By Kent E. Fillinger
Bob Smith was eager to see a new church planted in his hometown of Brighton, Michigan. Brighton is located in Livingston County, which at the time was one of the fastest-growing counties in America. Smith believed a new church was needed to reach the new people who were moving in. But Smith was neither a preacher nor a church planter. Smith classified himself as “just a cop.”
Smith raised $50,000 in seed money. He created homemade brochures touting the need for a church plant in Brighton, and he started to attend Exponential, the national church planting conference. He hoped to find someone willing to plant a church in Michigan.
Who to Plant It?
Meanwhile he connected with a Christian who owned a local health and fitness club who volunteered his facility as meeting place for the new church once a church planter was found. But where to find him? Smith contacted Dave and Jon Ferguson of Community Christian Church, Naperville, Illinois, for help. He connected with East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana. He contacted Brent Foulke after every meeting of the Church Planting Assessment Center (CPAC) to see if there were any potential candidates to plant a church in Brighton. Ultimately, East 91st and Community Christian joined with him to help plant a new church.
Around the same time, Dave Dummitt was serving as the college age minister at First Church of Christ, Burlington, Kentucky. Dummitt was getting to know Dave and Jon Ferguson, both of whom encouraged him to plant his own church, but Dummitt was not really interested. The Fergusons sent Dummitt to the CPAC, where he started connecting with church planters, and Dummitt’s vision for and understanding of church planting began to grow.
After some conversations with Smith regarding his Brighton church planting dream, Dummitt signed on to the project. Then, about two hours after making this agreement, Dummitt received a call from a church planting group in Daytona, Florida, asking him to plant a church there, The caller noted that backers already had half a million dollars in the bank. Dummitt turned down that offer, choosing instead to honor his commitment to Smith and the Brighton church plant.
Through Dummitt’s ministry connection with the young adults at First Church of Christ, 24 people decided to relocate from Kentucky to Brighton to help him plant the church in the fall of 2004. The small launch team started meeting regularly to pray and plan for the start of this new church.
What to Call It?
The team members began discussing potential names and decided they did not want a geographical name; they wanted the experience, rather than the name, to define the church for them. Dummitt commented that he thought naming the church should be like naming a school in New York—something like “School 32”—so the team played with that concept for a while.
One night during a launch team meeting, Dummitt shared a devotion from Acts 2:42-47, and said the characteristics of the church in Acts were the same ones he wanted in this new church. Everybody said, “That’s it! That’s the name for our new church—2|42 Community Church.”
While Dummitt confides that the group almost “stumbled into the name,” the results have been extremely positive. He said people constantly ask what “2|42” stands for, which opens the door for sharing the mission and vision of the church. The name is memorable, unique, and practical—the church is always listed first in the phone book and in church listings, which attracts additional attention.
The launch team of 40 people spent six months preparing for the first Sunday service. A week before the first service, the launch team hosted a Super Bowl party at the health club, which 400 people attended. 2|42 Community Church was born in February 2005, and about 500 attended the first worship service in the local middle school. A nucleus of about 350 people remained, and the church made a bold decision to add a second service in the fall.
When and Where Should It Meet?
Typically, a combination of growth and space constraints drives the decision to add worship services, and the church still had plenty of space to keep growing in that one service. But Dummitt and his team were committed to building reproduction into the DNA of the church from the outset. Each leader was challenged to find and equip a new leader to fill his or her role in the second service.
A week after adding the second worship service in fall 2005, the church grew from 350 to 500. By 2|42’s first birthday, almost 600 people were attending. In 2010, the church averaged 1,172, which made it the youngest emerging megachurch on the list. In 2009, 2|42 Community launched a second site in Ann Arbor.
Today, about 1,000 attend the Brighton campus, and an additional 300 people attend the Ann Arbor site. There are campus pastors at both locations who run the teams and groups, and who serve as the “face of the place.” The church also has a teaching pastor who shares preaching responsibilities with Dummitt, and each one teaches half of the time on each campus during the year.
The church employs the novel idea of “relaunching” every fall. Dummitt and the team spend two weeks each fall casting a vision for the church and enlisting everyone to be part of the new “launch team.” Dummitt challenges each person to invite new friends to attend on a Sunday when a “guest-friendly” sermon series is introduced.
In a corresponding step, leadership challenges each ministry in the church to put a fresh face on its ministry in an effort to be ready for new people. This process has become both a celebration event for the church and a momentum-creator during a very natural season when people are already returning to church after the summer.
Who Should Lead It?
There have been challenges along the way. The population of Michigan has declined, and the economy of the area has plummeted along with the city of Detroit. People feel the depression of the situation. The church has tried to deal with this reality as an opportunity to share the hope and purpose of Christ with hurting people.
2|42 Community Church also has struggled to recruit and retain the right staff as it has grown. It hasn’t been easy for Dummitt to sell church planting-minded leaders on coming to Brighton when they often have alternative ministry offers in fast-growing areas and warm climates. The church started with three full-time staff members and now has 17 staff members, with 11 full-time equivalent positions, many of whom were recently hired internally.
As a leader, Dummitt has had to learn how to release ministry responsibilities and to empower staff and volunteer leaders to serve. Dummitt recognized that the growth of the church has required more self-discipline and sacrifice on his part. He says it really boils down to personally maintaining the disciplines of prayer, following Jesus, and loving people. He has seen the complexity of the church’s organizational structure increase with the growth.
As a church of more than 1,200 people, 2|42 now has “more to lose” when it makes a decision than it did when it started. But Dummitt remains committed to challenging the church to keep taking risks.
Dummitt says he has tried to model desired behaviors.
The next phase for 2|42 Community includes a capital campaign to raise $5 million to $6 million to renovate two existing buildings that will serve as the permanent homes for each campus. These buildings will be designed as centers focused on serving the needs of the community and providing opportunities for the community to play sports and meet for coffee—and the church will also “just happen” to meet there on Sundays.
The church also is in the process of planting a church in Haiti, and through its relationship with the NewThing network, intends to plant more churches and to develop church planters. A third campus is also possible in the next two years.
Kent E. Fillinger is president of 3:STRANDS Consulting and associate director of projects and partnerships with CMF International, Indianapolis, Indiana.