Midwestern Seminary is blessed to be located in Kansas City, a city continuing to grow in its number of gospel-centered, healthy churches. One of these churches is Emmaus Church. Emmaus exists to declare and display the gospel of Jesus. Since Emmaus began in 2015, the church has sent dozens of members to plant churches and pastor congregations around the world. Tyler Greene, Emmaus’ pastor for preaching and leadership, joined us for this edition’s church highlight to discuss training church planters and developing church planting churches.
MBTS: Since Emmaus first began as a church plant, it has sent many leaders to plant churches throughout the world. Can you tell us a little more about the history of Emmaus and how your conviction for church planting has developed throughout the years?
Tyler Greene: Since the very beginning of Emmaus, our mission has been to declare and display the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the key aspects of this mission has always been and will continue to be multiplying churches. In the past, our emphasis has been on equipping men to be pastors and church planters in whatever context God has called them to serve. There has always been a recognition that our proximity to Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College has provided us with a unique opportunity to equip men who are training for ministry. We get to be part of their development in a way that complements their seminary training.
In 2023, however, Emmaus had the privilege to plant a new church here in Kansas City. We sent about 30 of our covenant members to start Trinity Church, which gathered to worship God for the first time on Easter Sunday. In light of Emmaus’ vision to see churches multiplied, this was a pivotal moment of development for us and an absolute thrill. Sending Trinity is only the beginning, though. We want to be directly involved in seeing more churches planted and preaching the gospel in our city. So we’re looking ahead to see what’s next.
MBTS: Aspiring church leaders from across the country have moved to Kansas City for the pastoral residency program at Emmaus Church. How do you seek to train members and pastoral residents for a variety of ministry callings through the ministry of Emmaus?
Tyler: A major goal for Emmaus’ pastors, both past and present, has been to invest in aspiring leaders. Pastoral residents have gone on to become pastors, missionaries, professors, teachers, and church planters. Our desire is to shape and train men for the work of ministry in a way that tangibly impacts local churches. This includes equipping in areas like spiritual formation, development in preaching and pastoral care, and hands-on ministry experience. We encourage feedback from residents once their residency is complete, so that we can continue to shape our residency around what best helps the pastors we send and the churches they serve.
But this expands beyond the residency to the life of Emmaus more generally. Throughout its existence, Emmaus has fostered a sending culture. We do a lot of what we call “gospel-goodbyes” with those who depart for ministry, whether pastoral or otherwise. This includes residents and members alike. Our Sunday preaching and liturgy regularly remind our members that we are just one piece of the universal Church. Though it can be painful to see our residents and members leave, we see frequent gospel-goodbyes as one of the many joys of serving the mission of God.
MBTS: What encouragement would you give to pastors who desire to encourage and equip their churches for church planting?
Tyler: If Emmaus can do it, your church can too. I’ve heard the misconception more than once that only large congregations with big budgets can plant churches. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m incredibly grateful for larger churches who give their energy and resources to planting. Such churches are a tremendous blessing. In fact, Emmaus wouldn’t be here without them!
But by God’s grace, churches like Emmaus can make great church planting partners as well. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul effusively commends the strength of their partnership with him in the gospel (Phil. 4:14-15). Because of the support he received from a small community of saints in Philippi—a community that was radically committed to the promulgation of the gospel—Paul was able to plant a new church in Thessalonica (Phil. 4:16; cf. Acts 17:1-9; 1 Thess. 2:1-16). I praise God that he continues to raise up “ordinary churches,” like the Philippians, who devote themselves to church planting.
MBTS: What advice would you give to aspiring church planters and future ministry leaders on how best to prepare for their ministry calling?
Tyler: The most important thing an aspiring church planter or ministry leader can do today is to be the best church member you can be. Show up in people’s lives. Find both big and small ways to add value to your congregation. You don’t have to wait until you have the title “pastor” to make a huge impact on the local church. In fact, at Emmaus, when we’re looking for leaders to develop, the first thing we ask is, “Who is doing the kinds of things a leader does? Who already embodies the leadership culture we want to build at Emmaus?”
I once had a pastor who used to tell me, “Don’t let a guy preach who is unwilling to clean toilets.” Jesus was the greatest preacher, Bible interpreter, and theologian the world has ever known. And yet he said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Being theologically trained is of immense value and I’m beyond thankful for the great work that institutions like Midwestern are doing. But serving and caring is what will win people’s hearts and make them want to follow you. Make such things a daily practice in your life, starting with the people right in front of you in your local church.