Summit Church Multiplies Disciples to Multiply Churches
Sixteen years ago, a group of eight families came together with a vision to plant a gospel-centered church in southwest Florida that would impact the community and be faithful to the Word.
“After praying about it together, we felt like the Lord had this. So we planted Summit Church on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University in September 2003, and by God’s grace we’re still here,” says Jamin Stinziano, one of the church’s six directing elders. Summit has expanded to three congregations, two in Fort Myers and one in Naples.
“Those are fully functioning congregations,” says Stinziano. “They are almost churches within a church, complete with elders, ministries and live teaching.”
Twelve churches have been planted under Summit’s umbrella with two more to come within the next two years. They’ve also partnered with 20–25 other churches in various ways.
“God is continuing to bring people with a vision to plant, and we get the privilege of sending them out,” says Stinziano.
Southwest Florida has a population of 1.1 million; therefore, many churches are needed in different communities. When it comes to multiplying churches, staff members at Summit Church say their beliefs are anchored in their understanding of Scripture and that God has both a redemptive and reproductive mission for his church. The redemptive mission involves every man, woman and child receiving repeated opportunities to hear, see, understand and respond to the gospel.
“Church planting isn’t the goal,” says Stinziano. “Gospel saturation is.”
Since the primary instrument for gospel saturation is church planting, the best way to engage in that mission is through multiplication of churches. And that requires stepping into the reproductive mission of God’s church and understanding that he has woven multiplication and reproduction into the fabric of humanity.
“We want to be faithful in the places where God has put us, but also have eyes to see where he might be birthing new works and be willing to respond to the Spirit in that way,” says Stinziano. He notes that they are always praying for God to bring them people who have a heart for other areas and can saturate those places with God-glorifying, gospel-centered, missionally driven, disciple-making churches.
“If the Lord is bringing us a group of people from an area, we believe the best thing would be for a church to be birthed in that area,” he explains. Therefore, they pray for both the leaders and the opportunities. They also ask their planters to engage in a one- to three-year residency, depending on where the planters are in their development. Then, by God’s grace, Summit sends them out to plant churches.
Stinziano acknowledges that while some people may be willing to drive a long way to attend a church service, when it comes to evangelizing and sharing the gospel, mileage can be a barrier. “It doesn’t make sense to say, ‘Hey, why don’t you drive 30 or 40 minutes over to my church?’ We want there to be a vibrant community within a five-mile radius of their home.”
Planting new churches not only helps put churches in the right locations, but doing so ultimately benefits the church, overall.
“The church is the bride of Christ, so he cares about it way more than any of us ever could,” says Stinziano. “We recognize that God has a mission for his church, and we understand that God is going to continue to multiply his activity in the world until Jesus comes back. We have a choice to be a part of that or not be a part of that.”
Multiplying churches strengthens the church throughout the world because it gives greater access to people. It also provides more opportunities for gospel services in different communities.
“For every man, woman and child to hear the gospel, not just in the U.S. but throughout the world, they need to have access to God’s people in those places,” says Stinziano. “We want to multiply disciples, which leads to multiplying leaders, which leads to multiplying churches. Ultimately, that multiplies our influence where God has us.”
Fort Myers, Florida
Lead Pastor: Elder-Led
Denomination: Southern Baptist
Church-Plant Affiliation: Sojourn Network