We’ve seen some changes over the last few weeks at Hope Fellowship and have started with a new era in our church plant and outreach. First, a little recap of where we’ve been:
We began our first outreach in September 2007 by eating at Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant every week at the same time on the same day. We did that for 9 months. During that time we left cards about our church at the counter. Two months after we stopped eating there regularly, a family picked up our card. Eight months after that, in April of 2009, they joined us and began working with us toward our launch. In September of 2008, we moved our church into an apartment in the community of Summerwood where we are called to plant. In January of 2009, a young, single woman joined and has been a very active force in our plant. Do the math: 2 years, two families. We realized long ago that this would be a slow process. Throughout the year in the apartment, we did various outreach events in the complex: cookouts, meals, car washes, etc. We interacted with over 250 people in that time and had a weekly Bible study time. We could get people to the events, but we couldn’t get them to Bible study. We also offered special studies, like Financial Peace, with poor results.
At the beginning of this summer, we moved into the community center in Summerwood. The idea was to offer various meeting times and people who wouldn’t come to the apartment would come to the community center. About the time we started in the center, I met with my associational church planting consultant. She reminded me that the number one rule of church planting (what I had learned in numerous seminars and meetings) was to build relationships. We had been trying to attract people to church things, not truly build relationships with them. We had lost our focus.
What I am NOT saying is that the past two years have been a waste. Everything we have done has brought someone in. I truly believe that each move we have made has been exactly what God has told us to do. He said do it, He didn’t say He’d bring us 100 people because we did it. The exception to that is the community center. I feel like that was me, not God, so we got out of there in a hurry. That brings us to what we are doing now.
A few weeks ago we started meeting at the home of the family that learned of us at Manuel’s. We pray and then we walk. Sunday and Tuesday. Their neighborhood has two blocks in it with 85 homes on those blocks. We pray as we walk, we talk as we walk, and we speak to everyone we possibly can. This is no power walk. We stroll. The goal is to meet as many people as possible. We want them to see Etta and me, get used to seeing us, and have opportunities to talk about the weather or kids or pets or landscaping or whatever. Why? To build relationships. We’ve walked the neighborhood about 8 times now. There are people whose names we now know and others we just know on sight. This is our foot in their spiritual door.
This Sunday, the 26th, we are having a block party in the neighborhood. We passed out flyers Tuesday night and got some good reaction from some people we talked to. One lady even asked if there was something she could bring! We don’t know how many to expect but we are praying for a traumatic blessing. This is a very low-key event. God may present opportunities to witness, and we certainly won’t be shy about what we are doing, but this is not a Hope Fellowship coming out party. We want to sit and talk and build relationships. As my consultant told me, churches are no longer geographical, they are relational. People don’t come to church because it’s in their area; they come because they connected with someone. This Sunday, we are looking for connections.
Pray that we make connections.
Pray that, because of the relationships we make, people come to know Christ and we see growth in the kingdom.
Pray for the church’s finances. Though we have had to put some of our personal money into it, there is never anything the church needed that we’ve had to go without. However, a little monetary boost now and then never hurts. You can give at our website.
Pray for our focus. I will begin teaching again in a couple of weeks (at a new school, by the way) so my time will be more limited. There is always a lot to do.
Pray for our launch. I had set a date of September 13th to launch, but that won’t happen. We are now looking at February.
Pray for our new Bible study time. We will begin August 9th having Bible study in the Passmore’s (the Summerwood family) home at 6PM. Pray that our new relationships will lead people to come.
Pray for whatever the Lord lays on your heart. He’ll let you know what we need.
Thanks so much for your faithfulness to us. If you know of people who would like to receive this update, send their email to me and I will add them. We can always use more prayer.