What type of church are you trying to plant?

Often we are asked what the church in Portsmouth will look like. People wonder what type of music or venue we’ll use. We put little emphasis on the aesthetics and much emphasis on the purpose of a church-plant. Here’s our answer broken down:

  1. We will plant a church that seeks to reach people in all walks of life with the gospel.
    • Simple, right? But it’s not. People complicate the gospel with with preferences and predetermined ideas about who they reach, what the church looks like, how the worship is expressed, etc. We could care less what type of building we meet in. We have our own musical preferences, but it won’t hurt our feelings if our musical tastes take a back seat. We love 200 year old stone church buildings, but we’re not afraid of meeting in a rented facility for years. What we are very passionate about is the gospel. Is it being proclaimed in the music, the reading, the preaching, the lives of the leaders?
    •  Jesus reached people in all walks of life. That’s our goal: to build a community of believers that is diverse culturally, economically and generationally. We desire to establish a community of radical followers of Jesus that are being conformed to His image.
  2. It’s our desire to plant a culturally diverse church, that understands when we all give a little (culturally and regarding our comfort zones), we gain a lot.
    • Our outreach will be deliberate and focused on all demographics.
    • This will also require diversity in leadership. I am not trying to be the white boy pastor that tells black folks how to improve (whiten) their lives. I need leadership that is as diverse as the community itself. 
    • This will look different than the average suburban anglo church where most young caucasians would feel comfortable. There will be tension as cultures and stereotypes clash, but it’ll be worth it.
  3. We have audacious dreams of supporting local charities and ministries in the region.
    • We want to support the Southeast Foodbank of Virginia and CHKD in a big way financially. We want to put our money where our mouth is and be known as a church that’s generous in it’s community.
    • We will partner with charities like EDMARC, Hope Charitable Services, and the local Union Mission. Volunteering and partnering with local ministries will allow us to show them we aren’t coming here to attempt to change a city by ourselves. There’s good work on the ground already and we’re here to support those efforts.
  4. We hope to influence students.
    • We plan to start college campus outreach within 2 years of launching.
    • College campuses are the most diverse sections of most cities.
    • Our goal is a Bible study on campus at the ODU tri-cities campus in Portsmouth, TCC campus in Portsmouth and ODU main campus in Norfolk.
    • We will mentor students into dynamic, gospel-centered business and culture leaders.
  5. We desire to serve.
    • We hope to equip our people to serve inside our community, as well as around the world.
    • We want to be a church that supports missions financially by making big sacrifices.
    • We want to partner with international missionaries to take the gospel around the world.

How do you do all that?

 

I know, “…great set of dreams Marc, but sounds unlikely at best.” This won’t take place over night. We have benchmarks we hope to meet (self-supporting in 5 years, college campus ministry in 2 years, launch a new church plant within 7 years, etc), but we are dedicated to these goals. Here’s what we’re doing right now:


  • We’re trusting God. He’s already lining up a young, diverse crew to help us launch. The majority of people desiring to plant with us are young, single dudes. That’s the least likely bunch to find at church.
  • We’re meeting with local leaders. I’ve been meeting with local pastors of many denominations and backgrounds. I’m seeking their advice and prayer support. We know we don’t have the answers. We just have the opportunity to serve and give. That’s what we want to do.
  • We’re raising up financial and prayer partners. We’re currently fundraising for a few specific things: church plant expenses, and launch costs. We’re about 20% of the way to our goal of $2500/month for expenses (rental facility, insurance, outreach). We’ve raised about 22% toward our launch costs goal of $50,000.

PRAY PRAY PRAY for us.

click here to partner with us financially

prayer requests November 2014

Please pray with us for a few specific requests:


 

  • We have been meeting with potential launch team members over the past few months. Pray for the right team, not the biggest.
  • Rec centers, a former synagogue, a skating rink, and a local sports hall of fame… Just a few of the possible launch locations we’ve inspected and are considering.
  • We have some meetings coming up with local pastors and leaders in the community. We are praying that we can learn from their experience, as well as partner with them in many ways over the next few years.
  • We are scheduling services for spring 2015. Pray we partner with the right churches and individuals.
  • Jim Yates (member at CrossPointe) just had major heart surgery and is recovering. He’s a real servant and hates missing church.
  • Greg Willis (CrossPointe member) is awaiting a transplant and could really use your prayers.

 

Thanks for praying with us for Portsmouth!

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.