Published September 9, 2010
Clairmont Baptist Church sits nestled among the trees beside the bustling traffic of Clairmont Road on the outskirts of Atlanta. Just an ordinary Baptist church, one might think, but there is something unique and creative going on at Clairmont that isn’t visible at first glance.
Over five years ago Clairmont’s pastor, Mike Murphy, began thinking about the future and his retirement. He began to strategize a plan that would potentially benefit both the church and the community.
About that same time, JB and Ashley Brown, then serving on the field in Southeast Asia, began to sense God moving to do something new in their lives. JB recalls God stirring his heart to become a pastor. While he didn’t know quite what that would look like, he and Ashley obediently began to pray and seek God’s will in the matter. While home on leave, they sensed that, after nearly 10 years on the field, their time in Southeast Asia was coming to an end.
Through a series of events and a network of connections, Pastor Murphy and Clairmont Baptist Church learned of JB and Ashley and recently, in a spirit of forward thinking and a sense of God’s leadership, extended a call to JB to serve as church planter/pastor successor.
Like many churches, Clairmont is seeking to know how to minister to the ever-changing population surrounding it. And, with its membership largely comprised of older adults, like many churches it is hoping to reach the younger population, especially young families. It was with great vision that Pastor Mike Murphy developed the idea of planting a church within his church so that at some point the two would merge and be one.
Through Cooperative Program giving and in cooperation with the North American Mission Board, Georgia Baptist Convention, and the Atlanta Association of Southern Baptist churches, JB and Ashley Brown have been empowered to do just that. Cooperative Program funds supplement their salary and make it possible for the Browns to live out the call God has placed on their lives to plant churches as well as to grow the local church. JB and Ashley have two guiding principles for their lives: “to be available for God to use them to do something they can’t do themselves, and to identify where God is at work and join Him there.” They believe their ministry at Clairmont is a perfect fit for both of those principles.
The community around Clairmont Baptist Church is ethnically and generationally diverse. JB described his neighborhood as consisting of senior adults, median adults, and young families. The area is predominantly Anglo, but is also home to people of many cultures with 25-30 percent of the neighborhood residents being of Hispanic descent. The local elementary school, where oldest daughter Natalie attends first grade, has 19 nationalities represented in its student population.
As unique as is this idea of planting a church inside a church, Clairmont Baptist is no stranger to the concept of church planting. In the first 20 years of its history, Clairmont started or hosted four other churches. Currently, Clairmont is also home to both a Hispanic and a Vietnamese congregation.
Having begun this new venture just seven weeks ago, JB and Ashley and their three daughters, Natalie, Jaina, and Lexi are still trying to get settled in, meet their neighbors, and re-adjust to life in America. Ashley related that, “America is a very different culture than the America we left ten years ago.” JB added, “Americans are so busy – very different from the slower laid-back culture where we’ve been living.”
In addition to their re-entry into American culture, JB and Ashley shared some ways that you can pray for their ministry. Building relationships will be a first step in knowing and reaching the neighborhoods surrounding Clairmont. Pray for open doors and easy assimilation into the community. Ask for wisdom and boldness in sharing the gospel. Pray for a volunteer team coming from South Carolina in October to conduct neighborhood surveys. Pray for more churches to partner with JB and Ashley and provide prayer support and financial support.
Pastor Murphy was quick to point out that without the financial support of the Cooperative Program and the other partnership agencies, this creative endeavor would never have been financially possible. As Georgia Baptists continue to be faithful in Cooperative Program giving, there will be increased opportunity for churches like Clairmont Baptist and servants like JB and Ashley to reach our state with the gospel.
Elaine Brown, missions administrator at Lilburn First Baptist Church, also contributed to this article.
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