In light of the new collaborative partnership between USMB, C2C Network and MB Mission, the Christian Leader visited with Scott Thomas, director of C2C US, in an email interview to introduce him to readers.
Scott Thomas is passionate about helping people come to faith in Jesus and become disciples who multiply the gospel in their communities. Since August 2016, Thomas has served as U.S. director of C2C Network, a multidenominational disciple-making ministry that helps assess, train and coach church planters in order to multiply the gospel in communities from sea to sea.
But Thomas’ call to ministry came years before when he was just a teenager.
Call to ministry
Thomas and his wife, Jeannie, who currently reside in Nashville, share the same Colorado hometown where they grew up in the same church. The couple has been married 36 years and have two married sons and two grandchildren.
Sports played a large role in Thomas’ early life. He attended college in Colorado on a basketball scholarship then coached the sport for 20 years while serving as a pastor.
Although Thomas grew up in church—his Sunday school teacher led him to Jesus when he was 9—his faith journey was not always smooth.
“I walked away from the church from age 14 to 19,” he says. “(I) was in a dramatic and life-threatening car accident that simultaneously led me back to church and to give my life to him, to do as God desired.
“At age 19, I immediately began working in the youth ministry—although I was not remotely qualified. God used me to impact teenagers—with my athletic influence—and I took my first youth pastorate at age 20 while in university.”
Thomas’ call to ministry stemmed from 1 Cor. 4:1-5.
“The Lord called me to be his servant for his glory,” he says. “It was a huge leap from my life of repetitive sin to a recognized son. Interestingly, I immediately felt called to church-plant at 20 years old. I knew I needed years of pastoral training. I led three replant churches before launching a new plant in 2003.”
Thomas attended Bible colleges in Michigan and Colorado, earning his master’s degree in Christian Leadership and doing graduate work in business administration.
He was a youth pastor in Colorado for 10 years before becoming lead pastor of a church in Idaho. Thomas held lead pastoral roles in Idaho and Colorado for 17 years before leading church-planting for Acts 29 Network from Seattle. He served 10 years there as a board member and director and then president.
Disappointment leads to opportunity
While at Acts 29, Thomas and Gord Fleming, current C2C North American director, were colleagues serving the same church planter with Acts 29 and the British Columbia MB Conference. Fleming and Mark Burch, C2C Canadian director, came to Seattle to share with Thomas their vision to launch a new nationwide network.
“They will say that they raided my file cabinets, but I gave them a thumb drive that had all of our systems and practices in digital format, and I offered to help in any way they desired,” Thomas says. “Gord invited me to serve on the inaugural C2C advisory team, and I also had the privilege to coach Gord in those early years.”
In 2013, Thomas moved to Nashville to start a church-planting school. When plans did not come to fruition because of lack of funding, Thomas was devastated.
“I didn’t tell anyone during those initial distressing few weeks,” he says. “I merely sought the Lord with intense prayer. God impressed upon me that I was to equip and encourage pastors and their families in a Barnabas-type role. This was a role I had not ever taken. A couple of days later, Gord called me out of the blue to consider helping him in a supportive, ‘Barnabas’ role to serve C2C.”
Thomas began as a full-time contract employee with C2C in December 2013, becoming C2C associate national director in June 2014. Five months later, he and Jeannie moved to Toronto.
Their plans hit a detour when, on a flight to Denver in March 2015, Jeannie passed out as a result of a serious kidney condition, and per doctor’s recommendation, had to stay in Denver, living in her father’s basement for 18 months battling to become healthy enough to relocate.
Thomas returned to Colorado on weekends, and as a result, started a Mennonite Brethren church in Pueblo, Colo.
“(I) handed it off to a planter after C2C formally expanded into the U.S.,” he says. “It remains a highlight of my life, and we had the joy of working closely with Don Morris and Tim Sullivan to partner as a USMB church and with Jon Wiebe for a church building loan from MB Foundation.”
Serving with C2C US
Thomas became U.S. director of C2C on Aug. 1, 2016, and he and Jeannie, whose health has improved, moved from Toronto to Nashville.
As C2C US director, Thomas facilitates discernment interviews and formal assessment with potential church planters, coaches existing church planters and provides training opportunities and recruiting events.
Thomas serves on local teams providing temporary governance for church plants and collaborates with USMB district ministers and leaders for USMB church planting. He also works with Fleming and a team of USMB pastors to inspire and equip churches and planters. C2C Network depends on donations to operate so Thomas also does fundraising.
C2C’s focus is less on church planting and more on helping people who place their faith in Jesus in turn to multiply the gospel.
“We don’t just want more churches; we want to plant the right kind of churches,” Thomas says. “Nothing transforms a city or spreads the gospel more effectively than the planting of a gospel-centered, Spirit-led, mission-focused church.”
Church planters often face funding challenges and discouragement with the slow process of gathering and growing a group of believers, Thomas says. He co-authored the book, Gospel Coach, to help equip pastors to disciple others. He has trained about 5,000 leaders with this method, he says.
A collaborative partnership
At its September 2017 meetings, the USMB Leadership Board approved a recommendation outlining a cooperative partnership between USMB, C2C Network and MB Mission.
“The most exciting aspect of this collaborative partnership among C2C, USMB, the districts and MB Mission is that we can synergistically focus on local, national and global mission with risk-taking faith,” Thomas says. “I have really enjoyed getting to interact with the church planters launched originally with the districts and USMB. I love hearing their stories of faith, of vision, of perseverance and of patient joy in the midst of a tough challenge.”
Thomas says the sustainability of some MB churches is being threatened as people move to cities, increasing the need for church-planting in urban areas.
Thomas has these goals for 2018: establishing prayer partners in all 50 states; establishing a financial support base from USMB districts, local churches and individuals; partnering with churches to plant 12 MB churches; hiring help to enable continued expansion of services to MB church plants; launching a church-planting school; having recruiting events in every district and a major conference; establishing a U.S.-based assessment center; and developing a leadership structure for sending church planters.
Key to a successful church planting venture is empowerment by God’s Spirit, Thomas says.
“No talent, no strategy, no creativity, no method and no location will ensure a fruitful church plant,” he says. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it (Psalm 127:1). Jesus said, ‘I will build my church and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it’” (Matt. 16:18).