Dr. Winfield Bevins refers to himself as an accidental church planter. In fact, Winfield planned to be a professor, but God changed his direction with a phone call. A friend called and asked if he’d be interested in starting a church in Outer Banks, N.C. In faith and prayer, Winfield and his wife answered the call.
“This wasn’t part of my dream, but God planted me in the Outer Banks,” Winfield, Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative, said. “Fifteen years ago I wanted to be a seminary professor, but through God’s providence I’m at a seminary, but as a practitioner instead of a professor.”
Winfield’s mission is to live out the Great Commission and to help others do likewise. He started the Church of the Outer Banks, N.C., with five people. In a few months, the church grew to several hundred and began meeting in a YMCA.
Winfield and his congregation explored new ways of expressing an age-old truth. They considered themselves a “fresh expression of an ancient faith.” The church took Christ’s command in Matthew 28:20 seriously, starting with local outreaches and then expanding to a global mission. These outreaches included adopting local beach accesses, sponsoring children, organizing surf camps, sending cows to Rwanda, opening an art gallery, sending Christmas shoeboxes and hosting a songwriter’s workshop.
The church experienced exponential growth.
Soon other church planters started coming to learn best practices from the Church of the Outer Banks. As a result of this interest, Winfield started a church planting network in North Carolina that ended up planting about 40 churches across the state.
But for Winfield, church planting isn’t just a movement. It’s discipling others and preparing, equipping and training them to do the same. In 2015, Winfield joined Asbury Seminary as the director of the Church Planting Initiative. Through his hands-on experience and relationships with students and global church planters, he seeks to train and equip others to live out God’s mission.
“We live in a truly global and multicultural world where we must be missionally minded and globally engaged Christians,” Winfield said. “As we look at the world around us, there is a tremendous need for learning from global church planting movements.”
During his time at the Seminary, Winfield has developed relationships with dozens of church planting networks, including Exponential, Fresh Expressions, Disciple 21, Transformation Network, The Orchard, The Gregory Centre and others.
Winfield has found that when it comes to church planting one size does not fit all and has worked with the faculty to create both academic and non-academic methods of training church planters at Asbury Seminary.
“It will take all kinds of new churches to reach all types of people for Christ,” Winfield said. “The church is like a mosaic or tapestry that is made up of many colors. Each piece is a beautiful masterpiece.”
In addition to the master of arts, master of divinity, doctor of ministry and doctor of philosophy programs that focus on church planting at Asbury Seminary, Winfield has also helped to create the Church Planting Institute.
He has written several books, including Marks of a Movement; Church Planting Revolution; Grow at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Family Discipleship; Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer; Creed: Connect to the Essentials of Historic Christian Faith; and Grow: Reproducing Through Organic Discipleship; and Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting. His latest book Ever Ancient, Ever New published with Zondervan tells the story of a generation of younger Christians from different backgrounds and traditions who are finding a home and a deep connection in the church by embracing a liturgical expression of the faith.
In addition to being a church planter, Winfield is the co-founder of Missional Formation Coaching, which is designed to help leaders thrive by promoting healthy rhythms that connect spiritual and missional practices. He says, “We are living in challenging and uncertain times where leaders need support and encouragement to help them learn to navigate the world we are in. Leadership is hard, don’t do it alone. That is why coaching matters.”
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