The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 14, 2014

Rich Brown: Oronogo church launches new effort inside Joplin ministry

JOPLIN, Mo. — It is natural when you hear of church plants to think of missionaries starting churches overseas. But how about in south Joplin?

Christ's Church of Oronogo has felt the need to reach out to those not attending church as well as to its own members traveling long distances to attend services in the rural setting of Oronogo.

The result is Hope City Church, which held its first service April 6 at its temporary location, Victory Ministry and Sports Complex, 3405 S. Hammons Blvd.

Cody Walker, senior pastor of the church, said a name was being considered for the church when visions of the sign in front of Joplin High School following the 2011 tornado came to mind. With powerful winds ripping away some of the sign's letters, someone used duct tape to make the sign read, "Hope High School."

The anthem that rang out in Joplin after the deadly twister was that there is hope, said Walker, a graduate of Ozark Christian College.

"That was part of it, and the other thing is that we really wanted to connect with folks trying to decide whether they want to go to church or not," he said. "The idea of hope connects with people whether you are religious or not."

Walker and his wife, Rachel, also an OCC graduate, were married in the Oronogo church.

Not long after the couple's graduation from college, Cody took a youth minister's job at a St. Louis church and later relocated to Maryland, where he became a high school pastor at a large church in Baltimore for a few years.

He was serving on the staff of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., when he got a call from Mark Christian, pastor of Christ's Church of Oronogo.

"Mark called me and said we are looking at south Joplin to plant a church and asked if I would be interested in being the pastor," Walker said. "Rachel and I were actually looking for another church at the time, so when Mark called, we thought, ÔWow, it would be great to go home.'"

Walker said that the Oronogo church has given him and his staff of five part-time helpers, all from the Oronogo congregation, a two-year window to become self-sustaining and develop its autonomous leadership.

In addition to Walker, staff members include Camille Green, city life director; Jim Easton, family minister; Addie Houser, children's ministry; and Tyler Hoefling and Skyler Davis, student ministry.

He said Hope City will rely heavily on volunteers as well as Christian resources from its sister church.

Walker added that church planting is a Biblical thing, whether across the globe or in the local community, even though a lot of people in the Bible belt ask if new churches are really needed.

"Statistics show that we reach unchurched people quicker through church plants than through established churches," he said. "I don't know why other than a lot of people are willing to come to something new because they won't be the only new ones. So if everybody is new, they might think about giving it a try."

Walker said that hopes are for the church to launch some community-type groups this fall, in which members will meet in their homes or even at local businesses for Bible study and group discussions.

He said the goal is to find a permanent church location in 18 months.

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