Editor’s Note: You can listen to Chris Phillips discuss church planting in Denver during Episode 12 of Radio B&R, the official news podcast of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. That podcast can be found here.
PHOENIX — After spending his entire life in Tennessee, most of it in Memphis where he was born and raised, Chris Phillips is adjusting to life as a church planter in Denver.
Phillips also is learning firsthand what it’s like to come from a church (Bellevue Baptist in Cordova) with plenty of resources to a new church (Journey Point Fellowship) where he and his family are the only resources.
“When it comes to church planting, you are the resource,” he said. “You have to be able to wake up and just get after it,” Phillips said during an interview with the Baptist and Reflector at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix in June.
“An entrepreneurial mindset is needed. You’ve got to be thinking constantly about what is next and how you can cast the vision towards what God has laid on your heart. Quite frankly, it has to be 100 percent total reliance upon the Lord,” he said.
Phillips and his family moved to Denver in June where he will work with another Tennessee church planter — Ben Mandrell who is now pastor of Storyline Fellowship in Arvada, near Denver — before launching Journey Point Fellowship.
As he looks back over his journey, Phillips sees how the Lord worked in his life.
After attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and working in pharmaceutical sales for a number of years, Phillips and his wife Libby moved back to his hometown of Memphis where they began to search for a church.
“Neither one of us really grew up in a church home,” Phillips candidly admitted. “We knew after we got married that we really needed to get plugged in to get our marriage right, to get the foundation back to where we knew it needed to be.”
The couple landed at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova because it had a young married couples ministry that allowed them to “really do life with people that were in our same stage of life.
During the first three or four years at Bellevue the couple was actively serving in the church. He participated in a missions trip to work with a church plant in Seattle. It was shortly after that trip that Phillips began to sense a call to full-time vocational ministry. He began taking seminary courses online from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
During that time Bellevue had an opening on staff for a minister to work with young couples and recreation, “two areas where we had served in the church for a really long time,” Phillips recalled. He is grateful the church took a chance on “a guy with no ministerial experience.”
The new church planter is grateful for what Bellevue has meant to him and his family.
“We were part of a very organic leadership development process at Bellevue,” he observed. “We came as a husband and wife that needed to be more involved. We were equipped through small groups and by serving. We were equipped by people investing in our lives. We went through a natural progression of a leadership pipeline,” he said.
Phillips strongly encourages churches to look at young people in their congregations and take steps to equip them for ministry in the future.
In the about two months he has been in Denver, Phillips already has seen God at work, noting that Tennessee volunteers have prayerwalked the Stapleton community where Journey Point Fellowship will be located and that he and his family have already secured a home in the area. In addition, God has sent six couples there to help Phillips and his wife with the new church start.
As he and his wife tackle a new challenge, Phillips asked for Tennessee Baptists to pray for him and other church planters in Denver. “Pray for our families, pray for transition, pray for partnerships, pray for missions trips, and pray for financial needs,” he said.
“God is doing a great work in Denver and we are blessed to be a part of it,” he said.
He also asked specifically for prayer for the people. He estimated that 90 percent of the 4.2 million people in the greater Denver area are unchurched. “We don’t need bigger churches in Denver. We just need more churches to fill the communities and people to engage in gospel conversations with people in the city.
“Whether they know it or not, God loves them and desires for them to be saved. Those gospel conversations only happen when we are fervently praying for them to happen.”