Hope in Wildwood - A Church Plant in Wildwood, Florida

Today I have the privilege of sharing the adventure that a friend of mine is in the midst of.

Don Winters is an amazing guy. I met him on a mission trip to Liberia where we were crammed together for two weeks. Being in close quarters like that for an extended period of time really helps you to get to know each other. We slept in the same rooms, on the same floors, and rode around crammed in a car together. When I traveled with him and his brother, I was the small guy who had to cram into the trunk. Throughout the conversations, seeing him face adversity, and watching him teach and share Jesus' love with people, I can wholeheartedly endorse Don as a great guy and passionate follower of Jesus.

And if my recommendations aren't enough. Here are a few recent stories about how awesome of a track and field coach he is.

Chargers bring home a track and field state championship
Thrower and coach share a special bond

Despite his successful track and field coaching credentials, what impresses me most about Don is his passion to share the Gospel combined with his desire to make the world a better place through serving locally and abroad. This has led him to Wildwood, Florida, where he will be planting a church to bring hope to those in need of the life-changing power that Jesus brings.

He allowed me to ask him a few questions to share with all of you here.

Regan: Why plant a church when there are already churches there?

Don: Tim Keller answers this question best. "According to statistics, more people are coming to a relationship with Jesus Christ as a result of a new church plant than any other way. New churches best reach the unchurched-- period." Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshiping body, while churches over 10-15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations.

Regan: What is it that you and the church you plant will be passionate about? 

Don: I see Jesus in Revelation 21 painting a picture of perfect community, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping together in the absence of hunger, thirst, sickness, death, and sin. He proclaims, "I am making everything new!" (Rev 21:5). This is hope! Yet, I look around and see people living without hope. They have given up on the church, God, the nation . . . whatever. Over 70% of the residents in Wildwood are religiously unaffiliated. In other words, most of the people living in this community have no meaningful church relationship.We are passionate about bringing the hope of the gospel to every area of people's lives.

Last year, as my wife (Barb) and I drove through a neighborhood in Wildwood, Florida we saw several kids riding their bikes and I wondered, "What will be their story when they grow up? Will it be one of hopelessness or one of hope?"

We picture this church as a contemporary, multi-generational church that is outwardly focused, living on mission for God in the light of His hope. We want to be a church that measures our success not by our seating capacity but by our sending capacity as we send people back into the community and the world to share the Hope of the gospel. Our goal is to have our first public service at Hope Community Church within a year and plant a second church within three years.

Regan: What's the timeline?

Don: My family and I, along with another church planter, Samuel Cutshall, will relocate to the town where those kids on the bikes tugged at my heart -- Wildwood, FL -- in August. We will spend the first nine to twelve months (before we hold our first public service) focusing on building relationships, serving the people of Wildwood, starting small groups, and building a launch team. We will do so as intercessors, learners, servants, friends, and allies.

Regan: Why do you need money before launch?

Don: We are blessed to plant with a group called Converge. Converge is a movement of churches working together to start and strengthen more churches. While the average success rate of planting churches in America is only 20%, churches planted with the assistance of Converge have an 89% success rate.Converge has asked me to raise start-up funds and three years' worth of expenses totaling $350,000. After three years the church should be self-sustaining. These expenses included all multi-media equipment, building rental, website, mobil Apps, and graphic designs, children’s church equipment, printing, promotional and advertising materials, and salaries. Sharing hope and bringing great change to Wildwood and the world beyond will take a great investment. We are praying and asking that you partner with us financially on a monthly basis or through a special gift.

Regan: So you've made it this far. Thanks to Don for sharing his heart with us. If you feel prompted to support Don on this exciting adventure, feel free to go to Hope Community Church's website or head directly to their give page. If you have any questions about this, Don would be more than happy to answer them for you. Here is a link to Hope Community Church's contact page.

If you would, join with me in a prayer for Don.

Father, we ask that you would bless Don and Barb in their ministry to Wildwood. We pray that through their efforts, people who need You will find You. That through them, You will transform lives. Please provide for them and show them your love during the coming journey. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.