Randy Brainard: In 2010, I came to a point of incredible clarity. I was determined not to look back on my life and know that I had disobeyed God by not stepping out in faith. So, after many conversations, plans and tears, we stepped back from our home church family to plant a new church in Tucson, Arizona.
I served as a youth minister for 14 years in the Tucson area at Northwest Bible Church (EFCA). With all those years of youth ministry, God provided us with many relationships and young families to join the launch team, and we started with an enthusiastic group of about 60 folks. It may have been the most exciting, difficult, fun and heart-wrenching season of ministry that my wife and I ever experienced. By God’s grace, Hope Community Church took root in 2011 and flourished.
Over those first few years, we started home groups, mission projects and children’s and youth ministries. We saw people come to know Christ and grow in their faith. Then one day in that first year, I got an email from a young man who was new to the area and invited me to coffee.
Dave Collins: When my family and I arrived in Tucson in 2011, we knew we needed to get plugged into a great church as soon as possible. We had a great history with the EFCA: My wife and I attended Trinity International University, helped with ministry connected with a local Free church near campus and we knew the doctrine was solid. So, I googled EFCA churches in the area and reached out to the pastors to get coffee.
I had a great time meeting Randy Brainard from Hope Community Church. We connected well relationally and had a similar passion for Jesus, disciple-making and local church ministry. He was humble, kind and fun; he seemed like someone I could call a good friend. I went home and told my wife, Meghan, about the meeting and she wondered if I might become a pastor at Hope Community Church with Randy someday.
Despite my wife’s wondering, I pursued a career in law enforcement and was hired at the Tucson Police Department. Living in a new city, I was trying to find an opportunity to support my family. I have had many family members serve in law enforcement or the military. Departments were hiring in Tucson and I thought I might be good at it—I have always wanted to serve my community, to protect other people and appreciated the sacrifices and hard work of those in law enforcement.
While I worked as a police officer, my family got more and more connected at Hope. We volunteered in the children's ministry and I discipled a group of young men. I spoke at men’s breakfasts and we were asked to bring leadership to the church’s home groups. We built a great friendship with Randy and his wife Julie and loved being at Hope Community Church.
I loved being a police officer, but I felt the tug to pursue full-time pastoral ministry. In 2015, an opportunity presented itself: Hope Community Church was hiring a full-time associate pastor. The Lord’s timing was perfect for me to resign from the police department and go on staff at church.
Randy: I learned a memorable acronym for people to look for in local church ministry: F.A.T. Faithful, available and teachable. Dave and Meghan were all these things, so there were no doubts about bringing Dave on as an associate pastor—the church was already being pastored regularly by these two.
Even though I had other plans to hire a worship/youth pastor, I laid them aside because God gave our church a clear gift in Dave.
Dave: Throughout my time on staff at Hope, we (mostly Randy and I, but sometimes with our wives or the elders at Hope) would talk and pray about church planting. Randy and I worked well together, but we both knew that church multiplication was important. We weren’t sure if we should split up and send me to plant a church, or as a team, try to raise up and send other church planters.
People would often look to me as the obvious choice to plant, but I wasn’t really sensing the Lord leading me in that direction at the time. I was content in my role as associate pastor and thankful for the opportunity to learn more about hands-on, full-time ministry.
In 2018, Randy and I went to a church planting conference with Hope Community’s youth pastor, Kevin. One night after the conference, we were sitting outside, enjoying some ice cream while we discussed everything we had learned. We looked at each other and said, “Why don’t we just go for it?”
Our original plan was to start another campus of Hope Community Church. I would be the primary preacher and shepherd at a second location; it would be one church in two locations. We shared the plan at a Sunday morning church service and people were excited: some even said things like, “It took you long enough!” and “We thought this was always the plan!” But then we purchased land for a new building (we had been meeting in a school gym and renting office space), so we thought we should hold off on the new campus until the building project was completed.
Right after we made that decision, COVID-19 hit and put a weird pause on everything.
Randy: It has been my experience that whenever it feels God has given us a clear way to move, obstacles and distractions are soon to come to obstruct the way. Sometimes, they are great things like property for a church building that you didn’t see coming; sometimes, they are hard things like a global pandemic. As a result, our church multiplication plans got put on hold.
Dave: A couple of years passed and I felt this stirring in my soul. I sensed God leading me out of my role as associate pastor at Hope Community Church and into something new. Meghan and I began a season of intentional prayer and considered where the Lord was leading us.
Again, Randy said to Kevin and I, “Why don’t we just try this church plant thing?” We had a great talk about planting and we felt like it was time. So, Hope decided to plant Ambassadors Church.
Randy: I knew that what I was seeing, hearing and feeling in Dave was the same thing I had seen in myself before planting Hope Community Church. We loved working together, had a great team and ministry was going well, but God had brought Dave to a new place.
When I told Dave, “Let’s give this a try,” I could tell his heart was springing to life.
Dave: Hope agreed to pay my salary and benefits for 2022, and we budgeted church planting expenses into the 2022 budget. My wife and I prayerfully considered who we should invite on this journey, and we ended up with four other families from Hope on our church planting core team.
Beginning in January of this year, we met weekly with our core team to build relationships with each other, to seek God and to dream about the future. May 1 was our first Sunday morning gathering with our larger “launch team,” a group of 70 or so people (including a bunch of kids). Now, we meet every Sunday morning at a local elementary school gym.
It’s been so sweet to gather with brothers and sisters and see Jesus building His church in Tucson. And it’s been an unbelievable blessing to have so much continued support from our sending church! We plan to continue a healthy relationship with Hope and our dream is to partner with them in church planting into the future. We are so thankful for Randy’s leadership and Hope’s support and we are looking forward to see how God continues to work.
Randy: I would encourage every pastor, whether you lead a large, established church or a new church, to look for the “Dave” in your life. Share ministry with them, share life with them and be willing to take a risk sending them out. I believe we will see God multiply transformational churches as we do.
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