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V3 and Fresh Expressions: Non-traditional Churches Reach People in Unexpected Places, Unexpected Ways

Posted: 7/13/17 at 1:05pm. Story by Jennifer Law.

“Nine years ago, we’d been praying God would let us go somewhere to see revitalization,” explained Michael Pumphrey, BGAV’s V3 development coordinator and Virginia regional church planting coordinator.  “Our family moved to the Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach area, where a third of the population is transient because of the military. We saw an opportunity to reach the world.”

Awaken Church and V3

Awaken Church in Virginia Beach was one of the first churches planted through V3, BGAV’s national church planting movement. Pumphrey has been there for the past seven years. “We were learning to be a church there,” he said, “and V3 gave us permission to be a little bit different in our approach to church planting.”

In those seven years, many of the people Awaken Church has ministered to have gone out around the world. “We’ve connected and networked with other area churches,” he said, “and our vision is to work together to plant 10 churches in the next 10 years, plus 30 fresh expressions.” A “fresh expression” is a new form of church aimed at reaching people who are not yet part of any kind of church.  They often look very different from what most people think of when they consider the word “church.”

A Fresh Expression

One such fresh expression came about when Doug Grap, who serves in the US Navy, was stationed in Virginia. He started attending Awaken Church because he knew of its reputation. “I’d been saved in Georgia before moving here. I knew about Awaken and wanted to be a part of a church like that,” Grap recalled. While he was at Awaken, Grap felt called to serve during his upcoming deployment. So he went to one his pastors at Awaken and told him about his calling, which he felt was to start a church on the ship for sailors who were deployed. “Deployments are often hard for to sailors to accept,” Grap explained, “but I had this calling from God. At Awaken, we talk about rhythms: to heal in, raise up, and send out. I had to accept that I was being sent out.”

“We saw salvation happening right before our eyes,” Grap recalled.

When he was on the ship, Grap met a Marine chaplain named Joe Robbins who was serving there, and he told Robbins that God had given him a gift to serve in his deployment. Grap recalled a time in his past when God had prepared him for this future calling. “For a while when I was in Georgia, I had filled in for our worship leader who was out of town. God used that to prepare me for what I was going to do on the ship.” Grap and Robbins worked together to begin a small gathering of sailors for worship. “It started with six people including myself and the chaplain. It wasn’t too organized or scheduled yet, and it was just me and my guitar,” he remembered.

The worship gatherings grew from around six people to twelve and began developing a routine; then they secured a regular meeting location on the ship. “Toward the end of deployment, we’d grown to 200-250 people with a full worship team and music equipment,” Grap commented. He said there were several notable, memorable experiences there including a Jewish sailor who converted to Christianity and a woman who gave her life to Jesus Christ for the first time. “We saw salvation happening right before our eyes,” Grap recalled. “Jeff (Chaplain Robbins) had never started a church on a ship, but God brought us together to do this.”

Since their experiences on the ship, many sailors’ lives have taken a new direction. Several of the Marines who had been in worship together on the ship have joined a church where they are now serving together in North Carolina. For Grap, his life and work has significantly changed. When he was nearing his time to re-enlist, he distinctly felt God calling him to change the type of work he was doing for the Navy: he believed God wanted him to become a religious program specialist (RP). His change of position, though, was not simple at all; it involved taking a big risk because of how the situation unfolded. At one point, Grap had to be released from his prior position with no promise of being picked up as an RP, and in doing so he risked losing his Navy career altogether. Grap had a wife and three children, and he feared losing his career. “God increased my faith,” he said, “when I learned that even though there was only one specific way all this could have worked out, it did work out. God used that to show me that I didn’t need to worry.”

Grap said that to anyone who is struggling with God’s call, he would say, “It won’t be easy, but God is not going to measure you by your success. He’ll instead measure you by your faith and how it grows.”

Church Plants, Fresh Expressions, and Virginia Baptists

Without churches like Awaken—a church plant—stories like Doug Grap’s aren’t as likely to happen. His involvement in a church plant led him to discover his unique call to begin a fresh expression in starting a church on a ship. Church can happen anywhere when God calls and equips those who are willing to serve. So how can Virginia Baptists become involved in these life-changing ministries?

An existing BGAV church can plug in through V3 by connecting with church planters in its area or perhaps looking at whether they might be able to plant a church. V3 offers a model that doesn’t cost a fortune and doesn’t take a lot of people to get started. “We offer coaching and support systems to come alongside the existing church in order to help plant a church,” explains Pumphrey. “Our goal is to see 15 church planters connected to existing churches in Virginia in the next two years.”

Pumphrey believes strongly in the need to plant churches. “I’ve seen a church plant reach people that an existing church isn’t going to reach,” he said. “In planting, you see God raise up people who might not otherwise have moved into positions of leadership, and you see a new demographic of people impacted with the Gospel. It also brings life into existing churches.”

To learn more about V3, visit TheV3Movement.org, or contact JR Woodward at jr@thev3movement.org or 202.731.7468.

 To learn more about Fresh Expressions, visit FreshExpressionsUS.org, or contact Chris Backert at chris.backert@freshexpressionsus.org or 540.818.3945.

The article was originally published in the Summer 2017 edition of the BGAV Express. Want to receive the BGAV Express at your home? Click here to sign up! 

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