In the summer of 2011, Randy Aldridge (SBCV church planting strategist) met with Wendell Horton and Anthony Thomas to discuss the possibility of planting a church in Cana, VA. Sky View Missionary Baptist Church in Fancy Gap, VA, under Pastor Wendell’s leadership, was committed to sponsoring the work. Anthony Thomas knew God had a plan for his involvement in the plant but, in his words, “I didn’t know how to get from where I was to where I needed to go.”
This is his story:
When the Lord called me into ministry over three years ago, I was uncertain of what He was asking me to do. I felt like He was calling me to be a pastor-teacher, but the thought of being a church planter had never entered my mind.
At a men’s prayer meeting one Tuesday morning, everything began to change. During this time, my pastor and uncle, Wendell Horton, began sharing with the men how he saw a need for an Acts 2 church in the Cana community. This community had already been laid on my heart but, as he spoke, the Lord really began to get my attention.
Shortly afterward, I began to go through the application process to become a church planter with the SBCV but still struggled with the idea of planting a church. It was overwhelming, and I had no idea what it took to plant a new church, so I ran from the Lord’s calling in fear. I justified my actions by pointing to the fact that there were already many churches in the area and some without pastors. As opportunities arose, I spoke at different churches and even interviewed for senior pastor positions throughout the area, but the Lord always shut the doors. However, the whole time, the door in the Cana community remained wide open.
One Wednesday night as I was dropping my daughter off at Olympians (Sky View’s children program), Wendell approached me with a pilot strategy that the SBCV was initiating called Communities of Hope. He told me to read over it and see if it would be something I would be interested in leading.
After reading over the Communities of Hope material, I knew this is what I had been waiting for. This program would bridge the gap from where I was to where I knew the Lord wanted me to be. I knew what the Lord was calling me to do—I just struggled with how to get there. The idea of planting a church was daunting, but through Communities of Hope, the Lord gave me a roadmap to accomplish His plan.
I began sharing the vision that the Lord had laid on my heart, and a team began to form. On July 21, 2011, we began our first Communities of Hope Bible study in the cafeteria of St. Paul School. On November 17, 2011, we began the second study and, on December 29, the Hope Development Team began discussions regarding Hope Community Church. January 5, 2012 was the start of the third study, and March 1 began the fourth study.
On May 20, 2012, Hope Community Church held its first public service with 115 in attendance. Several people were saved through the evangelistic Bible studies and other events over the summer and, on August 5, we baptized eight souls, and five more are awaiting baptism.
The people of Sky View have a passion for the lost, and their support for the plant has been instrumental in accomplishing the Lord’s work.
Also, it has been a blessing to partner with the SBCV and see their heart for reaching the lost through church planting. I don’t know how anyone could embark on such a God-sized endeavor without the training, resources, and guidance that the SBCV has provided.
What the Lord has done is remarkable, and it has been an honor and a privilege that He would allow me to be a part of His master plan. It is my prayer that He has been glorified in all that has taken place through Communities of Hope and now Hope Community Church.
This article first appeared in the February/March/April 2013 edition of the Proclaimer (Volume 15, No. 1).