Why Plant Another Church?


Why Plant Another Church-

A couple of years ago, Karine and I set out on the journey of a lifetime when we resigned an established church with a full-time salary, packed up everything we owned, and moved our family to Bradenton, Florida to begin the process of planting Synergy Church. This naturally begs the question, “Does Bradenton really need another church?” After all, like most American cities in the Southeast, there’s definitely no shortage of churches here. So, the simple answer is yes… and no. Let me explain.

The Sarasota-Bradenton area is booming with explosive growth and an influx of new people moving here from all over the country. Recent studies show that the Sarasota and Manatee Metro area is the 11th fastest growing area in the US with more than 20,000 new residents moving here in one year alone!* That’s the size of our neighbors to the south… Venice, FL. Not only that, but the estimated population of Manatee County alone is over 375,000 (factfinder.census.gov), and the latest stats indicate that only 23% of Manatee County residents attend church any given weekend, which subsequently results in a staggering 77% that are unchurched. What this indicates is that there are approximately 290,000 people who don’t attend church anywhere! Needless to say, there’s a ton of potential for a new life-giving, Spirit-empowered church on Florida’s Gulf Coast!

So, our vision is not just to start another church with the same format, same programs, and structure as other churches out there. Our vision is to start a vibrant, life-giving church that influences a city and shapes a culture. 

When Andy Stanley started North Point Community Church over twenty years ago, he began with the following premise:

“Atlanta doesn’t need another church. Atlanta needs a different kind of church. Atlanta needs a church where church people are comfortable bringing their unchurched friends, family members, and neighbors. A church where unbelievers can come and hear the life-changing truth that God cares for them and that Jesus Christ died for their sin. We’ve come together to create a church unchurched people will love to attend.”

A “CHURCH THAT UNCHURCHED PEOPLE LOVE TO ATTEND.” I love this for so many reasons! And it has absolutely NOTHING to do with watering down the message.

First, many churches today have become so inward focused that they have all but lost their initial reason for being (any church worth its salt begins as an extension of God’s love to the lost); Second, it resonates with the mission of Jesus, who “came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10, NLT) and who would even “leave the ninety-nine… and go out to search for the one that is lost” (Matthew 18:12, NLT); Third, it mirrors the life and ministry of the Head of the Church–Jesus, who was known as a “friend of sinners” (see Luke 7:34); and lastly, I am convinced that there are ways of “doing church” that no one has even thought of yet, and this excites me!

I often find myself thinking about the possibilities and dreaming about the type of church that God would have us plant. There are so many creative ways that have yet to be imagined to connect lost people to God, and I want to be a part of this creative process with Holy Spirit as He reveals and inspires us on this journey. After all, as I mentioned in my previous post, we serve a…

“…God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NLT)

The good news is that God wants a vibrant, life-giving Jesus community where all people are welcomed and are finding freedom, forgiveness, hope, and purpose for their lives… even more than we do! This requires stepping out of our comfort zones, taking some risks, and dreaming of new ways to do church that will connect with those who need it most–those who are far from God.

Let’s be clear. Bradenton really doesn’t need another church. Neither does the community in which you live. What they need are grace-filled, Good News-centered, Spirit-empowered, life-giving movements that are truly making an eternal difference in peoples lives. Our goal is for Synergy Church to be that type of church. And with God’s power and provision, we will see a miracle birthed!

So, to answer the question “why plant another church?… may I suggest that the eternal destiny of the 77% just may very well depend on it!  Continue reading


Parachute Planting


“It’s not for the faint of heart.” That’s what one facilitator bluntly said at a church planters conference when describing one of the models that’s used in church planting. In fact, I have since come to discover that this is not the recommended model by many within the church planting universe. The model? Parachute Planting.

Parachute Planting is when a church planter and their family “parachute” drop into a new location, having no connections, no relationships, and often times limited resources… and they start a new church from scratch. It can be very challenging, even discouraging at times, and immensely faith-stretching. However, on the flip-side, I’ve also been told that it can be one of the most rewarding and enriching endeavors as well. That’s what we’re banking on 😉

About a year ago my wife and I, with our four children in tote, “parachuted” into Bradenton with the goal of starting a dynamic, life-giving, Spirit-empowered church. From day one, our ambition and dream of making a difference in people’s lives has not wavered. Not only that, but we have discovered some key principles along the way that are helping to shape our approach to planting Synergy Church within our community. Here’s a few of them:

  1. It takes T.I.M.E.  This is simply because relationships take time. It takes time to connect with people you have only recently met, and to earn the trust of those that you are asking to join you on this journey. It takes time to learn the culture of your new community, with all of its ebbs and flows, its “peak seasons” and dormant seasons, as well as its history and socioeconomic makeup. You can do this either by doing a quick Google search to discover community trends, demographics, and events in your area or by talking to those who have lived there longer than you have.
  2. It takes a TEAM. Statistics indicate that the larger the launch team, the better the chances will be of survival for the new church. In Planting Fast-Growing Churches by Stephen Gray, he suggests that in successful Church Plants… 88% have church planting teams, and 63% have a core group of 26-75 people. It may be a somewhat overused or perhaps even cheesy saying, but “teamwork really does make the dream work”, especially in church planting!
    • If you would like more information on joining our Launch Team, simply email me at james@mysynergy.church.  
  3. It takes PARTNERSHIP. The simple fact is that it requires resources and equipment to effectively launch a church, which obviously takes money (usually lots of it), which in the early stages means raising outside support from those who may or may not be directly connected to your Launch Team, but want to support you on your new journey. Partnerships with other people and organizations can be absolutely critical to the health of any new church. But even this requires time and trust and doesn’t always come easily.
    • If you would like to become a partner of Synergy Church, you may do so quickly and securely by clicking here.  
  4. It takes DISCIPLINE (focusing on what matters most). It can be extremely tempting to dive in headfirst, with tremendous passion and vision in order to blaze this new trail. However, it is vitally important to keep first things first throughout the church planting journey. For us, that means keeping Jesus first and always at the center (He wants a relationship with you more than He wants a church from you); it means tending to the needs of your spouse, making sure not to neglect this most important relationship and further ensuring that the ministry does not come between the two of you; and it also means prioritizing family time. For us, this may be a weekend trip to Disney to celebrate big days, or simply hanging out a couple evenings a week watching movies, playing games, or just being “present.”   

Bottom line… Church planting is hard. Very hard. And parachute planting, I am finding, can be all the more challenging and frustrating. Nevertheless… when God calls you to a certain task in a specific location for a divine purpose, you can be sure of one thing…

With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20, NCV).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a pretty wild imagination… and when tied to God’s purposes, it can result in some pretty awesome, life-giving faith journeys. All you need to do is take a step of faith and JUMP. Then trust God with the journey.

Are you ready for the ride of a lifetime? Here we go. 1, 2, 3, JUMP!


We’ve Moved… again

moving in (filtered)

Cencebaugh family update:  We’ve finally moved to our target area of Bradenton. Florida.

This past month, we were finally able to move from Ruskin, FL (approximately 30 miles north of Bradenton) to our church plant target area of Sarasota-Bradenton. What does this mean? Well, besides the fact that we’ve moved yet again (we lost count once we got into our teens)… it also means that we are now located in the community that God has called us to reach with the Message of Jesus… which also means that we can begin to transition our focus more towards building lasting relationships within our community, and getting a clearer understanding of the needs of our neighbors…. so that we can begin investing our lives into the people whom God loves and has sent us to.

We are asking that you would please pray with us for the following as we continue this Church Planting journey:

  1. Church Finances & Resources
  2. Church Location
  3. Launch Team
  4. Personal Finances
  5. Favor with the Community

Also, you can financially support this mission by contributing in one of two ways:

  1. A single, one-time gift or
  2. Regular monthly support (whether it be $25, $50, $100 or more per month) over the next 12 months.


You can give online


You can give by check

Please make checks payable to: 

Synergy Church  |  768 Rosemary Circle  |  Bradenton, FL 34212

All contributions are 100% tax deductible. You will receive a statement next January for tax purposes.

Keep watching for more updates. Until next time, let’s keep working together to make Jesus famous!



On June 2, 2010, without any fanfare or drama, one of baseball’s best players called it quits… Ken Griffey Jr., aka, “The Kid”, as he was affectionately called in his earlier years, decided that he was no longer a kid. At the age of 40, he hung up his cleats, possibly feeling that he was incapable of performing to the highest of standards that he had set for himself. But it doesn’t mean that it was the end of the road for him. It was simply a transition in his life. He went on to enjoy his family, watching his kids excel in their sports and activities, coaching his son’s football team, doing some photography on the side, and enjoying the fruit of his labor. Nothing wrong with that. He embraced his season of transition.

Life is filled with transitions.

Some good. Some bad. Some necessary. Others avoidable. Some joyful. Many painful.

Simply put, transition happens. But it is a normal, and might I add, ‘healthy’ part of life.

I have embraced this fact and have come to realize that life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Just when you think you’re putting it in cruise control and you’re starting to get into a comfortable rhythm in your life… “wham!” God disrupts your plans. He interrupts your schedule.  He speaks a word into your heart that changes your life forever. Ever been there? I like to think of these moments as “divine interruptions.”

Karine and I recently experienced another one of these “divine interruption” moments, resulting in yet another TRANSITION for our family. This past June, we left a church that we had been pastoring in South Carolina for the last four years, literally piling all of our earthly belongings into a 26′ U-Haul, saying goodbye to friends, and heading 600 miles south back to Florida, where God had originally placed a dream in our hearts nearly 18 years ago. It all began with a whisper; at an unexpected moment; and we are now pursuing God’s big, audacious, scary-yet-thrilling dream for our life!

What is this dream? It’s the dream of PLANTING A LIFE GIVING MISSIONAL CHURCH on Florida’s Gulf Coast where unbelievers will not only be welcomed, but expected!

After wrestling with the implications of this dream, we took an incredible leap of faith when I tendered my resignation at the church, not knowing where we would land, but being confident that God would be there waiting for us.

This transition has not come without a certain level of fear, however. Yes, I know, I know, as believers “we have not been given a spirit of fear.” But, can I be brutally honest and completely transparent for a moment? Leaving a comfortable job, with a dependable income, with no guarantee of gainful employment awaiting us in Florida, and having the responsibility of a wife and four children added into the mix–there’s plenty of opportunity for fear! There’s always opportunity for fear, isn’t there?

Thankfully, we serve a God who understands our weaknesses, who cares about our concerns… and provides all of our needs… and not only that, but also walks with us through our fears. Which reminds me of Joshua.

Long story short,when Joshua was given the task of transitioning into the leadership post vacated by Moses upon his death, leading the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God spoke these words to him in Joshua 1:9 (NLT):

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Did you see that? Read it again. What stood out to me in this verse is the inferred reality that Joshua was facing–FEAR and DISCOURAGEMENT. Have you ever been there? If so, you’re in great company!

Think about it, God actually commanded Joshua to be strong, courageous and to not be fearful or discouraged in his new faith journey. Why? Perhaps because He knew Joshua and his limitations like no other and saw the redemptive potential in him that Joshua may not have seen himself. This gives me great encouragement for the journey that lies ahead for me and my family, because just like Joshua (as followers of Jehovah), we are all imperfect human beings struggling to follow God’s perfect leading in this dangerous journey called life.

The best part of it all is that we have God’s covenant promise that He would be with us wherever we go! God says in Joshua 1:5 (NIV):

As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you (Italics mine).

So, whatever transition you may be facing today, let God be your strength and your courage. I know I will!

Now, let’s go plant a church!

P.S. I will be updating our church planting journey more frequently in the near future as we begin the year-long process of getting things in order for Launch Day! So please check back often. Blessings!