Wes Barry has had the comforts and security of being a pastor for a well-established and historic congregation, but he’s ready to branch out on a new venture. He’s ready to plant a church.
Barry, 33, who has served as the associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C., left his call in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to begin a church for ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. He will plant that new church just south of Charlotte in an area comprised of the Matthews, Pineville, Ballantyne, Arboretum and South Park communities.
The desire to start a new church really was fueled while Barry, a native of Atlanta, Ga., was in college at nearby Davidson and helped with an Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) plant.
“I was involved with an EPC plant while in college and felt then that was God’s call to church planting,” Barry said. “It’s a way to reach out and touch the unchurched. I’ve always had a heart for church planting.”
Heeding God’s call, Barry leaves behind his position as pastor of evangelism and administration at FPC-Charlotte where he served with the Rev. Pen Peery.
“I’ve seen many gifts God has given Wes for ministry. He is a wonderful person in our pulpit and has been an integral part of our team in our mission to serve Christ in the center of Charlotte,” Peery said of Barry. “He proclaims the Word faithfully and well, and he is deeply committed to evangelism.
“He’s done it all, from warehouse churches to traditional steeple churches to emerging churches. All of those will serve him well in his new call.”
That commitment and experience has led Barry to share God with those who may not know Him outside the comforts of a long-standing PCUSA church he has been with for six years following graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary. Now he’ll be working within a denomination that has not even reached its second year of existence yet.
“The call is to evangelize, share, gather people and figure out how to organize (a new church),” Barry said. “With ECO I see a community of evangelizing, outward-focused people wanting to spread God’s Word. ECO is a great vehicle to plant this church.”
Barry has been married 11 years to his wife Lindsay, and they have four children: 6-year-old daughter Ellie and 4-year-old triplet sons Jack, James and Thomas. They will be making the move to the new church location in southern Mecklenburg County with him.
During an ECO conference in Atlanta last fall, Barry felt the Spirit stirring within, calling him to step out on faith and take on this new endeavor.
“The vision of ECO is to build and plant flourishing churches and about going where the people are,” he explained. “To have the vision I’ve had so long articulated in that way was reinforcing. It was amazing to see how God lined things up for me to do what I had hoped and dreamed about. My wife said, ‘You’ve studied and talked about doing this for seven years. Why don’t you just go and do it?’”
And so he is.
An avid outdoor fitness enthusiast, Barry has been part of an independent group in Charlotte known as F3 (Fitness, Fellowship, Faith) for the last couple of years. It’s a men’s organization focused on reinvigorating male leadership in the roles as husbands and fathers of faith, and it has introduced Barry to men who feel they are apart from the established church, thus providing a platform to begin the church plant.
He’s started planting that church over cups of coffee and meeting people on the street and at ball fields as well as his F3 connections, building a launch team he dubs Trailblazers, those people who want to go out on the trail and work to get the new ministry established.
“It’s a chance to share the story of Him (Jesus Christ), venturing out and using this as a window to share our faith in Christ,” Barry said. “God has placed us here (in Charlotte) for 11 years, and there are still untouched parts of town that need to hear the Word of Jesus Christ. We’ll see how we can be missionaries to South Charlotte.”
Barry said there were no issues with the denominational switch, noting the support he received from Peery and FPC-Charlotte regarding his decision to venture into church planting with ECO.
“I’m humbled how gracious and respectful First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte has been,” he said. “Pen (Peery) has been very encouraging. They have been excited for me and (the planting process). Those who know my heart even said, ‘Well, of course he would do this.’”
Peery said FPC-Charlotte is an “unapologetically PCUSA congregation,” but it is behind Barry’s commitment to planting an ECO church.
“When Wes let me know he was feeling called to pursue a venture in ECO, I and everyone else felt he was being receptive to what God was calling him and needed him to do,” Peery said. “You can really see the hand of God active in this. Wes was equipped here. The reason I felt comfortable supporting his decision is because it was obvious to me God wanted Wes to take what he has learned and use it in His church.
“We celebrate what Wes did for us and what he’s going to do elsewhere.”
Barry said raising financial support has been a top priority thus far, and some 40-60 Trailblazers already have become active in formation of the new church since he left behind his established position.
He likened his situation to the passage of Scripture in Acts 18:7 when Paul leaves the synagogue to go next door to the house of Titius Justus where he could identify, locate and worship with his neighbor.
“It’s a new way of living and demonstrating the Gospel,” Barry admitted. “God showed me my idols of security, stability and passivity. We want people to just show up in church, but sometimes we have to go out and find them. That can make you nervous, but it’s also exciting.”
Barry’s new church plant has no set meeting place – no campus or building to be used as an institutional setting – and it does not have a name. All that will come later, hopefully sometime in 2014. Right now, the focus is on recruiting rather than waiting.
“We need to make disciples of others, engaging in and living out church daily,” Barry explained. “We need to touch people with our lives. They need to see that the church does not have to be campus- or facility-based. It’s not a large, all-encompassing institution. God’s mission needs to be lived out by His people in the community every day. Sending people out into the community will impact lives there.”
He compared the concept to the 10th chapter in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus sent out his 72 messengers, two by two, to reach others.
“They infiltrated all parts of towns with the good news of the Gospel,” Barry said. “That’s what we plan to do, keep it simple, meet them face to face and provide constant rejuvenation in Jesus’ name.”
For more information about the South Charlotte church plant Barry is leading for God, read his blog, send an email to email@example.com or call 704-941-8842.
They had 29 people at their first “vision” event. If you want to join in the conversation or stay up to date as things progress, you can connect with them here: http://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/manage/optin/ea?v=001MNtL-EKyYUHXGJFJHBHKOQ%3D%3D
Church’s efforts also include education-based programs, including a library and literacy workshops, as well as a scholarship program. Which provides an economic and education base for many of the people who live in this very rural village.