T.J. Ward, a 37-year-old church-planting pastor in Winston-Salem, N.C., hasn't had a paycheck since leaving his former church in Jacksonville, Fla., in December 2009, although he will start receiving a salary this coming January.
Over the last 18 months, Ward, his wife Wendy and their two little girls have lived only on her Bank of America salary. They traded their dream home in Jacksonville for a starter home in Winston-Salem.
When Ward decided to become a church planter, he had no idea where he would plant. He and Wendy just knew they would have to leave their large network of family and friends in Jacksonville behind.
"We were happy where we were," Ward said. "We were effective in the church where we were serving. God was using us. But I felt like He was leading me toward church planting. I ignored it for six months. I was rebellious."
But he and Wendy continued to discuss it and were willing to go anywhere.
The Wards began fasting, praying and poring over a map of the United States. They started examining church planting in different state conventions and associations, studied some demographics and narrowed their choice down to the Tar Heel State.
"I liked that the North Carolina convention was pushing church planting," said Ward, who spent 10 years as a teacher, vice principal and principal in Christian education before going into the ministry in Jacksonville in 2008.
After more discussions with the state convention's staff and counsel from mentors like pastor Spike Hogan in Jacksonville, they chose Winston-Salem for their new church plant.
"God lined up the circumstances, and Winston-Salem seemed to fit."
Launched last January, New Church -- that's the name of the church -- now runs in the 150s every Sunday, meeting in a local YMCA. Ward's vision and the church's name came from 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come." New Church's slogan is "It's church ... just different." To read more, click here.
What is your church doing to plant gospel churches in North America and beyond?