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Leading Together in an ARC Church Plant: Interview with Pradeepan and Amreitha Jeeva

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Leading Together in an ARC Church Plant Interview with Pradeepan and Amreitha Jeeva

ARC (Association of Related Churches) is a cooperative of independent churches from different denominations, networks, and backgrounds that strategically resource church planters and pastors to help them reach people with the message of Jesus.

ARC exists to launch, connect, equip churches, and see a thriving church in every community.

In 2000, ARC (Association of Related Churches) was founded to resource couples to start life-giving churches. Since its beginning, ARC has expanded into a multi-faceted, global organization while staying true to its core mission.

As of Fall 2022, ARC has planted more than 1,000 churches. Supported by a diverse community and independent churches, ARC celebrates all God is doing through the local church.

In 2017, Pradeepan and Amreitha Jeeva founded Kalos Church in the picturesque city of Bellevue, WA. Originally from the Midwest, they have a deep love for the local church, which was instilled in them from a young age.

The Jeevas are open about their passion for building a strong community of believers at Kalos Church, and their desire to create a space where all are welcome to experience the transformative power of God’s love.

Tell us about your journey to launch a church with ARC (Association of Related Churches). What was the experience like?

Amreitha: Our journey to church plant started with a pretty devastating loss in our lives. We decided we wanted to start a family. We got pregnant for the first time and lost our first baby to a miscarriage. It was the first time, and we were so excited; it was devastating for us.

We began to seek God on a lot of different levels. We knew we didn’t want to be in Michigan forever and began to seek Him. After fasting, praying, searching, and talking with leaders and pastors, we felt God wanted us to church plant.

That was just crazy. We felt God was saying, “I know you’re trying to start your physical family. I want you to start a spiritual family.” God started to speak to us about the words “beauty” and “beautiful .” We began to hear the phrase, “Plant a beautiful church in a beautiful place.” We didn’t quite know what God was up to. We didn’t know what he was doing and where we should go, so we began to fast and pray.

Pradeepan:  And in the middle of the night, I have a dream. I felt like the Lord said, “Plant this church in a place called Bellevue.”

But the problem was we didn’t know what a Bellevue was. So I leaned over to Amreitha, and I go, “I feel like the Lord spoke.” And she said, “Let’s do something very spiritual. Let’s Google Map it.”

We looked at Bellevue on Google, and lo and behold; it was here in Seattle. The thing is, we didn’t know anybody in Seattle. We had no network in Seattle. But we just felt like we were going to follow God. So we moved here. We didn’t know anybody. We were just trying to meet people.

What were the highs and lows of launching your church?

At our first meeting for our interest party, we followed the ARC Church Playbook for how to launch a church. Our first meeting was with three people. In our second meeting, five people showed up. We just remember thinking church planting is hard.

And to be honest, in our early days of youth and young adults ministry, we thought, “Oh, we know ministry. We can church plant. This is not going to be a difficult thing. We know how to do services and reach people.”

But we needed ARC (Association of Related Churches) to help us plant. Because when we got here, we couldn’t get off the ground. All the strategies from Midwest Ministry didn’t work, so we had a whole community to lean on and brainstorm with, and we just had a prayer system around us.

We had five people when we reinvented our playbook. We had 67 people show up to our next interest party, and 34 people decided to help us church plant. We had a launch team all of a sudden in Seattle.

So we did the ARC large launch. We had 234 people at our first service in a comedy club. And then we finally broke 500 for the first time in downtown Bellevue. It was amazing

And then a pandemic hit. We went online for 58 weeks. People were moving out of the state, and people were mad at us because we were not left politically enough or right politically enough.

We were thinking, “What’s happening to our church? Those who are staying, they’re not with us. Who are we even pastoring? What do we do?”

We had 58 weeks online, with small digital groups and digital YouTube sermons. We decided to relaunch after 58 weeks, and it felt like we were relaunching a brand-new church.

We got down to our launch numbers. We had hit 500 attendees pre-pandemic, and our first service back was 38 people, which was like our launch team size.

We did these horrible, awkward services that were like a hybrid. We’re a portable church, so we had to follow all the hotel’s rules. We had to wear gloves and check in everybody. We weren’t preaching live. We weren’t worshiping live. We were all in the building, watching screens of us preaching and videos of our team leading in musical worship. It was just horrible. I’m so embarrassed about that season. But we had to start somewhere.

Then, two years later, we had Easter after just grinding through these awkward services, and we broke 600 for the first time as a church plant. And this is where God gets all the glory. We had 38 salvations that Sunday morning, the same amount as relaunching.

How is it leading together? How did you decide on roles and responsibilities?

Building back after the pandemic, it felt like launching again. To be honest, I didn’t know if I had it in me. We didn’t know if we could do this again. Our family was just going through a lot of trauma with our kids going through some mental health concerns; our son was diagnosed with autism, and our daughter went through some scares, but she’s okay.

But honestly, I went through an existential crisis during that time. I remember talking to the Lord, my wife, and our family, saying, “I don’t know if I can be a pastor anymore. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this.”

But to the credit of this church support system, co-pastoring together, we just said, “All right, we’re going to get professional therapy.” So even right now, we go to therapy twice a week. With that strength, by the grace of God, through prayer, and just staying in the game, we’re stronger now than we’ve ever been.

I like our church now on the other side of the pandemic. I know that’s not the case for a lot of people. I mean, we thought we would go down a lot and would have to close our doors forever. But we’re here and excited to make known the beauty of Jesus for years to come.

Amreitha: Before we started Kalos Church, we felt like God called us to co-pastor this church together. We felt like God wanted us from day one to co-pastor. So one of the first things Kalos did—and I have a Christian education and all of these things—is we ordained me as a pastor. It was one of the first things we did as a church with our board of directors.

It was just a beautiful thing to come together and realize that we’re going to pastor this church together. We’ve seen a lot of people, especially in this area, really take to that and welcome what it means to have a mother and a father of a church, and they love coming to hear the perspective and representation of women and men at church.

It’s been really interesting to figure out what our roles have been. And to be honest, we continue to do that. But we have different strengths and different weaknesses. Obviously, we do a lot of stuff together; we lead our team together, we share the vision together, a lot of strategy, and things like that. We have to make sure that on date nights, we’re not just talking about church all the time. But it’s just been a really beautiful part of our journey.

Pradeepan:  Co-pastoring, as a church planting couple, is one of the hidden secret sauces of Kalos Church. It’s been a strength. It’s been a support system that’s just built in. We don’t have to worry about preaching every week. And we can work not just in the church but also on the church because we have each other.

So Pastor Amreitha is not just like a token pastor; she has authority and preaches from the pulpit, and the church looks at her as a pastor. What has happened is powerful because if you come to a Sunday morning service, and we’ve asked people, “What has your experience been?” especially when we have guest pastors come in. They say, “This is a church filled with spirit-filled women leaders.” And we’re like, “That’s the best compliment ever,” because if we’re going to reach the world, we need to empower half the church.

We’ve had a lot of women who have billion-dollar budgets working for corporations right here in the Seattle region, and they say, “Why can I manage a billion-dollar budget but can’t give announcements at church? Why can I have a whole team over here, but I can’t lead at my own church, and I’m passionate about the gospel?”

Having Amreitha be not just a symbolic pastor but having authority, a platform, and a pulpit has set women free. They say, “My goodness, I can use my gifts to serve the Lord. I don’t have to feel guilty for wanting to share the gospel. And I have to just go quietly into the night.” I just think it’s so incredible. So I’d say that’s one of the best things you could ever do.

In fact, one of the reasons we chose to plant with the ARC Churches is because their website says, “We’re planting couples with a dream to plant a church,” and we’re like, “That’s it. They want to plant us as a couple. Yeah, we have to go through the ARC Churches.”

How has church planting been different than you expected?

Pradeepan: It’s been a crazy journey. As we look to the future, we’re really excited. In our church, since June, we’ve experienced 108 salvations. This is the most un-churched region in all of America.

It’s not just conversion; we are placing people into discipleship groups. So right now, we have about 260 people in small alpha groups that are meeting throughout the region. It’s cool. They’re learning about the basics of faith, theology, and what Jesus is all about. They’re learning about atonement and what it means to be spirit-filled. So we’re excited to not just make converts but disciples and make disciples who can disciple other people. We have these people placed into groups.

The exciting thing about this is as we’ve started these groups, we launched a youth ministry for the first time two weeks ago, and it is the first event we had in our brand-new building. We got a building here in Bellevue, which seems like a miracle. The real estate is so expensive here. But we have a building where we can have services and programs for our youth, pray, and host people.

As we look for the future, we’re excited to see a church that’s completely loyal to Jesus and a refuge from all of the casualties of our culture. We’re excited to see a place we’re empowering more spirit-filled women and that we continue to be a diverse church that is loyal under the banner of Jesus Christ. As we move forward, we are excited to see more people baptized, made into disciples, healed, set free, and know God. I think it’s coming, and we’re going to see something happen in Seattle.

We’ve been labeled as people who have carried the Seattle freeze. It’s hard to see churches thrive here. It’s hard to make friends. But the fire of God is thawing the Seattle freeze, and we’re seeing it happen, and I think we’ll continue to see it happen.

What would you say to someone who thinks they may be called to plant a church? What advice, caution, or inspiration would you share?

Pradeepan: If you’re thinking about church planting, first of all, we want to say, please do it. We need church planters. There are so many people that need Jesus. I would not be here today if it were not for church planters giving up their lives at a cost to preach the gospel to take new ground.

The second thing I want to say is that church planting is awesome. It’s so fun, and it’s so satisfying, yet it isn’t easy. But all fun, satisfying things are difficult. I don’t want to do something that’s easy all the time.

The challenge of church planting, where you think, “God, if you don’t show up, I’m screwed,” that’s faith. And we get to partner with God. Yes, Jesus does the heavy lifting of church planting, but we get to partner with God to see his people restored. What a privilege.

Church planting is hard, and you’re going to hear a lot of war stories. I mean, I’ve gone through them. I’m in therapy, and I’m still saying I love church planting. I’m so glad we did this. I’m so glad we’re part of this crazy tribe of church planters who are saying, “Let’s give up our family and comforts. Let’s go to unknown lands and partner with God to transform a region.” What a great life.