By Michael Mattar, Pastor of Hope Fellowship Church
My name is Michael Salim Mattar, Sr., born in Harper City, Cape Palmas, Maryland County, Republic of Liberia -West Africa. I relocated to the United States in 1980 after the eruption of a civil war in Liberia.
I have been married to my lovely wife, Lucretia, for almost 25 years and have been blessed with three wonderful children, Michael Jr., 22, currently a senior at George Mason University, Liesl Michelle, 13, and Elias Monroe Halim, 9.
Currently, I am a church planter and senior pastor of Hope Fellowship Church (HFC), a multi-cultural/multi-ethnic church located in Herndon, Va. On Oct. 1, 2010, I was contracted by Montgomery Association (MBA) to serve as the language church missionary, focusing on enhancing and developing MBA’s relationship with our language mission churches.
We began our church plant in April 2008 with an idea. Our initial meeting consisted of those interested in forming a new congregation from the remnants of the Church of the Valley at River Bend Middle School congregation in Sterling, Va. A church name was needed. Many of the suggestions used the word “Hope.” Thus, we decided on the name, Hope Fellowship Church (HFC). HFC is being built on God’s Word with a lot of prayer and the hope that has been given to us.
On Sunday, April 27, 2008, at 6:00 p.m., we welcomed God’s people to our first service in the basement of Woody’s Golf Range. What a peculiar place to worship! I felt from the bottom of my heart that starting a church in an unusual place like the Golf Range would attract the lost in our area. With the intent to reach as many people as possible, we began having morning and evening services. Our first Sunday morning worship service was on Jan. 11, 2009. God has been faithful every step of the way.
Let me assure you it has been a challenging journey. We started with nothing: no financial assistance, no equipment, no chairs, etc. However, God used friends to provide our initial needs.
As God plainly states in His Word, He shall supply all our needs according to His riches in glory. That He did!
In planting Hope Fellowship, we have learned a number of lessons along the way:
1) I have learned to fast and pray, fast and pray, and fast and pray some more, that the Lord would send the harvest and laborers. Once you accept that He is the one who does the calling, then it becomes important to embrace those He sends, regardless of the initial unpromising impression these folks might make upon you. Over and over, it has been the “least promising” individuals who have panned out; while the really sharp, cool, educated folks fizzle along the way. I have seen people come and go, but I urge you to hold on to the faithful who stay through the struggles and growing pains.
2) I have learned that simplicity is the way to go. Almost every mistake I have made in the church planting process can be boiled down to our making things more complicated than people can actually handle. We have the tendency to think “more” is better, but, “less” is always more in the long run. This certainly applies to church. The more simple church is made to be; the more likely it will take root and grow. The more complex we make it; the more likely it will fail.
3) I have learned over these couple of years, to work with what I have on hand. In Jesus’ well-known miracle, five loaves and two fish were not nearly enough to feed 5,000. But when turned over to Jesus, He blessed those few loaves and fish so that they fed thousands. The same holds true in church planting. Start with what you have and turn it over to the Lord and watch him multiply the “little” into “much.” We started with no money, no equipment, no chairs, but God used friends to provide for our every need.
4) I have learned that materials are not the key. The most frequent question asked by many people is “what materials do we use?” This is the least relevant thing and yet is what everyone thinks is the key to a successful church plant. What is important is the person’s perseverance through the challenges of planting a church. There will be many nights when you lie awake wondering if you made the right decision to begin this church plant, but, I assure you that though the road may seem rough sometimes, you will reap what you sow, if you faint not. If God brings you to it; He will bring you through it. Nothing takes the place of an inner drive and love for the Kingdom.
5) I made up my mind to “just do it.” I did not wait to have all the answers, find all the laborers, and raise all the money before beginning. I had to trust God for my every necessity. It is better to just get out there and start something, than to stand back waiting for a specific sign from God, more training, and for conditions to be perfect. The best way I have learned is to get out there and “just do it.” Yes, mistakes will be made, but seldom are mistakes fatal to the overall work if the heart is right. If God has called you to plant, just do it!
Church Planter/Pastor Michael Mattar can be reached at (703) 599-3527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.