How do you disciple a city?
Am I called to be the pastor of a church or a pastor in the church?
For pastors at Redemption Hill Church (RHC) in Winston-Salem, these questions drive the approach to ministry and multiplication. They want to see their home become a “gospel-saturated city.”
“We want it to be hard to leave your house in Winston-Salem and not have a meaningful gospel interaction,” says lead pastor Brandon Mercer. “So we have to send out missionaries where they live, work and play.”
In a growing city where most of the population is not affiliated with a local church, RHC leaders know they can’t make disciples on their own.
“Multiplication becomes critical, and so does collaboration,” Mercer says. “If we really want to see every man, woman and child , then it’s going to take all of God’s people to do what God wants to do in our city.”
Charles Fernandez, multiplication and leadership development pastor at RHC, says when goals pivot from growing a church to advancing God’s kingdom, “collaboration becomes a necessity, not just a nicety.”
The commitment to seeing lostness decrease in Winston-Salem led RHC to start a “Multiply Cohort” in August 2020, to provide a pathway for members who perceived a calling to plant. They wanted to “cultivate an atmosphere where people knew that was an option, if God was calling them to , then they have a pathway to that.”
Three potential planters began meeting every other Tuesday morning with RHC elders to clarify that call. It became a time of discipleship, prayer and coaching. They met at 6 a.m., before the planters, who had full-time jobs, would go to work.
In the beginning of 2021, RHC partnered with other local churches in the area to form a residency called the Triad Church Multiplication Initiative. The three planters from RHC became the first to participate in the initiative as residents. Pastors from several Winston-Salem churches helped train and coach planters and their wives, meeting with them every month until December.
Fernandez says seeing other pastors pour into the residents’ lives is an answer to prayer.
“To see the pastors and their love for the gospel and their desire to see the city be reached — they have a kingdom mindset,” he says. “They’re trying to pour into these guys because they want to see them plant healthy.”
Clint Little, one of the church planters completing the residency, says the network of “genuine care and support” has made it “hard to imagine a better environment for being a first-time church planter.
“When we need something, it’s not a matter of trying to figure out, ‘Is there anybody that would help me with this?’ It’s genuinely a matter of, ‘Which of these eight people and churches should I call right now?’”
A few months ago, Little and his family moved to Clemmons, where they will plant. Another planter, Taylor Smith, and his wife recently moved into a community in Winston-Salem and began getting to know their neighbors and potential core team members.
For Smith, the diversity among the pastors that have coached and mentored them has allowed him to find freedom to “start a church that reflects the community you’re in.
“We all hold the closed-handed things together as far as the gospel and Scripture, but how we do church can look like a few different ways.”
Little adds that the leaders’ “open-handed generosity” is evident even in how they encourage partnerships with churches in other cities. When he was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Little and his wife, Quinn, were part of North Wake Church in Wake Forest. It was there that the Lord grew in him a love for the local church and a call to plant. When he first expressed interest in having North Wake be a part of their planting process, Mercer and Fernandez immediately welcomed and supported the idea.
They showed a “level of generosity that doesn’t come with strings attached,” Little says.
Mercer and Fernandez point to John 17 as motivation for this kind of conviction. They encourage churches to pray for unity, to serve their communities together in practical ways and to pray for each other regularly — and let them know. At Redemption Hill, the congregation sets aside time every week to pray for another church in the city.
“This gives a mindset of, we’re here for a bigger thing than what we’re doing in this room on a Sunday,” Mercer says. “We’re part of God’s people, not just an individual expression.”
Smith has seen the fruit of this corporate prayer.
“You hear church members talk about it, you hear them encouraged by it,” he says.
“We want to pass on what other churches have done for us and the grace we’ve experienced,” says Little. “As we plant and after we plant, we are an open door. Our hands are open as well.
“We see each other as on the same team and fighting toward the same goal, together.”