Meet Mercy Hill Church in Phoenix, AZ
Name of all members on your church planting team:
- John and Roxanne Ramirez
- Ricky Aulds
- Alan and Tiffany Salisbury (Kids: Josiah, Naphtali, Blandina, Felicity, Azariah )
- Hoss and Kelly Jorgensen
- Kevin and Lisa Fair
- Rod Pitts
- Autumn Busby
Name of Your Church Plant: Mercy Hill Church
Date the team was planted in Phoenix: June 2014
Name of Partnering churches:
- Open Door Church (Raleigh)
- Cornerstone Baptist Church (Florence, SC)
- Hillside Baptist Church (Phoenix)
What are the reasons you decided to plant a church in your city?
- Lostness of Phx: Phoenix is the largest state capital in the US and yet 85% of those residents are considered to be “unchurched”. Like many post-modern urban cities, there are thousands of people who are not sure what being a Christian means. Many have “tried” church as a kid or young adult, but because it wasn’t a good experience, they left. The west prides itself with having a spirit of individualism and anit-institutionalism. For most, they would rather not be pinned down to any particular belief system or faith tradition, yet consider themselves spiritual in their own right. Although most bask in the light of their individualism, they find themselves lonely, and desire a sense of belonging within a community.
- Growing number of Students: There are over 250,000 college/university students in Phoenix-Metro.
- The Right Opportunity: For many years, my passion has been for unhealthy churches to become healthy via revitalization and church planting. I had sought to be a faithful church member in a healthy local church context for years, where Karla and I lived life among other church members and leaders. In 2011, Elders at Open Door invited me to join their internship program for two years where I received pastoral mentorship and ministry training within a local church context. It was during this time, that my love for the local church grew and I charted out a plan for next steps as Karla and I sought the Lord for the right opportunity to be sent to an urban church planting context.
In the Summer of 2013, Monty Patton (Send Coordinator for Phx) and Bruce Ford (DOM for AZ Central Association) connected with Zach Nelson inquiring about the NACPF. They shared a burden for a 60 year old church in downtown Phoenix, that owned a full city block, yet was unhealthy, struggling to survive, and without leadership. Monty and Bruce inquired if within our network of local churches there were any candidates that might be a good fit for such a context. It was an opportunity to plant a new church in partnership with an existing church that was desperately struggling to hang on, and without healthy leadership, with the hopes that the partnership would grow and mature into a merging of one church.
Our unique and strategic inner-city partnership with the Church on Fillmore, located just blocks from ASU in the newly revitalized downtown Phoenix, allowed for the birth of a new church into the community yet alongside an existing church. For years, the COF had a reputation for mercy ministries, serving the marginalized of the city, including lower income and homeless families that had been displaced through the city’s gentrification. It was this endearing legacy that led to the birthing of Mercy Hill Church, where we seek to continue loving and serving the community with great zeal and gospel intentionality.
What have you seen the Lord do in and through your church plant so far?
- God has loosened our grip on our “plans”, which keeps guarding us from becoming self-sufficient. We continue to take steps, but ultimately he is directing each of those steps. It was easy to adopt a strategy (much like the city of PHX) that creates something new (new church, new strategy, big splash, focus on a particular group of people that looks like us) at the expense and displacement of the old (church members, marginal). Our strategy is one that includes the marginalized; not excludes them.
- God has made us desire to be a hospitable people. As a community of people, our desire is to make others feel welcome and wanted because God wanted and welcomed us into His family through His Son.
- God allowed us to not only understand our unique demographic in the context He sovereignly placed us, but He gave us a heart to love all the many diverse people in our context (generational, socio-economic, racial, ethnic, circumstantial, etc.) including the marginalized and the unlovable.
- God gave us a love for the members at COF. Through seeking out every individual, walking with them, listening to their stories, meeting together in one on one discipleship, and carrying out the many functions as pastors, God gave us a mutual love for one another and trust that has led to a maturation of our partnership together.
- God continues to open doors of partnership with other churches, para church ministries, and city organizations that share same values of serving our community.
- God is adding to our numbers each week those who are willing to allow us to walk with them on their spiritual journey.
- God is building a healthy church for downtown, inner-city Phoenix.
- Accomplish the impossible: Our Pastoral team agreed from the beginning, that in order for a merge with the Church on Fillmore to take place, they would need to submit to our documents and leadership. God allowed us to teach through the all the documents (Statement of Faith, Church Constitution, and Church Covenant) to the church members over a period of 3 months. The Church voted to amend their existing documents in April, 2015. The church is scheduled to affirm and install the MHC pastoral team on May, 17, 2015.
What do you hope to see the Lord do in and through your church plant in the future?
- Celebrate the launching of a new church (with a 60 year history) on July 19, 2015.
- Be a faithful Church.
- Continue to birth new community groups throughout our city and reach neighborhoods through the mission of each groups.
- As a healthy local church community, transformed by the gospel, live out our mission in our great city of Phoenix, through making disciples and planting churches.
What advice do you have for future church planters?
- Slow down! - One of the best things we can offer our culture is to slow down and not miss the person in front of you, or beside you. Just read the gospels and look at the life of Jesus Christ. He was unbelievably patient.
- Hold on to your plans loosely- Once you hit the ground in your respective place of ministry, look around and see what the Spirit has been doing a long time before you arrived. Interact with other churches, para church ministries, city organizations/leaders, and people in the community. Be willing to adjust your plans as God opens your eyes to understanding your unique and specific context. Move forward with your plans, but hold on to them loosely, realizing that God is sovereignly working on building His kingdom and we need not be self-sufficient.