by Joel Comiskey, Planting Churches that Reproduce
As I speak to people in ministry, I keep hearing about the effectiveness of the Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. Jimmy Seibert, the founding pastor of ACC, was radically transformed at the age of seventeen. He started small groups on the Baylor University Campus that eventually grew to 600 students on four campuses. He and some students wrote a book called Reaching College Students through Cells. In 1999 Jimmy started ACC.
ACC has sent thirty-eight church planting teams worldwide (to twenty-four nations) and has a missionary support staff from their own church of 450. ACC has never been content to grow one church larger and larger. Yet, as the mother church gives itself away, it keeps growing. Like the New Testament church, God has called them to become a church-planting movement. Jimmy once told me that churches must offer their people a practical missionary vision to reach the world. As a college pastor, he noticed that parachurch organizations were often more mission-focused than the church. “God’s plan is for the church to offer a world vision. Young people long to give themselves to a world-changing vision,” Jimmy said.
ACC breathes the principle of missionary multiplication—in their groups, leaders, churches, and missionaries. Each year ACC offers either a missions conference or a church planting conference on a rotating basis.
Antioch believes and teaches the need for brokenness and the filling of the Holy Spirit, which results in radical obedience. This church emphasizes very plain, clear biblical concepts. I pressed Jimmy about what model he was following, and he kept returning to their desire to follow biblical principles. “We don’t do the simple, biblical things well, so we get caught up in following models,” he told me.
Sean Richmond left ACC ten years ago to plant a church in Boston, Massachusetts. Like other church planters, Sean started a life group that multiplied and eventually turned into a once-a-month celebration service. As the life groups grew and multiplied, they eventually grew into a weekly celebration service. The church in Boston now has some twenty life groups and 300 people worshipping in a local high school gym. Yet their goal is to start a movement. They were excited to send their first missionary church planting team to a restricted-access country.
Robert Herber planted an ACC church in San Diego, California. Although brought up in a Christian home, he didn’t start walking with God until he connected to passionate people from ACC at Baylor University. He also caught fire, grew in the Lord, and eventually raised support to plant a church (all church planters raise their own support). Like all church planters from ACC, Robert gathered together a team. Antioch’s church planting team joined to start the first life group. Through the initial pilot group, they prepared San Diegans to be the leaders of the future life groups. They aim to win as many people as possible to Jesus and start life groups. Robert writes, “Today, two more students were saved: our next-door neighbor and then the baseball team pitcher!”
The home life group is the basis for church planting at Antioch. It was also the foundation for early church planting. We can all rejoice in examples like ACC, and let’s pray that God gives us a similar vision.