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Pastors sow the seeds of faith by starting new churches
0704Church-Chang baptism
Jimmy Chang baptizes church member Yu Choi, 75, who came to the United States 30 years ago but only recently began going to church regularly.

Living Stone Community Church

Telford Industrial Park
28 Industrial Blvd., Suite 205, Cleveland

Open Door Korean Baptist Church

Cornerstone Baptist Church
5801 Blackjack Road, Flowery Branch

Hearing God's call to serve as a pastor takes a leap of faith.

But taking that call a step further to begin your own church is something that takes even more dedication.

The Rev. Mark McClain is one pastor who took God's lead and planted a church in Cleveland.

"Our goal is as our church grows is to plant other churches," said McClain, pastor at Living Stone Community Church in Cleveland. "We are trying to reach people who probably wouldn't go into an established church or people who are put off by the church."

Living Stone began services at the church building, located in the Telford Industrial Park, at Easter and now the church is welcoming about 50 people each week to the Sunday service.

But planting a church in Northeast Georgia wasn't exactly McClain's plan at first.

"We were originally going to plant out west, and the doors just closed one after another. And of course, if you are a church, you are kind of seeking God's direction," said McClain, a North Hall High graduate. "One of the things that we prayed about was that God would open the doors for us to go through and close the ones for us not to go through.

"In that process it kept on bringing us back to planting one here, and we started thinking there is a church on every corner, why would we do that?"

New churches are always needed to fill needs in the community, according to the Chattahoochee Baptist Association, which works with the Georgia Baptist Convention to bring new churches to the Northeast Georgia area.

"Right now there is a variety of different people in the CBA's area that are in different stages of church planting in different kinds of churches," said the Rev. Mike Taylor, new church strategist for the association.

Led to be a church planter, McClain followed what he felt to be God's plan and created a church open to different kinds of people.

The Rev. Jimmy Chang, pastor at Open Door Korean Baptist Church, also followed God's calling and started a Korean congregation about a year ago at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Flowery Branch.

"The Cornerstone Baptist Church wanted to share the opportunity with ethnic groups, especially a Korean congregation and also the Chattahoochee Baptist Association," Chang said. "I was chosen as a church planter by the Georgia Baptist Convention, and the Chattahoochee Baptist Association joined together to build a new ethnic church."

Filling pews at new churches seems like one of the hardest tasks at first, but Chang and McClain said it's all about relationships.

"I try to contact the Korean people in the area," Chang said. "Every new church has its own target. My goal is to reach out to Korean people, especially the first-generation Korean people in this area."

McClain fills his pews by getting out of the church to meet possible members.

"We have to take every chance we can to get out of our church," he said. "You have to get your name out there; marketing research says you have to have your name in front of people six times for them to connect to you. We've already done mail outs, we've done door-to-door hangers and we're doing community outreach projects."

With a Korean congregation, Chang added there are cultural differences to take into account. "Basically there are cultural differences with the American and Korean style," he said. "We prefer the relationship-oriented approach. ... It's very important in the Korean culture because if you are not introduced this way with family or friends they do not trust you."

But whichever way Chang or McClain make connections with potential church members they still keep the goal of their church planting in mind - serving God.

"We wanted to start a church that focused on God and spirituality not politics, love not gossip and cliques," he said. "The part that we are trying to do is we are very contemporary and we're very casual. I preach in blue jeans, and that's something, that dress should have nothing to do with it."

Chang added, "I feel I have a positive perspective of this area because it is the fastest-growing community and many Asian people are coming to this area every year."

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