Plant Profile: The Church in Waldo

Send KC church planter Peter Assad has never met a stranger. He exudes an unreserved, approachable aura that makes him easy to talk with and hard to outdo in kindness—a kindness which allows him to accept your offer to pay for his coffee only if he can pay for your lunch. As we sit discussing the ins and outs of balancing a young church plant and a family—his wife Grace, children Annie and Wes, and a third little Assad on the way—a woman with three small children in tow approaches Peter in obvious distress. He puts his work on hold and takes a few minutes to minister to her.

Peter Assad is, in short, the sort of church planter that Waldo—and Kansas City—needs.

The son of a father from Syria and a mother from Lebanon, a desire for racial unification in the body of Christ helped to shape Peter’s church planting journey. “I don’t like this talk about ‘color blindness’ in the church,” he says. “The people of God ought to strive for unity through our diversity.”

And such is the kind of unity Peter desires to see take hold at The Church in Waldo. Upon his arrival in Kansas City, Peter began to notice the obvious divides erected between the white community and people of color.

As one whose passion for evangelism began at a young age and developed into a call to and desire for domestic missions, Peter recognizes that the answer to issues of racial division does not lie within the halls of government. “Unity won’t be achieved through social programs,” he says. “Unity will only take hold through the gospel.”

But Peter is quick to point out that racial reconciliation is only one of many types of reconciliation the gospel provides. It is hope for the broken and the hurting, mercy for the suffering, community for the lonesome. And God’s chosen agency for the proclamation of the gospel? The church.

Unfortunately, “church” is a word that the Waldo community greets with natural skepticism. “But it’s a word I’m willing to fight for,” Peter says.

And fight for it he has. Since opening its doors in January of 2016, TCIW has nearly doubled its membership, not including several attendees involved in the current membership process. It has celebrated eleven new believers and seven baptisms. But Peter and his team do not take credit.

“In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, ‘I will build my church,’ and we believe he meant it,” reads TCIW’s website. “We desire to be a local expression of that same church Jesus promised He would build—a church that the gates of hell would never prevail against. So as His body, as His church, as the hands and feet of Jesus, we press in. As we learn from Jesus to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly, we dig deep and reach out to make known through word and action this glorious Savior we’ve come to know.”

Learn more about The Church in Waldo here.

 

 

Plant Feature: New City Church

The corner of 75th and Nieman in Shawnee, Kansas represents one of the most metropolitan cores in Johnson County and the greater Kansas City area as a whole. A low median household income partnered with an overall diverse socioeconomic structure makes the area an urban setting in a distinctly suburban context. A need to stimulate the local economy has caused the city of Shawnee to offer generous tax incentives in order to spur its commercial growth—a move which has helped transform the area into a hub of activity.

But while the city of Shawnee needs economic growth, Matt Miller and the leadership team at New City Church recognize that it has an even greater need for the gospel.

New City launched in January of 2012 and has been anything but idle ever since. Matt and his team have worked tirelessly to develop a strong relationship with the surrounding community. Partnerships with local schools in particular have provided New City with unique opportunities to bless the area’s needy children and their families. The Shawnee-Mission School District even chose to make New City a base for activity pertaining to Project HOME—an initiative which helps supply housing for local homeless families.

In just five years New City has celebrated over 260 baptisms and cultivated an intentional discipleship process geared toward equipping new saints for the work of the ministry. January 2015 saw the launch of a second New City Church, this one located in Edgerton, Kansas. On top of financial partnerships with the SBC’s Cooperative Program, New City Church has also made generous contributions to global missions efforts, most recently in Laos.

In short, New City Church serves as a beacon of light in an otherwise dreary corner of the KC area—a light which points its community toward the gospel. Their mission statement is a simple one: “Inspiring you to trust in and live like Jesus.”

Learn more about Matt and other New City leaders here.

Learn more about New City Church here.

 

Plant Feature: WFC, Leavenworth

“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” – 1 Corinthians 3:5-6

This lesson, which Paul sought to teach the Corinthian church, is a difficult one to embrace: because of—or sometimes in spite of—our best efforts, God is the one building and growing his church. Such a truth is not an easy pill to swallow for the church planter who wishes to create and manage growth according to his own expectations.

Send KC church planter Kasey Robinson and his wife, Cassie, confronted that reality during a long-term missions effort in South Africa. The two of them, children in tow, set off in the Autumn of 2012 to plant a church in Port Elizabeth. The process was fraught with difficulties. Kasey and Cassie had just welcomed their second child, and the prospect of relocating their growing family to a new continent seemed daunting. On top of the strenuous transition, Kasey says that the minutiae of making a home in a new culture exhausted him and his family.

“Even something as simple as opening a bank account proved to be a challenge,” he says, recalling the first weeks of their time spent in PE. In the midst of those personal obstacles, Kasey was confronted with the difficulty of planting a healthy church and managing sustainable growth.

The gift of hindsight allows Kasey to see that God was not only building his church in Port Elizabeth; he was also preparing Kasey for something new. After three years of dedicated service and prayer in South Africa, Kasey and his family returned to the U.S. in June of 2015, leaving behind a healthy church in the hands of a capable pastor.

Little did Kasey know a new challenge awaited him. Westside Family, the sending-church which made his efforts in South Africa possible, became aware that a sizable portion of its membership commuted from the Leavenworth-Lansing area—a thirty minute drive in light traffic. It became clear to Kasey and other leaders within WFC that a Leavenworth church plant would help serve those members and the Leavenworth community at large.

On January 3, 2016, Kasey hosted his first Westside Family Church, Leavenworth leader’s meeting meeting at its new Leavenworth facility—a gathering which saw 225 attendees as opposed to the launch team’s original 120. If those numbers surprised him, they were nothing when compared to the nearly 450 people who showed up for WFC, Leavenworth’s first preview service a week later.

Kasey and his leadership team faced a tough decision. Their first-ever preview service drew such a significant attendance that they had to consider going week-to-week ahead of schedule.

They did, and by the time January 31—the date of their originally-scheduled second preview service—swelling numbers forced Kasey’s team to begin a second service. By September of 2016, eight months following its launch, WFC Leavenworth added a third service after seeing attendance peak around 900 at Easter.

According to Kasey, his and Cassie’s time in South Africa served as a necessary prerequisite for what God was planning to do in Leavenworth.

“In Port Elizabeth,” he says, “God taught us that the fruit belongs to him; he simply calls us to be faithful to his direction.” He becomes visibly excited while relating the magnitude of God’s work in the Leavenworth community through WFC. “We’ve seen the lost saved,” he continues. “We’ve seen broken marriages healed. We’ve seen followers become leaders.”

And in the midst of all the excitement, WFC Leavenworth’s mission statement remains at the forefront: “Loving Jesus, Becoming Like Jesus, Sharing Jesus.”

Learn more about Kasey and other Westside, Leavenworth leaders here.

Learn more about Westside, Leavenworth here.

 

Plant Feature: Neighborhood Church

During a long-term missions effort in Budapest, Hungary, a simple thought occurred to Send KC planter Dave Partin: What might God do through a church that went above and beyond to love its neighborhood? For Dave and his wife, Rivers, that thought began to cultivate a desire to plant a church that would do just that: love its neighborhood well.

Fast forward only a few short years and Dave and Rivers would find themselves returning to Overland Park, Kansas—a suburban area just outside of Kansas City the two of them had already grown to love. Dave and Rivers began to employ a simple strategy in their immediate neighborhood, inviting their neighbors to join them in their home on Sunday evenings for dinner, prayer, and conversation about life. These Sunday evening dinners began to grow, and soon Dave added a second point of contact with the community: open-invitation fireside chats on Thursday evenings, where neighbors were invited to come and talk about life.

Dave describes the process as an “on-ramp” to church life. He recognizes it is no small journey to make. The combination of Sunday evening dinners, Thursday fireside chats, and various other means of building neighborhood friendships provided people with little-to-no church background opportunity to familiarize themselves with gospel conversations in a natural environment.

Six months of Sunday evening dinners and Thursday night fireside chats eventually led to a Neighborhood Church launch service last month which saw 105 attendees. On top of Sunday service, members are also encouraged to join themselves with a “Neighborhood Group”; these groups meet in members’ homes, providing more intimate, personal settings for conversation about life and the gospel.

For Dave, Rivers, and other leaders at Neighborhood Church, love for one’s neighbor is not secondary but essential; Neighborhood Church has already begun to address the needs of its community by volunteering at its local elementary school, serving on the local PTA, and mentoring students. But the needs of the community transcend the physical; when asked about his dream for Neighborhood Church, Dave Partin has a ready answer: “The neighborhood will know it has a community of believers who will care for it because that community of believers follows a glorious God.”

In other words, Neighborhood Church strives to serve its community in Overland Park, KS in order to accomplish an even greater goal: to point that community toward Jesus.

Learn more about Dave and Rivers’s journey here.

Learn more about Neighborhood Church here.