The History and Heart Behind Hope City Church
Co Leads, Trenton & Deedre’ Stinson
Words by Trenton Stinson…
Deedre’ and I have been involved in church leadership and ministry for over 40-combined-years. We first met at Southside Baptist in Richmond, Virginia which became our home church. At Southside, we learned so much about the Word of God and it was there under the direction of Dr. Lonnie Stinson (my dad) that we gained an incredible foundation in urban ministries, outreach events and community engagement. In 1993, we led latch-key programs, summer camps, a fully accredited K-12 Christian school and international student programs. Dee and I met in youth group and were eventually married in 1998. Shortly after, we were called into full-time ministry where we served the City of Richmond, Virginia for over 14 years collectively!
Our Heart for Jesus
Having a heart for the body of Christ and for radical obedience to Jesus has always been important to us. In high school, we both were faithful witnesses of Jesus within our high schools and we continued this passion into our collegiate experiences and beyond. In 2011, we heard God calling us to “more” which led us to leave Richmond and head north, up the corridor to Fredericksburg, Virginia, just south of our nation’s capital.
The Relocation to Northern VA
By 2012, we had settled into Spotsylvania County, Virginia to be closer to Georgetown University while I finished my Executive Master’s in Business Administration. During this time, we served faithfully at Encounter Church of God and found it to be a church with phenomenal pastoral leadership, under the direction of David and Gail Price. Additionally, we called this place our healing zone as we had experienced church hurt coming out of Richmond. God greatly used our Encounter family and still today we have many fond memories and friendships there.
A year following graduation, we were offered a full-time opportunity with Salem Fields Community Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Salem Fields Community Church is one of the largest Nazarene churches in Virginia. A church of approximately 1400 members with three weekend services, several local outreaches and a multinational presence in India and Nigeria.
Commitment and Love for the Youth of our Community
In 2015, we became the Associate Pastors of Student Ministries and a Virginia District licensed pastor with the Church of the Nazarenes. While we served the youth community, God greatly blessed, there was much success in ministry and God did a “new thing” for the youth ministries (Isaiah 43:19). Through prayer and hard work God opened many doors in the community and local school division. We shared and embraced a deep passion for the lost and enjoyed the many risky ventures for Christ with this assignment. However, deep down inside, we knew the Holy Spirit was still pushing and prompting us for more. We wrestled with the internal concerns of spiritual complacency more than anything. Despite some challenges, as should be expected with any organization, we had made Salem Fields home and could have remained very comfortable there. However, we knew that there was still more that God was calling us to do beyond our roles at Salem Fields! So, in 2017, we were propelled into a journey of transitioning from Salem Fields and into pursuing the calling and vision that God gave us which we now understand to be Hope City Church – A mission, a network and a movement!
Here is how that happened…
More Than an Assignment
In January 2017, while I was attending a Dynamic Church Planting International (DCPI) event, which consisted of three-days of church planting essentials and training, I was deeply challenged by the Holy Spirit to not settle for mediocrity in my service to the Lord. Again, I heard the Spirit calling me deeper and showing me there is more!
On the second day, I was selected by the facilitator to creatively imagine a church without any limitations or restrictions. The questions that began to resonate the loudest were:
- What kind of church is God calling us to lead?
- What would make us different?
- How would another church even be necessary when there are so many churches everywhere?
Initially, this was purely an academic exercise for me. However, it quickly became so much more than an assignment! That night, the Holy Spirit began to convict, challenge, inspire and breathe a vision of a church that radically sought to please God!
A church that would never leave its first love but edify and exalt the name of Jesus! A church that would be missional and impactful to the local community! A place of hope! A place of real, authenticity with people that are willing to be a living sacrifice: holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1-2).
This was a tall order and at first glance, every church would claim or at least try to claim that they were doing the same and believe the same! As a matter of fact, many pastors and churches are just as sincere as I am in wanting to honor Jesus. However, in Matthew 15:8, the Spirit proclaims that “With their lips, people will honor Jesus, but their hearts are far from him.” A careful reading of Revelations and the message delivered to the seven churches in Asia Minor reveals that several of the churches were at first commended by Jesus only to be immediately told “yet I have something against you” (Revelations 3). For me, I began to pray, and this grieved my heart deeply to even imagine that Jesus could possibly have something against me. That He could know my works, see the good that I have done and still see a level of disobedience within me.
As I shared my experiences with Dee, she began to share her heart and what the Spirit had been revealing to her. It was uniquely her experience but with the same message…God was calling us deeper and requiring more of us!
It became clear that our efforts are discounted or even worse, null and void, when we promote lip service in our methods and practices while failing to walk and live in complete, radical obedience! You see, in 1 Samuel 16:7, God reveals his character and his criteria for our service to him when he told Prophet Samuel to not focus on the outward appearance in the selection of a king because God does not look at the outward appearances but at the inner condition of our hearts! During this revelation by the Holy Spirit, the genesis of what we now call Hope City Church was established.
The next day at the DCPI event, I presented in tears what God, through the Spirit, had revealed. It was a church that held on to historic orthodoxy and sound Biblical Theology but was also a church whose methodology and practices would be aligned critically with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Upon conclusion of the presentation as tears streamed down my face, I lifted my head to a room full of pastors and lay leaders standing and clapping for what I had presented. The response caught me off guard completely because I knew I had struggled emotionally all throughout the presentation. As I returned to my seat, my evaluator leaned over and said, “I hope this was not fictitious but that you really are going to do this”. That day, Heaven came down again and glory filled my soul! Not for the same purposes of the initial work of the Spirit in my life and heart but for a deeper, Holy purpose. God was calling me to join the army of “More”!
The Search for More
Since that day in January 2017, Dee and I began to search online for potential brothers and sisters that were being stirred and moved in the same direction. The goal was to lift any limits often established through mental limitations and restrictive exposure. We sought to lift any cognitive restraints that would hinder or limit the fullness of what God was doing.
Ephesians 3:20-22, Paul reminds us that God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we can ever ask or think according to the power at work within us. This reminder removed the parameters that we often placed on what God can and will do in our lives.
Today, we see Hope City as more than a church, but a network of believers committed to a movement of the Spirit and by the Spirit leading us to an intense, intimate, radical obedience that transforms us and thereby transforms the community around us.
Breaking Free: to Cali and back
In December 2017, Dee and I, inclusive of our son, Christopher, flew out to San Francisco, California to speak with Francis Chan and the We Are Church Small Group Movement. Francis, earlier in 2017, came public on You Tube with the reason he left his mega church in Simi Valley, California. The long and short of his explanation, at the risk of over-simplification, was simply God was calling him to “more”. God was revealing and calling him to more than the current institutional church structure could allow. We spent four days with Francis and his team of elders and just as much time praying, talking and considering what God was doing.
There was much discussion on theology, methodology and simplified, Biblical church practices! Upon returning, we had received more confirmations that we were headed in the right direction but we still did not believe that God was calling us exactly to the same structure as Francis and we knew then that house church had its own share of challenges from our perspective. For us, there was more to the calling than even house church.
What’s in a Name (Hope City)
Eventually, after much prayer, counseling and considerations. God gave us a message of hope. We are to be champions of real hope to the world. Our frequently stated mantra is to say that “Hope has a name and it is Jesus”. Why? Because there is no other name, in Heaven or earth, whereby we must be saved! (Acts 4:12).
We began to pray non-stop for what God was calling us to do. I began to over-communicate with my current church community and leaders to prepare them for our eventual departure. The excitement and anticipation began to impact our hearts all at once! We knew God was calling us to more! More than church as usual.
Our calling is for more than living each week for a “big” Sunday production or service. God is requiring us to do more than develop and surround ourselves with crowds of “check listers” that demonstrate their faith through weekly attendance and occasional good deeds which has become commonplace in today’s American church. No, we knew that we were not to be conformed to the system of church nor its ancillary institutions but to be peculiar, called-out yet relevant and real!
Arrogance and Pride, We Resist…
Consequently, we knew that arrogance and pride would always be resisted by God; yet he would grant grace to the humble. So, we remained humble yet confident in our calling to do more. Moreover, we were clear that we were to be more than a “black church or white church”. We were to be a multi-ethnic network of believers that could power through any differences and please the Father. John 17:23 calls us to unity as a demonstration to the world that we belong to Jesus.
We also knew we were to be more than an attraction spot with an addiction to quantitative data while failing miserably at the qualitative results and commands of Jesus. Some argue that quantitative supports qualitative, but we beg to differ. Many there shall be in that day will say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord, did we not…but Jesus will reply, “I never knew you, depart from me”. In other words, it will not matter the number of things we have accomplished in the name of Jesus if we are disobedient and fail to do exactly what Jesus’ written words command like in Matthew 28:18-20. So, we thank you for taking time to read all about us.
Our Commitment to the Body of Christ …
We love the church and will never leave or walk away from the body of Christ! As a member of that body, we at Hope City are seeking to do our part and walk in radical obedience for Jesus. My wife and I are committing the rest of our lives to exploring and walking out this network of believers that are envisioned to carry hope to cities all over the world! Additionally, we are going to remain missional in our efforts. We will be intentional to turn those called under our leadership into their gifting and purpose for the benefit of the Body of Christ! Finally, we will stay sensitive to the moving and infilling of the Holy Spirit! It is His work and His movement that we seek to join, and that action can never be overstated.
For more on our practices, statement of faith and manifesto please come back for future iterations of this site.