A Bi-Vocational Church Planter

Ashby Pruitt and Phillip Martin both grew up in Blacksburg, South Carolina. Ashby was a teenager in high school when he met Phillip, a local youth minister at the time. “When I was young and still in high school, I claimed to be a follower of Jesus, but I was not one,” Ashby said. “I knew Phillip was a follower of Jesus, and in a lot of ways, he helped guide me towards coming to faith when I was 19.” 

Flash forwards a few years, and Ashby and Phillip both graduated from the same seminary in North Carolina. Phillip began feeling the Lord pulling him towards planting a church. Ashby came to Phillip’s mind as a potential partner for the church. “I was like, all right, Lord, if he’s the one for the job, have him call me and call me soon,” Phillip said. 

“I hadn’t talked to Phillip in about nine months. On the way home from class one day, I thought to call Phillip and see what he was doing,” Ashby said. “The best we can figure is that our phone call was within 48 hours of him praying that I’d call him.”

It was shortly after that Phillip and Ashby began planning for Iron City Church. Partnering with the START team at the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Phillip and Ashby were able to begin church planning and training that would bring clarity to the mission, vision, and values of the church plant. “We would not have known about the good we can do here in Blacksburg if it hadn’t been for the Start Network and the training we got there,” Ashby said. 

Ashby said that Iron City Church “ministers to a lot of folks who don’t come from a lot of means.” He said that some individuals are rebuilding their lives after long prison sentences or after drug addictions. “Right now, we’ve got a guy living in our church building as we try to help them get on their feet.” 

Neither Ashby nor Phillip has taken a salary for their work with the church, and, in fact, both continue to work full-time jobs. Although they recognize the church planting ministry is difficult, they both see the life-changing results as the Spirit moves through the members and through the town. “Seeing the life change is what makes this worth it,” Ashby said, “it’s a reminder of why we’re here and an encouragement to keep going.” 

To learn more about the START Team, visit https://www.scbaptist.org/leaders/church-planting/.