"Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain."
20 Years of the Lord's Work
The Development of a Reformed Church in Ashland
Twenty years ago I began praying that a solid Reformed witness be started in Ashland. As we turn into 2021, it's great to see what God has done.
I had come into Reformed theology around 1997. It took a while for this wildly Pentecostal / Charismatic kid to embrace it, but the Lord's word spoke loudly and clearly over my dissents and objections.
When I finally did concede, it was like I had been saved a second time. I now understood the real meaning of grace and could rest in the fact that I no longer had to rely on my works to keep me in the faith.
Exhilarated by this new understanding of the gospel, I wanted others to come to know the wonder of it. I immediately began praying for my family to share in the doctrines of grace.
A few years later, while in my first year of seminary, I found out about church planting. I thought, "That's what Ashland needs!" So in 1999, I began asking the Lord to start a Reformed church in my hometown so that all of Ashland could know of God's sovereign power to pardon sin and change lives.
By the end of my seminary career, this prayer was all consuming. I had only grown in my understanding of the Reformed faith, and was seeing more clearly the golden treasures of Scripture which were missing in the churches I attended as a child. I wanted every aspect of these great truths propagated.
Then it dawned on me: Maybe I should be the one to do it.
So, in 2004, Elizabeth, little Katelyn, and I packed up and moved back to Ashland to see what the Lord would do. It just so happened that two other Reformed minded families had moved to the Ashland area. These three households, along with my parents, began meeting for Bible study on a weekly basis and soon thereafter were granted mission church status in the Presbyterian Church in America.
That little mission never really "took off" though. A few families came and went, but after 5-6 years it was evident that the work was unsustainable. We ended up "closing the doors" in 2010. But the prayer and desire remained.
Not long after Elizabeth and I found ourselves adjoined to a little Reformed group in Mifflin. Providence church was a small group that had been meeting for some time and Elizabeth and I were happy to find a place to worship while I searched for a new call. Though the one church had closed, it was great to see that a Reformed witness might still exist in the Ashland area.
But even its status was somewhat tenuous though. Providence had just gone through a rough time. It had lost many of its members, including one of the men who did a fair amount of the preaching. Some of its remaining members wondered if it had a viable future.
Over the next few years, the Lord did wonderful things. Little by little the church started growing. One of the greatest blessings along the way was meeting up with the great families from Bible Fellowship in Mansfield. Providence and many of the Bible Fellowship families merged together because we all had a similar mindset regarding the family integrated philosophy of worship.
By 2014 the church had more than doubled in size and was seeing attendance top 100 on a regular basis. The Mifflin Community Center, where we were meeting, was quite crowded and plans were afoot to find a new place to worship.
The Lord ended up doing something different though. A new path was taken. It was mutually decided that some of the families should branch out and start a Reformed and family integrated church in the city of Ashland.
So in 2016 a mere nine families began worshipping together as founding members of Hopewell Church. It was not the path that I had anywise imagined, but the Lord continued to answer that 20 year old prayer.
As we stand on the precipice of 2021, we can see with even more clarity how the Lord is indeed working to build a Reformed witness in Ashland. In His kindness he has brought together almost 20 families and has made our once spacious place of worship rather "cozy." It's not been uncommon to top 90 seats on a Sunday morning in 2020 and we know that 2021 already has prospects to exceed that on a regular basis.
Now, it may sound silly for me to say this after laying out a long tally of "bums in the pews," but I'm not really a numbers guy. I like to think of myself as a kingdom oriented fellow, who is focused on one thing: preaching and teaching the Bible. Nevertheless, the numbers bear out the fact that the Lord has been working to build a strong witness to what He has revealed in Scripture here in Ashland.
As we dim the lights on 2020, I merely wish to praise God that he has heard my prayer and continues to answer it 20 years later. Furthermore, I hope that you can be encouraged by what our great God has done in our midst. Most of all, may we look forward to what the wonderful hand of God will do in 2021 and beyond.
What is Reformed Theology?
Wait a second, what's all this talk about being "Reformed?" If you're curiosity has been piqued, check out this video series (or the book) entitled, "What is Reformed Theology?"
Interested in Hopewell?
Would you like to learn more about affiliating with Hopewell? Are you interested in taking the next steps towards membership, baptism, or profession of faith? Feel free to check out the info on our website and talk with our leadership about your next steps with Christ.
Congregational Meeting Scheduled
On January 10th Hopewell will hold a congregational meeting after our worship service. Visitors are welcome to sit in on all of our meetings. These are great times to see "how Hopewell works" and get an introduction to the overall ministry operations. The agenda includes,
*The elders will finalize the agenda at their January 4th meeting.