New church planting catalyst serves in Phoenix West Valley

By Irene A. Harkleroad | Jun 13, 2022

Sterling and Jenna Edwards are church planters at heart. They share almost 16 years of church planting experience and ministry to potential and established church planters and their wives.

In March, Sterling arrived in Arizona to continue the work in the Phoenix West Valley. As a North American Mission Board church planting catalyst, he is serving under the leadership of Brian Bowman, NAMB Send City missionary for Phoenix.

Edwards served as NAMB church planter and director of church planting in the Metro New York Baptist Association in New York for 13 years. In 2019, he transitioned to church planting catalyst with Tryon Evergreen Baptist Association in Texas and full-time pastor in Houston.

As a CPC, Edwards will help facilitate the planting of new churches, as well as encouraging recent church planters in the West Valley and functioning as a resource to identify church planters who need help from short-term volunteers and through prayer.

NAMB provides many resources for CPCs to assess, train, coach and encourage church planters and their wives.

“We look at the calling and character,” Edwards said. “Does the prospective planter have a vision? What are the marriage and family dynamics?

“There’s always ‘one more thing’ to do in church planting,” he continued. “We need to speak into the health of the church, bearing in mind that we also have to speak to the health of the church planter.”

NAMB supports couples through family care ministry, with a focus on spiritual and emotional health, resources and community building with other planting couples

“Our goal is to seek first the kingdom of God above everything else, and all these things are going to fall into place,” Edwards said. “Yes, we need to work hard at planting a church. We also need to realize that only God can really plant church. It won’t happen under our own power and strength. The Scripture says ‘Unless the Lord builds a house a man labors in vain.’”

He shared his perspective on growing a new church.

“A lot of times when starting a church plant, you’re thinking about the numbers: getting 100 people to come to this and 100 people to come to that,” Edwards said. “You want big numeric growth.

“One of the things I learned as a church planter is that 1 always comes before 100,” he continued. “If we take it one person at a time, that’s really how churches are built — over a period of time. You reach one, and then you reach another one — maybe it’s one you reached and they reach one. Then, it’s about leading them into discipleship and steady growth and development.”

Edwards has hit the ground running, working with the Send City Phoenix team and meeting with prospective church planters.

The Edwardses can’t get over the beauty of the desert, but they are also aware of the population growth in Phoenix.

“We really feel like there’s a mission,” he said, “and there is a mission field. We’re excited to be a part of it. I’m excited to serve with Brian Bowman and the rest of the Send City team.”

The excitement is family-wide.

“Our kids are excited to be here,” Edward said. “Jenna is already investing in the lives of the wives and building relationships. We’re a team. The churches in New York did not get planted without my wife. We’re excited to be here together.”

Irene A. Harkleroad, a freelance writer living in Carefree, is a member of Black Mountain Baptist Church, Cave Creek.

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