Hope Family Fellowship is twenty years old today (12/5). As I was looking in an old file, I found my original dream list written while I was considering starting a church. Shortly after writing this, I left the church where I had served for about eleven years. It seemed like a good time to experiment with a different type of church. While there were doubts and fears with this venture, the biggest one I had then concerned the failure to at least try. If we didn’t attempt to do this, I was concerned that it would be a nagging regret the rest of my days.
A great deal of water has passed under that bridge now. Twenty years is a long time. On the one hand, time has flown by and on the other, well, it seems so much longer. There have been many joys and pains. There have been wonderful relationships and some failed ones that still hurt. More people have come and gone than have stayed. Hope is not unique in that statistic, for most churches experience huge turnover in people from year to year. Every pastor prays that no matter how long someone stays at the church, they hope that their lives were impacted for good; we find rest and a measure of comfort in that thought.
It is with a grateful heart that I express my thanks to God for allowing me these twenty years at Hope. I also am very appreciative of my family for sticking by through the good times and the rough ones. In addition, I am thankful for the many, many people that have prayed and supported me and my family during this journey. Thank you from the deepest part of my heart.
Now, after two decades, here is the list – I wondered how we are doing on my original dream?
• A place where families could come together and worship/fellowship and hear the Word of God
• A place where worship was God focused and not showmanship
• A place where men could be discipled and trained to love and serve their families
• A place where we could be different than the world in our lifestyles, actions and attitudes
• A place where relationships could be formed at all levels and all ages
• A place of prayer
• A place of outreach to orphans and widows
• A place where 1 Corinthians 13 love is demonstrated
• A place where children would be welcomed into the services, and where large families would be comfortable attending
• A place where people could bring the lost and they would get saved
• A place where the Holy Spirit would be free to move
• A place that would bring glory, honor and praise to Jesus
Many of these are not unique to Hope Family Fellowship, but they were burning in my heart in 1993 and the church I served at did not necessarily focus on these ministry desires. By the grace of God, most of these dreams have come true in some fashion or another.
Hope is a place devoted to prayer populated with prayer warriors. The sermons are expository and even when they are topical, they are saturated in the Word of God. Our worship is led by worshippers and is always directed towards the One who deserves to be worshipped. Relationships are being built and we are age-integrated not age-segregated in our approach. Children of all ages interact and the older ones are investing in the lives of the younger ones. Large families are welcomed and outreach is taking place from functioning homes. No group of people is perfect, but the people at Hope are known for their loving care of one another. Many parents are leading their children to Christ and we continually invite the Holy Spirit to have free reign in our midst.
While there are always tweaking/improvements that need to be made, so far, we remain faithful to the original vision. I pray we would continue to do so until the Lord returns or we cease to exist. God requires us to be faithful and to endure. For twenty years we have done so as a church body, and I am grateful to the Lord and to those who have come alongside to help fulfill the vision.
To God be the glory for the great things He has done, on the one hand, and may His grace, mercy and forgiveness be found for the mess ups on the other one. May our focus always remain there, for after all, it really is all about Him.