In the Zone
Kingdom Enterprise Zone takes off in the Southwest
Spurred by the Kingdom Enterprise Zone initiative that encourages church planting cooperation between the RCA and Christian Reformed Church, new ministries are springing up all over Southwest Classis.
The initiative is funded in large part by a grant from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. The funds support joint efforts to spread the gospel by planting new churches in four "zones" across the U.S. that have great potential for RCA-CRC cooperation.
"The DeVos grant has been a catalyst for church multiplication in the Phoenix/Tucson area," says Gary Jarvis, associate pastor of New Hope Community Church (RCA) in Gilbert, which is part of the Phoenix metro area. "A number of CRC and RCA leaders in our two classes had already begun to talk about partnering for this kind of effort, but there is no way we would have accomplished so much in so little time without the encouraging boost the grant gave us."
Seven church plants are underway in the Arizona Kingdom Enterprise Zone. Two were planted by New Hope Community, which is located in an area where the population has nearly doubled since 2000, to 216,500. One plant, Launch Point Church, meets Saturday evenings and targets college and career people in Gilbert's East Valley. Another, Nueva Esperanza, in nearby Mesa, is a multi-site Hispanic congregation. (Read more about Nueva Esperanza.)
Another new Hispanic ministry is being "nested" by Orangewood CRC in its facility in Phoenix. About 40 percent of the people who now live near the church are Hispanic. Orangewood's leaders looked to New Hope Community as a model for building a Hispanic ministry, and the leadership of Orangewood pastor Larry Lobdell was instrumental as well. At first no one from the neighborhood responded. Then members took to the streets to tell people about the new Hispanic church. Now the congregation is slowly growing, led by church planters Alberto and Sondra Correa.
The Gathering is a campus-ministry church plant in Tucson, which has one of the highest populations of people practicing the Wicca (natural earth) religion in the U.S. "Students at Pima Community College are being drawn to the Reformed perspective because of its holistic view of Scripture," says church planter Jimmy Hildebrandt, who teaches "Religion and Popular Culture" at Pima Community. His goal is to have 75 people meeting in eight to 10 cell groups before holding public worship.
"Our ministry is a concrete manifestation of CRC-RCA collaboration," says Hildebrandt. "Orangewood CRC, 140 miles away in Phoenix, is our parent church, while the RCA assists us in our financial accountability through Wayne Ribbens, an elder with The Journey, an RCA church, who acts as our treasurer."
Three other ministries are in the works: a Hispanic ministry at The Garden (RCA) in Scottsdale, and two ministries being formed as declining churches embrace a new identity: a fresh start of the English-speaking congregation at Longview Community Church (RCA) in Phoenix; and a ministry that will reach out to baby boomers undergoing significant life changes such as retirement, relocation, an "empty nest," or a major health change, being planted by Prescott Community Church (RCA).
"The CRC-RCA partnership has been profound for us," says Jarvis. "From our first meeting there was great excitement." He says there also is greater collaboration on multiple levels beyond church planting. Together RCA and CRC leaders:
- Are training 30 to 40 potential leaders at a Hispanic training center, with a goal to plant a Hispanic ministry in every RCA and CRC church in their two classes.
- Have developed a way to train coaches for church planters, parent churches, and trainers of coaches.
- Have their church planting teams meet as one team to plan.
- Train to assess each other's church planters.
- Work together to train commissioned pastors (RCA) and ministry associates (CRC).
- Meet about once a month to pray.
Leaders from both denominations are developing a church-planter training course. They have also attended a retreat to discern what their partnership should look like in the future and held a "prayer for healing" conference to connect intercessors with church plants.
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