Back in 2020, Woodlawn Baptist Church and Oasis Little Rock joined together to form Hillcrest Community Church with the vision of becoming an Arkansas church “in the city, for the nations.”
Driven by a desire to reach the lost and become a body made up of diverse cultures, languages, backgrounds and ages, this community of believers began their journey of reaching the nations from their surrounding neighborhood.
Under the leadership of Pastors Mitch Tapson and Jordan Bowen, the church has embraced that vision.
“We pray all the time about being willing to do what needs to be done to reach those that aren’t being reached,” Bowen said. “To go where no one’s going, to reach those that no one is reaching.”
The church is not just looking inward but they are beginning to develop the mindset of “how can we strategically use our lives, ministries and our services to not only reach those of different backgrounds, faiths and cultures, but then allow them to find how they can multiply the Gospel among their people, how they can be a part of a church that celebrates their culture?”
The vision becomes reality
Today the church looks and sounds different than it did when they started.
About a year into the journey, the church began to pray the vision every Sunday morning. Each week they would pray for their church, community, city, nation and the world. In the past, the prayers were spoken in English. Today, Bowen said, these prayers are often led by groups in what he calls “their own heart tongue.” At HCC, prayers are being lifted up for the nations in Spanish, South Asian languages and more.
God has blessed their efforts as HCC has begun to grow into the diverse group of believers that they had envisioned from the beginning. Pastor Pranay Borde has partnered with South Asian believers to help reach other South Asians and plant home churches within the community.
The church has also seen an increase in baptisms from different cultures as well as different age groups.
In December of 2021, the church baptized four people from Nigeria. Since then, several other Nigerian students have started to attend church with them. At the Christmas service, this group led the congregation in singing a Nigerian Christmas Carol. Many of these have since become “fantastic leaders in our church,” Bowen said.
A couple of weeks after the baptisms, Bowen says he felt the Holy Spirit leading them to open the microphone for testimony during the service.
One of the Nigerians who was baptized shared a verse, then another Nigerian student shared that they were struggling and needed prayer. Others began to share and ask for prayer, including those watching online. The service lasted another hour as members just shared and prayed together.
Two weeks ago, the church baptized a woman in her 60s. Bowen says she hadn’t been in church for a long time but someone from HCC had been discipling her. She knew she was a Christ-follower but had come to realize that she had never made it public and been baptized.
At the end of the service that day, Bowen says he told the congregation that he knew there were more people who needed to follow through with baptism. He extended the invitation, but no one came forward and the service ended.
Afterward, a girl came up to him and said that she knew he had been talking to her and that she needed to be baptized. Bowen found out that the girl had been adopted from Russia but had lived in Little Rock her whole life. She had recently committed her life to Christ at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry in Little Rock. She was baptized that day and then was connected with a lady in the church who began to disciple her. The two have since developed a mother/daughter type of relationship, Bowen said.
Giving God the Glory
Bowen is excited to see the vision become a reality. HCC wants to see revival and spiritual awakening take place in their community and around the world. He is grateful for a loving and faithful church who is willing to make kingdom investment. “It’s important to let the vision be our drive, but we have to know that the vision is simply connected to the Great Commission,” Bowen said.
Bowen noted he looks back and there are moments he really cannot explain what has happened. He just knows that God deserves all the glory. Only the Spirit can draw these people to a response or lead them to go public with their baptism, Bowen said. He knows it is only the Spirit who can lead someone to say he is willing to follow Christ even if it means losing all connection to his family back in his home country.
“That’s been our prayer from the beginning, if anything happens that our only response would be that it’s only God,” Bowen said. “I think it’s just at the core of it. Seeing God do what only He can do is our prayer.”