Q: Who are Hope and Elim?
A: Elim Christian Fellowship is a multi-cultural, Bible-based, Spirit-filled church on East 9th street in Des Moines, IA. Elim began in 2001 through the leadership of Pastor Michael Hurst and has grown into a place of refreshment and love for people of all ages and walks of life. Elim has partnered with dozens of local ministries in the urban core to serve and provide faith opportunities to those in need.
Lutheran Church of Hope is a multisite, multigenerational, outreach-focused, Christ-centered church that originally began in West Des Moines, IA in 1994. To learn more about the history of Hope, click here. Hope currently has six campuses in Central Iowa, including the Hope Des Moines campus which began in 2008. Hope Des Moines is a growing, diverse congregation focused on outreach to the city that has worshipped at Hubbell Elementary School, a location on Ingersoll Ave., and now 2500 University Ave. where they will join with Elim.
Q: How did the vision for this merger first begin?
A: Elim Christian Fellowship and Lutheran Church of Hope have been partners in ministry for close to 20 years, supporting, praying for, and joining together in a variety of ministries and outreach efforts in Des Moines. Pastors and leaders from both churches have developed friendships for the past two decades, including the long friendship of Pastor Michael Hurst from Elim and Senior Pastor Mike Housholder from Hope.
Out of these relationships, Hope and Elim discovered a common mission to reach those in the city with the love of Jesus Christ. In an intentional effort to build bridges of racial unity, Hope and Elim began “OneChurch” gatherings in 2014 to bring together people of different races and backgrounds to pursue unity in Christ. In 2016, the vision expanded to include Pillars of Promise, a shared venture of Elim, Hope, and several other key organizations in Des Moines to fight intergenerational poverty in radically new ways.
In the Fall of 2019, when the opportunity came to acquire the facility at 2500 University, leaders of both churches began to dream together about partnering in ministry to grow God’s kingdom in the city and see these efforts align in a strategic way. God revealed a clear opportunity for both churches to move from their current locations to come together in the growing, strategic location of the Drake neighborhood to love the city in Jesus’ name.
Q: How has the relationship between Hope Des Moines and Elim developed during 2020?
A: Over the past year, leaders from both churches have gathered for intentional prayer, planning, and community-building. Elim and Hope Des Moines members have gathered for worship, fellowship, and service opportunities over the past year, including on-site and most recently virtual gatherings to build relationships and seek God’s wisdom.
Pastor Jon Anenson and Pastor Michael Hurst continue to meet weekly, foster a strong and joy-filled relationship. A joint prayer team has been praying over the merger process, as well as a joint task force made up of leaders from both congregations has been meeting weekly since the summer to pray, discern God’s vision for the merger, and prepare for ministry together. Although a variety of partnership options were discussed, it became clear that a merger of the two congregations was the most Biblical, effective way to pursue God’s mission and build His kingdom in Des Moines.
Furthermore, Elim and Hope Des Moines have engaged in a series of Christ-centered, Biblically-based classes and discussions focused on awareness, education, and relationship-building concerning racial justice and reconciliation that have now been expanded and offered to the broader community.
Q: What does this church merger mean?
A: Although there are many forms of church partnerships and mergers, Hope+Elim is two congregations choosing to intentionally come together for the sake of God’s kingdom. Over the next few months, the Hope Des Moines campus and Elim Christian Fellowship will have the new name of Hope+Elim, and exist as a campus with the mission, vision, and leadership structure of Lutheran Church of Hope, with a specific and unique role to serve the city of Des Moines.
Hope+Elim will have shared ministries, budget, and staff with the local leadership of Pastor Jon Anenson and Pastor Michael Hurst, and begin worship together as one congregation later this fall. The staff of Hope Des Moines and Elim will join together to provide day-to-day equipping for the dozens of ministry teams made up of volunteer leaders from Hope and Elim who have a shared voice into the life of the congregation (Ephesians 4:11-13).
Q: Is there a financial reason for this merger? Are either of the churches struggling and in need of help?
A: No. Both Elim and Hope Des Moines are currently healthy, growing, and stable congregations through the generosity of faithful and generous members. The merger is completely mission-driven, unrelated to finances.
Q: So what is the real vision behind this merger?
A: This merger is the fruit of over two decades of relationship, shared ministry, and a common vision to be a Christ-centered, Bible-based, Spirit-led, kingdom-minded church in the city of Des Moines.
- First, it’s Biblical: God’s heart for unity among His people is repeated throughout scripture, and made most clear in Jesus’ work on the cross and the mission of the early church (Ephesians 2:14-18; Acts 10:34-36; Galatians 3:26-28, Colossians 3:11).
- Secondly, the merger is missional: We believe working together as a unified, diverse church, we can most effectively reach and minister to the diverse and growing city we serve. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, “the most segregated hour of America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning.” In these increasingly divisive times, we believe a divided world is hungry for a unified church to be a light and example of how Jesus breaks down the dividing walls between us (Ephesians 2:14).
- Finally, the merger is practical: We’re better together. Elim and Hope bring unique and vital gifts and backgrounds to the table, making us stronger in our differences. Beyond that, we really like each other and enjoy sharing life and ministry together!
The vision of Hope+Elim is communicated well through two key aspects of Hope’s 10 for 10 vision, launched in 2019, and the vision of Pillars of Promise (a city-wide initiative in Des Moines supported by Hope and Elim over the past several years):
Unity Agents: Build bridges of harmony for cultures divided by race, ethnicity, creed, gender, sexual orientation, politics and worldview. Illuminate in our public teaching and private conversations a biblically faithful application of God’s word to the issues of our day, avoiding ditches of legalism and relativism, rising above dismissive debates, calling instead for a “third way” of civility, compassion, respect, love and acknowledgment that the Christ who unites us is greater than the issues that could divide us.
City Changers: Serve our neighbors in need as the hands and feet of Jesus by bringing good news to the poor, sharing God’s love for all, breaking strongholds of systemic corruption, amplifying our voice for racial harmony, rebuilding a deeper sense of connectedness, upgrading our support for local mission partners to serve together as a united force for good in our communities, and developing new initiatives that bring light to the darkest places around us, in the cities and towns where we reside.
Pillars of Promise: To fight intergenerational poverty in the urban core of Des Moines in uniquely new ways, bringing together public, private, and nonprofit (including faith-based) organizations. Pillars of Promise is organizing and recruiting public, private and nonprofit (including faith-based) organizations to come together to meet the economic, educational, social and character needs of cities’ urban core.
Q: What is the timeline for the rest of the merger? When will the two churches begin worshipping as one? When will service times be?
A: Over the next few months, as the financial and legal aspects of the merger are completed, ministry teams from both churches will meet together for prayer, planning, and team-building in preparation for joint ministry to begin in 2021. This fall, each congregation will still offer some unique ministries on their own, while partnering on a few key outreach efforts and several classes including “Bridge to Racial Unity” and the Alpha course.
Later this fall, Hope Des Moines and Elim will then begin worship as one congregation at 2500 University, offering socially-distanced, masked services for those who feel comfortable, as well as continued online worship for those who are not ready to return at this time. Service times will begin with identical services at 9:30 and 11:00 am on Sundays, with additional services being discussed based on our ability to maximize our space in a socially-distant way.
Q: What will worship at Hope+Elim be like? Will it be more like Elim or Hope’s current style?
A: God has blessed us with the opportunity to do something brand new as a church in a new neighborhood and location (Isaiah 43:19). Because of this, our worship will be a brand new experience as well, with music, creative elements, and styles that are unique for both congregations.
Rather than simply having an “Elim-style” or “Hope-style,” worship teams from both churches are currently meeting to seek God’s heart and make plans for a diverse, shared worship experience that will both honor the current styles and gifts of both churches, as well as introduce many new songs and elements that will help build a spirit-led, multi-cultural approach to worship.
Our desire is that worshippers will feel the freedom to worship with whatever expressions of worship the Spirit leads (2 Corinthians 3:17). However, more important than the style of our worship, God is most concerned with our heart being surrendered to Him (1 Samuel 16:7). Worship is ultimately about glorifying God, rather than our personal preferences.
Q: If I currently worship at another Hope campus, can I still worship with or participate in ministries with Hope+Elim?
A: Yes! One of the benefits of being “one church in multiple locations”, is that you have the option to participate with several great communities that offer a variety of experiences. Everyone is welcome at Hope+Elim.
Q: What does it mean that Hope is a Lutheran church? What denomination is Elim affiliated with?
A: Hope has a strong and rich tradition as a member of the Lutheran church, a world-wide body of churches and ministries. Elim Christian Fellowship is a non-denominational church, with no direct ties to a larger church body. While denominational traditions are helpful and important, our ultimate desire is to be a church that invites everyone to be a part of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:4-5) and is unapologetically focused on Jesus and growing His kingdom above all else (Matthew 6:33; John 14:6). Elim and Hope share the common, utmost desire to connect everyone to the life-changing love of Jesus Christ. Our common beliefs are summarized in the existing values of each congregation that now find their unity in Jesus as they are combined:
- Core Value #1: Jesus is Life. The rest is details.
Hope- Jesus Christ alone is our hope, and the only real and lasting hope for the world (John 14:6).
Elim- To develop your personal relationship with Jesus Christ to equip the Saints to do the work of Jesus Christ to evangelize to the world. We endeavor to do this by reaching them with the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ.
- Core Value #2: Lost people matter to God and so they matter to us.
Hope- Jesus was sent to reconcile a lost world to God (Luke 15:1-32), and he calls us to do the same. We like unchurched people, and we know what a difference Jesus can make in their lives.
Elim- We endeavor to reach individuals who do not have a personal relationship with God.
- Core Value #3: We worship God, not tradition.
Hope- Where tradition helps to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and further the mission of our church, we embrace it. Where tradition becomes a wall between God and his people, we seek to tear it down (John 2:13-22, Matthew 23:13-36, John 9:1-41).
Elim- We endeavor to those who are tired of "religion" or who have been forgotten by those individuals who live in the house of God.
- Core Value #4: Following Jesus is a growing experience.
Hope- We can't outgrow Christian faith. As modern day disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to move from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity (Philippians 3:13-14, Ephesians 4:12-14).
Elim- We desire to create worship that touches the heart of God, and as a result, the wounded feel welcome and the faithful experience the freedom to have fellowship with Jesus Christ.
- Core Value #5: We are one body, united in Jesus Christ.
Hope- We are a church of individuals, different in many ways, yet called together by God to be one in ministry and mission.
Elim- Elim is a strong supporter of reconciliation among the races, genders, classes, cultures, and denominations. People from all races, religions, age groups, and denominational affiliations are welcome to worship and seek God's face.
Because of the unity shared in these beliefs and values, we believe God has aligned the hearts of our churches together for the sake of His mission in Des Moines. Our ultimate desire is for each member of the church to hold fast to the truths outlined above concerning Jesus and the centrality of God’s Word.
Q: Who will be preaching at Hope+Elim services?
A: Both Pastor Jon Anenson and Pastor Michael Hurst will be the primary preachers for weekend services. Hope+Elim will also have livestreamed messages from time to time from Hope’s Senior Pastor Mike Housholder or other pastors from Hope’s campuses. Also, because Elim and Hope Des Moines both have other gifted preachers and teachers on staff and as volunteer leaders, you will see and hear from a variety of communicators in larger classes, men’s and women’s ministry, as well as in student, college, and young adult worship settings.
Q: What kinds of ministries will be offered at Hope+Elim? How will they be led?
A: Both Elim and Hope Des Moines currently have a variety of ministries for all ages and walks of life. Our joint task force, as well as current ministry leaders from both churches are praying and discerning how these ministries best work together. Some ministries like children’s, student, young adult, men’s, and women’s ministries exist at both churches and will form natural connections and continue.
As we continue to discern the needs of the neighborhood and our current communities, several brand-new ministries will also emerge in the coming months and years. Plans to expand outreach in education, sports, and recovery ministries are in the works.
The Hope+Elim staff will provide day-to-day leadership of ministry, however every ministry will be represented by a volunteer leadership team comprised of Hope and Elim leaders, continuing both church’s model of highly-engaged volunteer leadership (Ephesians 4:11-13). Fall 2020 will also be a time for all ministry areas to gather with leaders from both congregations to discern vision and strategy for the year ahead. Early in 2021, most ministry areas will then operate jointly with the shared Hope+Elim name.
Q: How is the renovation of the new facility at 2500 University coming along? Is it ready for worship and ministry?
A: Thanks to hundreds of volunteers from Elim and Hope over the past several months, the facility is ready for weekend worship and weekly ministry. Our teams have done a great job honoring the historic and traditional aspects of the facility, while bringing a fresh new look with modern touches and technology. However, with any remodel project (residential or commercial), there’s always several projects in the works to fine-tune and make improvements. Look for several more all-church workdays in the future where you can help prepare the building even more!
Q: Will the Breakfast Club ministry from Hope Des Moines continue? What about Elim’s Sunday morning breakfast tradition?
A: Yes and yes! This is a great example of how we’re better together! Hope Des Moines has been ministering to those in homeless shelters, tent camps, and streets for the past nine years, providing transportation, hot breakfast, and Bible study for those in need. Elim has offered a hot breakfast that brings together the congregation for fellowship between services. When current health standards allow as COVID-19 conditions improve, we’re excited to launch a weekly Sunday morning breakfast for the entire Hope+Elim community, and not only continue, but expand our Breakfast Club outreach through transportation and care.
Q: I currently attend Elim Christian Fellowship or one of Hope’s campuses. How can I get to know people from the other church moving forward?
A: Hope+Elim will offer a class called “The Bridge to Racial Unity” this fall online, and with an in-person option. There will also be several groups and Bible studies where all are welcome to attend. These are great opportunities to continue to meet those you don’t know and build relationships. If you’ve already participated in this course, or met friends from Elim or Hope through our Zoom gatherings this summer, we encourage you to reach out and continue those relationships! Hope+Elim is also excited to be a host site for the Food Bank of Iowa’s partnership with Des Moines Public Schools this fall, with volunteers from the church serving together in our drive-through food pantry. Hope+Elim will also continue to offer online and in-person gatherings for fellowship, service, and discussion in the coming months. Stay tuned!
Q: Being so close to Drake University, are there plans for college ministry at Hope+Elim?
A: Yes! In fact, it’s already begun! Kairos is our college ministry that currently exists at Iowa State and the University of Iowa, and as of September, Kairos Des Moines has started to share the love of Jesus Christ with Drake, Grandview, DMACC, Simpson, and all area college students. Weekly opportunities are happening now, including worship, small groups, and outreach. Learn more here.
Q: With such a diverse neighborhood and congregation, are there plans to add to and diversify the staff even more?
A: Yes! We’re excited to add to the staff to further equip and serve a growing and diverse congregation. Plans are underway to continue to hire and have men and women from black and other racial backgrounds in positions of leadership and authority throughout the church.
Q: With a larger facility and so much space for ministry, what kinds of community outreach and partnerships will be happening at 2500 University?
A: Our vision for this new facility has always been larger than Hope+Elim. We’re excited for our new location to truly be a center of mission, partnering with other churches, nonprofit organizations and ministries to grow the kingdom of God in Des Moines, rather than a particular church name or brand.
2500 University is a place of rich history, and a tradition of being a gathering place for the city, including having hosted Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt decades ago. In the spirit of being a blessing to the community, Hope+Elim will continue to host multiple support groups, Drake University groups and events, and has over 25 local mission partners that we’ll continue to support both financially and through volunteer support. One of those mission partners is Joshua Christian Academy, providing Christ-centered education to hundreds of families in Des Moines, which began its second campus on the 4th floor of our new facility this fall!
Q: Where will we park around 25th and University?
A: The large lot directly to the south of our facility will be the main location for parking, however Hope+Elim has an agreement with Drake University to utilize the large parking lot two blocks north on 25th street that will also provide extra parking during larger events and peak hours. Shuttles and other transportation for larger events are also being planned for the future. In addition, DART shuttles run along University Ave. to various stops throughout the week.
Q: How do I get involved with Hope+Elim during this season?
A: Although the pandemic has limited our in-person worship and ministry options during this time, there are still dozens of ways to get involved right now. Weekly worship continues online at hopeonline.tv and on Facebook live for Elim each week. Elim and Hope Des Moines are currently offering dozens of ministries with online or in-person options for children, students, and adults. Visit hopedesmoines.org or elimdsm.org for all the details!
Q: What is the best way to stay up to date with all the latest news about Hope+Elim?
A: Visit our website for all the latest updates, as well as Elim’s Facebook page, or Hope Des Moines Facebook and Instagram accounts.