“What do you want me to do, God?” Most Christians know that the answer to this question may not be what you want to hear. In the case of Willard Coleman, the answer was to go to Utah to plant a church. Living in Colorado at the time, Willard wasn’t interested in going back to his home state, “but God spoke to my heart about Utah, so I contacted a pastor I had known since I was a teen and we began to set up plans for ministry in Southern Utah,” he says.
In 1976, Willard and his family settled in Richfield, Utah, a small community of roughly 5,000 people. Here they prepared to begin Richfield Assembly of God, the only Pentecostal church in a mainly Mormon area. When they initially opened the church, the small congregation consisted of Willard and his family along with a handful of others from the area.
In an effort to establish relationships with people in the community, Willard found himself working full time in a hardware store. “I got to know a lot of people and they had a chance to get to know me,” he says. “That gave me a big opening and helped us a lot in being able to minister to people.”
Over the first five years of ministry at Richfield Assembly, between 100-150 people got saved out of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) lifestyle. Despite these salvations, the church didn’t increase significantly in number due to the consequences experienced by those coming out of LDS. “Because of the conditions, they had to leave the area to survive,” explains Willard. “Many were shocked at how they were treated after they got saved.”
As frustrating as this was, Willard continued to push ahead in the calling that God had given him. Through the years he got involved in several public programs in Richfield, including working with the police and sheriffs, participating in the annual public Easter program and helping with a local crisis center. “There were a lot of things I helped with and a lot of people were surprised that we were so open to being involved. That opened up the door for a lot of people to see what was going on with our church,” he says.
Things began to pick up for Richfield AG in the mid-90s. Willard attributes this turning point to faithfulness to minister in the community. “Over the years there were a few people who hadn’t joined in with us [because they were hesitant to be associated with a specific denomination], but eventually they came in to our church,” he says.
It may not have been an easy journey, but today, over 30 years later, Richfield Assembly averages 100 people in their weekly services and continues to see lives being impacted.
For those who are discouraged or facing obstacles in their planting journey, Willard offers this advice: “Be faithful. Do not despair on small things. I believe that’s one of the keys that we so often miss – faithfulness. God is faithful. I was so disappointed in some of the things going on and He spoke to me, saying, ‘You be faithful to what I’ve called you. Don’t worry about anything else.’ That’s what we’ve tried to do and over the years we’ve seen God change things and work in the hearts and lives of people.”
For more stories like this, click on the 25 Groundbreaking Church Plants link here.
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