Making his way up the "totem pole"
Blanchard went off to attend Pensacola Christian College in Florida. After college, Blanchard began working at Marcus Pointe Baptist Church in Pensacola, a congregation of about 1,500. He served there for a decade between 1999 and 2009. He made his way up the totem pole from janitor/daycare assistant director to assistant pastor.
In 2004, Blanchard was sent out to California to attend a conference at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church. Among the many people that Blanchard met at the conference were church planters.
"I had never met a church planter in my life," he said. "I believe that God planted a seed in my life that I was going to start the church that I would eventually pastor."
Blanchard admits that he initially tucked that thought away in the back of his mind and didn't really act on it until years later because he had questions. He wondered why God didn't want him to pastor a church that is already founded.
Nonetheless, Blanchard researched for a few years what church planting was all about. Blanchard began to feel a stronger pull on his heart to launch his own church that he could pastor.
"About 2007, I go to my pastor at Marcus Pointe [Gordon Godfrey] and told him what I was thinking and that I didn't have a timeline," he explained. "My pastor began to mentor me and began to give me encouragement that he believed I could do that and offered to help me financially."
In 2008, Blanchard gave Godfrey a one-year notice of his intent to launch a church plant. Blanchard and his wife, Karen, had their eyes on launching a plant in his hometown, given the automotive industry downturn that began around that time.
However, that required them to sell their home in the middle of an economic recession and housing market decline.
After months of not having even one potential buyer come to look at their home, Blanchard said that they received a call one day from a lady looking who ultimately gave them a cash offer that essentially allowed the family to almost break even on their home despite the 2008 crash in the housing market.
"We weren't sure how God was going to handle that situation but he did," Blanchard said.
Another challenge that the Blanchard's faced in their quest to launch a church plant came when they applied for funding from the Southern Baptist Conventions North American Mission Board.
The Blanchards attended a NAMB retreat with about 12 other candidates for funding and several assessors. At the beginning of the retreat, Blanchard said that he was ranked 12th out of 12 candidates just based off of the information each candidate provided in their applications.
"When it came down to me, the assessors automatically assumed that the deaf guy can't pastor a church. They ranked me at the bottom," Blanchard said.
Yet each of the three days when he participated in interviews and presentations, Blanchard said that he was able to prove to the assessors why their initial ranking was wrong. By the end of the retreat, the Blanchards finished as the top-ranked candidate.
"This is confirmation that this is what God wanted us to do in light of Detroit's economy," Blanchard said. "God had a plan for all of this."