Church planters share stories, delegates share in communion
By Connie Faber
USMB church planting was in the spotlight at the closing session of the 2016 National Convention. The session also included a time of worship led by musicians from The Rock of Southwest, a USMB congregation from Denver, and concluded with communion led by Larry Nikkel, outgoing chair of the USMB Board of Faith and Life.
Mission USA has been planting Mennonite Brethren churches for 20 years, and there are 29 congregations in existence today because of this USMB ministry, reported Don Morris, who has served as the Mission USA director since 2004.
“We do church planting in partnership with the districts,” said Morris. “Mission USA does not do it on our own. It takes a team.”
Mission USA is currently supporting 13 church plants in nine states, and church planters from five of those congregations were present at the final session. In addition to sharing stories, the church planters repeated thanked USMB for its support and asked the audience to pray for them.
- Jared Pulliam, pastor of Christ Church Sellwood in greater Portland, Ore., told the story of Ian, who was raised in a Christian home and then went in his own direction. He decided to try church again, moved to Portland for a new start and began attending Christ Church Sellwood. He became involved in a home group and was recently baptized.
- Aaron Hernandez, pastor of Grace Point@Grulla, told of his congregation’s second campus in nearby McAllen, Texas. McAllen is a growing city, with 10,000 homes slated to be built north of Grace Point@McAllen, offering many opportunities for outreach and growth. Hernandez shared how members of his own extended family are attending the McAllen church, including an aunt who recently gave her life to Christ.
- Gavin and Kendall Linderman (photo left) are church planters in the Phoenix metro area. Gavin said that when Axiom Church was launched with a vision to reach unlikely people, he didn’t realize one of those unlikelies would be his mom, who “caught the mission bug,” befriended her neighbor and led him to faith in Christ. Kendall talked about the influx of early 20-somethings that are finding their way to Axiom and told the story of Kayla who recently asked to be baptized. “This hits home to us because that’s when we struggled with the church,” she said.
- Josh and Brianne Shaw are church planters in west Denver, leading Lighthouse Church and planning a city-wide launch Sept. 18. Josh said he dreamed of being the “next super-sexy, awesome church plant” that attracted “moderately broken people.” Instead, the couple has “slowly and reluctantly realized that we attract messy people.” Brianne told of a couple that has begun coming to Lighthouse because the husband wants to serve as a sound technician. “We still don’t know where they are at,” said Brianne. They are asking questions and we hope that one day they will stand and say they met Jesus in the mess.”
- Scott Thomas, who in January 2016 planted City Church in downtown Pueblo, Colo., introduced Mario and Stephanie Trujillo as emerging leaders at City Church. Trujillo said that Stephanie’s cousin has been living with the couple and will soon be baptized. This young lady at one time party and even sold drugs in the building that City Church currently occupies. “Now she gets to praise God and hear the gospel in this building,” said Trujillo. “In all things, this is a miracle.”
Three church planters had shared earlier.
- Eric Nelson, pastor of South Mountain Community Church Lehi Campus, spoke Saturday afternoon about the benefits of being part of a multi-site church. He told the story of Scott who came to Christ as the result of attending three SMCC campuses. Scott learned to trust people at each campus and then he was able to trust in Jesus.
- Friends of Jesus pastors Andy Basilo and Aris Tolentino (photo right) shared about their ministry in Las Vegas, Nev., that targets the Filipino community during the Pastors’ Conference. They were not able to attend the National Convention.
Three more church planters shared via video: Greenhouse Community Church, a church plant among Mormons in Saratoga Springs, Utah; Pacific Keep Church, a next generation church in the Slavic community of Spokane, Wash.; and Neighborhood Church, a new church in one of the poorest areas of Fresno, Calif.
Morris gave brief updates on four additional Mission USA churches: Stony Brook Church in Omaha, Neb., Disciples Church in Spokane, Wash.; and Avenue Church, Mission USA’s newest church plant. Avenue Church, Aurora, Colo., is a new church emerging out of Ethiopian Evangelical Church in Aurora.
When the last church planter had reported, Morris invited all church planters present to come to the stage for a prayer (first photo.)
An offering was taken to support Mission USA church plants. “We are currently significantly behind in our fundraising efforts,” said Morris, adding that some projects are currently on hold because of a lack of financial resources.
The Mission USA presentation also included a video highlighting LEAD Coaching, a program facilitated through trained Mennonite Brethren coaches who serve a pastor or church leader as a life-on-life coach for an agreed upon term. Coaching is available to both local church staff and lay leaders, and to women and men alike. Ed Boschman, former USMB executive director, serves as the head coach.
Larry Nikkel, the outgoing chair of the Board of Faith and Life, led the communion service that concluded the session. Nikkel spoke about the pain Jesus experienced by “staying with the plan” as he took on the sins of people who were alive, dead and yet to come. “Jesus wanted his disciples to remember the price he paid to bring them home,” said Nikkel.
Photo left: Stephanie and Mario Trujillo with City Church in Pueblo, Colo., participate in the communion service.
Photos by Pam Rasmussen; photo of Las Vegas pastors by Connie Faber