When we met in Charlotte, NC in 2009, never did we think God would be preparing us for a special kind of ministry together seven years later. Both of us have vastly different backgrounds, and are in many ways polar opposites. And yet, though we’re very different, we share a close friendship that we believe God has ordained for far more than personal joy: We believe God is calling us to plant a church together.
At this point, the joys and trials of church planting are foreign to us. Quite honestly, we have no idea what to expect, so we find it difficult to explain exactly how we’ll establish a new church that is effective in reaching the lost with the glorious Gospel of God. Though Joshua has some experience in pastoring a church, our true success will surely only be guaranteed by God’s grace and through His Spirit’s power.
However, while the practicals have yet to be worked out, we can say with confidence that we are united together by a common heart – a vision, if you will: Our vision is to bring the hope of the Gospel through church planting to people far from God in Wilmington, N.C., so that they become disciples who go and make disciples in their homes, neighborhoods, and world. We believe this vision is nothing more and nothing less than simply a reiteration of our Lord’s biblical mandate to go and make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:18-20).
This vision can be broken down into three segments:
(1) The Message and Means: Our desire is to bring the hope of the Gospel through Church Planting:
We believe that God has ordained church planting to be one of the most effective means of declaring and modeling the Gospel word to the world. This is clearly seen in the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles. As people heard the Good News and believed, these new Christians began to gather together in their communities. The message was continually preached through the mouths of the Apostles and saints (Acts 2:42; 8:4), and “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Everywhere the saints gathered regularly to worship and learn about Christ, more people came into God’s family.
(2) The Recipients: To people far from God:
The Bible makes it plain that all people are naturally disposed to self-worship, and are thereby under God’s wrath (Romans 1:18-25). This is true of all people, regardless of race, social, or economic status. The Gospel, however, is able to bring even the greatest of sinners to God, bridging the gap between His holiness and their sin. This is the is the message we’ll bring to the people in Wilmington.
(3) The Goal: So that they become disciples who go and make disciples in their homes, neighborhoods, and world:
As we build relationships with the people in our community, they will experience the power of the Gospel firsthand as we enjoy fellowship with them. As they come to faith in Christ, we hope to continually disciple them through the preaching of the Word, so that they in turn are equipped to go and make disciples in their own spheres of influence (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Though this vision is a simple one, we do not wish to simplify the complexity of the task. We realize our great need for the work of the Spirit in our future ministry. We know that as we give ourselves to learning and observing the many who have gone before us, He will equip us for every good work.
Joshua grew up in Rhode Island, “the biggest little state in the Union.” As a talkative young fellow, his grandmother determined he would one day become a lawyer due to his ability to “talk himself out of a paper bag.” Joshua, on the other hand, had other plans, none of which included becoming a preacher of the Gospel. Through his teen years, he largely ran from the Lord. It would not be until he was married to Michelle in 2005 that God would do a great work of transformation on his heart. Joshua began following Christ wholeheartedly for the first time.
After they were married, the Earls began to attend a large church in Charlotte, N.C., Central Church. It was there that the Lord confirmed His call on Joshua’s life for Gospel ministry. After welcoming Kaelyn in 2006 and Connor in 2008, the Earls met Aaron and Andrea Beane and quickly became close friends. Joshua was ordained in 2009 and took on his first pastorate in 2011. For the next five years, Joshua would serve as the lead pastor of a small, ninety-year-old church in Western North Carolina. After welcoming Malacai in 2012, and about three years into the pastorate, Joshua began to sense that God was calling him to plant a church. He also began to see his need for further pastoral training.
By this time, Joshua and Aaron had been introduced to several pastors within Sovereign Grace Churches. Through their leadership and affirmation, both men were invited to participate in Sovereign Grace’s Pastors College in Louisville, KY, which they graduated from in June 2017 before moving back to Charlotte for their church planter residency at CrossWay Community Church.
To learn more about the Earl Family, check out their blog!
Aaron is a son of the South, born and raised in Asheboro, N.C. After moving to Charlotte in 2000, God saved him from a life of sin and rebellion in 2004. For the last 12 years, Aaron has been following Christ in this journey called life, with joy and pain mingled together. For the last 9 years of that 12 year journey, he has been blessed to traverse it with his wife, Andrea. He readily tells people that God has used her more than anything to shape his character as a disciple of Christ.
In 2009, the Beanes were led to Central Church, where they met Joshua and Michelle. As couples, their friendship has truly blossomed. Aaron notes how valuable he considers his relationship with Joshua to be, and can think of no one who he desires to plant a church with more than Joshua. In 2012, the Beanes welcomed Salem into their family, followed by Titus in 2014 and Knox in 2017. In the recent years, Aaron has sensed an inward desire for pastoral ministry, and God has confirmed this calling through the affirmation of his fellow brothers, sisters, and pastors. He graduated from the Pastors College in June 2017, and moved back to Charlotte for the Two Guys’ church planter residency at CrossWay Community Church.
To learn more about the Beane Family, check out their blog!
We’ve never planted a church before, so it gives us great joy and comfort to be able to benefit from the guidance and leadership of experienced church planters within Sovereign Grace Churches. In August 2015, several elders within the denomination began assessing/interviewing us as prospective church planters, and have mentored us through every step of the process thus far.
In August 2016, we (Aaron and Joshua) began concerted preparation for the plant, starting with an exploratory trip to various cities in Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina. In each city, we met with different pastors, trying to get a feel for the city’s need. This trip helped us fuel our prayers as we asked God to specifically reveal where He wanted to send us.
Following the trip, we entered into the first of three phases of this church plant. Here is a projected timeline we will follow as we prepare to launch the new church:
PHASE 1 – Prepare: August 2016 – June 2017
As noted above, in His kindness God has led us to Sovereign Grace Churches. SGC has been planting solid, gospel-centered churches in America and around the world for over three decades. Our pastors and leaders at Sovereign Grace realize that their pastors must be well equipped if they are to plant viable, lasting churches. It is for this reason that our regional assembly of elders has sent us both to participate in SGC’s Pastors College.
During this “prepare” phase we experienced 10 months of rigorous theological and pastoral training designed to equip God’s shepherds to lead God’s sheep. Everything we received during this time has prepared us to step out into our mission field in the coming years.
PHASE 2 – Plan: June 2017 – Spring 2018
After graduating from the Pastors College, we began to lay down plans for the new church plant. During this time, we are participating in a church planting residency at CrossWay Community Church in Charlotte, NC, which is allowing us to think through the logistical details of the new plant. A trained coach is assisting us through this process. We are also making a number of trips to Wilmington, as well as to other Sovereign Grace churches in our region in order to share about the church plant and build rapport with our family of churches.
Also during this phase, Joshua (as the lead planter) is participating in a one year church planting cohort (Sept. 2017 – Sept. 2018). The Cohort aims to serve planters in developing the knowledge, skills, and relationships necessary to plant a healthy local church by placing them in a short-term training experience with a small group of other church planters, quarterly in Philadelphia and monthly through training seminars. You can read more about the Cohort here.
We have also used this time to study for and take our ordination examination, which we passed – praise God! It has certainly been a full and exciting year!
PHASE 3 – Plant: Spring/Summer 2018
We are planning to move to Wilmington in May 2018, and if the Lord would grant us His favor, we will launch the new church in the Fall of 2018. At this time, we are asking God to send other families with us to strengthen our new body and help us serve the people living all around us.