SPRING HILL — Iglesia La Esperanza or The Hope Church began meeting here in late October with about 30 people in its first worship service. Recently it has grown to about 45 people. The new church has already seen five people baptized and on Feb. 16 will baptize about 10 more, leaders predict.
The Hope Church is meeting at Mount Hope Missionary Baptist Church here, an African American church which had more facility than it needed.
One of the reasons for the quick growth of The Hope Church is that two existing 1-5-1 Harvest Plants groups came together to form the Spanish-speaking congregation when the facility became available. The two groups were formed in homes by Luis Sura through contacts he has in the area as founding pastor of Iglesia Las Americas (Church of the Americas), Franklin. Sura also is a Harvest Fields catalyst/missionary, Tennessee Baptist Convention.
Then, just two months after being established, The Hope Church started a 1-5-1 Harvest Plants group in a nearby Columbia restaurant. The Bible study group meets weekly toward the end of the business day so employees of the restaurant can participate.
Starting the Harvest Plants group was a natural thing for the new congregation to do, explained Sura, since some members had stopped meeting in 1-5-1 groups to form the church. But it also is a 1-5-1 strategy which is working, he added.
Harvest Plants are usually off-campus efforts (outside the four walls of the church building) aimed at gathering people who don’t know Christ as their Savior for the purpose of sharing the gospel, discipling people, and starting churches.
Churches that embrace this strategy make a commitment to start no less than 1 plant in the next year, making an effort with the Lord’s help to reach, win, and baptize 5 people through each plant, and planning on each plant to start 1 plant by the end of the first year.
Though he is using the Harvest Plants strategy, Sura also used a strategy related to sponsoring churches planting churches. Thus, Church of the Americas sent two families to help lead The Hope Church. He said he realizes that using this strategy is not always possible in a new church plant.
Another factor in the success of The Hope Church, said Sura, is William Burton. Burton, who also speaks Spanish, moved to the area in which The Hope Church is located to work for the TBC about eight months ago.
Burton, who is Hispanic/ethnic church planting/evangelism specialist for the TBC, helps Sura lead The Hope Church by preaching at the worship services and helping lead the Harvest Plants group which meets at the restaurant.
On Sundays The Hope Church meets at 9:30 a.m., so when Sura is preaching there and at the Church of the Americas he only has to travel about 20 miles to West Franklin Baptist Church, Franklin, where Church of the Americas meets to preach again at 1:30 p.m. Their Sunday School begins at 12:30 p.m.
Sura first learned about the possible availability of the church facility from Don Pierson, a pastor in Fayetteville who was a TBC staff member. Then Burton met with Dale Ledbetter, director of missions, Maury Baptist Association, based in Columbia, who shared the opportunity with Burton.
Burton said when he approached Sura about the opportunity of using the facility, he asked Sura if he knew of a way it could be used. Sura replied, “No, but God does,” recalled Burton.
The sharing of the facility between Hope Church and Mount Hope has been a win-win for both, said Burton. He especially thanked William Wray, long-time pastor of the church.
On 1-5-1 Harvest Plants, Burton noted that the strategy provides “a model for healthy young churches. You need a good mama church that’s going to send teams out to evangelize and win the lost and grow them to become mature Christians.”
Sura said though he has founded a church and is an active soul-winner, he has learned from 1-5-1 to follow through with baptism, discipleship, and church planting. He also has started many home Bible studies to reach non-Christians. He and his wife Ana, a ministry assistant at the TBC, lead them. But he now sees them as an effective way to start new churches and thus reach more non-Christians through the 1-5-1 Harvest Plants strategy, he explained.
“If it weren’t for Harvest Plants, we wouldn’t have Hope Church,” he said.
Rocio Martinez of Columbia, a member of The Church of the Americas who is now attending Hope Church, is a member of the family which operates Rio Colorado restaurant in Columbia where the weekly Harvest Plants Bible study meets.
Some of her family became Christians and Baptists in Mexico before moving to Hohenwald where she attended First Baptist Church, said Martinez.
As a result of the Bible study group and The Hope Church, Martinez has recently seen two of her brothers make professions of faith and be baptized.
Having Hope Church close to her home and the homes of her extended family is “very good for us now,” said Martinez. “My family is together to do things the same way,” she added.