By Clayton Ritter.
We are planting a church!
Yep, that’s right. Romey and I are planting a church. Just a year ago I never thought I’d be saying these words but a lot can happen in a year. So how did we get here? What kind of church will it be? When are we getting started? Where is the church going to be? Let me tell you the story of how we heard from God about His next step in the plan for our lives.
In 2000, we were invited to come onto the pastoral staff of what was then Virginia Beach Christian Life Center, now Wave Church, to begin “full-time ministry.” Though Romey had been on staff at two previous churches, I’d only had one job since college, playing professional basketball. I used quotation marks around “full time ministry” because I believe playing basketball was as much ministry as being a pastor on staff at a church. That’s because every Christian is in full time ministry.
2 Corinthians 3:6 says, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says, “God has given us the message of reconciliation and we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making His appeal through us.”
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”
Every Christian is a minister.
Every Christian is an ambassador.
Every Christian has the message of reconciliation.
Every Christian is a disciple.
Every Christian is a disciple maker.
While every Christian is called to ministry, that ministry will look different for each individual. Romey knew before she was ten years old that she would serve God. I knew God had called me to spend the rest of my life helping others meet Jesus and find their own calling. When we found Wave Church, we knew it was the next step in our journey.
We have spent sixteen years on staff with Wave Church and are grateful for our years there. We helped the church grow from just a few hundred people to thousands and multiple campuses.
God spoke specifically and consistently during our time at Wave Church, to “be a son and a daughter of the house, and serve Pastors Steve and Sharon Kelly.” So for sixteen years that is exactly what we did.
About two years ago, God began to speak to my heart, saying, “You have been a son, now it’s time to be a father.” I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly so I asked God to show me. Through His Word and in my prayer time, He started to show me what spiritual fatherhood looks like.
Another year later, we both began to feel the Holy Spirit was conceiving in us an incredible vision for a church and ministry that was different from where we were. We knew this was God wanting to birth something through us. Like a baby growing in a mother’s womb, we had something growing in our spirits, something big and something beautiful. At first it was unseen, but eventually it was getting bigger and stronger, and it was becoming obvious.
I wrestled with whether this was something God wanted to do at my current church but it soon became clear this was a new work of God and He wanted to do it through Romey and me. We loved our church and pastors but it became clear what God was doing. He was calling us to lead a church and He wanted me to do it as a father.
We did what anyone should do in our position, we brought this to our pastors, Steve and Sharon. They listened to us, prayed for us, and blessed us to seek God about the where and the when.
I had accrued a lot of sabbatical and vacation leave so we decided this was a good time to pray and fast and ask God one simple question: Where was this church going to be? I firmly believed God would give us a heart for a city or a people group. We went into this prepared to go anywhere. We looked at cities up and down the East and West Coast, Colorado, we looked at Australia and Africa.
On the second day of our fast God showed up in a powerful way. On that day I heard from God clearer than I have heard anything in my life that he was calling us right where we were, my hometown of Virginia Beach! I was floored. I honestly thought we were headed to the West Coast or maybe D.C. On that same day God gave me several miraculous signs, as confirmation of His words to me. I have only shared these with a few people, but may share more openly some day. Every day since, God has confirmed His words to us by directing us to passages of Scripture. We both received several prophetic words from people confirming what God had been speaking to us.
I know God has spoken to us about this. I know we are called to plant a church in Virginia Beach. But this comes with complications. In the church paradigm in which I have served, planting a church in the same city where you have been on staff is frowned upon. There are several reasons for this, some legitimate, some not. When God first told me His plan for us I told Him He was wrong or that I must have heard Him wrongly. Though we have since found several churches in our city that have done this and are flourishing, it was not the vision of Wave. I argued with God, “I can’t plant a church in the same city as Wave.” But God had other things in mind.
Knowing for certain that God has spoken to us, we brought it to Pastors Steve and Sharon and after some very honest conversations, we agreed to wait a year before starting our church. In doing so, Pastors Steve and Sharon told us we will have their blessing.
So we are happy to announce that in September 2017 we will be launching SEASHORE CHURCH!
I’ll explain the name later but it’s a pretty cool story. In the meantime, Romey and I are looking for jobs to support our family, praying over our city, sharing the Gospel with anyone who will listen, and spending the year letting God shape the vision for SEASHORE CHURCH.
If you are reading this and planted in a good local church, we encourage you to stay there. If you’re looking for a good church, there are lots in this city. We will have a church but it is a year away. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families…” Our desire is for people to hear from God for themselves about where He has called them.
Here is what we do know:
SEASHORE CHURCH will live to see God’s Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
We will make disciples.
We will plant churches… LOTS of them.
We will worship our amazing God passionately in Spirit and in truth.
We will preach the Gospel of Jesus and teach the Bible with authority from heaven.
We will win, build, and send people to fulfill the call of God on their lives, no matter what or where it is.
We will endeavor to develop every believer as ministers of the new covenant through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And we will have the time of our lives doing it!