Editor’s note: Sunday, March 27, is Church Planting Emphasis Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.
NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (BP) – Hundreds of people have been reached in New Braunfels as Epic Life, a church plant, fulfills its vision of “transforming everyday places into sacred spaces” where people can connect to Christ.
One way church members do that literally is by showing up on Saturday nights to convert a local batting cage into a worship location for Sunday mornings, and about 400 people have been attending each week. Since the church’s launch in 2019, more than 160 people have been baptized.
“We’ve seen so many stories of God doing a work that only He can do,” Lead Pastor Brent Isbill said. “We’ve seen people step out of addiction. We’ve seen marriages restored. We’ve seen dads become spiritual leaders in their homes.”
As it strives to make disciples, Epic Life has defined a disciple using three words: experience, express and expand, said Isbill, who was a student pastor at Oakwood Baptist Church in New Braunfels for 10 years before planting.
“We believe a follower of Jesus experiences on a daily basis the presence of Christ through His Word, through creation, through prayer,” Isbill said, “and as they experience His presence, it’s only natural that they would want to express their love to the Lord and the world around them.”
As Epic Life looks for opportunities to expand God’s kingdom, Isbill urges members to have an EPIC mindset, an acrostic for: Expectant faith, People matter, Irresistible community and Creating margin.
“Whether you’re a little kid or a senior adult, every day we want you to wake up with an expectancy in your soul that the God of the universe wants to meet with you,” Isbill said, adding that the expectancy includes knowing God has a plan for each day.
Because people matter, the way Christ followers treat those they encounter on campus, in business or in their neighborhoods is consequential, Isbill said. “It matters to God, and the way we know it matters is to look at the cross.”
With Acts 2:42 as a model, Epic Life seeks to create irresistible community by out-loving the secular world. “Others may not believe what we believe at first, but we want them to see the love for each other that we have,” he said.
The goal of creating margin is needed in the world today, the pastor said, because people are “out of time, into debt up to their eyeballs and overcommitted.”
“We believe that God has a better way, so we want people to create margin in their lives with their time, talent and treasure so they can’t be spread so thin that they’re not making a difference or running so fast that they’re always exhausted,” Isbill said. “We want people to eliminate some good things from their lives so they can have great things in their lives.”
Epic Life started with 56 people at its first gathering, and last year the church baptized 59 people. “So we baptized more people than we had gathered at our first service,” Isbill said. During the first year of COVID, the church doubled in size, from 200 to 400.
“We love our city. The world is moving to Texas. Every week we have new guests. We have so many people from California that are moving in,” Isbill said. “It’s been the most fun and exciting thing me and my wife have ever done in ministry, and we love our people. I couldn’t be prouder of how God is using them to reach people in our city with the Gospel.”
Church planting is vital, Isbill said, because a church plant improves the other churches in a town by refocusing on the goal. He gave an imaginary scenario of a guy named Joe who comes to know the Lord through a church plant and starts talking to his neighbor Bill about his faith. Joe probably never knew Bill was an active believer at an established church in town, but because of Joe’s new enthusiasm, Bill may intentionally start to share his faith.
“Bill’s never going to go to Joe’s church plant. He’s going to stay at whatever established church he’s at, but that helps fuel the mission of the church at large, and that’s what I love,” Isbill said.
Every church plant is a unique expression of the Gospel, he said.
“The reason we need to plant other churches is because that church is going to reach people that no one would have the capacity to reach with the gifts and talents in the body of Christ that He puts there,” Isbill said.
Epic Life already supports other church plants, and it hopes to plant another congregation in New Braunfels before long, the pastor said, to keep the multiplication and the enthusiasm going.