Church planter embraces calling, legacy
EDITOR'S NOTE: The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 2-9, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year's offering theme is "Firmly Planted." For more information, visit AnnieArmstrong.com.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (BP) -- You could say Patrick Coats is a product of his spiritual legacy. But it's a legacy he attempted to elude -- at least for a time.A native of Miami, Coats was raised by his grandfather, Joe Coats, the first African-American pastor to affiliate with the Florida Baptist Convention in 1968. The elder Coats planted a church in a school building and saw it grow to 4,000 members.
"Hurricane Andrew destroyed the church building, but it did not destroy the church family," Coats said. "The last major project for my grandfather was rebuilding the church [facilities]."
Coats was never far from his grandfather, so he was constantly in church. When he was old enough, he began serving alongside his grandfather, first as a music minister. A degree in music education followed, and though Coats will tell you he is primarily a trumpeter, he can play an array of instruments, including drums.
"I was immersed in Southern Baptist life," Coats said. "I've been everything there is to be in church from a deacon to a preacher. But I ran from a specific call as lead pastor."
Coats ran to music and started a Christian rap group. Although it was a rebellious run, his was a mild one. He remained involved in church leadership, but did not want to be a pastor. Coats' uncle, Joe Coats, started a church, tapping his nephew to serve as minister of music. After 10 years his uncle had a new idea.
"In 2005 my uncle threw me into the pulpit," Coats said. "That began a three-year journey of preaching, attending seminary and the realization that I had to embrace the call of a pastor to be obedient to my Lord."
Perhaps still testing the waters lightly, Coats moved his family to Homestead and intended to start slow with his first church plant. He planned a small Bible study.
"We began with a group of 14 at the first Bible study preview," Coats said. "They all asked a question I wasn't prepared to answer. 'What are you going to do now?'"
Coats did the only thing he could think of and began looking for meeting space. In December 2009 he located a movie theater that allowed him to rent space for the Bible study. The Bible study launch was set for New Year's Eve.
"Forty people showed up for the Bible study," Coats said. "The next week more came and everyone wanted to have a worship service. That year we baptized 30 people. In 2011 we baptized 33. I backed into church planting."
All the while Coats remained involved in Southern Baptist life. He is one of six missionaries featured this year by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as part of its 2014 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering promotion. Miami, where Coats serves, is one of 32 Send North America cities NAMB is bringing special emphasis and resources to in its effort to help Southern Baptists start 15,000 new churches in 10 years. Half of NAMB's financial support comes from the Annie offering.
Kingdom Covenant Baptist Church was the result of Coats' accidental planting. He says the church is kingdom focused, connecting people with the Gospel. "God is up to something. You don't have to over think it. Just do it," Coats said.
With connections through working on the Florida Baptist Convention's church planting team and through the North American Mission Board's church planting network, Coats continues to sharpen his planting skills. Kingdom Covenant is establishing city groups to create a culture of discipleship, and it is working in practical ways.
"Last year we met a woman raised as a Jehovah's Witness," Coats said. "She came to the services as a seeker. She sought me out after a service for clarification about what she heard. She eventually gave her life to Christ and is now a Bible study leader. She had the knowledge; she just needed to meet the author.
"If you go to a city, you go as a missionary. The church grows out of your missional living. It's not about making the right moves or reading the right books. It's disciple making and obedience." Coats points to the example of his son's football team as evidence of effective missional living.
His son, Patrick II, plays quarterback for South Miami Senior High School. As an involved parent, Coats got to know the team's head coach. At a team meal for the families the coach asked Coats to give a blessing.
"From that I was able to share the Gospel and three players have given their lives to Christ and been baptized since," Coats said. "That's how church happens, in living. It's Acts 2:42."
Living in church also led to an important introduction for Coats. He met his future wife in youth group.
"Archalena and I met in youth group in my grandfather's church," Coats said. "She was big into WMU. She was an Acteen queen regent. She would not even give me the time of day when we met. Eventually she allowed me to be her escort [to the Acteen’s event]." In addition to son Patrick, the couple also has two daughters, Joy and Faith.
Being named an Annie Armstrong Week of Prayer Missionary was humbling to Coats. He has long known of the significance of the offering for North American Missions.
"The Annie Armstrong offering is super important," Coats said. "We've benefited from training, resources and partnering churches who've come down and labored with us in the field. The best encouragement for a church planter is knowing he's not alone. Through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, other SBC churches are made aware of church planting and they come alongside the plant to help in a big way."
To learn more about Patrick Coats and the ministry of Kingdom Covenant Baptist Church, including a video, visit [http://www.anniearmstrong.com/] www.anniearmstrong.com. To find your place in God's mission, begin with www.namb.net/mobilize-me.
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.