Hunter Bailey

March 2024 | Edited by Steve Moberg

      Pastor Michael Morefield has served as the chair of the Church Development Committee (aka church planting) of the Mid-America Presbytery for the last six years. He is also a board member of the EPC’s Heartland Regional Church Planting Network, which was organized by Hunter Bailey. Since a major focus of GEPC’s Outreach Team this year is supporting the planting of churches both domestically and internationally, we have begun supporting Dr. Bailey’s work. Hunter shares his thoughts on the topic “‘Free Solo’ Church Planting? There’s a Better Way…”.

       Church planting is risky business. The creation of a brand new Christian community requires the ability to raise support, cast vision, build a network, shepherd, develop leaders, teach, and much more. Consequently, there are numerous ways that a young plant can be thrown off course from its intended mission. Planting involves a thousand micro-decisions that determine the ultimate, macro-narrative of success or failure.

With such a demanding list of responsibilities and the accompanying uncertainties, it’s no wonder church planting tends to attract only those who might qualify as Christian “adrenaline junkies.” In recent decades in the United States, it’s been common to focus on planters who are talented gatherers with high-energy and who are comfortable with lots of risk. The assumption is these planters simply need funding and to be cut loose.  This is the “free solo” method of planting. There’s a better way! It’s time for a healthier and more sustainable paradigm of planting.

       Though there has been some measure of success using the “free solo” method, it’s been costly. There are many churches that never made it to a point of sustainability. Additionally, there are many more planters who have suffered through the scars and burn out that often accompanies the “free solo” method. The essential flaw in the “free solo” model is that it often elevates the planter’s charisma over his character and competencies. He ends up on an island. It’s shortsighted and places too much pressure on the planter to be the “super-pastor,” which can foster a personality-driven church. 

     What’s the alternative? Climb with a harness and support! Climb as a part of an inter-connected team of other climbers! Climb with the benefit and blessing of a community! A planter needs to be anchored to more seasoned voices to guide him with wisdom and discernment. A planter needs to be a part of a community of co-laborers to walk with him through the many dimensions of his own heart and the many critical decisions he will make in shepherding his young congregation. This type of care is more than simply offering, “I’m here if you need me.” Oftentimes, young planters don’t know they need help until it’s too late. 

      Thankfully, we in the EPC Church Planting Community offer an alternative way. We’ve prayerfully and thoughtfully created a harness and support to guide and secure planters along the risky climb to create a new church. Through counseling, coaching, peer cohorts, and regular training in core competencies, we provide a holistic, communal support system for our planters, which not only builds in a safety net for when they inevitably stumble but also provides a belaying system to help them reach each new stage in their planting journey. The community approach invites planters to band together in mutual support to not only survive planting but to thrive and to multiply. 

Prayer Requests:

Please pray for Latino Church Planting. God is at work building a community of Latino planters and leaders throughout the US. In 1950, the Latino population in the US was merely subsumed under the 0.5% “other” category. However, population projections for 2050, show that the Latino population will likely account for an incredible 29%. The time is now for the church in America to train and support Latino pastors to effectively reach our changing communities with the gospel. Please pray for Alfredo Forhans, EPC Church Planting Latino Director, and the other Latino leaders throughout the US. 

Please pray for our efforts to connect with kingdom investors, families, individuals, and foundations, who share our passion to plant churches. It is our prayer that we will raise up hundreds of planters, interns, and apprentices in the next decade. These lofty goals can only be met through the generous investment of future partners. 

Please pray for the development of our “strategic plans” in each of the six presbyteries with which we are currently affiliated, including Mid-America Presbytery. Over the next three months, we will work with presbytery committees and leadership to draft a strategic plan that will allow presbyteries to cultivate a unified vision for planting in the next five years.  

Click here to donate to the EPC Church Planting Network. 

Or send a check to: 

EPC Church Planting

PO Box 771266

Memphis, TN 38177