A Great Cloud of Witnesses Can Help Church Planters

Our church planting discernment process included connecting with the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in the scripture.

cloud of witnesses

Our adventure in church planting has been a long messy string of saying yes to Jesus over and over again. Church planting was something we always said we’d never do, but then Jesus asked. In 2018 we were on staff at a Vineyard church approaching a transition into senior leadership, but we had this unsettled feeling we weren’t in the place God had for us for the long haul. After a process of discerning, we felt called to step out in faith, to leave what we knew, and go to the land he would show us to start something new. That discernment process included connecting with the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in the scripture.

Vineyard leader John Wimber once said, “The economy of the kingdom of God is quite simple. Every new step in the kingdom costs us everything we have gained to date.” 

It was exhilarating and terrifying. At the Multiply Vineyard Summit in January 2019, we heard amazing stories of the faithfulness of God from other church planters. We were a month into our journey, quitting our jobs, selling our house, putting everything in storage with no idea where we were going next. We felt the Lord whisper that he was giving us a story like that. 

We spent most of 2019 traveling, spending time with family and friends. We made a list of leaders we wanted to learn from and asked if we could visit. The crazy part? Everyone said yes!

We visited 36 different churches that year. We went to multiple conferences, joined classes, met with coaches, and started spiritual direction. It was amazing and exhausting. We were so encouraged by the connections, but after a while, we realized how desperate we were to settle into our place with the community the Lord was calling us to.

In August 2019, we went to the Songs & Stories event at Vineyard Campbellsville. It was a magical time where Jesus met us in powerful ways. We even connected with the people we would end up planting with! God was bringing that season of dreaming into birthing something new. 

In 2020, we planted Vineyard Covington with an amazing group of people. Our hearts for this city are on fire, and we see the Holy Spirit at work. We are being changed most of all.

Looking back on our wandering, we’re thankful we took the time to connect with that great cloud of witnesses, so many people and have our vision of the kingdom expanded. Relational seeds were planted that will bear fruit for many years as we continue this journey.  

In spiritual direction recently I had a vision of being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, but it wasn’t just people from the past; it was leaders of local Vineyard churches.

Before the vision, I saw them all doing their own thing and wished we could figure out ours. After the vision, I realized we’re all on the same team. Our stories are threads being woven together into something much bigger and more beautiful. We’ve been invited to join the team and we get to welcome others in as well. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. — Hebrews 12:1 

You are not alone. You are surrounded by brothers and sisters who continue stepping out trusting the promise God has for them without knowing all the details. They are rooting for you. You are one of them too; we all get to share in the joy!

It’s tempting to get stuck isolated in your own bubble, focused only on yourself and the dream God has placed in your heart. That’s important but the kingdom is so much bigger. Run the race God has set before you, but don’t do it alone.

How to Connect With YOUR Cloud of Witnesses

1. Make space to go to conferences and connect with other leaders.

2. Prioritize the relationships within your region and area.

3. Ask for help. Don’t compare, but be inspired

4. Take a break from your work to get spiritual direction.

There are so many opportunities, but you have to go after them. It will cost something in the present, but the fruit will be lasting and worth it. You’ll grow and go farther, staying in the race for the long-haul.

You’re not alone: you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

 

This article about the cloud of witnesses originally appeared here, and is used by permission. Expand your imagination for multiplication. Learn more about church planting with the Vineyard Movement in this free eBook that covers the different models, methods, and people that make up Vineyard Churches. 

Rachel and Tyler Garvey
Rachel and Tyler Garvey planted Vineyard Covington in Northern Kentucky in 2020. They’re reimagining life following Jesus as a growing family on a mission to love and serve the city. The Garveys have been married for over a decade and are wild about their two extroverted kiddos who teach them to see the world like Jesus.