March 12, 2019
By Jennifer Davis Rash
The Alabama Baptist
The Alabama Baptist learned around noon on March 14 that Rob Singleton will not be the lead pastor of Vaughn Forest Church. To read the update, click here.
Affirming a new pastor took a bit of an unusual turn at Vaughn Forest Church, Montgomery, on March 10.
Rob Singleton is the new lead pastor. But the bigger news is that Vaughn Forest elected to help launch a new network of churches under Singleton effective June 1. The network begins with one Southern Baptist congregation (Vaughn Forest) and one nondenominational congregation (Summit Church).
Singleton has served as pastor of Summit Church — located in Centennial, Colorado — for about four years.
“Summit’s ready for this vision,” Singleton said. “The big reveal took place at Summit two weeks ago.”
Campus pastors will be hired by Singleton at a later date to shepherd and oversee the Summit and Vaughn Forest staffs and congregations.
Going into the March 10 service, the official word was that a new lead pastor had been hired and would be presented to the congregation for affirmation.
Rumors also had surfaced that the church’s Baptist roots might not survive the new pastor.
What actually happened was somewhere in between.
Vaughn Forest’s bylaws require 75 percent affirmation of members present on the day a pastor is presented by the church’s governance board for the hire to be official.
Prior to the near unanimous vote of the 300 to 400 people present for the vote, Singleton jokingly said, “When you call a pastor, you don’t think the pastor will bring a church with him (but that’s what is happening).
“If I come here, Summit doesn’t want us to leave,” he said. “We’ll do this together.
“It’s a big vision. … I believe it’s what the Lord always wanted for Vaughn Forest when it was ready,” Singleton said.
He and his wife, Michelle, prayed and fasted for two months over the decision, Singleton said. “He (God) just confirmed it over and over. Get ready for people to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Get ready. … We want to make it hard to get to hell from Montgomery.”
When Singleton was hired as pastor of Summit Church (Grace Community Church at the time), he led the church to change from Assemblies of God to nondenominational and change its name.
The name change helped poise the church to become one campus among many in a network of churches, Singleton said. He also noted that leading a multisite church across state lines and even globally has been a vision of his for many years.
Prior to his latest pastorate, Singleton spent 20 years in North Carolina where he planted three nondenominational churches and helped with seven others, he said.
He has a master of theology degree from Dallas Theology Seminary and served three years with Young Life prior to marrying Michelle in 1995. They have two children — daughter Juliana lives in North Carolina and is planning a wedding; son Nathan is a student at the University of Alabama.
At Vaughn Forest, members of the pastoral search team, the governance board and the staff assured everyone who asked that the intention was for the 25-year-old church plant out of FBC Montgomery to remain part of Baptist life.
Singleton didn’t say either way but noted a lot of details still had to be worked out.
Chad Boak, creative pastor for Vaughn Forest, said all the questions about how the structure will work, which ministries will remain and/or be added, what the new name will be, whether Vaughn Forest remains Baptist, whether the roughly $14 million of debt would be shared by the network or remain solely with the Vaughn Forest campus, etc., “are just details. We will figure them out.”
“We still affirm the Baptist Faith & Message … and according to our bylaws we are Southern Baptist,” Boak said, noting it would take approval by the congregation to change that. The next opportunity for such a change is October during the church’s annual general meeting.
For now, the first order of business is to prep both campuses for two-way video production so no matter which campus Singleton is on, the service can be projected to the other. Singleton will preach from the Vaughn Forest campus March 17 and then head back to Colorado for a few weeks.
Vaughn Forest charter member Dr. Lee Franklin, who served on the pastoral search team and is part of the governance board, said he is excited about the move.
“We have to figure out a way to reach people for Christ and what we’ve been doing has not been effective,” he said. “If our focus is only on what I (we) want, then the church is finished. It’s got to continually change.
“I’m not sure if I will like a multisite church or not, but I might,” Franklin said, noting Vaughn Forest had been discussing the possibility of going multisite before meeting Singleton. And it was one of the church’s previous pastors, Scott Weatherford, who introduced them to Singleton.