Me: Tell us about where you are currently serving and what you are currently doing? Clayton: Well, right now I'm in Chantilly, Virginia for the North American conference of Every Nation Churches, the denomination I'm a part of, and will be planting our church through.
Next week I'm back in Tallahassee, Florida for my last two weeks as the Family Pastor of Every Nation, Tallahassee. I've spent the last year here overseeing the children's ministry and the middle and high school ministries.
Me: Can you describe your intial call to plant a church? How did God speak to you?
Clayton: Hmm...My call to plant a church was a long and winding one. In the summer of 2005 my wife and I attended a pastoral school for our denomination, with my intent to be a better executive pastor (my role at the time). Many of the other pastors there suggested we consider being lead pastors one day, which we'd never really aspired to. At the end of the school we recieved a prophetic word that God was calling us to lead a church, which strongly confirmed what we felt in our own spirit.
I spent the next year trying to figure out where and when with several possibilites never really leading anywhere. As soon as we decided to start moving in a direction of planting I lost my job and we went through a tremenously difficult family situation, all within the same 30 days. How we went from there to here is better answered in the next question. a church planter must learn before he sets out: I can do nothing else but this.
Me: Church planting is what some would call "risky business." What was the 'tipping point' for you to take the plunge into starting a new church?
Clayton: After losing my job in 2006, I explored several other options at churches around Florida, but we felt God calling us to stay in Tallahassee to be around friends. I found a job at a local marketing and PR firm, and I had NO idea what I was doing!
Thankfully, God blessed me with an incredible boss and coworkers, and I learned so much during that time. In fact, I learned the one thing a church planter must learn before he sets out: I can do nothing else but this.
I had opportunities for advancement at the PR firm, but didn't want them. I would be praised for a project and almost suffer a breakdown in same day because I knew I wasn't called to this. Minstry wasn't something I did as a job; it was a holy and humbling calling that God had placed upon my life, and it wretched my soul to not be walking in it.
Me: What do you think you'll miss most about your current role\ministry?
Clayton: The people. The comfort. The security. The knowing what was next, what next Sunday would be like. The friendships we've formed. This is the only church I've ever been a part of, and I've been serving in one capacity or another for 10 years. That's not going to be easy to leave.
Me: Tell us about the new church you are creating? What will it be like? Will it be unique? Clayton: OK, I love you, Terrace, but I hate that question. And maybe I'm stupid because of that. But I don't care if my church is uniqe or different, I just want it to be honoring Jesus. I don't care if someone drives past another church to get to mine. I just want them in a Christ-centered church, no matter who's it is! (Editor's comment: AMEN!)
Now that we're past my rant (Editor's note: This is why I love Clayton Bell - he keeps it real & brings the heat!), I'll answer you in one line - Trinity New Life Church exists to see people love Jesus, love people and serve the city. Everyone loves God, but loving Jesus means being in a relationship with him and obeying His commands. Not many are willing to do that, but it's the only thing that matters! Additionally, any life truely transformed by Jesus will not be lived in isolation or selfishly. So we will love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we will love our neighbors as ourselves. While our faith will always be personal, it will never be private.
Me: So when do you launch?
Clayton: Trinity New Life Church is planning on launching on a weekly basis March 14, 2010.
Me: What does the road look like prior to your launch?
Clayton: We're currently building a team of 40 adults to help us launch TNLC, as well as raising funds to launch the church. In November we're planning on hosting our first monthly preview service, which will continue until February of 2010. In between we're planning on facilitating multiple service projects, community outreaches, and neighborhood parties. We're not expecting everyone to come to us when we open our doors, so we're going to them to show and tell all about Jesus.
Me: What's the most valuable thing you've learned so far in this particular leg of your journey?
Clayton: Faith, brother. Faith and confidence in Jesus, not in self or circumstances, is more crucial than I can convey. The importance of prayer, both corporatly and personally, has increased in my life. And perhaps the greatest leson so far has been the clarification of my motivations. Church planting's a popular thing to do right now; is that why I'm doing it? Why am I doing this? There can only be one real reason- to lift up the name of Jesus Christ among those who are lost and hurting. No church planter should step outside of his door any morning if that is not his primary motivation.
Me: How can we support you in this new endeavor?
Clayton: So glad you asked! Checks can be made out to... :-)
Actually, the biggest thing everyone can do it PRAY! And not just say they'll pray, but actually pray! You can sign up to join our prayer team by clicking here
Additionally, if you live in the Tampa area and you're interested in helping with a church plant, come on down! If you know anyone in the Tampa area and want to hear more about the church, please let us know that as well.And if you do feel led to support us financially, in any capacity, we'll be more than happy to help you store up treasures in heaven! (Editor's note: Yet another reason I like Clayton. He is hilarious!)
Me: Anything else you'd like to say?
Clayton: Thanks for the opportunity to share about Trinity New Life Church! You can follow us on the web at @trinitynewlife.com, trinitynewlife.com, and become a fan on Facebook.