Church Multiplication in ‘Sin City’

Episode 653: Planting a church is challenging enough, but when your city is almost-completely unchurched, the task is truly daunting. Vance Pitman, founding pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, and Heiden Ratner, senior pastor of Walk Church in the same city, share their church-planting experiences with host Ed Stetzer.

In This Episode, You’ll Discover:

  • How Vance Pitman and his wife wound up planting a church in Las Vegas
  • Why the Pitmans were able to bring a team of 13 families with them to launch the church
  • The importance of helping a relocating team to think like missionaries, not like church members
  • How Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God tool helped launch Hope Church
  • What’s going on missiologically in Las Vegas
  • Why many church planters abandon their plans for multiplication
  • Some initial steps to start building a culture of multiplication in your church

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Sharable Quotes (#NewChurches):

You shouldn’t be out there planting without the support of a network. Let me encourage you to visit to learn about the benefits of cooperating along with a family of multiplying leaders all over North America. @EdStetzer

Where I’m from, people didn’t go to Las Vegas and, if they did, they didn’t tell anybody. People didn’t think Las Vegas is hell, but they think you can smell it from there. @VancePitman

We believe, convictionally, that churches plant churches; individuals don’t, networks don’t, denominations don’t. @VancePitman

I was convinced that the best way to plant a church was in teams. Paul is the greatest missionary church planner in the New Testament, and every time you read Paul’s name in the Bible, it’s followed by another word, “and.” Paul never went anywhere by himself. @VancePitman

People heard the activity of God in our story and what attracted them was the opportunity to leverage their life to join in the activity of God in a place where they could use their job skill and passion where they live work and play to live on mission. @VancePitman

I wish I’d known what I know now about “detoxing” our team before getting to our city, to think not like church members but like missionaries. @VancePitman

People often don’t realize that when you bring a group of people who have a common church experience into a culture that doesn’t have that, this is going to be cross-cultural in many ways for the people. @EdStetzer

I knew how to pastor a church but when I got to Las Vegas, I didn’t have one and so it was purely desperation. We had basic training. It was one day of training, and assessment was where they checked my pulse to see if I was alive. @VancePitman

When I got to Las Vegas, there was no Hope Church there planting churches I could partner with. We were starting literally with nothing, but the beauty of that is it produced a desperation. @VancePitman

We spent the first five months simply prayer-walking 50,000 households. We had three different churches pray over every name in the Las Vegas phone book. We started going back into those communities where we prayed and doing acts of service. @VancePitman

We began to make disciples. I think one huge mistake many church planters make is they launch too early, thinking the service is going to draw the disciples, when you need to make disciples and churches are born as a byproduct. @VancePitman

I challenge pastors all the time that if your church doesn’t look like your community, there’s a missiological issue with how you’re taking the gospel to the city. @VancePitman

When you get into a context that is multi-ethnic, you’re just part of the diversity. I just finished an interim in New York City. Nobody there is a local; everyone’s from somewhere else. It’s a wonderful opportunity. @EdStetzer

A lot of times we hear Las Vegas is “the city of sin,” but we like to say it’s “the city of Him.” God is at work in Las Vegas in some very real, tangible, fresh ways. @HeidenRatner

I think a lot of people are deterred by one street – Las Vegas Boulevard, and sin is definitely most glorified on this one street. But outside of Las Vegas Boulevard, this is a really big city: 2.6 million people, and 92% are unchurched. @HeidenRatner

I find a lot of people are waiting for an invite, waiting for somebody to have something compelling. Invite me to something. Give me an opportunity to know this Jesus. @HeidenRatner

Evangelism is key. I’ve sensed there’s really a hunger for something more. A lot of people are settling. Just give me something better. That’s one of the reasons why church planting in our city should be high on our priority list. @HeidenRatner

It does seem that, as the modern experiment is failing, people around the world are realizing that we’re not on a sustainable path. There’s just a brokenness all around and it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to point people to Jesus. @EdStetzer

Hope Church is the first church I was able to see multiplication modeled. As for Walk Church, it’s in our DNA. We are a church that was sent out by a sending church, hearing multiplication not just preached but lived out. @HeidenRatner

What we knew was if we’re going to plant a church, we’ve got to plan another church. We started by saying OK in our budget. We started putting prayer toward it from the very beginning. @HeidenRatner

There’s a kingdom collaboration emphasis in our city. If 92% are not going to church, there’s a whole lot of people to reach. So we’re championing each other, even across denominational lines. @HeidenRatner

We’re trying to say, “Hey, let’s win the city and the way we’re going to do that is through planting new, vibrant, evangelistic churches.” @HeidenRatner

I think many planters substitute the tool for the goal. The goal is not churches being planted; the goal is the kingdom of God being expanded in cities and nations all over the earth. @VancePitman

The local church is a temporary tool established by Jesus for the expansion of His kingdom. Every church Paul planted is dead and gone, but the kingdom is alive and well. @VancePitman

If we’re really going to penetrate lostness in the city, one church cannot do that by itself. But as we multiply the church, we can genuinely see the kingdom. @VancePitman

Call out the called. Somebody may not know they could do this and a word of affirmation from a key leader could spur them to think about planting. Not enough people are thinking about it. @HeidenRatner

Published March 29, 2022

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