Steven Madsen left his comfortable job at his church of 20-plus years to follow his calling to plant Triangle Fellowship Church in Morrisville. Through the following Q&A, get to know Madsen and what it’s like to be a church planter.

Steven Madsen left his comfortable job at his church of 20-plus years to follow his calling to plant Triangle Fellowship Church in Morrisville. 

Through the following Q&A, get to know Madsen and what it’s like to be a church planter.

How and when did you feel called to plant a church?

My wife (Emily) and I got married in 2012. In 2013, my second year of seminary, we both started developing this burden to plant a church. We began exploring that calling. We went to Toronto and visited church plants. … [We thought] maybe we’ll be a part of a plant and plant out of that. 

It was a strange journey because we both felt the Lord saying “no,” which is hard to swallow when you’re trying to be obedient. Thankfully, we listened and said, “OK, we’ll put down roots where we are, here in Raleigh. We’ll finish out seminary and I’ll volunteer at a church,” which was Bay Leaf Baptist Church. 

I started helping in college ministry. The years went by, and I ended up as a full-time pastor at Bay Leaf. I started thinking maybe the Lord is calling me to stay in an established church. At the same time, that passion for planting never went away.

We got a new senior pastor a year ago. When he came in, it was obvious that he and I were on the same page in terms of what we wanted to see happen beyond the walls of Bay Leaf. That calling we sensed back in 2013 came back up. Boom, it was clear. My wife and I knew it. The calling started 10 years ago, and then the Lord did a lot of work in our hearts and prepared us in a lot of ways to execute it now in 2023.

How would you encourage a church to take their next step in church planting?

There are plenty of churches who are stuck and don’t know how to take that next step. That’s when I’d say networking is so important, especially with N.C. Baptists. There are so many valuable resources that can help stagnant churches take a next step toward exploring planting and multiplication.

What advice would you give to pastors who are thinking about planting a church but might want to run from that calling?

Deal with your fear. Fear of failure has held me back in life a lot. I think this idea that stepping out on faith means you might fall flat on your face, and you have to get to a point where you’re okay with that. As soon as I accepted the fact whether [the church plant] “failed” or succeeded, that’s when I knew I could move forward. God just really dealt with my fear. 

What’s the hardest part about being a church planter? 

Personally speaking, discouragement comes for me on a daily basis. There’s high highs and low lows. 

I think Satan’s greatest attack against planters, against pastors and really against believers is the seeds of discouragement. Those come in the forms of lies … That’s where the fear sets in, [creating thoughts like], “Maybe I shouldn’t do this. Maybe I don’t have what it takes. It’s not worth it.”

How have you already seen God change lives through your church plant?

I have two stories. 

When we pre-launched, we were doing all kinds of outreach events. In Morrisville, there’s this monthly event called Cars and Coffee. Several thousand people show up to this event. 

We’d go out, set up our [church] tent and meet people. We encountered a family with two little kids. We talked to them for two hours one day. 

From that point on, they’ve been all-in. They were not connected to a church at all. They’re rethinking their whole spiritual life because of their children. Having kids makes you reexamine some things. They’ve been serving in our church and committed to this team. I look at that, and I’m like, “Wow, that is so special.” And it is cool to see how God crossed our paths and brought them into our church family.

The other thing is, we planted in a very Indian-heavy context. There are a lot of Indian folks in Morrisville. One of our prayers from day one was, “God, send us an Indian believer to help us engage that culture.” I don’t know a lot about Hinduism [or] reaching Indians. 

A girl from a partner church of ours, Faith Youngsville … was on a mission trip and they were coming back to the States from Ukraine. The girl from Faith was sitting next to a girl from India who was coming to America for the first time ever as a college student. They end up talking for a long time … and exchanged numbers. This girl is a believer in Jesus. 

[Faith connected her with Triangle Fellowship.] Every week, we pick this girl up from N.C. State and bring her to our church. She loves it. God brought her into this church for a reason. We prayed for an Indian believer, and through a random sequence of events, He orchestrated that.

How has your faith changed since planting a church? 

My faith has been stretched and has grown and been encouraged by walking with the Lord in ways that I have never done before. At the same time, the further [you] dive into a life of faith, the more you really start to realize you were created for this, this is by design. The more you can let living by faith be normal, the more you’re okay with the unknown. 

When you allow yourself to really be stretched and walk in faith the ways that you were created to, yeah, it’s really scary, but it gets more normal. But it’s like anything. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes. It’s so refreshing to live in this space where you truly have to depend on God and you have no other options. 

by Lizzy Haseltine, N.C. Baptist contributing writer