Mountain View in growth spurt

Fresno church is planting in U.S., internationally

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Fred Leonard, lead pastor of Mountain View Church in Fresno, California, pictured on MVC's Live the Mission Sunday with church planters Tony and Roxanna Peterson, announces plans for a new church plant in the Fresno area. Photo: MVC

Mountain View Church (MVC) in Fresno, California, is in the midst of a growth spurt, though it’s not the kind of growth one might think. Rather than large-scale growth in one location, MVC is spreading the salvation of Jesus through its intense church planting efforts.

With two campuses being planted in nearby Clovis, a couple across the country and several internationally, church planting is at the forefront of Mountain View’s mission.

MVC is a three-campus church with plans to plant two additional campuses locally by the end of 2021—one in Old Town Clovis and a campus in a place yet to be determined.

Planting in Clovis

According to Fred Leonard, MVC lead pastor, church leaders were praying for a church plant in Old Town Clovis. A popular event, shopping and dining district with a historic twist, Old Town Clovis is located in the city right next door to Fresno.

Through a miraculous series of events, God brought Scott and Jackie Gossenberger, a church planting couple with a heart for Old Town Clovis, to MVC to pastor this campus. MVC Old Town is set to launch late January 2021, and with the gathering of interest groups, volunteer recruitment and marketing, it’s in the thick of the final planning phases.

Meanwhile, MVC staff pastor Tony Petersen and his wife, Roxanna, have been praying about planting a church for some time now, but arriving at the place of actually pulling the proverbial trigger was much more of a process. After meeting with Leonard and the rest of MVC’s leadership team, undergoing a church planting assessment and meeting with USMB leaders, the Petersens decided that this was a calling from God and obedience was the only response.

“The best way to share the gospel is through church planting, which is why we were thrilled to send out the Petersens to lead a new MVC church plant campus” Leonard says. “The more churches there are, regardless of the area, the more people are likely to hear about Jesus.”

Petersen agrees. “Unless Christian churches and pastors plant more churches and more campuses, fewer and fewer people will hear the gospel, respond to the gospel and be saved by God’s grace,” he says. “That’s just what we know.”

As far as a location, MVC is praying for God to make a location available in either northeast Clovis or the Fresno High area by Easter 2021. The Petersens have a heart for the area—their hometown—where so many are hurting and in need of a Savior.

“To Roxanna and me, the opportunity is here, in this area, right now,” Petersen says. “We know there’s obviously a ton of churches in the area already, but despite the appearance, lots of Fresno and Clovis still need Jesus, too.”

Planting in Spain

Malaga, Spain, was not on MVC’s radar until the day Misael and Dyrly Amarilla unrolled a map of the country across Leonard’s desk. The Amarillas moved from Paraguay to Fresno in 2015 when Misael enrolled in Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and began his apprenticeship at MVC. Their plan was always to move back to Paraguay and plant a church, but as graduation approached, God laid something, or someplace, else on the Amarillas’ hearts: Malaga, Spain, a place with little to no churches and an evangelical population of less than 1 percent.

“We were excited to go back to our families in Paraguay, but then God spoke Spain to our hearts, and it was a call that we could not get away from,” Amarilla says. “The lack of Christians there really gripped us.”

After spending five years in Fresno, learning English, earning a master’s degree and welcoming two babies to their family, the Amarillas are living with family in Paraguay for the next several months. There they await the paperwork needed to move and begin their efforts on the ground in Spain. They are praying toward a Spring 2021 arrival date.

Additional projects

In addition to MVC’s church plants, other churches MVC is invested in are planting churches of their own.

After wrapping up multiple apprenticeships at MVC from 2010 to 2012 and working with Leonard to write a strategic plan, Josh and Brianne Shaw planted Lighthouse Church in Denver, Colo., in 2015. Since that time, the church has seen significant growth, outgrown several locations and is now planting its first campus.

“For all of the grandparents out there, you can probably sense the joy and excitement we are experiencing right now around this church plant,” Leonard says.

Meanwhile, international church planters Kevin and Kate Herla trained and strategized at MVC in 2017 and then went home to East Germany—an area home to a largely atheist population—to plant Connect Kirche. They have been busy training leaders, sharing the gospel and leading East Germans to Jesus. Today, the church is planting its own church plant in Ilmenau, Germany, a town just south of its home base in Erfurt.

According to Leonard, many other churches that MVC supports and advises are also in the process of planting churches.

“We could name more church plants that Mountain View is involved in, but it’s not about Mountain View,” Leonard says. “It’s all about God and the miracle he’s doing. When I think about the way he is expanding his church through MVC, it blows my mind. It just goes to show that God is looking for a willing vessel to expand his kingdom. There’s nothing special about Mountain View. We’re nothing more than a conduit for mission.”

The view from 30,000 feet

Leonard says the church’s goal is to plant as many churches as possible, wherever possible.

“We are always praying God will provide us with church planters, buildings, new locations and new countries in miraculous ways,” he says. “And that’s how most of our church planting efforts begin.”

Leonard invests a lot of time into church plants while they are just an idea. He meets with MVC’s church planting apprentices to help them develop a financial plan with a goal to move toward self-sufficiency within two years.

“We don’t want to limit church planting and church growth based on the size of our wallets,” he says.

MVC does not follow a specific church planting model. Rather, it plants campuses and free-standing churches depending upon the church planter and the partnership. MVC is willing to consider investing in any church planting model it believes will move toward to sustainability. Apprentices that come to MVC from the global community are sent back to their family of churches upon completion of their apprenticeships.

Planting churches internationally can be a challenge because of cultural differences, Leonard admits, which is why he enjoys working with church planters to write their strategic plans. There are overarching principles about reaching the lost, fundraising and budgeting, but some things are best left to the locals.

“Our goal is to never say no to an opportunity we believe will reach lost people, be sustainable and daughter its own churches,” Leonard says. “We are here to help. We never forget God used a donkey, thus, he can use us.” —Allie Rodriguez

Allison Rodriguez
Allison Rodriguez lives in Fresno, California, where she attends Mountain View Church with her husband, Albert, and their three children, Alivia, AJ and Avery. She considers it a privilege to work part-time at MVC, helping with the church’s social media, website and communications activities and other projects. When she’s not helping at the church or with her family, Rodriguez works in the field of government relations and helps clients connect with local government. Rodriguez received her communications degree with an emphasis in print journalism and a minor in political science from Pennsylvania State University. She moved to Fresno in 2003 to work in the marketing department at Fresno State’s brand-new Save Mart Center and came to a saving relationship with Jesus in 2005. Since that time she has had the honor of watching as God moved in her own life and in her family. She has witnessed first-hand God’s miraculous healing power and provision and excitedly waits to see what God has in store for her family and her church.

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