Q&A with Atlanta Church Planter Leonce Crump, Jr.

The name Leonce Crump, Jr. may be familiar to some as All-American Oklahoma Sooner wrestler, Sooner defensive tackle or professional football player for the New Orleans Saints.

Today, Crump can be found in Atlanta, GA not as a sportsman, but as a churchman. This godly man has a heart for Jesus to match his 6’ 4” former heavyweight wrestling frame. Crump is in the process of planting Renovation Church in downtown Atlanta. He was gracious enough to make some time for lunch and to answer some questions for me.

Mark Lamprecht: Describe how you came to vocational ministry.

Leonce Crump, Jr.: God called me to vocational ministry shortly after a serious period of rebellion in my life. I love to hear stories of people who received Christ, and following His saving them; they never experienced any periods of rebellion and set back. There is another contingent of individuals though, that I belong to. This group, though experiencing genuine and true salvation, turned from the Lord to try and do what they thought right in their own eyes, and ultimately ended up being shattered against the rock, before they would fully submit to Christ and His calling…this is my story. I truly believe in some small measure my rebellion can be attributed to the fact that I knew I was called to vocational ministry, and in my mind this was far too great a responsibility.

Following my 22-month downward spiral in college, and the subsequent crash, a man named Mike Wilson began to disciple me, mentor me, and ultimately share the responsibilities of the young adult ministry with me. Within a year I was fully pastoring this group. I did this until I graduated college, and have been in vocational ministry, both part and full time, for the last eight years.

Church planting came “naturally” meaning, it was a clear gift and calling that God had given me, and intended for me. When I took inventory of every ministry I have ever been a part of or led, I realized that I either founded it, or played a significant role in doing so. There are many more twist and turns in this story, but this is the best-abbreviated version I could provide.

ML: Why Atlanta?

LC: Atlanta was actually our last choice in places to move to plant, but in spring of 2008 I began getting recruited by North Point Church to possibly plant with their partnership program. This pursuit ended amicably, but after having visited four other cities and feeling fairly excited about the prospects of moving to one of them, we came to Atlanta for our final interview with North Point. It was at that time that I suddenly felt a massive burden for this city, specifically the downtown/midtown area. I can only describe it as a tangible longing to love and serve this city unlike any I had felt before. We needed to be here, and God has continually confirmed and affirmed that initial calling. I love this city, and I am desperate to see those who Christ is calling to Himself reconciled to Him truly.

ML: As someone might be considering a church – why Renovation?

LC: Renovation will have a very particular ethos, and someone considering being a part should weigh each of our distinctive carefully. We want to be a deep, infectious part of the Grant Park community and surrounding neighborhoods. For Renovation to be effective in its vision/mission it means that people cannot drive in to worship with us. We want to be an indigenous church, made up of the residents of our community. If you cannot drive here in 15 minutes or less, or take the train, then we won’t be able to serve you or have you serve and be fully invested.

Renovation is deeply committed to serving the poor and disenfranchised, uncompromised teaching of the scriptures, and making Jesus the hero of every story. If He is not the centerpiece of all we do, we are wasting our time. Renovation is also committed to life on life discipleship/relationships. We want to do life together both structurally as well as organically. This means doing the things we always do, but doing them with gospel intentionality; that is true community. We value depth over width; dynamic worship environments; are accepting of all people; incarnation over attraction; A Gospel worldview; steps over programs; mentoring and discipleship. We value being multicultural, an even in our meager initial gatherings we have over 9 different ethnic groups represented. If these are things that are of high value to you, then Renovation will be a place to grow, be challenged, and give your life away to see Atlanta made into a great and beautiful city.

ML: What is your strategy and vision for reaching the culture?

LC: Our Heart & Context: Incarnating Jesus in the Concrete Jungle
Young Professionals

  • Build genuine relationships
  • Winsomely confront the insufficiency of their “daily grind” and the lack of meaning life has offered
  • Question what they hold as ultimate in life, what they are really worshipping (wealth, work, the American dream etc.)
  • Discover causes that they can rally around to unearth a need for meaning
  • Create steps done in excellence, and aligned around their natural rhythms
  • Show the intrinsic value of their individual gifts (i.e. what they may already be doing in the business world) applied in the context of the gospel
  • Winsomely confront their idols of political dependence, appearance, social status, and doing good things

Young Families

  • Build genuine relationships
  • Target the insufficiency of their “daily grind”
  • Question what they hold as ultimate in life, what they are really worshipping (wealth, work, children, the American dream etc.)
  • Invest in and serve their children
  • Invest in and serve our community through intentional engagement
  • Align steps with the natural rhythms of the school year and school events
  • Winsomely confront their idols of political dependence, appearance, social status, neighborhood associations, and doing good things

Students & Artist

  • Build genuine relationships
  • Provide mentoring and discipleship based around common interest, or even what they are studying in school (i.e. a doctor who is a follower of Jesus specifically discipling med. students)
  • Provide meals for them, social times, and space to gather beyond Sunday gatherings or small group gatherings (i.e. study hours with food during finals)
  • Give them causes to rally around, and the true reason to rally around them (i.e. distinguishing between simple social justice, the social gospel, and the true gospel that seeks justice for the cause of the gospel and glory of God)
  • Make space for and use of the abilities and gifts of each one, especially the arts community
  • Winsomely confront their idols of popularity, intellectualism, sex/relationships, and political activism

Urban Influx/Existing Residents

  • Build genuine relationships
  • Reconcile these two groups to each other and gather them around shared mission and love for the city
  • Challenge their worldview and contrived “differences” to show that underneath the surface we are all facing many of the same struggles
  • Unearth shared values, dreams and desires
  • Intentionally initiate dialogue to surface feelings of displacement by one group, and the feelings of displacing by the other, to find common connection around the changing landscape of the city
  • Winsomely confront their idols of segregating, racial divide, white guilt, and black pride
  • Incarnate the Jesus who is for all men, regardless of race, color, or creed

All of these “strategies” are simply proposed vehicles for engaging our neighbors in their natural contexts with the gospel; they are not an end unto themselves. The aforementioned are the primary groups of people we will lovingly engage with the gospel and focus on for building the kingdom and the church. Underneath the surface of these broader groups are families with children and those without; those in poverty, living within two blocks of those who are affluent; angry white idealistic “emo” kids, and disconnected young black kids with dreams but no tracks to run on. Also woven into the fabric of our context are subgroups that we will turn our attention to when we have equipped followers of Christ to engage them; the Muslim community here in downtown, and the socially disenfranchised (fatherless, homeless, prostitutes, strippers, children being trafficked) are also heavy on our hearts, but, we cannot address these issues without willing and able people to labor with us in this mission.

ML: How do you want yourself and Renovation to be thought of in the community?

LC: If, in 5-10 years, by God’s providence Renovation Church must close its doors, I want the community to feel a sense of mourning. Not because we conformed so greatly to the culture that they miss agreeing with every decision we have made, but because we have served them so genuinely, worked and prayed for the welfare of our city, and loved them so completely that our absence is noticeable…and more than that, that it is painful.

ML: Is there anything you would like to tell the readers about Renovation church?
LC: This is not, and by God’s grace will never be church as usual. I don’t mean that in any sense of trying to be hip, cool, or cutting edge, but in the sense of there being an expectancy of changed lives, and because of that, and radically renewed and changed city, restored and reconciled to God and with each other. We will be restorers of streets, seeing crooked things made straight, and broken things made whole in Atlanta and from here effect change in our state, our nation, and the world as we invite the continued breaking in of the Kingdom of God, for His glory and our good. This is our vision, and I hope that if God is calling you, and it makes your heart burn within you, that you would join us on this foolish mission, so big that only God can accomplish it.

ML: How can Christians pray for Renovation?

LC: Pray for wisdom, clarity, and the name of Jesus to be made great in us and through us.

Leonce Crump is seeking to integrate his ministry as a visible part of the community in the city of Atlanta. Despite his incredible athletic ability and two Master’s degrees Crump will tackle this task with the only transcendent and cross-cultural message known to humankind, the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the only message that transforms lives and makes one acceptable before a holy God. Crump’s goal, through the love of God and neighbor, is to take the gospel to his community to trasnsform it to the glory of God. Anyone who shares Crump’s vision for changing Atlanta with the gospel can contact him at Urban Mission Blog. Also, Crump was a presenter at Fight Club 09 in Metro Atlanta where free audio and video are provided.


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