Ministry is not about what we do for people, but what we do with people. Scott Fortenberry's Church Planting Story
Over the next few weeks, we're going to share interviews with all of the church planters in Mississippi who are funded by the 242 Network. For our first interview, we're sharing a behind the scenes look at Scott Fortenberry who planted Soul City Church a year and a half ago. Read on to learn more about Scott and Soul City.
Tell me a little about your background. Where are you from? What did you do before you planted a church?
I was born and raised in Clinton, MS. My wife Candiss and I got married in college. Since then I have served at several established churches in Mississippi and Florida, functioning in the senior pastor role at two of those churches.
How did you know that you wanted to plant a church?
We were living in St Petersburg, FL and feeling like God was calling us to do something different. I came to Candiss one day and told I felt like God was calling us to plant a multicultural church in Jackson, MS. A few days later she came with her Bible and said read Luke 8:39 "Go home and tell what God has done."
I immediately called my grandmother and told her what we felt like God was doing in our lives. She then told me that in 1835 my great great grandfather, Thomas E. Helm, donated a building to a local African American Church. They named their church in his honor, Mt Helm Baptist Church, and it is the oldest African American religious body in the city. We feel like God started something in our family's life almost 200 years ago and He is letting us be part of it now.
Wow! What a legacy! So now, you've got the support of your family and it's time to make a drastic move. What was your first step once you knew that you were supposed to plant a church? What was the first thing you did?
I set up a meeting with Dr. Jim Futral of the MS Baptist Convention. From there, I was introduced to Johnny Ervin and the 242 network. I went through a 242 Network Assessment and was trained by one of the 242 Network Hub Leaders.
Incredible! Now, share with us hat God is doing in your church. Can you share a story Share a (or 2, or 3!) of how God is moving in your church plant?
We follow an Upside Down model of ministry. We serve the city which leads to intentionally investing into the lives of others, which leads to bold lives of worship. We will follow that model to help you get a feel for what we are doing.
Serve the City
We had a youth group serving with us as part of their Disciple Now weekend. The students were doing work on our ministry house and at a neighbor's house down the street. Three teenage girls were talking with one of our neighbors about her plans for Thanksgiving. She jokingly said that she had not had Thanksgiving in about 6 years. Immediately these girls went back to the group and raised $200. Then, with the money they raised, they purchased several new outfits for her and loaded her pantry with food. They took it a step further by preparing Thanksgiving dinner in her home along with their families and her family. Ministry is not about what we do for people, but what we do with people. That's one of my favorite stories!
I mentioned in the story above that we have a mission house in Midtown. It was donated to our church and was in need of a great deal of work. Also, it goes without saying that many ungodly things have happened in this house. The last person to occupy this house before it was given to us, was a teenager. He has joined us in a Bible study and plugged into the life of our family. As we invest in him he is investing in us.
Live Bold Lives of Worship
We had two teenagers surrender their lives to Christ. We started a Bible study with them and they have invited their friends to be part of it. They are already living bold lives of faith and being equipped to continue living their lives in this upside down way.
Those are incredible stories! God is moving in big ways through your church and impacting Midtown. What is the most challenging thing about church culture in Mississippi, specifically in your location and how are you working to change it?
One of the most challenging things in the church culture is to realize that you have a church culture. Often times this culture is so different than the world around us that the world feels unwelcome in church culture It's important to remember that "culture" is not right or wrong but it's the way things are done within a group of people.
In my location, we are working to change the church culture by meeting the practical needs of people within our community. That gives us the opportunity to invest intentionally in them leading to bold lives of worship.
What role has the 242 Network played in your journey as a church planter?
I have been very grateful for the role of the 242 Network. The assessment process has proven to be one of the most pivotal experiences in my life. The training was excellent but the real strength of the Network is the ongoing relationships and investments that people from the Network have made in my life and ministry.
Do you think there is a need for more church plants in Mississippi?
There is no doubt that we need more churches in Mississippi so that we can reach more people. As the church we must realize that no one church can reach the entire city we all need one another and we need fresh starts to help us reach as many as possible.\
What would you tell someone if they approached you about church planting? What kind of advice would you give to someone who's thinking about planting a church?
First, I would encourage them to know about their specific call. I would then encourage them to go through an assessment and training process like the one that the 242 network has set up.
We want to say a big "Thank You!" to Scott for opening up and sharing about his life and ministry. Will you commit to pray for Scott and Soul City as they live and work within the capital city? You can learn more about Soul City and support them through their social media sites linked below.