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Growing ministry
Church planters gather this week at Mountain Lake
Will Henderson, right, and Mountain Lake Church Pastor Shawn Lovejoy talk as they prepare for a church planting conference. - photo by Jim Dean
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The career of local pastor Shawn Lovejoy is one of humble beginnings.

More than nine years ago, Lovejoy and wife Tricia held their first service in the living room of their Forsyth County home. Today, the church they lead boasts attendance of more than 2,000.

Lovejoy and the Mountain Lake Church congregation have made it their mission to help other pastors getting their start in ministry, as well as those looking to hone their evangelical skills.

More than 400 pastors and pastors-to-be from across the country are set to attend a conference Monday and Tuesday that Lovejoy said will help them “get out of the living room, so to speak, and move on to the next level of growth to impact their communities.”

The church uses other avenues to mentor new pastors as well. In its second year, Mountain Lake’s residency program sets aside one or two young pastors on an individual level “with the goal of sending them out to plant churches.”

The program’s current resident, Will Henderson, has been at the church since last August, learning the best ways to “plant a church” in his hometown of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

It’s Henderson’s first visit to the United States. He and his family are “enjoying the hospitality and the Southern cooking ... a little too much,” he said with a laugh.

Henderson, 34, came to Georgia with his wife, Nerida, and their three boys after meeting Lovejoy on the Internet, where the two discussed the possibility that Henderson could be the church’s next resident.

When he goes back to his home country this August, Henderson will spend six months building a group of people to kick off a brand-new church, which will become a partner with Mountain Lake.

“We’re gathering people with a similar heart to reach out to the community,” said Henderson, adding that he plans to open the church in February 2010 with “a group of people already committed to spreading the message.”

The product of Mountain Lake’s most recent “church planting” opened several weeks ago in Columbus.

“They’re only three weeks old and they’re averaging 500 in attendance,” Lovejoy said. “We really just feel like our church grew by 500 people this month.

“We believe as these other churches grow, our church grows as a whole,” he said, adding that the impetus behind this week’s two-day conference is similar.
Henderson agreed.

“That’s the beauty of this,” he said. “The DNA is going out ... Mountain Lake is influencing planters going everywhere. These churches are separate physically, but they are intimately intertwined with Mountain Lake.”

It won’t be Henderson’s last time in this country.

He said a five-year work visa allows him to “receive ongoing coaching ... and to continue to help plant churches throughout the world. That’s my long-term goal.”

E-mail Frank Reddy at