Kids shining the Light lead Jehovah’s Witness out of darkness

By Anthony Banks

In July, Second Baptist hosted a week-long project that had a tremendous impact in our community of Turrell, Arkansas. There are a few testimonies that I would like to share, but first—would you like to know who was behind the Lord’s work? It was kids!  

This summer we hosted our second annual Backyard Bible Club. It was four full days of Bible camp with kids from our church and from First Baptist Church Rogers. In the morning, we taught the kids about the Bible through songs and skits. Then in the afternoon, for three of the four days, we took them out to Help in the Community (what I like to call HIT-C). The kids helped the elderly of Turrell with their chores and yardwork, and they also did other services like washing down the public library. With First Baptist’s 55 kids and 35 of our own, there were 90 kids total learning about the Lord who then went out to serve our community!

But what I think really resonated with the people in our community was how our churches took the kids to knock on doors. At each house we would share the Gospel and pray with them. Together, we knocked on every door in Turrell—and most we knocked on twice! I would say that about 50 percent of the people we spoke with were not in church or were attending another church besides Second Baptist.

Block party 3By the end of the week, we saw 10 professions of faith from knocking on doors! In addition to this, on Saturday members of the Missions Team at the Arkansas Baptist Convention coordinated a block party and medical-dental clinic at Second Baptist. More than 100 people from the community attended, the medical-dental clinic saw 40 patients, and six people received Christ. Praise God!

Now here’s a testimony you need to know, too. Something that God appointed and made happen as a result of our church and First Baptist Rogers coming together to do His work…

While working in the community, one of our groups noticed a man standing on the sidewalk at the post office. A young girl from First Baptist told the chaperone and driver, Bro. Jerry Bolander (and pastor of FBC Rogers), “I want to stop and talk to this man.” When they got out of the car to talk with him, they discovered that he was a Jehovah’s Witness. He was sarcastic with them, so they reluctantly got back in the car and drove to a neighborhood to begin knocking on doors.

Well, the first door they knocked on was this man’s door! But he acted the same way he had before, so the group continued their work. When they told me later about what had happened, they said it was on their heart to go back to his home and talk with him again.

And when they did go back—this time to invite him to Bible study—he was different. He apologized for how he had treated them because he had seen how the kids were doing things for the community. That night he came to Bible study and talked again about his guilt for treating the kids that way. He gave his testimony in front of the group and finished saying, “I’m walking in darkness.”

{ That night he came to Bible study and talked again about his guilt for treating the kids that way. He gave his testimony in front of the group and finished saying, “I’m walking in darkness.” }

I came down from the pulpit and witnessed to him, “If you want to get out of that darkness, Jesus can take you out.” That’s when he received Christ! We all gathered around and prayed for him after. He has asked that I baptize him once he recovers from a recent surgery.

That week a lot of folk, even those who did not receive Christ, responded to what we had done in Turrell. When they saw the way we were serving and knocking on doors to pray with them, they testified, “Nobody has ever done things like you are doing.” I’m praying now that these people will come out to see us at Second Baptist because they know we care about them.

Now we have a vision to go beyond Turrell. Next year we want to do this in Turrell again but also expand to Gilmore by working with our new partner, First Baptist Church Marion. We won’t stop in our Jerusalem; we’re moving now to go to Judea!

Your prayers and giving to the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering support me and my church plant, and we are able to carry out this Acts 1:8 model because of you. And I want to continue going out into my community and neighboring communities—combining efforts with other churches who have the same heart—to reach souls, like the 16 people and the Jehovah’s Witness, who needed to hear the Gospel right here in Arkansas!



Core competencies of a church planter (2)

By Andrew Munneke

This might surprise some people, but I have a bit of a green thumb. I am one of the few people that complain HGTV is a little bit more “Home” than it is “Gardening” television. So as spring has come upon us and the grass seed we planted back in October has developed deep roots, I’m starting to get excited about cultivating and nurturing my lawn to the award-winning lawn it deserves to be.

Now besides the planting aspect of gardening, you might be wondering what this has to do with church planting. Well, here’s the thing…I might have the greatest passion and vision for my lawn. I can see the corner where I’ll start to mow, how short and thick I want my grass, and the type of flowers that need to bloom in direct sunlight and those that will thrive in the shade. But my vision and passion for my lawn is not going to take me anywhere in cultivating it if I do not have the right equipment.

You see, I know many church planters that are high on vision and are passionate about the Gospel, but they become ineffective because they didn’t take the time to assess if they had the right gifting and knowledge for the ministry.

Passion and enthusiasm for the Gospel is absolutely essential—and it’s good!—but that in and of itself is not qualifying. I could be passionate about singing and dedicate my whole life to it, but because I am not gifted in it I doubt that Blake Shelton will twirl his chair for my voice.

In my last blog I addressed the question, How do you know if you’re qualified to be a church planter? We looked at the characteristics of a church leader and discovered that only one of those characteristics is a skill—teaching—while the rest are about your character (1 Timothy 3). If you haven’t read the previous blog, check it out real quick then come back.

Now that we’ve tested your character and calling, let’s test your gifting.

Theological clarity

For me, the first core competency is theological clarity. By that I mean do you know the Scriptures? Can you answer doctrinal questions? Can you bring the Gospel forth in every Scripture? Do you know what you believe and can you apply it to all circumstances?

If you’re counseling someone who’s had a miscarriage, are you sympathetic but also grounded in Scripture as you counsel? Or if someone comes to you and they’re in debt, can you resist the temptation to give them great principles (like cutting up the credit cards or taking a Dave Ramsey class) and instead say, “There will be a time to cut-up those credit cards, but let’s look at the heart of why you keep running to materialism rather than finding joy and satisfaction in the Lord”? 

I talked a little bit in the last blog about the only “skill” is the ability to teach, so obviously the ability to teach is important. So you can ask yourself, your mentors, and the Lord if you need to grow in that, and perhaps even consider more education in that.

Leadership ability

The second one would be your leadership. Do people follow you? Do you have a history of starting things from scratch? Do you live a lifestyle worth following? How you lead people in the microcosm of your family?

Just saying this now, but as the pastor of a church, your marriage is going to be the lead example for your church. Paul says this in (1 Timothy 3:1-5). The first thing you can do is examine if your household resembles what your ministry should look like.

What about other aspects of leadership like casting vision, or attracting and building and connecting leaders? How do people react under you? Do they feel squashed and stepped on?

And something that’s really important before you tackle being a lead pastor: do you have any experience in leadership? If not, let’s get some more reps under you…

{ …in a microcosm you definitely learn what it’s like to shepherd people through hard times. }

In a microcosm like your family or a small group, you learn how to communicate, “This is when we’re meeting. This is when we’re hanging out outside the group. This event was cancelled. Here’s what we’re studying…”

And, more than just logistics, in a microcosm you definitely learn what it’s like to shepherd people through hard times. Hopefully you’re getting people to come and talk to you about their heartbreaks, doubts and struggles, and because of this you’re learning how to shepherd.

I do want to say this about leadership in a microcosm: when a small group shrinks or grows, it can be for many different reasons. However, there is a point where it is an indicator of your leadership.

Making disciples

The third competency I would mention is discipleship. That might seem like a no-brainer, but what I’m talking about is not just teaching someone but walking the whole spectrum with them—taking someone from being an unbeliever to being a disciple and an elder.

So there is evangelism (which is preaching the Gospel), and obviously unbelievers need to hear the Gospel. But if you take a look at the life of Jesus, He had that missional-relational kind of living life with people and brought them into the body of Christ.
empty church

Can you do this? Maybe you’re a little socially awkward or shy, but can you connect with people? Can you walk with them daily and speak the truths of Scripture into their life? 

At the same time, I also believe that discipling an unbeliever to the point of a devoted Christ follower is more of a community effort than individual effort. I think where we have crippled ourselves is when we say, “Bill, it’s up to you to lead your neighbor to Christ,” but Billy’s not the best at presenting the Gospel in a way that’s compelling for his neighbor.

This is where I want to say, “Bill, that may not be you; it may be Sally who has that gift set. But your job is to invite him to our church, and once he’s here someone else can talk with him about what he believes, why he believes it, and then present him with the Gospel.”

So what camp are you in?

Maybe you’re not cut out for church planting. If you’re thinking this or someone close to you says this, it should not be an identity-crisis thing. For most people who don’t have the gifting of church planting, that absolutely does not mean that you can’t lead a small group or spend time with non-believers!

On the other hand you might have the gifting of church planting, but you’ve still got to establish the groundwork and framework that will drive you even when the passion leaks out.

So if we were talking face to face, I would expect to see one of three reactions. So let’s figure out where you are and consider your next step…

  1. Absolutely this is not for me. I know I’m not a church planter. I like the Bible but it’s confusing to me, or I don’t have a strong leadership profile, or I’m a follower more than a leader.

That’s okay! You can still be passionate about church planting and contribute in so many ways without being the pastor of a church plant. The person who’s great at one-on-one or who is more reserved when it comes to the crowd is just as needed for building up the church. Church planters need you as a team member and to excel in your gifts—especially in the gifts that we don’t have!

I would say your next step is to serve your church plant or team up with someone who has the gifting. There are plenty of avenues for you to be a part of the missional strategy of church planting.

  1. I don’t feel the passion, but I’m seeing some areas to assess and work on.

This is a good place to be. First, have you told your pastor and people who can speak into your situation? Second, have you looked for opportunities to help you grow in your leadership ability, to meet lost people, to make disciples? Consider getting involved with a residency or pursuing more education.

  1. I know church planting is for me! I think I have the right stuff and I’m ready to move forward to the next step.

Awesome! For that next step, read blog three in this series.

Thoughts on faith and our daily bread

By Lee Kemp 

This summer Forefront hosted “Summer Fun Days” at Timberline Apartments to make a positive impact on kids who would otherwise spend the summer alone.

Monday through Wednesday we would meet from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In the morning we played games, sang songs, made crafts, and told Bible stories. After we fed the kids lunch, they would swim in the pool for afternoon playtime. Then on Thursdays we would go on fieldtrips to places like the nature center and skating rink. We even had a special water slide party one day with the fire department’s help.

This summer alone, we reached 58 kids. Seven of those kids prayed to receive Christ!

This was our third and best year for Summer Fun Days. It came together really well, but we’re learning how to do it better. This summer Forefront had two E4Call interns, college students who feel called to ministry, named Joel and Taylor. They connected and served with Forefront for the summer.

Joel and Taylor were not only a blessing to us as a church but also the many kids/families we met through the summer program. Here’s the thing: We wouldn’t have had the ability to pay them if it wasn’t for Dixie Jackson dollars. Other churches’ giving gave us the money to pay them.

The conundrum of money in ministry  

Early in Forefront’s ministry, a local businessman—Steve—told me something about money that really convicted me. He said, “Lee, I’ve never seen a ministry that Jesus wanted to see done that didn’t happen because of money.”

I know when we start talking about money everybody gets weird, but the raw and the real is that we’ve got to be careful with how we view money in ministry.

To me, there are two sides of the continuum. There’s the guy who may not plant a church because he doesn’t have the money. He is sitting there, stressed, and thinking that if he doesn’t raise some sort of money then he can’t start, or he thinks he knows how much money it’s going to take. But by then, he isn’t really thinking about church planting.

There’s a guy I talked with once who said, “You know, I really wanted to be a church planter, but I don’t know about the financial instability. And I’m not good at raising money.”

{ I’ve never seen a ministry that Jesus wanted to see done that didn’t happen because of money.}

On the other end, there’s an established church that has more than enough money but is trying to figure out what to do with their end of the year excess. When they planned their budget, the church was saying, “This is what we need in order to do what God’s placed on our hearts.” That’s really what a budget is. And they’ve not only met that budget but they’ve exceeded it.

I’ve been in that meeting before at an established church. God gave us an excess, and as support staff we put in our wish list of what we would like to get as if it was Christmas. Instead of having just one projector that everyone looks at on the left side of the room, we could get one for the right side. Or we could look into getting a church van with a better air conditioner.

But I don’t ever remember thinking, “Hey, we could give that to missions.” I was thinking of my own kingdom and not God’s. I’m not saying it’s wrong to “up” your game or buy a better projector for your auditorium, but how can we spur generosity?

I remember asking once about stewardship during an ordination council meeting. Lee Woodmansee said, “Every time we come along an extra sum of money, we ask the Lord, ‘Ok, who do you want us to give it to?’”

A lot of times we don’t think this way.

Ping pong back to the guy who is worried about money and is expecting money from another church. He’s thinking about what it takes to get the church up and running instead of God’s kingdom. He’s paralyzed. What would it look like if that church planter realized he will never have enough money—at any given point—to supply all the church will ever need, but he does have enough to start?

Walking (and spending) with faith

A pastor pulled out a white handkerchief once to clean his glasses, and he said to me, “When you surrendered to ministry you raised this white flag.” If God wants to send me, then where he sends me he will provide for me. It’s so simple, but it’s so hard to walk out.

You can never have enough money in ministry. It’s expensive. It’s risky. And even if you have money, ministry will probably take more money than you currently have.

In the Bible, there’s manna—when God is providing. Then there’s man taking more than God instructed—where men tried to provide for themselves by their own efforts.

The point here is being careful not to spoil ourselves with something God really didn’t give us. When we have this abundance, instead of asking What do we want? we should be asking How much should we really keep?

What if we looked at money as if it was manna?

Baptist churches think about a lot of good things in their budget: how to provide for their staff, what’s going to support the key ministries their staff oversee, how to retire debt, how to fit capital items in their budget, building a budget to get people excited, etc. I’ve been a part of teams where we did that and God still gave us excess, and I made the mistake thinking it was for us just because we had already put those “visionary” things in our budget.

{ I made the mistake thinking the excess was for us just because we had already put those “visionary” things in our budget.}

And there’s this strategy of us cooperating as Baptist churches. God has blessed us! Not only with what we need to do ministry but more because we do it together! Forefront’s goal as a church plant was not to plant or pastor a church that thinks about its own people. We are building God’s kingdom in the state of Arkansas. Other peoples’ success is our success, but only if we’re cooperating.

If your church gives a large amount to Dixie Jackson or to the Cooperative Program, someone will be blessed! Sometimes we don’t want to because we won’t physically see where it goes, or what it does. But what is that expressing? Where’s the Holy Spirit in this? I think at times the reason we are lax in giving is because of a spirit of control.

It’s just that I think our questions about money really ought to be, What are we doing here? and What is the Holy Spirit leading us to do with it?  How are we advancing God’s Kingdom within our local church and the capital “C” Church?

We can wisely spend the money that God has entrusted us with and still think big!   

Fighting the urge to reinvent the wheel in ministry

By Lee Kemp 

Sometimes churches start a ministry that already exists in the community. Other times, a ministry stops working but continues to be the focus of many churches. Why? 

Are we competing with other churches? Are we just doing for the sake of doing?

People have asked me about Forefront’s ministry, like when our church will start a choir ministry or community groups. Sometimes I tell them, “We’re probably never going to have that…” or “We’re a church plant; we’re not there yet.”

For example, Forefront tried launching community groups early on because we wanted to be like other churches. We tried community groups without the right training, and then found ourselves having to step back and re-evaluate what we were doing.

We had a lot of new believers at the time, so instead of community groups we switched to discipleship groups. Eventually I think that it will grow into community groups, but we needed to develop leaders first. 

{ In church planting it is important to take time to honestly evaluate what needs to be changed or cancelled.}  

Forefront also does not plan to have a traditional student ministry. When I was involved in student ministry prior to Forefront, I found there are churches who have made that ministry an island unto itself. It’s not that Forefront doesn’t minister to youth, but we think they should be involved in our church alongside adults. Our worship should be relevant enough to pique their interest, and if I can’t bring that next generation into our church service there’s a big problem.

So people might ask, “What is there on Wednesday night for my student?” I’m ok with our students going to other Baptist churches instead of reinventing the wheel. I don’t need to have a better youth group than them. My job is to plug my students into ministry, disciple them and lead them to be on mission with Jesus. There should be ways for them to serve that they want to be involved in.

So questions Forefront asks are:

  • What is it that God has called us to focus on?
  • Why is there a need for our church to be planted?
  • How will we stay true and authentic in vision instead of duplicating other local churches?

We need to be secure in our missional commitment to Christ and not focused on operating and programming around just maintaining a stagnant core group of Christians.   

Sometimes I feel that we as pastors need to be reminded that our goal is to be a group of cooperating churches—not competing churches. 

What would happen if we desired the churches in our community to succeed even if it meant before our own church success? What would it look like if we just simply acknowledged each other’s strengths and united to support each other in those strengths? 

I don’t know if Arkansas is ready for the impact that would be unleashed if we began to foster a cooperative spirit instead of a competitive spirit! 

I will now step off of my soap box. 🙂 


The struggle is real to be authentic

By Lee Kemp 

My family just had pictures made, and it made me think of authenticity. You might look at our family photo and think “Aw what a cute family!” but when we took these photos, I was threatening my kids to behave so that they would look nice!

We—church planters—care about image just like everybody else. And sometimes, we want to change our vision just so we think you will accept us.

Acceptance might be from people in the community or from my pastor friends. When I go to my association, I want them to like me. That’s what I’m thinking! I’m the odd guy out. I don’t have deacons, and everybody looks to me to do something. So I’ve found myself trying to fit-in with my friends and other pastors.

What I am trying to convey is that most church planters can have a sense of feeling lonely.    

It’s hard to remember who you are and why you began. I want to have something that looks good on the outside, but it’s kinda gooey and nasty if I’m not who God told me to be on the inside. I might please man, but I don’t please God.

{ I want to have something that looks good on the outside, but it’s kinda gooey and nasty if I’m not who God told me to be on the inside.}

This is hard in a lot of areas, not just church planting, like who you are starting to be in Christ. Even when you look up to people, you see how they might change to be accepted. I think in such a social media-driven age, we are trying to be accepted and not unique.

Vision leaks

Every church was a church plant at one point. Every time a church is planted, there is a felt burden from the Lord on his people to actually plant that church.

And a lot of times that church is birthed out of taking on a specific people group, or filling a void in the capital “C” church within that community. Every church usually starts with that purpose in mind—hopefully to glorify God—but also with specific ministry ideas.

Andy Stanley once said, “Vision leaks.” Like a water leak. That means when I start with a specific idea in mind, the idea of why I started eventually loses its traction. So I have to go back and remember what I did in the beginning.

In my mind, I like to say “Repent and do the things you did at first,” realizing we have ventured away from what we started out to do. But one thing that I know for sure, what I’ve witnessed in my experience, is that it’s not a healthy reason to start a new church just to gather more saved people.

Taking cookies to the neighborhood


So, one of the things that we at Forefront have learned—and are still learning—is how to protect the vision, the authentic vision of being a missional church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. And that’s very hard because in our context, we are seen as a church that does things a little outside the box, and that’s probably true.

We started out being very missional. Along the way, though, we have caught ourselves trying to be like other churches in the area. We wanted the big church service and experience…at the sacrifice of the mission.

When Forefront said we were going to be authentic, we said we wanted to be on-mission. We prepare for our weekly missions, and Sunday is just kind of a reboot so that we go back out during the week and exhaust ourselves.

The Sunday service isn’t the best way to reach the lost—we don’t think it is. It’s going to happen in our day-to-day relationships outside the doors of the church. We feel led to go out and do outreach in the city, and the people that come to those outreach events come to church.

{ The Sunday service isn’t the best way to reach the lost–we don’t think it is.}

So when we measure how we’re doing as a church, we don’t just look at Sunday morning. We look at other ministries with the Boys & Girls club and the apartment ministries. We are trying to position people to go out in the community and serve rather than start a church service that’s well attended.

We felt the need to walk away from that. Sometimes we’ve made church a big, big deal, and we need to be living for God where we live, work and play.

Sunday is the locker room, not the Super Bowl

We always say that Sunday is the locker room, and the weekday is the Super Bowl. When I was on a church staff back in the day, it was the opposite.

I used to hear I should study one hour for every minute I preach. But that leaves your people out to dry because they need you to lead or walk alongside them during the week. Instead of spending 20 hours on my sermon, I spend six because I have to put Sunday in a realistic perspective.

{ Our goal at Forefront is to gather for worship as a church, assembling…but then unleashing our church to engage the community.}

Some missional community-minded guys can be a little weird about Sundays, going to the extreme of not having a worship service. I wanted to plant a church with Sunday acting as what pulls our resources together. Our goal at Forefront is to gather for worship as a church, assembling—like what I read in the New Testament—but then unleashing our church to engage the community.

Forefront provided lunch for the Grizzlies after a win

Imagine all the good groups in Fort Smith whose goal is to accomplish good things. If you look at their biggest needs, they need volunteers. Then imagine a church of 300 or 500 people that sends its members right back out into the community to join those causes! Here come 8-10 Christians going to this or that…

If we become a gym instead of a holding-pen for Christians, if this is a spiritual place to be encouraged to go back into the community, now you have something authentic. You’re seeking the good of your city.

In Jeremiah 29, God tells them to seek the welfare of their city. We at Forefront Church are trying to seek the welfare of Fort Smith. This is not ultimately our home, but we’ve been told to bring heaven to earth, and we didn’t think we could do that by sticking to planning Sundays only.

{ Forefront Church exists to REACH the lost, EQUIP the saved to reach others, and SERVE God by using our gifts to show Jesus to the local community. } 

Thoughts for planters/potential planners:   Discover. Discern. Do. Debrief.

Discover where is God at work in my community?

Discern In light of the resources that my church might potentially have or does have, what can I do to partner with God?

Do We stick to the vision we said we’re going to do, and we do it. We don’t want to plan to do something and then not do it.

Debrief How did it go? Is there anything else the Lord is telling us to do? Have we stuck true to the vision we set-out to do?


What “radical” living teaches my kids & church

By Lee Kemp 

My kids are like me, they love adventure. People used to ask me, “Is living in a two-bedroom apartment necessary? You are a family of seven. Isn’t this a little too radical? Can’t you live in a nicer neighborhood and just go to Timberline?” But we couldn’t do that.

My neighbor is a stripper. Another is a prostitute. There are policemen constantly driving through the complex. We don’t let our kids go outside by themselves.

But what am I teaching my kids if I don’t do this? Someone once said: “We may teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are.”

I’ll give you a recent example of this. There’s a guy at Forefront Church who is praying about planting a church in another complex. His family has been kind of critical about it, and someone asked, “If your pastor wants you to go live in a rough apartment complex, why doesn’t he?” The conversation ended when he said, “He already has.”

{ My neighbor is a stripper. Another is a prostitute. There are policemen constantly driving through the complex. We don’t let our kids go outside by themselves. But what am I teaching my kids if I don’t do this? }

What am I showing my kid if I don’t go all in? My kids are going to have this half-based faith. If I don’t want my kids to live like that, then I don’t want to live like that.

Even the businessmen who supported our ministry initially thought we were crazy. One of them told me later, “Lee, I thought you were just a squirrel. We gave you six months tops to quit and move out of the complex. People who talk like you talk, they quit.”

Well, when I stuck around, they said “We’ll keep funding!” They came back on when they saw I was here to stay.

You can’t quit on the vision God’s given you. I think he gives us all a specific calling, and if you don’t answer that call he’s going to send somebody else and you will miss out on what’s unique to you and him. It’s like God says, “I want you to do this Lee, and I want you to do it with me.”

{ …if you don’t answer that call He’s going to send somebody else and you will miss out on what’s unique to you and Him. }

Making it all work

When we first moved into the apartment complex, we had three kids and one on the way. (A baby has never stopped us!) Sarah and I took the guest bedroom and gave our kids the main bedroom. The two girls were in the bedroom, and our son was in the walk-in closet. We made it a man-cave and built a loft bed that was attached to the wall; we made it feel like a duck-blind!

Honestly, it’s been great. If I wasn’t a married man I would live here all the time, I really would. But I have a family. People ask what we’ll do when our girls are grown and our son is 12. We want this ministry to be fun for our kids. I want to show my kids we can go on adventures with Jesus, but I also want to take care of them. If it’s not exciting to them, then sometimes we need a break.

 { I want to show my kids we can go on adventures with Jesus, but I also want to take care of them. }

Taking a break, restoring roots

When you deploy a soldier you don’t deploy him forever.

The complex we lived in, it wore us down. We lived there for almost two years until another church in town offered us a six-month stay in their mission house. After that, we still felt like we needed a break and my wife was pregnant, so we did a one-year lease in a historic district in town.

It was a big house. We used that season to entertain and have people over often, just practicing hospitality. Because we had so many people over my kids would always ask, “Who are we having over tonight?”

A couple from our church stayed in the apartment complex while we were gone. They needed a break, and even though we had asked another couple in the church who might be ready to take their place, the more and more we thought about it we felt the Lord was bringing us back. As our lease came up we felt like it was time to come back to the apartment.

The break brought us back to our roots. We just moved back in, and this go-round we have five kids! The girls have the bunk beds in the main bedroom, our son is back in the walk-in closet and the baby is in our room. We plan to do this for another year and a half.

My hope is that by doing something “radical,” Forefront Church would be willing to be radical!


How a vision became Forefront Church

forefront logo

By Lee Kemp 

My wife Sarah and I really felt affirmed in our ministry. We had spent eight and a half years working with youth and absolutely loved it. I was also preaching several times a year in our church, which is unusual as a youth pastor.

We questioned whether we would go to seminary or begin pastoring a church. I actually went to seminary three different times . I was thinking “I have three kids with one on the way.”

Instead, I got involved with a multi-site church called Brand New Church, and I was a campus pastor for 18 months there. We enjoyed that time even though it wasn’t completely what we felt called to. It did give us a lot of opportunities to work with adults. The only adults I had worked with were my kids’ parents in youth ministry, so I really got my feet wet working with adults and not just students.

Still, we were asking God why this didn’t feel like everything we were being told to do. So I gave Dave McClung a call; he is on the Church Planting Team at the ABSC. I told him “I’m ministering and enjoying it, but I know I’m not doing everything I was created to do. I’m lacking.”

{ I’m ministering and enjoying it, but I know I’m not doing everything I was created to do. I’m lacking. }

Dave sent me several books to read, a few being “Strength Finder 2.0” and “Church in the Making.” At the time, I also was reading a book called “Greater” by Stephen Furtick. As I read those books, it was a process of assessing who I was.

The Vision Comes

So then I tried to sit down and pray for a vision. I asked myself, “If Jesus were to ask, ‘If you could do whatever you want to advance my kingdom in ministry, what would you like to do?”

I just thought about church—getting outside the box—and I wrote out Forefront Church.

After that I had coffee with Roy, a business man in Fort Smith, and told him what I wanted to do. He gave me four other guys to talk to. I also talked with a guy named Burt who would ask questions. What we ended up with was a magazine; it’s the business plan of our church plant. We put in 40-50 hours planning out this vision.

Raising Support

There was a season where it was just businessmen and my money. I was going to be short and I was like I have to get a job or it’s going to slow me down. We had some support from our personal savings, from businessmen, the ABSC, Dixie Jackson funds & the cooperative program. There are church planters in Arkansas like me who really need those Dixie Jackson funds to keep them going.

With things in motion, we lived with our parents for a little bit before moving-in to an apartment complex that the businessmen (who were sponsoring us) owned. It was a two-bedroom apartment. We had three children at the time with one on the way!

Lee’s advice if you are considering church planting :

  • Start by asking yourself these questions: Who are you? What are your spiritual gifts? What are you passionate about?
  • Write down your thoughts/vision.
  • Meet with a coach to critique your plans in a positive way, someone who will bounce your ideas around and be a sounding board.
  • Business men are not pastors; they want to know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.