By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
COOKEVILLE — Steve Tiebout (tah-boo) believes in church planting. He has planted two churches and has led many others to plant churches and his church to support them financially.
Tiebout planted a church in California which he pastored for four years and then planted The River Community Church, Cookeville, 15 years ago. Today The River Community draws about 1,300 people to Sunday morning activities and baptized 63 people last year. He and The River Community also started the Church Planting Network to help develop other church planters and church plants.
The River Community recently planted its 14th church, Forward Church in Knoxville (see story, “Church Gives Facility to Church Plant”). This is the first to receive a building, reported Tiebout.
“One of the greatest stories in this is the unselfishness of an existing, older congregation to pass on their facilities to a young church plant with the goal of reaching their city for Jesus … ,” said Tiebout.
Church planters bring “a refreshed vision and a new perspective, … in no way casting a negative light on what has been done in the past, but just recognizing that as neighborhoods change and demographics change, that there’s sometimes opportunity for a different type of fellowship coming in.”
The small congregation of Gayland Heights Baptist Church and its former pastor, Charles (Chuck) Webb, should be honored “for what they did,” he added.
Jim Florea, planter of Forward Church, thanks Tiebout for his role in the church plant. He “has a massive heart for church planting” and has always believed in him, explained Florea.
Tiebout said his roots and the Lord are key to his commitments. As a youngster growing up in the Frayser community of Memphis, he was greatly impacted by “a lot of good Southern Baptist folks who poured into me,” he recalled. His parents were not believers so neighbors invited him and took him to the area Baptist church. He was saved in his late teens and went on to benefit from participation in Southern Baptist summer missions efforts overseas and attendance at a Southern Baptist seminary.
Thus, Tiebout and The River Community are committed to Southern Baptists, he said. The church gives through the Cooperative Program, the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, and the two special missions offerings. The River Community also has 19 church plants that it is supporting including 12 through the Church Planting Network, five overseas missionaries, and seven missionaries in the United States.
“Our heart is to see others come to know this awesome Savior that we have,” stated Tiebout.