Alliance News Feed – Worth the Risk
“Initially, I thought it was just bad pizza!” says Eddie DeJesus, describing his call to Florida, shortly after retiring early from the police force in New York City. “I didn’t know a soul in Florida. But I threw out a whole bunch of fleeces, and the Lord made it absolutely clear.”
Eddie had been involved in church planting with The Alliance while in New York and knew this was God’s continued call on his life. He didn’t have a plan for what to do when he arrived in Florida with his wife and three sons, but God was already working.
He learned later that the very day he had felt called to move to the Sunshine State, leaders at First Alliance in Port Charlotte began praying that God would send them a leader to plant a church—New Hope Community Church in nearby North Port. They believed Eddie had been sent to them for just this purpose, and he readily accepted the position.
Hardship Leads to New Vision
Three and a half years after its launch in a local school building, New Hope was thriving with about 350 members. That’s when the school board decided they didn’t want to host churches in the facility.
Eddie felt like this was the end of New Hope. But when a nearby Presbyterian church offered their building, New Hope seized the opportunity and soon purchased the property.
The building, however, was in such disrepair that most of the community thought it had been abandoned. To make things worse, Eddie lost his entire leadership team and half of the congregation during the transition into the new facility.
“We were giving our blood for Jesus, and everything just fell apart,” Eddie says. “Then I realized the problem was basically that just a few people were doing everything to build a big church.
“I decided then that we weren’t even going to talk about building a big church. Our focus would be on reducing lostness in our city. We were going to invest in people—develop believing men and women to work in the harvest for the glory of God in our city.”
Equipping to Expand the Kingdom
With the new focus, Eddie decided to start a church-planting internship to equip effective leaders from New Hope. Each potential leader would spend two to three years in a close mentoring relationship with Eddie, being trained in theology and how to practically lead a church. Through the program, several became church planters, and others were developed as leaders to support those planters.
“If you’re equipping the Body, if you’re getting them engaged in the Word of God,” Eddie says, “then there is natural growth of the Kingdom by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
When they started the new program, the New Hope congregation averaged about 180–200. Every time they planted a new church, they released significant numbers of their congregation for the health of the new church. Yet each time, the congregation grew back to its original size within a few months.
New Hope now has 450 members actively engaged in Kingdom work through church planting as well as compassionate ministries like feeding 300 impoverished families a week and caring for addicts. Through these outreaches, 40–50 new believers have been baptized and discipled every year over the past decade. “It has energized the congregation. Passion breeds passion,” Eddie explains.
Since starting this program, New Hope has commissioned three leaders: one who pastors a new congregation, and two who are leading multi-site campuses that will eventually become self-sufficient. These plants reach people that New Hope would not be able to reach on their own, including the Spanish-speaking community through New Hope’s Hispanic church plant.
“It’s worth every risk to do whatever it takes to reach people for Jesus,” Eddie says. “I guarantee you there are lost people around your church and in your city. And there are people in your congregation who want to be equipped, empowered, and released for Kingdom work—for the glory of God.”
Church Planting Sunday is a day to celebrate churches like New Hope and get more involved in what God is doing through church planting in The Alliance. Would you prayerfully consider taking a faith-filled risk to join the greater Alliance family in this movement for Jesus?
Source: Alliance News Feed – Worth the Risk