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How do you respond when people ask, “What is church planting?”
Izah: I respond that church planting is a group of faith-believing Christians who have the intention of growing the Kingdom.
Anthony: I haven’t been asked that question, but I would probably say that it’s the church that begins as a small, core group of believers having a Bible study that will grow in number as they become stronger in Christ.
Andrew: Church planting is the continuing model of missions found in the book of Acts, where healthy existing churches train, equip and send-out healthy leaders to declare and demonstrate the Gospel. Too often church planting is seen as a divisive event in the life of a church that results in splits and fractions among its people. However, when churches plant churches, they participate in the Great Commission by reaching unchurched people who would never enter into their own churches because of location, demographics, or contextualization.
What is the people group or culture you are reaching?
Izah: We would love to reach all people, but most importantly “the lost” (those who don’t know Christ).
Anthony: It is an African American group; many are unemployed or on fixed income. In our community there is a lack of resources, no local schools, and many are deprived of an education.
Andrew: The Hill Church is located in Fayetteville, Ark., which means we have an eclectic mission field in whom we are called to serve. The majority of our members are college students and young professionals who are joining a church for the first time. In fact, only 5 percent of our congregation was a member of a church before joining The Hill. However, the people we serve and build relationships with around our physical church location are in poverty and are primarily single parent homes.
What is the biggest obstacle you/your church face in reaching people?
Izah: Our biggest obstacle is lacking the funds to do a lot of things that we would love to do.
Anthony: The biggest I would say is encountering people with depression and low self-esteem.
Andrew: Our church is intentionally located in a lower-income area so that we can build relationships and love them as people made in the image of God, but—to put it bluntly—we are white and the majority of them are black. People in lower income areas have been burned by what they call “white saviors,” people who come in, give them some food or resources, and then leave.
I’m not saying these outreaches were bad, but what that has developed in these people of poverty is they think we see them as a project and not a person. It was difficult for us to break that wall of suspension which could only be brought down by a consistent proximity.
When in your ministry have you seen the direct impact of prayer?
Izah: In the ministry, the direct impact I have seen was when the young men in the church came to the alter crying out to God in prayer.
Anthony: There was a family whose lights were turned off, and they were about to be evicted from their home. We prayed and God answered prayers. To God be the glory!
Andrew: Finances are difficult in any church plant, but what we faced as our church grew was that we couldn’t grow as an organization [with the financial challenge]. So last year we said, “How much internal giving can we receive, realistically, if we pushed really hard and effectively communicated our need?”
So we wrote down that number and said, “Ok, let’s double that and start getting on our knees and asking God to provide that amount.” We knew the budget that we prayed for couldn’t come based on our own sales pitch or charts, but only by the Lord providing. By His grace, we received even more than we prayed for!
How can people pray for you? Your church? Your community?
Izah: Pray that God provide for us so we are be able to do the things we need in order to reach more lost people. Pray that we can give our church a makeover and bring it up-to-date. Pray that the community will join together to seek more of God and truly know who God is.
Anthony: I would say pray for my strength and a steadfast, unmovable love for God and for God’s people. For my church, pray God’s grace and mercy over them. For my community, pray God will send help in the schooling and employment area, and that the leaders in the community would come together.
Andrew: Some specific prayers for us and our community are:
1. Only 18 percent of Fayetteville is churched. Please continue to pray for the Spirit of God to penetrate hard hearts and dark places.
2. We are sending our first short-term missions team to South Asia during spring break. Pray for their protection and Gospel ministry over there.
3. For clarity and wisdom on some important big decisions our elders are making in the next few weeks.