WARNER ROBINS -- Saturday, New Hope International “fed the city” in Jesus’ name.
As part of the church’s annual Thanksgiving Feed the City Program, 2,100 boxes with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, corn and other holiday groceries were handed out -- enough to feed an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people, said Jordan Poole, New Hope’s lead pastor.
“We put a lot of stock in simply believing God, in faith in God and what he can do,” Poole said. “Our faith and action is a reflection of his love for people. I guess you could say Feed the City is a modern version of Jesus feeding the 5,000. The little boy brought Jesus a few loaves and fishes, and he multiplied it to feed a multitude. You could say we bring our Lunchable and he’s faithful to multiply it.”
Poole said Feed the City began in 1997 when the church fed eight families. He said God has been faithful to increase the effort through hundreds of what he calls servant-leader volunteers from New Hope and scores of sponsors and volunteers from throughout the community.
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Poole said since its start, Feed the City has given 70,000-plus Thanksgiving meals to low-income families.
But giving turkeys to eight families might not be the real beginning. Poole said his father and mother, Jeff and Lisa Poole, who began the church 27 years ago as King’s Chapel Church of God in Perry with 15 people, always believed in getting outside church walls and blessing people and telling them about Christ.
“Back when the church was small and we couldn’t even afford to give away hot dogs, we went into neighborhoods and fed people hotdogs and told them about Jesus,” he said.
Poole said the young church grew and moved to a building at the corner of Arena Road and South Houston Lake Road, then to one on (Ga.) 127 then to where it is now on Russell Parkway, just east of Interstate 75.
“Faith is a huge part of who we are,” Poole said. “Growth has been steady due the faith of people who came and believed God had something bigger for us, something more he wanted us to do. We’ve become a sizable church but it’s not about numbers. Those numbers represent individuals and every empty chair just means there’s a person out there we need to introduce to Jesus.”
Poole said faith takes patience, too, but with that patience New Hope members remain expectant.
“It can take time to see results, sure, but it comes from confidently speaking out our faith, faith in God’s word and what God wants to do -- and that’s always bigger than what we can see in front of us,” he said. “We don’t want to put limits on God. He wants to save people, help people, heal people and give people abundant life. It boils down to us having a desire to lead people to Jesus Christ no matter the cost.”
In addition to New Hope’s large weekend worship experiences, Poole said the church is built on Life Groups of half a dozen to a dozen people each.
“Life Groups help make a big church small,” he said. “It’s where you can have deep friendships, get help, grow, pray for each other. My group, a men’s group, has been meeting since August and I love it.”
Poole became lead pastor at New Hope in January, allowing his father to invest more time in leaders from other churches who look to him for counsel and to focus on planting another congregation in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. The elder Poole remains overseer at New Hope.
Poole, 28, said he and his wife, Brittany, are expecting their first child in May.
“Of course I grew up as a preacher’s kid and was in church every time the doors were open -- even when they weren’t,” he said. “I learned a lot that way, but I started working at the church during my college summers. I was pretty much a glorified janitor. After I graduated from Georgia College and State University (in Milledgeville), I planned to move to Los Angeles but God had other plans. I came here and headed up outreach then worked with Kid Planet, our children’s ministry. I became executive pastor for two years and then lead pastor. I took over my dad’s office but I hate it back there. I always want to be out where people are, where the energy is. But it was my dad who really taught me to be a servant, to lead by serving. Jesus said we’re to be servants of all.”
Poole said New Hope, which has an array of ministries for men, women, youth and children within the church, isn’t only involved in the community at Thanksgiving. He said through their Community Connect program they partner with people “already nailing it” through service to others, such as the Macon Rescue Mission, now known as Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia, and Houston County Habitat for Humanity.
“Sometimes a church gets a bad rap about having crowds, but we don’t do things just to attract a crowd,” Poole said. “It’s the people in the crowds that we care about. Plus we know we’re not in it alone. There are so many great churches around doing their part to do what Jesus told us all to do. For our part, we’re going to keep reaching people for Jesus no matter what the cost.”
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.