Planting a church is a big investment. Church planters pour themselves out for the sake of the flock and the lost. This leads to a right personal connection between the planter and the church—which can make leadership transitions especially challenging.
Not only is it emotionally costly, but it’s also difficult on a practical level. We don’t want to see the church we’ve planted wither when our time is done.
Therefore, we must intentionally pave the way for the next pastor. This is implied in Paul’s instructions to Timothy: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (1 Tim. 2:2). A crucial part of planting is ensuring that faithful men will be able to lead the church when we’re gone. But how exactly can church planters do this?
I’m excited to have two brothers with me on the podcast today who have recently done this very thing. Blaine Boyd and Luke Humphrey are pastors on the Arabian Peninsula.
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Tony Merida: Welcome to “Churches Planting Churches: A Podcast on the Theology and Practice of Church Planting.” I’m your host, Tony Merida.
Planting a church is a big investment. Church planters pour themselves out for the sake of God’s flock and the lost. This leads to a right personal connection between the church planter and the church, which can make leadership transitions especially challenging. Not only is it emotionally costly, it’s difficult on a practical level. But as church planters, we want to see the gospel impact the coming generations. This is a vital part of planting healthy churches. We don’t want to see the church we’ve planted wither when our time is done.
Therefore, we must intentionally pave the way for the next pastor. This is implied in Paul’s instructions to Timothy when he says, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” A crucial part of planting a church is ensuring that faithful men will be able to lead the church when we’re gone. But how exactly can church planters do this?
I’m excited to have two brothers with me on the podcast today who have recently done this very thing. Blaine Boyd and Luke Humphrey are pastors on the Arabian Peninsula. Guys, welcome to the podcast.
Blaine Boyd: Thanks, Tony.
Luke Humphrey: Great to be here.
Merida: So, we are running this podcast. I wish the listeners could see our great technology that we have right now. They’re sharing a lapel mic that is stacked up on a stack of cups, so it can be high enough so they can share it. I mean, it’s epic technology, isn’t it?
Boyd: This is good. This is good. Yeah, state-of-the-art.
Merida: Yeah. You feel like a church point, all right?
Humphrey: Yeah, that’s right.
Merida: So, Blaine and Luke, just let’s begin by telling us about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did you come to faith? And explain to us what the Arabian Peninsula is.
Humphrey: Yeah. So, I was born into a Christian family. We moved around all over the place growing up. It wasn’t until about middle school where we settled into the Indianapolis area. I became a believer, I think, pretty, pretty young, so about 7 years old. My parents faithfully taught me the gospel. I grew up playing “David and Goliath,” and listening to “Veggie Tales” and all that. But it wasn’t until going to an Easter play on Good Friday where I realized that it was my sin that put Jesus on the cross. Sin wasn’t this abstract thing, it was my sin. And so, there was an altar call, and I was too scared to go down. But I talked to my dad about it, and he made sure I knew the gospel, understood the gospel. And I prayed to receive Christ. And at that time, I believe my life was changed. It wasn’t till university that really fell in love with the word, though, in terms of having a revitalization experience and…
Merida: Where did you go to school?
Humphrey: I went to Purdue University. So, yeah, I got involved in a great local church there, was discipled, that’s where I fell in love with the church and really felt called to ministry.
Merida: Awesome. Awesome. Tell us about your own journey there, Blaine.
Boyd: Yeah, I grew up in a Christian home but rejected Jesus early on, never followed him. And was practicing law in my late 20s, was pursuing the world full on, came to my own existential crisis of sorts and became a seeker searching for truth. And that led me to the jungles of Costa Rica, where I picked up a Bible, and God powerfully changed my heart by His word, and I’ve been following Him ever since. And He’s led me to the Arabian Peninsula.
Merida: Wow. So, talk to us a little bit about the journey to where you’re at now from the, you know, conversion and following Christ family, your whole experience to get to where you’re at.
Humphrey: Well, after university for me, I got married and knew I needed pastoral training. And so, I was accepted and moved to Minneapolis to study at Bethlehem Seminary. It’s a church-based seminary. And while I was there, I was worshiping alongside my professors and I was even working in the global outreach department there. Had a heart for the nation’s but also had a heart for the local church, and felt called to pastoral ministry, felt like that was affirmed by others around me. And so, trying to figure out how those two fit together.
After seminary, I went to do a pastoral residency at College Park Church in Indianapolis, which was a great experience. And it was there that I really kind of cut my teeth on what it looks like to be a pastor. And a year into that, I had a friend, John, who’s my co-pastor in the UAE. He was heading to the UAE to do a church planting residency. And we just kind of reached out to him and said, “Hey, we’d love to join your guys support team. How do we do that?” And he said, “Well, we actually need partners. So would you consider moving with us?” And so my wife and I prayed about it, and we fell in love with the vision for a ministry in the UAE. So we moved in December 2017. We’re there for about a year and a half before transitioning to Al Ain, which is where we’re currently at.
Merida: Now, can you just familiarize the listeners with the Arabian Peninsula? What are we talking about?
Humphrey: So, the Arabian Peninsula is going to be countries that are unique. So you have Kuwait, you have Qatar, you have Bahrain, you have the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia. Many of these countries have high expat populations, and the governments have granted the freedom to practice religion there, and so you can have churches. And English is a unifying language. So these people are coming from places all over the world, all over the 1,040 window, and they’re communicating in English. And they’re not able to retire there, so they have to go back to their home country at some point in time. And so, we’ve had the ability to have churches there to reach out to them while they’re here, but then also to equip them to go back to their home countries as well.
Merida: Excellent. Excellent. Blaine, tell us a little bit about, kind of, how you got to the Arabian Peninsula, from Oklahoma, right?
Boyd: Sure. Yeah, I was in Oklahoma. After becoming a believer, I kind of, in my young believer conceit, ran from the Bible Belt and found myself in Boston. I was in Boston, I was going to seminary at Gordon Conwell, got hooked up with South Shore Baptist Church in Hingham, Massachusetts. It was really at South Shore when I fell in love with the church. I never really understood, loved, cared for the church, but it was there that I saw the beauty of what God was doing in and through His church. It was at South Shore that I think I received kind of an affirmation of my pastoral call, and also the call to go plant churches. I was really affirmed that what the elders at South Shore saw in me was someone who wanted to go plant churches and someone who was equipped and gifted in that way.
And so, we were also connected in that church with the Ministry going on at Redeemer, Dubai. Now, Redeemer, Dubai, is an Acts 29 church that was planted in 2010 by Dave Furman. And so we connected with Dave, and those guys brought me over for a church planting residency. And I was just looking at…I showed up in Dubai in 2015 with the idea that I wanted to plant a church somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula. I really didn’t know where, I didn’t know what city, I didn’t know what country, but I knew I wanted to be in an Islamic context in this multinational cross-cultural context that is the Arabian Peninsula.
Merida: So, you moved there, you said, in 2015?
Boyd: Twenty fifteen, that’s right.
Merida: So, walk us through day one to kind of where you’re at now. Can you do that? Because you’re planting another church?
Boyd: That’s right. Yeah.
Merida: And you’re not an old guy. I mean, we’re not talking, you know, still…
Boyd: Thanks, Tony. I feel you…
Merida: We’re talking…how old are you now?
Boyd: So, 38.
Merida: Okay. So, but after planting a church in relatively short amount of time, if you moved there in 2015, and you’re going to plant another church. So, talk to us about 15 to present.
Boyd: Yeah, it’s been a lot of change. So landed on the peninsula September, 2015. I immediately started exploring around the Arabian Peninsula looking at global cities there, looking for places where there’s a gospel need and opportunity for a gospel-preaching church to be planted, working with the elders at Redeemer, Dubai, to try and locate and have them send us. And eventually, we landed on a city called Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, a community about an hour and a half out in the desert in the UAE. So, I was called to lead a team. It was me, my family, and two other families. We moved to Al Ain, and that was in 2016, started building a core, started laying the groundwork, making connections, sharing the gospel with people. And, really, things have moved really quickly. The Lord just worked really powerful ways.
We started with about 25 people in a living room in 2016, and we officially launched in April 2017. And then in 2019, when I eventually would leave the church and pass off transition, we were up to about 200 people on a Friday. Friday is the Islamic holy day, so it’s when people have a day off, and that’s when we gather to meet as a church. And so, during that time, I had had a burden for another city on the Arabian Peninsula. And as a network of churches of Acts 29 churches in the Middle East, there was a particular city that many of us were looking at as one that had not only a great gospel need, but there seemed to be an opportunity growing there for a gospel-preaching church.
And so, I’ll let Luke explain more of kind of him and John and their process of thinking through that city as well. But just kind of working as a network, we realized that there’s a really opportunity there, and that it was really me and my family that really felt equipped and gifted to go.
Merida: Yeah, fascinating. So, Luke, you’re not technically taken over. You’re one of the team members?
Humphrey: Yeah, yeah. So, the way that we’re doing it is that there were two of us who are serving as church planting residence, myself and then John Norris, my fellow pastor at Redeemer Church of Dubai, which planted Redeemer Al Ain. We were serving as residents and also serving as elders there. And so, as we were praying about reaching this particular city in this particular country, we wanted to free Blaine up to be able to do it. And so, we both of us transitioned.
One of the things I really appreciate about Blaine and his leadership is he didn’t wanna leave Redeemer Al Ain worse off. He really wanted to care for the health of the church. And so, as we were talking, and as we were praying, it really seemed best that two of us would go over. And so, John carries the majority of the preaching load. I’m doing most of the adult discipleship and thinking through some of the strategic outreach points in the city.
Merida: That’s cool. That’s cool. Now, Blaine, this is not normal, at least in my circles, in my experiences, though, we obviously see the Apostle Paul planting various churches. But today, you don’t hear a lot about guys who plant and then a couple of years plant again. So, I have several questions related to that. And you could jump in as well, Luke. Do you think more guys should be doing this just in general? Just your, you know, thoughts on that. When do they need to be considering it if they need to plant another church? What did you feel you had in place? Obviously, you had good leaders there, other things to consider?
You mentioned something that’s very, very simple, but I think it’s important to underscore, and that is you were looking for need, like, gospel need, a place to preach, where we need the gospel. So, clustered around all of this issue of you planting again, there’s…you can riff off of any of those pieces there.
Merida: Talk to us about planting again.
Boyd: Sure. Yeah. And the way I looked at was really… We had a network of churches that were really committed, as Acts 29 is, that were committed to planting churches that plant churches. And we got to a point where we had the resources in our network to plant another church in a new place and a new city that has great gospel need. There’s no healthy…there’s no gospel-preaching church in this city, so an opportunity was there. We had made some connections. The time seemed to be coming right with this particular place. And it was really a team and a community decision. It was actually Scott Zeller, who’s executive pastor at Redeemer Dubai, who first as we were looking at the resources that we had, he called and said, “Hey, I think you may be the guy to go do it, that to go and pioneer into this new place, into this new work.”
And then, just getting counsel from lots of gospel friends and gospel partners that I really respect and really trust, the more they continue to affirm, “Blaine, I think you’re the guy to do this. I think you’re the guy to go pioneer this.” And as that was being affirmed, I was getting my own sense that that was true, that I was beginning to resonate with what I was feeling. I had a burden for this particular city. I’d had a burden for this particular city for years, and that was growing. And then I just have a general burden to see gospel-centered healthy churches planted where there are none. And so, we just kind of, all the resources around the table. The need was there, the opportunity was there. I think our family, so myself, my wife, and my daughter, we felt…my daughter is 2, so she didn’t feel that much about it. But we felt that we were gifted and equipped to go into this place and do this work. And so, as we just kind of assessed that and prayed through that with the team, it just became really clear that that was for us.
And so, I do think, I mean, I think one of the questions that we’ve received a lot, and people would ask me is like, “Is this too early to leave?” Which is an interesting question. Like, I usually try to go back to the book of Acts and see how long Paul stayed at places. And not that I’m trying to claim to be Paul whatsoever, but it is normative in the book of Acts for this kind of thing to happen. And so, I don’t know that, necessarily, it should be normative for church planters, in two years after the launch of their church, to transition leadership and move on, but I also don’t think it should be unusual. I think that we should be always assessing our gifts, the needs that are out there, the opportunities already out there and say, “Should I stay or should I go?”
I think one of the things we really need to be cautious with…the interesting thing about Al Ain was I wasn’t wanting to leave Al Ain. I was happy, I was content. I was having fun doing ministry in Al Ain. I was not looking for the next thing. I wasn’t discontent and thinking, “Oh, gosh, the city, these people, I just want out of this.” It was completely out of left field, “Say what? Go plant another church?” You know, and I think we ought to be doing that, like, assessing ourselves. Not looking for ways out, and looking to escape the current situation we’re in, but also protecting from just growing comfortable and idle, and taking the easy way out and going, “Okay, well, this is where it’s comfortable, so I’m gonna stay,” and saying, “Would I be more fruitful, and would it be more faithful for me to move on?”
And for myself, as I was processing that, you know, one of the things that I really wanted to see, and then the question I kept asking myself is, “Will Redeemer Church of Al Ain, the church I planted and I’ve been the lead pastor for two years, is that church gonna be just as good or just as cared for? Or, you know, even…and I think this case even further, it has has an opportunity even to thrive more with the new leadership? Is it gonna be in a better place if I move on? Or am I gonna be…or my guess, actually, is that I should pass it on to different gifted people, then I can get to do what I’m gifted at and start a new church, and maybe some people who are gifted in different ways, in administration or otherwise, who can continue to see Al Ain thrive.”
Merida: That’s good, that’s good. Now, a lot of guys plant churches, they get a couple of years in, and it takes a toll, like energy-wise. You felt good, though. Your energy was good at 38, ready to roll again?
Boyd: Ready to roll again? That’d be a more interesting question for my wife. I told her, I said, “You know, two years. I’m gonna burn hard for two years in Al Ain, and then, you know, two years, things will get stable, and I’ll start backing off a little bit, and you’ll get see more of me.” And so, right about that two-year mark, I came to her and instead of saying, “Hey, let’s back off.” I said, “Let’s go do this again.” You know.
Merida: What did she say? What was her process? She was all in from the beginning?
Boyd: She’s been all in. She’s so resilient. And she just looked up. I didn’t know what to expect, really. I said, “Hey, let’s go take on this new work.” And she looked at me and said, “Hey, this is what the Lord’s doing. I’m in, let’s do it.” I said, “Hey, do you want even go? Do you wanna go see the city before we do or before we commit?” And she said, “There’s nothing that I will see in a visit to that city that will change my mind. This is where the Lord’s leading, let’s go.”
Merida: That’s good. Luke, what do you see in Blaine that’s unique that makes him able to plant again? He’s too modest to talk about himself but maybe you could…you know, as guys listen to this, because they may be thinking the same thing, “Should I be considering that?” What kind of characteristics would you say makes this a good idea?
Humphrey: Yeah, I mean, Blaine, I do think Blaine is unique. He’s unique in both some of the things that he’s willing to let go of that a lot of guys wouldn’t let go of. I really appreciate Blaine is Kingdom-minded. I mean, there’s a unique group of brothers in the Arabian Peninsula, the need is so great. We’re talking, you know, places of millions of people with one to no healthy churches. And so, all of us feel the burden.
Blaine, especially, though, I think has been willing to undergo significant cost, lack of comfort in order to meet those needs, which is really, really I appreciate. So, I think he’s gifted in his Kingdom-mindedness, gifted in terms of laying this foundation, building these relationships, and being willing to let go, you know, not continue to control them. I think that takes a certain amount of faith and a certain amount of humility to be able to do that. So, in terms of character, I think, he’s a unique individual. I think in terms of giftedness, he is a starter. I mean, he gets excited. A lot of guys wouldn’t be feeling after two years that…
Merida: Have you done the enneagram? Do you know what the enneagram is?
Boyd: No, I’ve heard of it.
Humphrey: Is that a cult?
Merida: You are too godly to know what enneagram is. Yap, yap. That’s okay. Forget that, he’s a starter.
Boyd: I’ll start it.
Merida: Take him on the enneagram.
Humphrey: There we go. But he is. I think he enjoys that. I think he thrives on that. And so, just being able to even see how he’s able to go from not really taking his foot off the gas. He was running hard till the end in Al Ain, and just he’s continuing to run hard. And I think he’s both good at that. And then he’s also, like, he… I think you enjoy it. And so, God’s wired him in certain different ways that I do think are unique, and yet, I think, maybe more common than we think in some parts.
Merida: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think there’s just a pattern. At least I’m speaking as an American Westerner, I think, kind of, I don’t wanna put the blame on Rick Warren. But I think that model for good or bad, you know, you plant a church, and you stay a long time, that’s become the norm. That’s the norm where we’re at, though there are always exceptions, right? To that. But it seems to me, in my interaction with church planters, many of them are starters, they are movement creators. They love to, you know, mobilize, and they dream, you know, the vision caster, they can gather people, they’ve got all those skills, those intangibles for church planting. And they do a good job, they plant a church, they are two or three years in. But the norm has been, it seems, to stay there at least for a long time, right?
And I’ve thought about it in my own life, you know, just like our church grew quicker than I anticipated. It’s healthy, you know, and you kind of like the dog that catches a car, all right? You know, “What I do now?” You know, “Should I go plant another church?” But there aren’t any models for that. Like, there’s…I’m sure there have been sessions, and, you know, perhaps, even conferences on it, but few books that I’ve read are talking about this. And so, the topic itself is interesting to me, and I think it’s very important.
I wonder if being cross-cultural for you, in some ways makes it, I don’t wanna say easier for, say, I go planting in an American city, where you see the desperate need in the Arabian Peninsula. We obviously have a need in America, but we also have churches, right? So, is that desperation? Does that prompt more of this apostolic spirit of, “Let’s go plant another church?” What do you think about that?
Boyd: Yeah, I think, possibly, definitely. I think, added to that is this idea that when I went to the Arabian Peninsula, I did…a lot of guys like you’re talking about, “Hey, this city has captured my heart. This city is where I wanna be.” They’re probably not gonna plant another church in that city, and kind of compete with the church they just planted. But there seems to be a real connection with city or place or maybe that’s the place they grew up or, you know, the place they’ve experienced at university or whatever that is.
When I went to the Arabian Peninsula, there was no affection for the cities, because the Arabian Peninsula is not a fun place to live. It’s really hot. So, the one thing that drew me there was need and opportunity that God seemed to be opening the door to plant churches in this time. So, because of that, even though I loved the ministry in Al Ain, and I was connected, I loved those people, and I have dear friendships that will last my entire life that came out of that church, I never felt like Al Ain was my ultimate home. And so, it was still, what was driving me, whether I was in Al Ain or somewhere else, was gospel need. And that’s what kind of kept churning me forward.
Merida: I love that term, you know, gospel need. We need to be thinking about this around the world as we think about church planting. This is a great story, man. It’s a really great story. How did the church members respond when you said, “Hey, I’m out of here, I’m gonna plant again.
Boyd: You know, really encouraging. It was amazing. One of the kind of fun things for me to watch was, we’re such a young church, many new believers, many baby Christians, many people who had been Christians for a long time but never been a part of a healthy church. So, we actually had the joy in Al Ain of kind of creating people’s church DNA, what do they expect from a church? And now what they actually expect is that, “Hey, as a church and as church people, we’re willing to let go of any resource we have, even our lead pastor, to see that the gospel goes forward.” And that really resonated with people. And people got that. So, even though there were people who were just like embracing me in tears and just weeping about the loss of the relationship, they were through their tears saying, “This is right. This is good. We’re behind it. We’re so excited.” And so, at least before I left, I was given a lot of encouragement. I don’t know what it’s been like since I’ve been gone.
Merida: That’s special, man, that’s special. What is leadership transition? How does it different in a cross-cultural context? You know, what’s been some of the unique challenges with that?
Humphrey: It’s so relational. I think there were earlier on, and it is a unique situation, you know, there wasn’t a gap. Basically, part of the plan was Blaine was going to leave. And basically, when that was announced, the elders were also announcing that two other guys are gonna step in. And so, there wasn’t a season in between that. But people didn’t know how to feel. For us, people weren’t quite sure, like, how to accept us because they still love Blaine and they still love Kelly, and they didn’t wanna show that, “Well, we don’t care for you.”
People know how to feel, a lot of people they know how to think. Especially in Eastern cultures, it takes a long time to build relationships. And…I mean, even in the US, if you don’t know the circumstances, and all of a sudden a pastor who planted a church leaves after two years, you might be thinking, “Is something wrong? Are we…you know, is our church falling apart?” We’re a pretty transient community anyway, where people come in on work visas. And so, a lot of people raise some concerns. There was some emotion there, but people also didn’t know exactly what to think in terms of, “Okay, ministry doesn’t have to be lifelong in a particular place, there is a need.”
And so, there’s places where it tends to be kind of put your head down, focus on your family, focus on your church for your entire life, then seeing their lead pastor say, “Well, we have the opportunity to go here,” people were able to think, “Wait, wait, wait, this is good. Like, this is good to be a part of, and we wanna get behind this church plant and even be supportive of this church plant.”
So, it was a mixed bag of emotions, and yet, we’ve really appreciated. The church has wrapped their arms around us and the Norris family, and we’re grateful for how Blaine and Kelly have led in that.
Merida: It’s excellent, it’s excellent. And you guys are involved in emerging regions with Acts 29, somewhat?
Merida: Tell us about…so we got maybe some listeners out there right now. Maybe some guys are even interested in the Arabian Peninsula, wanting to plant. Talk to us about, you know, why they should consider it, if they wanna consider it, contacts to make. What are we doing in emerging regions out there?
Boyd: Yeah. Absolutely, I mean, I think this is a great example of what, at least in the kind of Middle East part of emerging regions is what’s going on. It’s an exciting time. I think what was really attractive to this particular place and this particular time for myself was, I’m not really keen on learning languages. I didn’t thrive on Greek and Biblical Hebrew and those kinds of things. My wife’s Brazilian, I don’t thrive in Portuguese.
Merida: You speak Lawyer, though.
Boyd: I speak Lawyer, though. It’s a little touch of Latin but so…but this is a place where actually the ministry language is largely English. And it’s as prevalent as Arabic, if not more prevalent, and so it’s an opportunity to come. And the doors right now are wide open. In so many of these global cities on the Arabian Peninsula, there’s opportunity to go plant churches. And there’s partnerships to be had there. There’s people who are doing it, and we’re a team. Like I said, this whole plan unfolded as a network working together, thinking together, which is really fun. And Luke actually mentioned this earlier today, and I’ll just steal it from him.
Boyd: But you bet. But just this idea of really, it’s an example of a network, a small network. You know, there’s about five churches now, but looking at, “Hey, what resources do we have? And how do we take those resources and make sure that more churches are planted, and that the gospel goes forth, and really partnering in that?” That that wasn’t one church making this decision, but it’s really a partnership of all of us.
Merida: It’s excellent, it’s excellent. Blaine Boyd and Luke Humphrey, man, leadership transition, planting new churches, Arabian Peninsula. super exciting. You guys are really setting a great example, inspiring story. If folks wanna keep up with you, how could they do that? Is that possible? Social media, website, anything like that?
Humphrey: Yep. So our church’s website is redeemeralain.com.
Merida: Please spell it out.
Humphrey: So Redeemer, and then, alain.com. So, people can keep up their emails, rest of their sermons are there.
Merida: Super. Super.
Boyd: I’m a little harder to keep track of. The new city I’m moving into, we’re not sure what security measures are there and what I need to do to be safe and make sure that I actually get into the city. So, I suppose they can contact Acts 29 or something like that and connect with me.
Merida: Super. Thanks, guys.
Boyd: Thanks, Tony.