipyards, transportation, government contracting, fabrication, etc. Many people commute into Portsmouth for work, but live outside the city limits. It is a crossroads community for the region. It also falls within the golden crescent of Virginia.

crescentOf the 8 million people in Virginia, 5.5 million live within this crescent. The red dots on this map indicate churches in our state association. We must plant churches inside this crescent. Casie and I have decided to devote our live to planting churches in this crescent. If we were to plant a church in Hampton Roads Metro (Southeast region), Richmond Metro (Central), and NE Virginia/DC Metro (Northern) areas, we could have planted three churches within a 20 minute drive of 70% of Virginia’s entire population. Yes, this may take decades. Yes, it may be difficult. However, we believe it’s possible and a worthwhile investment of our lives.