What would you think if you heard about a church planter leaving the church he founded 20 years before to work with a different church only twelve miles away? Our first response might be tinged with skepticism. We might wonder what’s going on or what relational problem has occurred. Why would a pastor step away from the church family he established and has served and loved for two decades?
But this is a story of God-glorifying partnership and unity. Now serving as the pastor of leadership development at Matthias’ Lot Church in St. Charles, Missouri, John Ryan planted The Summit in the town next door in 1998. Both churches are in the wider St. Louis area, and both are part of Acts 29.
Change and Partnership
Over the past five to six years, John began to sense a call from God to invest his time raising up leaders and church planters. As that calling became more apparent, “the wrestling got even stronger,” John said, “because it was going to mean leaving the church I’d planted and been at for so many years.”
Eventually, John shared his thoughts with fellow elder, Brian Agovino, now lead pastor at The Summit. “God has gifted John to equip leaders for the expansion of the kingdom of God in our world,” Brian said. “It made sense for him to use his gifts and strengths at Matthias being around young leaders, with the chance to intentionally invest in them.”
This big change could have been divisive, but God used it to create unity and a strong partnership. “God orchestrated that in more ways than I can even begin to imagine,” John said. Now there’s a “beautiful partnership” between these two churches that also serves the wider church. This big change could have been divisive, but God used it to create unity and a strong partnership. Click To Tweet
In his work with Matthias’ Lot, John focuses on raising, mentoring, and developing future leaders—who aren’t as prevalent as they have been in the past. “We’re learning,” John said, “that there’s not a bunch of guys falling off trees, like ten to twelve years ago, wanting to be church planters.” John dedicates his time to the intentional process of seeking and training men for this holy task.
The church-planting residency John founded, Servant Leader Institute, is an arm of Matthias’ Lot Church. It’s a two-year program where participants are “embedded in a local church, where a local pastor is walking with them through preaching and hands-on pastoring and gospel transformation day by day.” The program focuses first on the planter’s heart and then considers what that heart change looks like in the context of leadership. “As God starts to change us,” John said, “what does that look like as it comes out of our eyes, our mouths, our hands? We focus on servant leadership.”
Every Church Working Together
It’s difficult for pastors who are already balancing so much to invest this kind of dedicated, all-encompassing focus on upcoming leaders. Bryan says he’s thankful to “have a place where we can send people to get equipped.” John believes God’s call on his life—to focus on the next generation of church planters—is part of the big picture for God’s global mission. Click To Tweet
“If we’re going to see real revival and the expansion of the kingdom in our area,” Bryan said, “it’s going to take every church working together in many different ways.”
John agrees. “Church planting dramatically matters to me.” John believes God’s call on his life—to focus on the next generation of church planters—is part of the big picture for God’s global mission. As leaders are equipped to plant healthy churches, “the gospel is going into new places, reaching new people all over the world and all over this community.”