Basing his sermon on Jesus sending out the seventy-two (Luke 10), Charles Scheffe called his church to radical followership of Jesus Christ as he preached on the topic, “How to Start a Revolution.”
He reminded the congregation of Jesus’s words in Matthew 8:20: Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.
As he described saying goodbye to the comforts of home, Scheffe, associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, closed the message with a personal challenge: “If you are too comfortable in your ‘follow-ship’ of Jesus . . . consider re-evaluating your walk,” he said.
Debriefing with his wife Stefanie on the way home from that June 2014 worship service, she turned to him and said, “So what are we about to go do? Because we are incredibly comfortable.”
“She was right,” admitted Charles.
Putting Their “Yes” on the Table
After some months of seeking the Lord, Charles and Stefanie put their “Yes on the table” and began asking the Lord to guide them to where He wanted them to plant a church.
Charles and Stefanie began visiting a few of the thirty-two cities in the North American Mission Board “Send Cities” church-planting strategy. As they prayerfully visited Phoenix, they began to sense God’s call to the metropolitan area. Home to 4.5 million people, the vast majority of whom have no abiding connection to Christ, metropolitan Phoenix is one of the largest mission fields in the United States.
“I get excited that 222 people a day move into my city, and almost 90 percent of them need the Gospel,” NAMB City Missionary Monty Patton said. “It excites me that the Lord is bringing the world to my city to hear about Him.”
Patton moved to Phoenix more than twenty years ago to start Mountain Ridge Church, and his leadership continues to push out the boundaries and multiply churches. Even some of the churches Mountain Ridge has since started are multiplying with church plants of their own.
In March 2015, the Lord began to confirm in the Scheffes’ hearts that He was leading them to a community south of Goodyear called Estrella Mountain Ranch.
Finding Their “Yes” Challenged
After their visit to Phoenix, Stefanie became pregnant. Their unborn daughter Caroline was diagnosed with major kidney disease. Through the prayers of family and friends, Stefanie carried Caroline to thirty-seven weeks and she was born on November 20, 2015. The whole family gathered around to meet her but, tragically, she died after only forty-five minutes of life.
Charles’s and Stefanie’s hearts broke.
“[The experience] was so hard that much of our family thought we would abandon the call to plant a church,” said Charles.
Although the “Yes” became a question, their faith held firm.
“It is one thing to say ‘this world is broken, but God still cares.’ It is another to live it,” said Scheffe. “Our only way to survive was to rely on God. And it is that skill that we continue to use as we plant a church.”
The Scheffe family rallied. They moved to Phoenix in the summer of 2016 with plans to launch their new church in fall 2017.
An Open Door for Ministry
Arizona is a diverse mission field. Missionaries in the rural northwest part of the state have established prison churches, biker churches, and camper ministries. Phoenix abounds with a multitude of young families and four hundred thousand-plus college-age people. Multicultural missionaries in Phoenix have started Hispanic churches, African churches (Ghana/West African), Native American churches, and churches reaching Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese.
Two million of the six million-plus people in Arizona are of Latino or Hispanic descent.
Looking for Indian food as found in Asia? Multiple restaurants remind residents the city has a strong population of East Indians.
Charles affirms, “When we visited Phoenix, we fell in love with the city and the people. I think what we loved most was the ability to reach the nations through planting in Phoenix, because so many of the people who live here are transplants from somewhere else, just like us.”
Launching a New Church
The Scheffe family is already developing a launch team and needs more team leaders. Their new church plant (The Church at Estrella) has a strong bent toward reaching young families in a community where ministry for children is very limited.
David Johnson, executive director-treasurer of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, has been spreading the vision of growing Arizona ministry from 450 churches to one thousand as part of the state’s centennial anniversary focus. Church planting has been a major thrust.
Many ministry leaders and churches have bought into this priority of multiplication.
Following in the example of the Good Shepherd, Charles and Stefanie have not let pain hinder them from their call. In fact, this pain has identified them with Jesus and drawn them even closer together.
Their “Yes” has overcome and remained their “Yes.”
Dave Arden is a NAMB church planting catalyst in Arizona and is a member of Freedom Valley Church in Surprise, Arizona. For more information about the Church at Estrella, visit www.estrella.church.