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Church plant benefits from mother church’s ‘send out our best’ mindset

By meeting as a church plant in an elementary school, The Bridge Fellowship has been able to draw people who, for whatever reasons, may not feel comfortable attending an established church.

BOERNE, Texas (BP) – Looking to the Old Testament example of giving God the best of flocks and herds, Currey Creek Church sent 200 of its best members to plant The Bridge Fellowship, a new congregation in a fast-growing community northwest of San Antonio.

“These sheep belong to the kingdom. They’re not my sheep or our church’s sheep,” said John Free, pastor of Currey Creek. “They’re the Lord’s sheep, and we’re stewards, under-shepherds, of these sheep.”

Beyond recognizing the people are God’s and not his, Free saw a practical aspect to sending faithful church members.

“When you send spiritually mature people that are pursuing the Lord, that are active in serving in their local church, they’re going to do the same in a new environment where they’re going to be needed even more,” Free said.

John Free, pastor of Currey Creek Church in Boerne, announced with Jared Patrick (right) in early 2020 that the church would be sending Patrick to plant The Bridge Fellowship. Free urged “the very best of Currey Creek to get up and leave with Jared.” Photo submitted

Currey Creek learned how to send its best because First Baptist Church in Boerne, with pastor Bubba Stahl, sent members out to plant Currey Creek 20 years ago. Eight years ago, when Currey Creek had about 250 people, Jared Patrick was hired in part to oversee missions.

“I asked John what our missions philosophy was, and he said, ‘We’re going to plant churches,’” Patrick recalled Free saying.

Currey Creek planned to plant once it reached 1,000 people. The church began to grow quickly, and Patrick said, “I didn’t really think about it too much until we kind of looked up and Currey Creek was 1,200 people, and John came in one day and said, ‘We need to plant churches.’”

Patrick knew in that moment he was supposed to plant the next church. When he mentioned it, Free told him, “I’ve been waiting for you to figure that part out.”

The church gave Patrick “a long runway,” he said, including a sabbatical to pray and visit other church plants.

“In February 2020, John gets up, and we announce the church together, and John says, ‘I want the very best of Currey Creek to get up and leave with Jared to go get this church started,’” Patrick said.

In March 2020, 180 people were at the first interest meeting for The Bridge Fellowship. After navigating COVID shutdowns, the plant launched in September 2020 with about 200 people. In the first year, they reached 300 additional people and baptized more than 50 believers.

What’s more, Currey Creek has backfilled everyone who left.

“They sent us out in a really healthy way with a bunch of people and a bunch of resources, and now they’re even seeing more people come, and we’re seeing our church over double in the first year,” Patrick said.

Free noted that Currey Creek has seen that they can’t out-give God. “Money is way down on our list, but we grew the numbers back, and we met our [annual] budget at the end of the third quarter.”

A principle promoted at Currey Creek is that when God’s followers are open-handed, He can place something in their hands, Free said. “When we’re tight-fisted, He can’t put anything in our hands. When we say, ‘Here, Lord, these are yours,’ then He gives more to steward.”

What happened with Currey Creek and The Bridge won’t necessarily be replicated everywhere that principle is practiced, Free said, because the phenomenal growth rate of Boerne makes for a unique situation. Free spent the majority of his ministry in slow-growing or non-growing environments, he said, so he knows it’s not always this easy.

The Bridge has been meeting in an elementary school which has a cafeteria with a stage and a wall that opens to a gym, and the church is exploring opportunities for purchasing land in the near future. On its first anniversary, 607 people attended; average attendance is just under 500 people.

The idea of a church plant and a new start intrigues some people, including those moving to the area from others states, Patrick said.

“People who don’t necessarily feel ready to jump into an established church for whatever reason will come to an elementary school just because it feels different, and the Lord certainly does His work through it,” he said.

An example is a former Marine who moved from California and showed up at The Bridge because his fiancée “kind of dragged him,” Patrick said. The man spoke casually with the pastor for a few Sundays and then asked to meet for coffee, where he disclosed that God was working in his life. Three weeks later, he gave his life to Christ at the church.

Lives are changing at The Bridge because Currey Creek gave them “a fighting chance,” Patrick said.

“There are established church pastors who have so many people in their churches who, if they were given the green light to do some work together,” Patrick said, “would see some really significant traction of people coming to know the Lord through the local church.”

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  • Erin Roach