Story : Get To Know

Posted by Dave Clayton on

At Ethos, we believe one of the most effective ways to reach new people with the gospel of Jesus Christ is through planting churches that plant churches. Over the last two years we have helped dozens of church plants financially, through prayer, and with man power. Over the next two weeks, we would like to introduce you to a couple of our church planters from the Vine in Vancouver, British Columbia.

ABOUT US : Greetings to all of our brothers and  sisters in Christ at Ethos!  David (or Dave as I think you  all call him) is always sharing with me about the  wonderful things that God is doing among you there in  Nashville.  Amy and I are thrilled to know that you are  thinking of us and partnering with us in prayer in our  church planting work here in Vancouver, British  Columbia.  So let me share with you some about who we  are, and what we’re up to in Canada.

Amy grew up in the opposite corner of North America in  Port Charlotte, a town on the gulf coast of southern  Florida.  I was a Navy brat, and my family moved  wherever the Navy sent my dad.  My last two years of  high school landed me in Summerville, South Carolina  (where I met this nerdy little 9th grader named David Clayton).  Amy and I met at Harding University where Amy was working towards a degree in education and I a Bible degree.  We started dating while I was working on a Master’s degree in Marriage & Family Therapy, and we got married the day after I graduated in 2005.  Amy also earned a Master’s in Education from Harding.

Our relationship began as each of us was meeting with a group that had a dream of planting a church in the Pacific Northwest.  Before we knew it, we fell in love, and we’ve been on an adventure together ever since.  After we married we lived in Searcy, Arkansas for a couple of years where Amy worked as a teacher and I worked as a therapist, and our walk with God was nurtured in our life with the Downtown Church of Christ.

In July of 2007 we quit our jobs, packed up our lives and moved to Eugene, Oregon.  Our plan was to live there for around 6 months while we waded through the process of getting our visas for Canada.  We ended up being in Eugene for 18 months!  While living there we worked in campus ministry at the University of Oregon and with a homeless drop in shelter for youth. These experiences were not only life changing but were also good training grounds for our work here in Canada.  During this phase of our marriage our faith was continually strengthened as we watched God provide for us month after month.

Finally, on December 15, 2008 we made the move across the border and started our new lives in Vancouver.  Since then we have been working with our partnering couple, Paul & Julie McMullen, at planting a new church; Amy obtained a degree from Vancouver Community College for teaching ESL; I’ve been working at starting a part time therapy private practice; and we had our first son, Elijah Hawk Etheridge.

About The Vine : The vision for The Vine, a church of Christ, started over 6 years ago amongst of group of Harding University students and graduates.  That group of students was whittled down eventually to two couples (us [the Etheridges] and Paul & Julie McMullen) with a vision for planting a multiplication based network of simple and organic churches in Vancouver, British Columbia.  We envision a large network of weekly intimate house church gatherings that all come together once per month for a time of celebration.  In February, 2009, the four of us gathered together and asked God for that to be the last time that it was just us four.  To this date, He has granted that request.

For the first half of 2009 we met together with another new church plant with a similar vision, LifeHouse Christian Church.  In August of 2009 we experienced our first multiplication and LifeHouse and The Vine began meeting separately.  We still gather with LifeHouse once per month for our celebration services.

Currently, The Vine consists corporately of one house church usually consisting of 8-12 people.  We gather weekly on Sunday evenings at Paul and Julie’s apartment.  Since one of our core values is multiplication we try to keep things simple so as to promote reproducibility.  Our gatherings are simple and casual.  From Sunday to Sunday the flow and order of our time together can look very different.  However, every Sunday includes a meal, time spent together in the Bible, singing praise to God, prayer, and communion.  Midweek, we gather in small groups of 2-4 which we call Life Groups.  Life Groups provide a safe place to explore God’s word together, confess sin, and pray for one another and for friends who do not yet know Jesus.

From a corporate standpoint (meaning if you look at our times together on Sundays and mid-week) The Vine is still very much a small baby church.  However, we are still in the gathering phase as a young church, and it becomes very difficult to measure The Vine when you start looking at neighborhood connections.  Much of our work here in the first year and a half has been simply adjusting to a new country, city, and culture, and trying to network in our neighborhood.  If you were to measure community at The Vine by counting all the people in our neighborhood who have visited, served in service projects, or engaged in vision type discussions about The Vine the number would probably reach upwards of 100.  So we view ourselves as missionaries in our neighborhood whose job is to network, connect, volunteer, and vision cast in each pocket of people that we come in contact with.  In everything we do we are asking for God’s favor and looking for opportunities to plant seeds for His Kingdom.  At the same time we are trying to disciple the group of people that has committed to The Vine already.  This group consists of some mature Christians, some brand new Christians, and some who have not yet made faith commitments to Christ.

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