Jody and Tonya

Carsten
ARC Church Plant #334

City Church

Traverse City, MI

What motivated you to plant your church in Traverse City? 

Before God ever spoke to us about planting a church, we often talked about the need for another life-giving church in this city. The thought would often come to us at different times during the years when we prayed, but we never connected it to God’s plan for us because we didn’t feel called to pastor.

In 2009 when God called us out of our home church to mission work in the Middle East, He dropped into both of our hearts that we were to plant a church. From that moment we knew where it was to be.

What do you love about your church and community?

We love the opportunity and privilege to be asked by God to serve our church and community. I cannot think of a greater honor than working with a church so passionate about the community, and a community that is opening up more to the love of God. It seems like every time we think things cannot get any better, God keeps outdoing Himself.

What has been one of your greatest moments since planting your church?

Our greatest moment was more of a season, and it happened during our fourth year as a church when we lost our leased building and had to buy a facility. During that season of impossibilities we saw God do exceedingly, abundantly above all we could even think or imagine. In a matter of 12 months we went from losing our building and having no idea where we would be meeting the following year to purchasing a school building on 20 acres and building a brand new auditorium. That season was one of many reminders that He is building His Church!

What has been one of the toughest moments you have experienced in ministry?

The toughest moments are when we’re fighting thoughts of giving up, thoughts that someone else could do it better, or thoughts that we’ve missed the mark and should throw in the towel. It’s during those moments we must go back to the very first word God gave us when we obeyed Him and launched in our city. Did he say go? Then that is what we hold on to.

You must hold on to those directives from Him when everything else is screaming, “Stop! Give up!” In doing so, moment by moment your faith grows stronger. Church planting does not come without those moments; it is how you respond that determines the foundation for the next.

What is the biggest change you have seen in yourself since you planted?

As church planters we have seen a continual stretching of our trust in God and an increase of compassion and grace for people. It seems the more you serve people, the more you have God’s heart for them. There is nothing in the world like it!

What do you want to share with someone thinking about becoming a church planter?

First, learn everything you can about church planting. Read the books, go to the conferences, listen to the podcasts, and talk to church planters. But most importantly, take all that information before God and ask him what is right for your church. Every city is different. Every church is different. The Holy Spirit knows exactly what you need for where you are going.

Second, pray, pray, pray. And after that, pray some more. The day will come when the only thing that keeps you holding on is what God spoke to you during those times in prayer. I love something Cory Hardesty said during ARC 2.0 in 2011: “As a church planter, you’re going to do more sucking carpet than anything else.” This is the best advice! We have a saying at our church that “we pray there before we go there.”

Third, do not be a lone ranger. There are many others right where you are. Make sure you go to conferences and other places where you can connect with other church planters. You cannot do it alone.

How has being a part of ARC had an impact on your life and family?

Words cannot describe what it is like to be part of the ARC family. My wife and I have been in ministry for over 25 years, but we had never been part of an organization that feels so much like family. The term “life-giving” defines the very essence of the ARC family. When our launch day arrived, I had more strangers reach out to me than at any other time in my life. The difference with ARC is that those strangers have become friends and family. Those same people will jump down in the ditch with you. They pray for you. They champion you!

As a church, what are you most looking forward to post-COVID?

We are looking forward to seeing how God is going to continue working all things for His good. We truly believe He’s using this setback as a setup for one of the greatest seasons of His church. Our best days are before us. We were born for such a time as this, and God’s Church is going to shine brighter and brighter.

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