“We’ve moved 10 times in 18 years,” shared Brittany Brown, her eyebrows rising in awe and surprise that they have packed up houses and moved that many times. Her husband, Joshua, has been an active-duty Marine since they got married at age 19, and the military has brought them all over the country since then.
Looking back on those early years, the Browns can distinctly remember the sudden swing from teenage adolescence to the onset of adult responsibility, stresses of marriage, and a new military career. That’s what drove them initially to search for a church to join, even though they would not have considered themselves churchgoers in the past.
After a long search, they eventually found a church that read from the Bible and taught what it said. It was refreshing and life-changing. In a matter of months, Brittany and Joshua gave their lives to Jesus as they encountered his grace that covered all their sin.
“We were at that church for almost 5 years. They were diligent at loving young military families,” Brittany recalled.
They joined a Young Marrieds class led by a man retired from the Navy and his wife. They learned about marriage, biblical parenting, and how to look different from the world around you by serving Jesus with your entire life.
“We had no idea that we were being discipled, but we were together all the time–we truly lived life together, all those couples. The Young Marrieds pastor and his wife were invested. They were there through deployments, childbirth, everything,” said Brittany.
Soon, Joshua was “getting orders” (being sent to a new duty station) and an all-too-familiar cycle of “move, church-hunt, build trust, and move again” was starting. What they saw modeled at that first church, the Browns then looked for in each new town that they found themselves in.
“When we went to a new location we had to do a whole church-search thing. By the time we would find one, meet people, and start that back-and-forth process of learning how to serve…a year goes by and we’re getting orders and getting ready to move and start over again,” Joshua explained.
Every time it was the same. Looking for a church body to serve with. To edify. To get in and continue the work. To pour into and disciple young couples like they were discipled. But there was always a huge delay. When military families like the Browns are coming in from the outside, they don’t know what the church is like and what the pastor is like, and likewise, the church doesn’t know these new people coming in, so it takes time for trust to be built.
In 2017, the Browns were moving to North Carolina outside of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. They knew they wanted to be a part of a church that was nearby so that they could be part of bringing the gospel to the community. After some difficulty finding a healthy church to join, they heard about Pillar Church of Jacksonville.
They learned how Pillar Church was part of the Praetorian Project, a network of like-minded, biblical churches being planted near military bases to reach the communities there. They saw how there were sister churches planted near other Marine Corps bases across the country, and that future church plants in the planning stages were still to come.
The Browns were excited to see that not only would military families like themselves have the ability to find a church home quickly as they move base to base, they could also be equipped to share the gospel and be empowered with a mission-minded focus no matter where they move across the world.
“I love that the Praetorian Project says ‘Movement is the Method’,” shared Brittany. She recalled how the pastor at their first church would encourage them to see the unique way that God uses transient members of the military to share the gospel all over the world. In a similar way to how missionaries are sent, families like the Browns can “live sent” in their everyday lives.
Joshua agreed that there is a unique opportunity presented here for the church to reach military families, and for these families to go on and reach the world. He said, “The opportunity for the church to reach lost people that are transient, that can get the good news, then can move to a new location, and further spread the gospel…I can’t think of a better place to go to get the gospel spread throughout all the veins throughout all the world.”
In 2020, the Browns entered a new chapter of their lives: planting a Praetorian Project church in Topsail, NC. It didn’t take long after their arrival at Pillar Jax to see the need.
“We had people driving an hour from Hampstead, which is a beach community on the other side of the base. [At Pillar Jax], there’s families from these little beach towns driving all the way inland to meet up with a bunch of people who are from even further inland…The people from the Sneads Ferry area are very disconnected from the people driving from the farm communities. The only thing that links them together is the base. So it was natural to start planting a church [in Topsail] and bring people into it.”
Along with a core team of families living in and near Topsail, the Browns were commissioned from Pillar Church of Jacksonville to launch this new church on the coast. Since then, they have boldly pursued the call on their lives to live as gospel witnesses in the military community.
“I think of our testimony, and what the Praetorian Project is–that is us. We are here because people who loved Jesus and loved his Word were not afraid to preach the gospel…If we are faithful to take the Word out and set ourselves aside, it will not return void,” Brittany expressed.
The Browns look forward to being a support to young military families in need, the same way they found support at their first church. These young families may be away from home for the first time and encountering the difficulties of life for the first time. As the Browns and other Pillar Topsail members care for them, they are looking for open doors to share the gospel of hope.
“We’re not just providing help to all the people,” explained Joshua, “it’s a life-changing and life-altering experience. God does the changing, God does the saving, God does everything. What’s exciting is being part of the plan for him.”
Pray for Pillar Topsail and the Brown family, as well as the co-planter Paul Bailey and his family, and for those who will hear the gospel because of their faithfulness. Pray that more Praetorian Project churches will continue to be planted near military installations worldwide and help provide stability and continuity for military families wherever they may go.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” -Jesus in Acts 1:8
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