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Florida pastor joins Nashville-based church planting team

Florida pastor joins Nashville-based church planting team

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida pastor joins Nashville-based church planting team

By John Michael De Marco | July 25, 2009 {1052}

NOTE: Headshots of the Revs. Candace Lewis and Gary Shockley and the Rev. Dr. Mont Duncan are available at

A second Florida Conference pastor has joined a nationwide effort to recruit and support 1,000 people who will launch 650 new United Methodist congregations by the end of 2012.

Rev. Candace Lewis
The Rev. Candace Lewis, founding pastor of New Life Community United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., has relocated to Nashville, Tenn., to join the staff of Path 1 as a new church strategist. She will be developing strategies to launch new African-American churches and a national prayer network to encourage and recruit countless people to pray for new church starts.

Path 1 is a response to the denomination’s new church development goal “New Places for New People” — one of the 2008 General Conference’s four key areas of focus for the next quadrennium. The other three areas are developing principled Christian leaders, engaging in ministry with the poor, and fighting diseases of poverty, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

The name of the new church emphasis grew out of the first of The United Methodist Council of Bishop’s seven “Vision Pathways” for the future of the denomination and relates to the words of John the Baptist in the Gospels. Its goal is to support annual conferences in giving both clergy and laity the means to plant new congregations in strategically targeted regions of the country.

Rev. Gary Shockley

Lewis joins the Rev. Gary Shockley, former senior pastor at a new church start called HopeSpring United Methodist Church in Winter Garden, Fla., who began working with Path 1 in February as a new church strategist focusing on developing a coaching network to support the new churches.

“I wasn’t looking for it (the position), but God sent it my way,” Lewis said. “I’ve always had this kind of entrepreneurial, leadership gift, so it’s a real natural thing to be able to serve by helping plant churches across the connection.”

Lewis said building a prayer network will be a major focus of her work. “We really believe that prayer and evangelism are foundations of church planting,” she said. “We want to help the denomination get back to its evangelistic roots, and prayer is undergirding the entire church-planting movement. Praying for new church starts is something everybody can do.”

Lewis will also be creating a strategy for planting new African-American churches in annual conferences, building on her 12 years of experience at New Life Community United Methodist Church. She led the launch of the church as her first appointment after graduating from Gammon Theological Seminary.

“When you look at the changing demographics, there’s the potential to reach out to a younger, more diverse population that doesn’t exist in the average United Methodist congregation,” she said. “Even more traditional African-American congregations are losing touch with the 40 and under group.

“I get to help others not recreate what we did at New Life, but share strategies. I want to help people have the resources I didn’t really have when I came out of seminary in 1996.”

Lewis said the Florida Conference has helped lead the way in the church planting arena, although there have been few successes in launching new black congregations.

Rev. Dr. Mont Duncan
“The main thing Florida can do is continue to share the learning that Mont and others have discovered across the connection,” Lewis said, referring to the work of the Rev. Dr. Mont Duncan, executive director of the Florida Conference New Church Development office, and the ministry’s committee. Duncan is also working with Path 1 as a representative of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. 

“I think Mont serving on the Path 1 team creates a strong partnership between the Florida Conference and Path 1,” she added. “We all still have a lot to learn in discovering how to effectively plant a new church that is going to have the ability to continue to be a strong church 20 years from now and also able to multiply itself.”

Lewis said she will also be looking for best practices that exist in African-American church plants in other conferences.

“We’ve all seen a conference close a church and sell the property, and a Pentecostal church comes in and grows an African-American church in one of our buildings,” she said. “It wasn’t that there weren’t people in the community, but maybe there was not an intentional effort to reach the community, or they didn’t understand the strategy to reach the community.”

Lewis and several of her members recently wrote a book about their experiences starting New Life Community United Methodist Church as a resource guide for planting African-American churches. Key subject areas of “A New Day, A New Way: Starting, Planting and Revitalizing African American Churches” include worship, media, community development, administration and finance. Due out in late fall or early spring, all proceeds from the book will go to the Jacksonville church.

“We wished (when we planted New Life) that somebody had written out parts of their journey they could offer to a larger group of people,” Lewis said. “This book gives somebody a start they might not have had before. An illustration I use is that God let the children of Israel go the long way, but there is a more direct route they could have gone.”

For new churches to be relevant, Lewis said, there must be “a passionate worship experience of very high quality.”

“Then, community development helps you wrestle with how do we reach out to the community that the church is called to serve?” she said. “In terms of finance, how do you set financial systems in place to help the church be viable for the long haul; such as how from day one you have to start saving money? The book seeks to model a partnership around clergy and laity working together to advance the Kingdom of God.”

More information on Path 1 is available at

Related stories:

“Path 1 focuses on ‘biggest mission field’: the U.S.”
Florida Conference pastors join Path 1 initiative"
“Florida Conference expands support to new churches”   

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant based in Nashville, Tenn.