By Hope Danzl
It all started in 2012 when leaving the mission field in Mexico for furlough, Randy and Lisa had a strong feeling God would not lead them back to the Latin American country they had ministered in the last six years. The Lord had spoken to them about doing something quite different from foreign mission work – planting a church in rural America. They knew in their hearts God had spoken to them and told them to plant an Assemblies of God Church in Ness City, Kansas, but God showed them nothing of the timing. This did not discourage them. They exercised patience and diligence in the meantime by blessing others with their ministry through their work at the Central Kansas Dream Center in Great Bend, Kansas. This multi-faceted, holistic ministry was founded in August of 2013 to meet the needs of broken people within the community, with the driving vision of creating disciple-making disciples. After about five years of doing ministry through the Central Kansas Dream Center, in September 2018, God spoke to the Parrs and said, “Now!” It was time to plant what would soon be Generations Church Assembly of God in Ness City, Kansas.
They began this exciting journey by laying the spiritual groundwork. Before even launching the church, Randy and Lisa actively began to love and embrace the community. They baked muffins for events, stopped by businesses and schools, and served Gatorades to the high school football team. While investing in Ness City a year before Generation Church’s official launch, they learned that pastors who are present and invest in the community gain natural connections, and build a solid establishment of trust that carries through Sunday morning and into the rest of the week.
During the first year of laying the spiritual and relational foundation, the pastors were looking for places where they could lay the physical foundation for their new church building. After having considered launching their church in either a gymnasium or a community center, they looked into an old 165-seat movie theatre on Main Street. This run-down building was not listed for sale by a realtor, but by the retired owner who was traveling in Australia at the time. Immediately, Randy spotted potential in this building’s location and in what it might have to offer a future AG church. When Lisa had gathered all the documents and arranged the funding, the future pastors of Generations Church were ready to settle on a price for a one-year lease. However, God had other plans. When this 5,800 square foot building and half a million-dollar piece of property was offered to them by the owner for only one dollar, they could not believe it! They had never before seen a miracle of this proportion!
God did not stop there. What should have been a $150,000 to $175,000 remodel project, by the grace of God only cost $75,000. They walked away debt free and with a story that provided them with a beautiful building that gives testimony to God’s faithfulness and providence. Those who heard this story began to realize this was only the beginning of many miracles God would work out for the good of Randy and Lisa Parr’s ministry.
After a year of building renovations and establishing relationships within the community, they officially launched Generations Church on September 8th, 2019. The next miracle the Parrs would see came in the form of their partner church, and the long-time pastor of Great Bend First Assembly of God, Pastor Dwight Dozier. Pastor Dwight and his willing congregation gladly chose to help out every Sunday since their launch by attending and filling skilled positions on a short-term basis so local leaders could be trained up. From the beginning of the vision to its fulfillment, First Assembly has supplied the prayer foundation on which the church stood at its formation and continues to stand on today. “Without the help of Great Bend,” Lisa Parr said, “it would have been difficult to start.” As Pastor Dozier partnered diligently to advance the church in Ness City, The Ness City pastors realized how important it is to have a strong church to help launch a new work. He assisted in casting the vision to help plant churches in this rural area of Kansas by asking individuals to make a short-term commitment to attending Generations Church, fully aware that it would cost him workers and tithes. This gift of finances and workers demonstrate the deep level of commitment Dozier and First Assembly have made to plant churches in area rural communities.
It would have been a difficult to get through the beginning stages of launching this new church without the help of three ladies who had previously attended the small church that had recently been closed in Ness City. These ladies became the infrastructure that formed the bridge between the Parrs and the small, but close-knit community in Kansas. With their supportive energy and financial giving, the new local pastors were able to better understand how to contextualize their ministry for the community of Ness City. Once again, God had provided a miracle through the blessing that these three women provided.
The Parr’s foreign mission ministry background helped them contextualize ministry and embrace the culture of Ness City. While on the field, Lisa came to realize learning the culture of a community is one of the most important aspects to ministering among the people. They understand that they might always be foreigners to the people and lifestyle of Ness City, but they can be embraced and received by them. This acceptance has already begun as a result of their humble entrance into the rural community. Taking Gatorade to the high school football team, being intentional about building relationships, and displaying a true representation of Christ has slowly eased the skepticism and broken down the walls that had formed upon their arrival. One can constantly hear questions ring from the Parrs’ lips such as; “What can we be a part of? What can we do to be a blessing to you? How can we integrate ourselves into your community?” These are approaches they never would have learned without spending time in Mexico.
Creating a spiritual foundation prior to entering a community, offering yourself in service to the people within that community, partnering with a grounded church to assist you in the beginning stages, adhering and contextualizing yourself to the culture of the rural town, and relying on God to work out miracle after miracle for the good of His plans are just some of the many lessons Randy and Lisa say all rural leaders and church planters should learn. In a special setting such as this, one can connect with and pastor not only the town but the greater area that surrounds the community. When pastors support the community, the community will support the pastors. For the Parrs, rural church planting has come at a cost of time and finances. But, because of the support network they have beneath and behind them, they have been able to count the cost as worth it. “To any potential rural church planters, if you know that you know God has told you to do it, do not go ahead of God’s timing, but go for it,” says Lisa Parr.
Randy and Lisa Parr are a great testimony of God’s faithfulness and providence. Romans 8:28 describes their journey to plant the church in Ness City well, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (ESV). These wonderful pastors have shown that when we wait on God’s timing, seek His will, work hard and pray hard, the next miracle is just around the corner.