Ryan Grabill, Lead Pastor and Planter of Soundhouse Church

What 5th Sundays can do for church planting

by | Sep 4, 2015

I was chatting on the phone this morning with my friend, Ryan Grabill, who is currently planting Soundhouse Church here in Long Beach, CA. I got to hear his exciting story of how his church responded in generosity this summer. Soundhouse is about an 18 month old church which was planted soon after Ryan, his wife, and four kids “parachuted” into Long Beach from their home town of Grand Rapids, MI. The entire time I’ve known Ryan, I’ve been amazed at both his humility to admit, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” and his raw, yet apt intuitive leadership style (some would call it an Apostolic giftedness) which God has used to build this wonderful new congregation in America’s 2nd most diverse city. 

I got to know Ryan through our Multiply Church Planter Training last year. He was involved in our cohort for 6 months, completed the training, and began his studies with Antioch School of Church Planting & Leadership Development where I teach and facilitate some classes. I’ve had a good opportunity to not only train, but also learn from Ryan this past year as he has thoughtfully processed and articulated church planting strategy, and biblical methods for establishing the church in new areas. One of the things I love about Ryan is how he unquestionably takes what he learns from scripture or training, wonders why he (or the church-at-large) isn’t doing it, and then executes.

The story he shared with me on the phone this morning was a great example of him creatively executing on what he is learning for the benefit of another new church in our area.

“John, did I tell you what happened in my church this summer? You’re not going to believe it.”

My ears always perk up when a planter tells me, “You’re not going to believe it.”

“I have been trying to think of a way to start communicating the value of multiplying and church planting with my church,” Ryan has shared with me in the past that he wonders if he is doing a poor job communicating and discipling his church in this core value of multiplication.

“I got the idea to start taking fifth Sundays and devoting those to inviting a local church planter to come and share with our church. I also thought we could take that week’s offering and contribute it to the planter. We invited Cedric Nelms. You know he’s getting ready to launch his church around here in January. He came, and preached, and of course, did a great job.”

“Of course,” I said, “who doesn’t love Cedric?”

Pastor Cedric Nelms was invited to share about his church plant at Soundhouse this past summer.

“What was amazing was how my church responded. John, we opened up online giving for this project on the Monday before the 5th Sunday, and our people started giving that day. At the end of the fifth Sunday, they had given—you’re not going to believe this (he sort of chuckled and gasped at the same time)—over $5,500.” There was a long pause on the phone. “It was unbelievable and a real answer to my prayers.”

“Your prayers?!? This is the kind of thing I’m constantly hoping for, praying for, and dreaming of churches doing. What do you think drove your church to give like this?”

“I don’t really know, other than that God is at work. We have decided, now, that we want to do this every fifth Sunday. You know, they happen four times a year.”

My wheels were turning, and I was about to ask him, “How do we get other churches to do the same thing?” but he beat me to the punch.

“For the past two weeks, I have already told my church about the significance of what they’ve done. I’m really hoping that what they did can become an example for other churches to do the same. Can you imagine if other churches in our network started designating fifth Sundays as a week of blessing a local church planter?”

“Can I? I think it could change the way churches interact with one another, could improve our Kingdom work together, and could help financially sustain the local church planting movement. What moved you to come up with this idea?”

“The idea really came out of my studies in the Pauline course at our Antioch School [Ryan is a Masters student in one of our Long Beach cohorts]. Just the whole concept of Paul saying things to churches like, ‘I’m on my way to Spain, you’d better get ready…’ and then him expecting the church to give to the expansion and missionary efforts through church planting—that got me thinking about our role as leaders and our responsibility as a church to give to new startup efforts and church planters. Not only that, but who doesn’t love Cedric? Seeing a guy like that who has done so much redefinition of his ministry, worked so hard to plant, and is such an awesome guy—you want to see him succeed. So it is a blessing for us to get behind him.”

[Apostle Paul] expecting the church to give to the expansion and missionary efforts through church planting—that got me thinking about our role as leaders and our responsibility as a church to give to new startup efforts and church planters.

Cedric was just as emphatic when I talked to him about this generosity, and he spoke to the contagious nature of what Soundhouse had done. “John, I was so humbled by that gesture from Ryan and Soundhouse. Karen and I have just been thanking God for what he is doing for the ministry. God is so awesome! My prayer is that we will be in a position to do that for a fellow church planter in the near future.”

This is just one story of what Kingdom-motivated generosity has looked like among the churches in Long Beach. God is doing amazing work through the Church here. Some of you will remember back to last winter when Ryan’s house was broken into, and about $10,000 worth of their possessions were stolen (including his son’s Christmas presents). Without Ryan knowing it, I threw out a simple request to several churches in Long Beach, and within about a week, they had provided for the Grabills to replace everything that was stolen. I was floored. Many church planters in this city could tell you about the generosity of more established churches like Parkcrest, Park Church, or Long Beach Christian Fellowship (to name a few among many) in supporting the efforts of church planters as well as PlantLB.

I love this story because it illustrates the kind of interaction we can have with one another to support movement of the Gospel in our city.

What if we started designating fifth Sundays as a week of blessing a local church planter?

For a list of current planters, and planters being prepared to plant in the Greater Long Beach area, please visit plantlb.org/ourplanters.

If your church will be starting to participate in 5th Sundays,” we’d love to hear the stories. Please contact erin@plantlb.org. If you have any questions, or would like to get involved with Plant LB, please feel free to contact me at john@plantlb.org.

JOHN ALWOOD is director of Plant LB. He and his wife, Carol, love living in the Lakewood Village neighborhood of Long Beach with their two daughters, Lily & Trinity.