LAUNCH TEAM FAQ

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. People ask, “what’s this launch team?” Others ask, “how does your launch team get together?” Here are some answers to questions we get asked a lot.


Q.What’s a launch team member?

A. A launch team member is an individual or family that’s decided to help us launch the church. They’ve committed to attending the first 90 days of our church plant when it launches. 

Q. What do launch members do before the church launches?

A. They attend regular planning meetings and will be involved in outreach and community service more and more as launch day approaches. 

Q. What’s expected of a launch team member?

A. We compel every launch team member to be involved in 1) prayer 2) serving 3) giving 4) Bible-study and 5) eventually small groups as we approach the launch.

Q. What do I get if I join the launch team?

A. 100 cool points redeemable wherever cool points are sold.

Q. Who can be a launch team member?

A. Literally anyone willing to commit to this endeavor. We don’t have a certain type of individual we’re looking for. This isn’t for everyone, but it’s for someone. That someone might just be you.

Q. What’s your timeline?

A. We plan to launch winter 2015/2016. For a more in-depth look at our timing checkout our detailed timeline.

Q. Where does the launch team meet?

A. It depends. We always meet in Portsmouth. We started meeting in our home, but that’s becoming more difficult as the team grows.

Q. How do I join the launch team?

A. Contact Marc (marcneppl@gmail.com or 757-714-2257). He’ll meet you for lunch, coffee or something informal to clue you in on the vision, plan and values of the church plant. Seriously, when’s the last time you were part of something bigger than yourself?

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OUR TIMELINE

It’s Spring 2015! Yay for warm weather. Currently we’re meeting once every few weeks with a growing launch team. Here’s our long term approach:

Spring-Summer 2015

  • Build launch team to 20 adults (currently 12).
  • Kevin and Beth move to Portsmouth
  • Begin volunteering with local charities

Fall 2015 

  • Build launch team to 30 adults
  • Launch weekly Bible studies/worship experiences (non-Sunday)
  • Launch two large campaigns to raise awareness/money for local charities
  • Announce Sunday services launch date
  • Begin advertising/inviting to Launch Sunday

Winter 2015/2016

  • Enlist/train kids ministry volunteers
  • Launch Sunday morning services
  • Form weekly small groups on both sides of the Elizabeth
  • Begin regular financial support of local charities

Currently we’re raising funds to make this possible. Pray for the launch team. This is the most critical piece to this puzzle.

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

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 3 months in Portsmouth

portsmouth_va

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.

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.

populations

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.

 

5 great books on church planting

church planting booksI never dreamed I’d be a church planter 10 years ago, but it’s what I’ve done for the last 6 years. I’ve learned a lot from just making mistakes and adjusting expectations, but these books definitely helped along the way. If you are considering planting a church or knee deep in the battle, I recommend you consider reading these 5 books.

The American Church in Crisis by David T. Olson- Based on research from 200,000 churches, this informative read will help you understand why we need healthy churches to be planted. It will also highlight the areas most in need of churches. It is very data-driven, but will draw your interest if church planting/church structure interests you at all. Click here to buy it on Amazon.com.

Innovate Church by Jonathan Falwell-  Falwell and most of the staff at Thomas Road Baptist Church lead you through the changing church culture and how it has adjusted the methods of church planting.  With incredible insight from multiple angles, the writers help you understand the practical needs of a church plant relating to leadership, music, preaching, small groups, etc. This one book has the insight of numerous authors. Click here to buy it on Amazon.com.

Fusion by Nelson Searcy- Searcy planted Journey Church in New York City in 2002. Today the church has grown to a multi-campus 1,000+ church. He also has worked at Saddleback with Rick Warren. He has the experience and insight when it comes to planting in an urban environment. Fusion is a book designed to help you connect visitors into the church/church plant. At only 181 pages, it is short, but full of practical information. Click here to buy it on Amazon.com

Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them by Thom Rainer- If we want to reach them, we need to know what they’re thinking. Thom has polled thousands of unchurched americans to come up with the data in his book. It relates what is important to them about church, where they prefer to attend, what they look for in a service, why they don’t trust churches, etc. It is incredible information that can help you determine your specific approach to church planting. Click here to buy it on Amazon.com.

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever- Based on a sermon series Mark preached at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, Dever outlines 9 character traits of a healthy ministry. It’s simplicity is what makes this book so great. He clearly lays out his case for a church prioritizing these nine marks:expositional preaching, Biblical theology, the gospel, Biblical understanding of conversion, Biblical understanding of evangelism,Biblical understanding of church membership, biblical church discipline, a concern for discipleship and growth, Biblical church leadership. Click here to buy it on Amazon.com