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The Dahlonega Church Plant
Driving into Dahlonega, Georgia, is an awe-inspiring experience. Cresting the hill that descends from Highway 60 into town reveals the wonder of the mountain panorama that surrounds the community. Every time my family and I see it we are “blown away.” That is the experience we want to have with the gospel—and is an experience that we want to share with others. And so, as we prepare to launch a new church in the Dahlonega area, the mission will be simple: “To glorify God by helping people come alive to the beauty, wonder, & power of the gospel.”
WELCOME TO DAHLONEGA, GEORGIA A STRATEGIC LOCATION FOR A NEW, GOSPEL-CENTERED CHURCH
Dahlonega, Georgia, is a vibrant, historic college town nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains sixty-five miles north of downtown Atlanta. Located in the heart of the Georgia Wine Country, it is a town that is rich in history, education, the arts, tourism, recreation and natural beauty. Understanding a bit about the area helps us to see how strategic and important Dahlonega is for a new, gospel-centered church—one that we expect to have far reaching kingdom significance. A RICH HISTORY. The first Gold Rush in the US took place in the Dahlonega area in 1828, forty years before gold was discovered in California. The original town courthouse, which was built in 1836, stands in the center of the public square, and now houses the Dahlonega Gold Museum. The square, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is also home to many unique restaurants, pubs, boutiques, art galleries, antique shops and more. POPULATION GROWTH. Population growth in the Dahlonega area has exceeded national growth by 300%, and is projected to continue that trend. After all, Dahlonega is the terminus of GA 400, one of the primary professional growth corridors in one of the ten largest metro areas in the United States. Along with the university and art communities, these “new residents” will be a major target group for the church. Wanting to enjoy the beauty of the area and avoid the daily congestion of the suburbs, many of these new residents are willing to commute down the 400 corridor toward Atlanta, while others work out of their homes, or in jobs related to the growth of the university, hospital and other businesses. Dahlonega is also becoming a popular place for many early retirees who want to enjoy the recreational and educational life-
style opportunities that is available in Dahlonega. As a consequence of this growth, there are already over twenty housing developments underway in the Lumpkin, Dawson, and northwest Hall County area.1 A COLLEGE TOWN. Dahlonega is home to North Georgia College and State University2, which is also The Military College of Georgia (one of only six senior military colleges in the United States, along with Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute and Norwich University). Equipping future leaders in medicine, education, business and art, the university presently enrolls over 6,000 students, and is in the process of completing $100 million in campus developments (including a state-of-the-art library, indoor recreation facility, additional on-campus housing, and parking deck) in anticipation for a substantial increase in the student body due to admissions North Georgia College and State University changes that now allow non-military male students to live on campus. This growth is not only bringing students to Dahlonega, but also an increase in professors, staff and jobs related to other community services. ARMY RANGER TRAINING. The 5th Ranger Training Battalion of the U.S. Army is located in Dahlonega and serves as the “mountain phase” of the Rangers special operations training. THE ARTS. Along with the fine arts department at the university, the local community is a growing center for visual and performing artists. Along with a growing number of visual artists registered with the Dahlonega Artist’s Council, popular musicians such as Widespread Panic lead singer/guitarist, John Bell, Sugarland lead singer, Jennifer Nettles, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, and Zac Brown of the Zack Brown Band make their home in Dahlonega, along with other lesser known talents who can be found performing at the many local music night spots. Dahlonega is also home to the Buisson Arts Center, which hosts art showings and offer art classes. There are also several art galleries with active artists, including the Blue Gallery, Kryder Gallery and The Olde Cannery Arts Center. An especially prized venue for the performing arts is the Historic Holly Theater, which hosts stage plays, musicals, specials shows, first run movies, concerts and much more, including a children’s theater and troupe (which performs on stage and travels to national theater competitions). TOURISM. As the gateway to the mountains of North Georgia, Dahlonega’s thriving tourism industry draws over a million visitors annually. The community hosts over ten local festivals a year, several world-class cycling events each year, a month long “Old Fashioned Christmas” celebration. GEORGIA’S WINE COUNTRY. Another facet of tourism, as well as a much beloved local amenity, is the growth of the vineyard industry in the Dahlonega area, with five local wineries in operation. With scenic views of the mountains, upscale restaurants, festivals, daily wine tasting, live music, and estate living, Dahlonega’s wine industry is changing the face of mountain living.
In light of the fact that 93% of America’s 285 nonmetropolitain recreational counties gained population in the 90s, Leoard Sweet, in Soul Tsunami, says, “People are migrating to small towns and rural areas, especially ‘recreational counties’ with a recreation and retirement base” (p. 123). That is certainly the case with Dahlonega/Lumpkin County, which has grown by 75% since 1990, and is poised for continued growth.
NGCSU has been designated The Leadership Institution of Georgia.
NATURAL BEAUTY AND RECREATION. Considered to be an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, Dahlonega is surrounded by a mountainous panorama that bespeaks the natural beauty of the region. The Chattahooche National Forest, over thirty scenic waterfalls (including Amicolola Falls, which at 729 feet is the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River), numerous state parts, rivers, streams, and conservation areas provide unlimited opportunities for hiking, camping, fly-fishing, canoeing, tubing, and kayaking (not to mention the activities available on the nearby 38,000 acre Lake Lanier). Other popular outdoor activities include horseback riding, picnicking, cycling and golf. DIVERSITY. Since 1990, the Dahlonega community has experienced a 75% growth rate (compared to the US growth rate of 21%), growth which has brought a wide diversity of people to the area, including students, professors, artists, merchants, military personnel, retirees, and Atlanta commuters, each who has brought and are bringing a unique flavor mix to the region.
DAHLONEGA Q U I C K FA C T S • Est. 1832 • Target area = 40,000+ people • Growth since 1990 = 75% (US = 21%) • Projected growth through 2013 = 12.2% (US = 4.6%) • Top 2 employers: North Georgia College and State Univ. & Chestatee Regional Hospital
POVERTY. Although many new residents bring with them a degree of material wealth, there are many families in Lumpkin County who live without running water or electricity, and many more who are in need of basic literacy education. These are needs that reveal a huge opportunity for ministries of mercy and compassion. QUALITY MEDICAL CARE. Chestatee Regional Hospital in Dahlonega offers a wide rage of medical specialties, and is only one of one hundred acute-care hospitals in the United States (out of 6,000) to be honored as a Solucient Top 100 Hospital. ACCESS TO METRO ATLANTA. Even though the feel of the community is university, mountain-rural, suburban Atlanta extends its reach to within just thirteen miles of town, where the North Georgia Premium Outlets (housing 140 high-end retailers) are located on GA 400—a prime destination for Atlanta area shoppers. In fact, the Dahlonega square is only 65 miles from the heart of downtown Atlanta, just 50 miles from the I-285 loop, and even closer to the major northern Atlanta suburbs. PRIME LOCATION FOR STUDY CENTER. In such a beautiful setting with such easy access to metro Atlanta, we foresee a L’abrish type study/retreat center being an outreach of the church. We believe that a studey center in the Dahlonega area could be a tremendous gospelcentered resource that would serve not only the Dahlonega community, but also the entire region. Shops on the Historic Town Square
THE CHURCH PLANTERS: DR. MCKAY & KRISTY CASTON
Education and Experience. Originally from Memphis, TN, I completed my high school education in Jackson, MS, before receiving a B.A. in History and Literature at the University of Mississippi, and graduated summa cum laude with both masters and doctorate degrees from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO. With almost fourteen years of ordained, pastoral ministry, I have served on staff at churches in St. Louis, MO, Memphis, TN, Tupelo, MS, and as Lead Pastor for Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenwood, MS, before joining Perimeter Church in the summer of 2007 as a Church Planter in Residence. While at Perimeter, I have been exposed to a number of the church’s “best practices,” and equipped specifically in the areas of leadership, preaching, discipleship, mission, and worship. It should go without saying that my experience at Perimeter has been a tremendous blessing in my preparation as a church planter. Kristy is from just outside of Yazoo City, Mississippi, and is a licensed (but non-practicing) pharmacist. With interests ranging from home-making, to philosophy, to classical education, to interior design and hospitality, she loves teaching and deeply values time with friends. Family & Testimony. Kristy and I were married June of 1992, and since, have added three children to our family, Ann Ferris (13), Schaeffer (10), and Sarah Wynn (5). They are totally on board with being a “missionary family,” understanding that we are committed to letting our weakness and need be the channel through which God communicates his grace through us to others. This has not always been the case. For much of our lives, Kristy and I both misinterpreted the gospel to be a form of moralism whereby God would accept and bless us based on our goodness (or at least if we were better than others). We lived like the Jews in Romans 10:3, “Being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” Over the years and by God’s grace, we are growing in our understanding of the substitutionary nature of the cross, of the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness, and of what it means to be a dearly loved, adopted child of God. These doctrines have become very precious to us, and now serve as the centerpiece of our life and ministry. Experience of Grace. After years of trying to be strong and able in ministry, we finally came to the end of our ability rope. Yet, rather than experiencing hopelessness and despair, we discovered God’s grace in that place of brokenness and need. Paul discovered it, too. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Jesus told him in the midst of Paul’s own weakness, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul went on to say, “Therefore, I will boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Heart for Ministry. In light of this fresh gospel discovery, Kristy and I are committed to living a better way—a more authentic and dependent way. Honestly, we consider ourselves totally incapable of experiencing success in this endeavor apart from the empowering grace of God’s Holy Spirit. And since we desperately desire the power of Jesus to rest upon us, we, like Paul, plan to boast all the more in our weakness, brokenness and need, so that we might live and minister as wounded healers who rely on the all-sufficient grace of God.
OUR UNIFYING VISION
“Our vision is to glorify God by helping people come alive to the beauty, wonder, & power of the gospel.” Our vision is focused on the gospel because it is the grace of God that is the power that reconciles people to God and motivates and empowers the entire Christian life. We agree with Tim Keller, who says, “The gospel is not just the ‘A-B-C’ but the ‘A to Z’ of the Christian life. The gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom, but is the way to address every problem and... to grow at every step.”3 As a result, spiritual vitality hinges on the Spirit bringing the gospel alive in our hearts through faith. We want to be facilitators in that process. Therefore, helping people come alive to the wonder of the gospel is at the very heart of our vision to glorify God.
OUR CORE COMMITMENTS
We hope to accomplish this vision by emphasizing three guiding, core commitments:
๏ PERVASIVE GRACE
‣ We want the radical message of grace to be the central theme that permeates everything about the church, from teaching, to worship, to prayer, to life-on-life discipleship, to vocation, to marriage, to parenting, to education, to leadership, to stewardship, to mission, etc.4 ‣ In order to see this become reality, we continually will distinguish the gospel from religion. Religion says that if I obey and sacrifice, then I will be accepted and blessed. But the Gospel bleeds sheer grace, saying that I am accepted and blessed because of the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus. These are two utterly different things.
Timothy J. Keller and J. Allen Thompson, Church Planter Manual (New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2002)., p. 37.
4 Radical grace presupposes radical sin. We must be confronted with the law and the cross in order to understand the radical nature
of the gospel. In other words, grace without truth isnʼt grace, and truth without grace isnʼt truth. Page 5
‣ Indeed, the radical grace of the gospel is counterintuitive to the moralistic, religious mind, which is why we must hear the gospel in depth and believe it in depth over and over again.5 ‣ As a grace-centered church that prizes, pursues and teaches sound, impassioned, reformed orthodoxy, we will emphasize that theological knowledge is not the end, but is a means for knowing God and growing in intimacy with him.
๏ AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY
‣ As an implication of the gospel, we want to cultivate the kind of community that is defined by authenticity and vulnerability. We long for a grace-saturated atmosphere that communicates to people, “This is a safe place to be real. We are all broken, sinful people who desperately need Jesus.” ‣ On this note, we will acknowledge that human weakness is not a liability, but a reality that drives us to dependent prayer and to derive supernatural strength and ability from God. In the words of Jack Miller, “Grace runs downhill.” ‣ We believe that true humility is beautiful, and may be the most compelling virtue that attracts nonChristians to the gospel. Consequently, we really want to live as if the ground is level at the foot of the cross. ‣ As we focus on community as a core value, we will emphasize the importance of intentional life-onlife discipleship, and that the church is not primarily a place, but a people. ‣ Furthermore, as a community, we will affirm that every believer has been endowed with spiritual gifts that he or she is to exercise so that the the body will be healthy and effective in fulfilling its purpose in the world. In this sense, every member is a minister. Leaders are not called to do all the ministry, but to equip the believers to exercise their unique gifts. ‣ And concerning leadership, we desire and value leaders who are pacesetters in living the graceimplications of the gospel, particularly manifesting qualities such as genuine humility, sincere repentance, cheerful generosity and dependent prayer. ‣ In John 17 Jesus prays that the church would manifest unity as an apologetic that the gospel is true. We trust that we will have a diversity of people attending worship and participating in the community. It will be our bond in the gospel that serves as an ever present reminder of our essential unity, even amidst our diversity.
5 We believe that people not only are justiﬁed by grace through faith, but also are sanctiﬁed by grace through faith.
๏ ORGANIC MISSION
‣ We will encourage all the folks in the church to see themselves as missionaries, word and deed ambassadors of the gospel. ‣ With that missional mindset, we will emphasize what it means to be “salt and light” in the context of our organic, relational spheres of influence. As Marva Dawn says, “Being Church means following a way of life... Evangelism happens as we go about our daily lives—to work, to the grocery store, to school, to the neighbor’s house for tea—we live the gospel. We speak it freely... We incarnate it. We display a joy in following Jesus and his Way that invites our neighbors to consider the truth of his life in us.”6
‣ But mission will not be merely a personal endeavor. And so as we gather for worship, we desire for the service to be accessible to non-Christians. In fact, whoever preaches or teaches will assume there are nonChristians in attendance, and will speak in a way that addresses their questions, fears, and doubts in language that they can understand. 7 ‣ As part of this commitment, we will encourage non-Christians to “belong before they believe,” letting them know that they don’t have to change their belief systems or lifestyles to participate in the community as they investigate the claims of the gospel. This is because we recognize that coming to faith is often a process, as is growing in grace as a disciple of Jesus. ‣ Therefore, we will not view non-Christians as enemies, but precisely as the people to whom we are called to serve, love and offer the living hope of God’s transforming grace.
LIFE INTEREST AREAS Tennis League Sigma Chi Fraternity Youth Sports Ultimate Frisbee Hiking Club Fly Fishing Club Community classes at NGCSU Art classes Kiwanis Club Conservation Club Book Clubs Boy Scouts Local schools & homeschool groups Campus Outreach Neighborhood Association
6 Marva Dawn, A Royal Waste of Time: The Splendor of Worshipping God and Being the Church for the World (Grand Rapids, MI:
William B. Eerdamans, 1999), 346.
7 As a distinctively mission oriented church, we want to affirm that the message of the gospel is timeless and unchanging, but that
the ministry of the gospel should be contextualized in each particular time and place. This does not affect the theological content of the message, but does affect the clothes it wears, such as musical style, language, dress, architecture, etc.
OUR MINISTRY STRATEGY: ENGAGING, ENGRAFTING & EQUIPPING
Inquirers Seminar Relational Evangelism
Membership Class School of Discipleship
Taste of “The New Church”
THE SCHOOL OF GOSPEL DISCIPLESHIP
Theological Foundations for Leadership (TFL)
The Gospel Class Various educational and equipping courses (marriage, parenting, stewardship, worldview, etc.)
PROJECTED MILESTONES TOWARD PARTICULARIZATION Below is a proposed time-line of planned progress from the end of 2008 to the fall of 2012.
Goals Attend Assessment Center Complete Ministry Plan Develop ministry budget Develop ministry partners through vision casting opportunities Enroll in “Leadership Lumpkin” Relocate to the Dahlonega area Identify potential meeting locations Involvement in life interest areas Networking Sharing the gospel Hosting gathering events Vision casting Launch a gathering Bible study Develop a “launch team” Continue gathering Bible Study, and other potential area group studies Continue vision casting gatherings Recruit/hire administrative assistant, worship leader, and children’s director to begin Summer 2010 Preview services Publicize the launch of public worship Launch public worship service Launch cell groups Launch men’s discipleship Bible study First Inquirer’s/New Member Class Begin formal training of first officers Bring on church planting apprentice/ CPiR Officers ordained Particularization Financially self-supporting
PHASE I: Preparation/ Raise Support Team
January 2009–June 2009
July 2009 August 2009 PHASE II: Gathering September 2009– December 2009
PHASE III: Equip Launch Team
July–Aug. 2010 (or earlier) PHASE IV: Public Worship September 2010 (or earlier) January 2011 PHASE V: Train Ofﬁcers/ Particularization September 2011
PARTNERSHIP & INVESTMENT: BUILDING THE TEAM We don’t have to look very hard in the Bible to see that church planting is not intended to be an individual endeavor. In fact, the great church planter, the Apostle Paul, never did missions alone. His example teaches us that it takes a team to plant a new gospel mission. In fact, Paul said in Romans 10, “How can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” In light of that biblical model, I would like to ask you to consider becoming a mission partner on the Dahlonega Church Planting Team. In order to see the dream become a reality, we need to develop three significant partnerships before we can launch the mission: 1) We need financial partners. Church planting takes money to cover salary, housing, administrative expenses, equipment needs, rental facilities, staffing and other ministry expenses. 8 Budget estimates indicate that it will take $200,000 in support beyond Perimeter Church and local, core group giving to provide the funding necessary to cover our anticipated expenses through our third year, after which point we plan to be self-supported. The graph below shows how we plan to use these funds as we gradually move from a largely donor-supported church to a fully self-supported church.
100% 10% 34% 75% 45% Core Group Support Perimeter Support Outside Support 66%
17% 0% Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
A detailed budget spreadsheet is available upon request.
In order to reach our outside support funding goal, we are praying for a variety of financial partners (churches and/or individuals) to invest with us and help us get to Dahlonega. Below is a possible donor scenario that would enable us to accomplish our financial goal. Of course, if you would prefer to give a different amount than those stated below (whether more or less), or give a one time gift rather than fulfilling a three-year pledge, your generosity is welcomed and deeply appreciated! 1 partner @ 15,000/yr. for 3 years = 2 partners @ 10,000/yr. for 3 years = 2 partners @ 6,000/yr for 3 years= 3 partners @ 2,400/yr. for 3 years ($200/month)= 5 partners @ 1,200/yr. for 3 years ($100/month)= 10 partners @ 600/yr. for 3 years ($50/month) = 10 partners @ 300/yr. for 3 years ($25/month) = Total = 45,000 60,000 30,000 21,600 18,000 18,000 9,000 201,600
I heard someone speaking on stewardship say that fundraising is actually a form of faithraising—not only for the one raising the funds, but for those who are being asked to invest. In our present economic context, it takes faith to give over and above a tithe. Nevertheless, I am trusting that God is not limited by wavering economic conditions and is able to provide the resources needed to support this work through people who share a kingdom vision for the glory of God being manifest through the impact of the gospel. Furthermore, I believe that those who are able to partner with us financially will recognize that although money can be “lost” in the market, it cannot be lost investing in the advance of the gospel. 9 And so I pray that if you do participate in suppling the initial financial needs of the church, that your faith will be raised and that you will experience much joy through the grace of giving. My heart for you echos the apostle Paul’s, who said, “You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:11). 2) We need prayer partners. In his book, Let the Nations be Glad, John Piper makes some dramatic statements about the role of prayer in mission, saying, “It is the proclamation of the gospel that is the work of missions... [but] prayer [is] God’s instrument to release the power of the gospel.”10 According to Piper, prayer is not just for those who can’t afford to be financial partners. It is an absolutely critical aspect of the mission! He goes on to say that “prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief,” calling in the airpower of the Holy Spirit to enable the gospel to be proclaimed with power and received with joy.
10John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), pp. 62-63.
If you would like to participate through prayer, simply sign up on the response card as a prayer partner. I will send brief prayer updates on a regular basis via email. 3) We need people to partner with us as ground troops. Maybe as you read about the church we are dreaming about, your heart began to connect in a unique way. Or maybe you read about the Dahlonega area and were drawn to consider living out the gospel in that type of community. If you think you possibly are being drawn to participate on the ground with us and want to inquire further, please do not hesitate to contact me in person. Would you seek God for which role (or roles) He might have you serve on our team? If you cannot participate at this time, we fully understand and deeply appreciate the time you have taken to understand the dream that we are pursuing. However, if you are able, please complete and return the enclosed response card at your earliest convenience. In includes a variety of ways in which you may participate. I am presently scheduling personal visits over the next several months, and would be delighted to meet with you to discuss the project further.
ASSOCIATION & ACCOUNTABILITY The Dahlonega Church Plant will be under the guidance of our sending church, Perimeter Church in Atlanta, which has a renowned track record of planting vital, gospel-centered churches. We also will be in partnership with the North Georgia New Church Network and Metro Atlanta Presbytery of the PCA.
Yours, by grace alone,
Mailing address: Dr. McKay Caston 5065 Welwyn Ct. Suwanee, GA 30024 firstname.lastname@example.org (678) 651-5557 www.thewonderofthegospel.com www.thewonderofthegospel.blogspot.com
Email: Phone: Church website: McKay’s blog:
The Caston family blog: www.thecastonchronicles.blogspot.com
OUR THEME VERSE
“If only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me— the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” ~ The Apostle Paul in Acts 20:24
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