What’s It Like Starting a Church From Scratch?—’StartUp’ Podcast Goes Behind the Scenes

restoration church 2014 vimeo
(Photo: Vimeo screengrab)

The host of Gimlet Media’s “StartUp” podcast went behind the scenes with a team of church planters in Philadelphia for six months to get a close look at “a movement of people trying to disrupt one of the oldest, most bureaucratic institutions in history: the Christian church.”

Reporter Eric Mennel opens the first installment of the podcast series on “Church Planting” by introducing what he calls “a movement” among mostly-evangelical pastors planting churches.

Mennel describes the church-planting movement as akin to the tech industry’s startup methods—where founders participate in incubators, go all out to secure funding, and develop core launch teams.

The show notes for “Church Planting 1” explains:

Every year, there’s a movement of thousands of pastors starting new churches — they call them church plants. It’s a world remarkably parallel to the tech industry, with incubators, growth metrics and, well, angel investors. One of these pastors, Watson Jones III, has dreams of starting a bustling new church in North Philly. But first, he has to figure out how to get people to show up. Watson might have the most difficult task of any founder in America: Convincing people who don’t know — or even believe — in God to change their minds and join his church.

Mennel talks with Watson about his background of coming to faith, his apprenticeship under local pastor Eric Mason, and the racial dynamics he experienced in the mostly-White Evangelical church planting space. Members of Jones’ team also talk with Mennel about how they joined Jones in getting Restoration Church off the ground. Listeners learn near the end of the podcast episode that Watson and his wife eventually left the mostly-Black congregation in the hands of a White colleague, AJ Smith.

Mennel, who identifies as a Christian, plans to take on different facets of church planting in the multipart series.

Listen to “Church Planting 1: The Movement” via the player below.

To get a look at the initial Restoration Church planting team, check out this 2014 video.

Restoration Church from OrchardGroup on Vimeo.

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