Church Planters

Seven Trends That Affect Your Church

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Do you long for the “good old days”? I often hear friends talk about “the way it was when we were kids.” And, those were good days—playing outside after dark, riding my bike (without a helmet or pads) to the nearby store, standing up on the front seat of my daddy’s pickup, playing with a friend who had contracted polio as an infant, worrying about a nuclear bomb attack from the Russians . . . Well, maybe not all of the days were so good.

For my parents, my “good, old days” were their “scary future”. My scary future is the world inhabited by nieces and nephews who do not know a world where polio and small pox vaccines were necessary. Yet, they also live with the pressure of a future that is changing more rapidly than any of us can fathom.

The church is no different. Is your church living in the “good, old days” or trying to make sense out of the “scary future”? Perhaps it is trying to do both, struggling to let go of old ways and yet, not quite ready to embrace the new. The new is exciting, but it is also frightening when we do understand what is happening around us.

Getting “Out of the Box” to Reach the Deaf

Deaf pastor and church planter John Wyble and his wife, Denise, serve the Deaf community through 2 Deaf congregations in Virginia. They use American Sign Language to communicate God’s message of redemption.

What are some of the challenges you face in reaching the Deaf and how do you deal with those?

John: We have to overcome the walls built up through worldly lifestyles. We have found through years of ministry that building relationships is crucial. By living a righteous and compassionate example, we are ready to share the gospel when the right time comes. One example is when deaf ladies at our church host a women’s retreat on the beach. They will pay the way for unsaved friends. They were thrilled when the unsaved woman Denise sponsored became a believer.

What are some of the ways your churches serve the community?

Missionary Spotlight Update: Hernando Cardenas

Church planter Hernando Cardenas might say while everything changes, in many ways, everything stays the same. Families come to Chandler, Arizona; some are brought into Cardenas’s church; but after a short time, several families leave the area. Although Cardenas is reluctant to see these families leave, he knows this is one way believers take the gospel to other areas. In the meantime, new families join the local Hispanic community and the challenge is renewed.

Cardenas continues his ministry of friendship by helping local Hispanics find jobs and housing. By offering them help with basic needs, he and others show the love of Jesus in the most practical ways.

“We are adjusting to these changes and changing our mentality to see that the church in Chandler is a missionary hub for the Hispanic world. As for me and my family and the leaders I am training, we live to spread the good news of salvation.”

Starting Over Again

For Loren and Karen Dickey, the beginning of 2017 brought many challenges as they moved from Veracruz, Mexico, on the Gulf Coast inland to the Bajío. This region is considered the “Heart of Darkness,” the least reached area in Mexico, where only about 2% are Christians. This was the Dickeys’ fourth move in 18 years as International Mission Board missionaries in the Americas (having served in Nicaragua, Chile, Peru, and Mexico), but they sensed that they were “starting over again.”

From the onset, the couple knew this move would be different. Even though they only moved to another state in Mexico, they are learning the culture of the Bajío. They are also “still getting a grasp on Mexican Spanish,” which is different from the Spanish they’ve used before.

Finding Waldo

When Peter Assad was scouring the pages of the Where’s Waldo? books as a child, he had no idea that a couple of decades later he and his wife, Grace, would be planting a church in Waldo.

So where’s Waldo? At one time a town on the southeast side of Kansas City, Missouri, Waldo is now a lively family neighborhood and business district in the heart of the city, with a population of about 13,000. Assad said Waldo is “a very diverse area, boasting a small-town feel while remaining very much urban—young, old, rich, poor, white, black, and everything in between.”

In January 2016, he and a team of committed leaders launched The Church in Waldo, which is presently sharing a building with Antioch Baptist Church. “We seek to reach the diversity of Waldo through a diversity of ministries all united around this single theme: to know Jesus and make Him known,” Assad said.

Breaking Down Walls and Building Relationships

A circle of friends surrounds Melissa* and lays hands on her shoulders as they pray for her healing from breast cancer. Deborah squeezes Melissa’s arm in encouragement and to remind Melissa that she’s not alone.

Melissa and her family attend Harvest Church at Anthem, which Deborah Bishop and her husband, Mike, planted in Florence, Arizona. She had not been attending the church for very long before she received the cancer diagnosis.

“Melissa has said more than once how thankful she and her family are that God brought them to our church because of the love and support they have received,” said Deborah, a North American Mission Board church planter. “They love hearing the Word of God preached each week and she says that it always speaks to her and her family.”

Recently Melissa’s cancer went into remission.

Church Planting in Arizona

Debbie and Mike Bishop are experienced at listening and responding to the call of God as He has moved them many times throughout their 40-year marriage. Debbie Bishop is originally from Alabama and Mike Bishop from Illinois, but they have lived in Southern California, Canada, Texas, and Arizona.

God moved them to Florence, Arizona, in 2010 to plant Harvest Church at Anthem, where Mike Bishop is the lead pastor. “The people we minister to in our community, comprised of families and retired people, come from various religious backgrounds and places in the country. We have people in the community that are unchurched, and we live in an area where there is a large Mormon population,” Debbie Bishop said.

Her main responsibility as a church planter’s wife is to encourage her husband. Beyond that, she serves as children’s ministry director and leads a women’s Bible study in her home.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Antonio and LaRonda Anderson

God has been good to Antonio Anderson and his church, providing a new worship site in a more convenient location and people to serve alongside them. His core team is very helpful in serving at Hope Church Philly. David Pearson, the regional leader for the Philadelphia region’s church planting catalysts, has been instrumental in helping the church craft its ministry vision and how that would look and work in its community.

The congregation is becoming more community focused—going on prayerwalks, handing out water, and speaking to people about the church. “God has been speaking to me about having a community day, a town hall meeting, for the people to express their community desires and how Hope Church Philly can help,” Anderson shared.

God has also been good to Anderson’s family. They just returned from a vacation in Canada. Anderson said he is enjoying having weekly family devotions and watching his 2 daughters grow and mature in ministry. One day, the children’s church teacher got sick on her way to children’s church and Anderson’s oldest daughter asked if she could teach the lesson, stirring his heart.

Pushing Past the Honeymoon Stage of a Church Plant

No church bells rang at that time. But George and Janelle Lim fell in love with Glastonbury, Connecticut, years ago. Finally called to plant a church there, they moved their family of 5 in August 2015.

“Living here was surreal,” George Lim shared. “Like most missions, we hit the ground in the honeymoon stage. Yet a few months later, we were back to reality. Like most of New England, this is spiritually hard ground. Glastonbury is an affluent and educated town. People in this community have all the material things they need.

“By October, we were lonely, tired, discouraged, and without resources to accomplish what God called us to—plant a church. A friend said, ‘Let’s stop talking about how hard the ground is and start talking about how great our God is.’

“Crying out to God, we remembered our purpose: to make much of Jesus, to bring people to Jesus, not to do something cool or to be known as church planters. Furthermore we recognized that when we do too much in our strength, the natural response is to take credit. But times of complete weakness [are opportunities] to see God’s power and for Him alone to be glorified.

A Church Grows in Brooklyn

Born and raised in Westchester, New York, James T. Roberson III was a typical high school student and athlete.

“Though I grew up in church, my relationship with God was defined more by praying for wins in football and passing classes in school,” Roberson said honestly.

After graduating from high school (which he calls a miracle), he was off to Valley Forge Military College. He later graduated from James Madison University (JMU). It was during his college years that he became involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, which intensified his relationship with God.

“[In college], I was introduced to a consistent lifestyle of living for God,” Roberson said. And that is where he met his wife, Natarsha. The couple have served a wide spectrum of people through campus ministry at 3 universities in Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and Texas and 4 church plants in Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia.

In 2013, the Robersons, along with their 2 young daughters, moved to Brooklyn, New York, to start The Bridge Church.

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