Before planting City Light church in Raleigh, North Carolina, Stuart Barham was an Associate Pastor at C3 Trinity Church in Dallas, Texas. For the past six years, he and his wife April served in various capacities including the college ministry, missions department, and internship program. Discover what drives a man to leave a place of comfort to pioneer a new church.
The city of Raleigh, North Carolina has 450,000 people. Only 40% attend church. That leaves 270,000 people without a church home who need to see the light of God. I believe wholeheartedly that City Light will be a beacon of light.
The Message version of the Bible says it best in Matthew 5:14:
You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept.
According to the Census Bureau, Raleigh is the 4th fastest growing city in the United States. My wife, April, and I grew up in this area, and most of our family live here. After serving at C3 Trinity Dallas for the past six years, we felt God calling us to go home and plant a church that would transform the city by shining light in all areas of the city. The Raleigh we returned to was not the same Raleigh that we left. We embarked on the journey because we could no longer ignore the need.
City Light is in the pre-launch phase. We launch in the fall. Before we departed Dallas, we fervently prayed with our Senior Pastors, Joe and Nancy Martin about the vision God had given us. After many prayer sessions and conversations, we all felt at peace that the Lord was leading us back to Raleigh. When we put our house on the market, it sold within three days! We also trained leaders to replace the roles in which we were serving at C3 Trinity.
Answering the Call
We moved back to North Carolina at the end of October and were able to relocate to Raleigh during the last week of 2017. Over the past six months, we joined a church planting network called ARC (Association of Related Churches) which helps church planters launch new churches. We went through their application, assessment and training process. Currently, we are fundraising, growing our launch team and prepping for our first Sunday.
I have one speed. I’m either going to run full speed ahead or not do it at all. When God saved me, I was so grateful that I took that same passion I had for the things I was pursuing before Christ and approached the Lord with a similar zeal. I still remember how lost and desperate I was. I make a genuine effort to love my neighbors and friends with a burning passion.
One of the worst days I have had since I started the journey was at one of our launch parties. No new guests attended. The whole point of hosting a launch party is to introduce our church to new people. Hopefully, they will find the vision compelling and want to become a part of our launch team. I was so discouraged that none of the people I invited came. I felt like I failed because I hadn't effectively imparted our vision and culture to them. Internally, I felt ill-equipped to lead our team.
I recovered from this obstacle by letting go of my insecurities, getting out of my head and going into the presence of God. I recalled the Word that God had imparted to us to plant City Light. I thought about the people whose lives will change because our church connected them to Jesus.
Lessons Learned So Far
I've learned that there is nothing more important or helpful than the presence of God. I "knew" this in my head. Now, I am learning it in my heart. I am also learning to rely on God for everything. His Word is enough.
I have learned other valuable lessons like don't shortcut the process of discovering what God is calling you to do and how He wants you to do it by borrowing good ideas from other leaders. It's okay to research what others are doing and implement best practices but only do so once you have heard clearly from the Lord on what He wants you to do. Spend whatever time is necessary to get in God's presence, understand clearly, and do what He tells you to do with precision.
I am most proud of people seeing lives changed. I have witnessed people who were once far away from God, starting to question their doubts about God because they are beginning to see His goodness for the first time. As my wife and I have shared our lives with them, God has been faithful to answer our prayers.
While church planting is a full-time job, I do have hobbies. In my spare time, I enjoy running, lifting weights, hiking, swimming and playing golf.
After City Light is off to a solid start, I would like to help with church planting and disciple-making in other countries. I can't wait to reconnect with old ministry friends in the Amazon and help them out. I dream about developing sons and daughters in the faith that will plant healthy, life-giving churches.