200 and Counting
By Janet Walker
June 24, 2012
This past Easter Sunday in Babylon, N.Y., Point Church launched with 109 people in attendance, six of whom made a decision for Christ that day.
“I am so proud of Babylon’s campus pastors, Josh and Sarah Sepulveda,” says Todd Bishop, lead pastor of Point Church in Hicksville, N.Y. “They are plowing tough spiritual ground, but the work has begun. Babylon is one of the least evangelized areas on Long Island.”
Point Church Hicksville launched the Babylon campus, even though the Hicksville church is only four years old. Bishop and his wife, Mary, launched the parent church in 2008 at a movie theater venue in Westbury, N.Y., on Long Island. The church has only recently moved to Hicksville.
“God’s timing in the events we’ve experienced has been so evident since we began this journey in 2008,” Bishop says. “I received a call from the pastor of a church that was closing in Hicksville, and he said, ‘We’re looking for a life-giving church to take over our building, and we thought your church might be the one.’”
At that time the congregation was paying high rent for Sunday meeting space at the theater and for church offices. That call, and the offer of a permanent building for a great price, greatly reduced Point Church’s monthly expenses and made it possible to take on the Babylon church plant.
Both the Hicksville and Babylon church plants received $30,000 from a perpetual matching fund sponsored by Church Multiplication Network (CMN) and Assemblies of God Trust. Hicksville was one of the first church plants to receive the matching funds in 2008, and four years later Point Church Babylon marks the 200th church planted with matching funds.
“We are grateful to AGTrust and its members,” says Steve Pike, national director of CMN. “They have invested $6 million to help us plant 200 new Assemblies of God churches across America like Point Church in Hicksville and Babylon.” (See the list of 200 churches on pages 16 and 17.)
“That $6 million in matching funds will continue to plant more and more churches and will never have to be raised again,” says Alton Garrison, president of AGTrust and assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
Once each church planter identified by CMN raises $30,000 from friends and sponsoring churches, they receive $30,000 from the matching fund. Each church plant then replenishes the $30,000 to the matching fund over time, and those funds are invested in another new, vibrant church plant. Point Church in Hicksville was the first church to replenish $30,000 to the matching fund.
“The Babylon church plant could not have happened without Kingdom partnerships,” Bishop says. “We are so thankful for the Church Multiplication Network, Assemblies of God Trust and the churches that have partnered with us. Church planting still proves to be the great pathway to reaching more people with the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Point Church Babylon’s six decisions for Christ on April 8, launch day, promise to be the beginning of a great outreach. At Point Church Hicksville, more than 200 people have made a decision for Christ during the past four years.
Eddie Nieto was the first. He came to Christ during Bishop’s first altar call at Point Church Hicksville, and he and his family are active members today.
“For the first time in my life,” Nieto says, “God really showed me something. Had Todd not made the decision to start Point Church, my relationship with my family and our relationship with the Lord would never have taken off to the point that it has right now. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart.”
Jennifer Alejandro came to Christ in 2010. At her mom’s request, she attended Point Church Hicksville for Mother’s Day. Having recently lost a loved one, and struggling with feelings of guilt for getting pregnant in her teens, she responded to Bishop’s message.
Alejandro remembers, “Pastor Todd did a sermon on leaving it all at the Cross. Everyone wrote down their biggest fear and then gave it to God. That was the moment when I felt God’s presence. I dropped to my knees and cried, and soon all the guilt went away. In that moment I felt God clean me, and I felt peace.”
Shortly after that initial visit to the church, Alejandro gave her heart to Christ, began attending church regularly, and was baptized in water the following summer.
A single parent, Alejandro brought her 4-year-old daughter with her to church. In January 2012, Bishop had the opportunity to dedicate the daughter to the Lord. Today Alejandro is strong in her faith and using the experiences of her past as a platform to help others.
“When I was deciding to dedicate my daughter, I felt God saying, You have to help teen moms. Let other girls know that God loves them, He has a plan, and He will forgive them,” Alejandro says.
She is currently pursuing a God-given vision to provide a safe house where teen mothers can learn to care for their children and receive biblical counseling. “I’m praying that I can share my story and help someone else,” she says.
Bishop recognizes that much of Point Church Hicksville’s success comes from having a solid team supporting him.
“To see what God does with a group of people who are committed to the vision, mission and call of Christ motivates me every day,” he says.
The vision Bishop refers to goes beyond the two church plants he has helped launch.
“We want to plant 10 faith communities across Long Island, a mission field that has long been overlooked,” he explains. “We want to reach out to the 3 million people who are living in a place where less than 2 percent of the population are evangelical Christians.”
Bishop’s call to church planting started several years ago at Bethlehem Assembly of God in Valley Stream, N.Y. From 2000 to 2008, the Bishops were youth pastors there, serving with Pastor Steven Milazzo. Milazzo has pastored Bethlehem AG for 19 years, helping the church grow into a multiethnic, generationally diverse community of believers that is reaching the world through creative and practical outreach and U.S. and World Missions initiatives.
Under Milazzo’s leadership, Bethlehem has raised up several leaders, including the Bishops, and sent them out to plant and revitalize churches in various locations.
“When Pastor Todd shared his call to church planting with me,” Milazzo says, “I told him I truly believed he was called to plant a church.”
Milazzo sent Bishop to a church planting conference, and a few days after he returned, Bishop had a strategic plan. Milazzo shared with Bethlehem AG what the Bishops felt God was calling them to do. He then asked if any members of the congregation would volunteer to go with the Bishops for a period of a few months and assist with the church plant. At least 50 people responded.
Ed and Ingrid Bellomo signed up for six months, and today they continue to serve alongside the Bishops. Their two sons now serve Point Church Hicksville as youth pastor and worship leader.
“Bethlehem is a grandparent to Babylon,” Bishop says. Bethlehem planted Point Church in Westbury (Hicksville), and Point Church Hicksville planted the Babylon campus.
When the Bishops started this journey, they had 103 people at their first service at the Point Church in Westbury launch. Many of them were friends and family members, and only a few were guests from the community.
“I felt like quitting at that moment,” Bishop says. “I felt like it was a mistake. The next week we had 49 people from the community. Now to look back and see the more than 200 lives changed by Christ, the new church plant we’ve helped launch in Babylon, and the plans we have for a third church plant on the northern shore of Long Island next year, I just can’t imagine wanting to do anything else.”
JANET WALKER is a staff writer for Assemblies of God Trust.
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