Every Zip Code for Christ
Ron W. Heitman had a vision. As lead pastor of Evangel Church in the suburban Chicago city of Hanover Park, Illinois, he wanted to reach as many people with the gospel as possible. With so many different nationalities in the vicinity, however, Heitman knew people weren’t going to just show up for services, so he decided to take the church to them.
Today, Evangel Church has birthed multiple parent-affiliated churches (PACS), including Indian, Hispanic, and the first Mongolian AG congregation in the U.S. Evangel Church is in the process of planting Russian, Polish, and Japanese congregations.
“The need is so great,” Heitman says. “We must multiply to reach lost people.”
His passion for evangelizing the lost garnered the attention of the Illinois District. In June 2017, seeing the urgency to help make such outreach happen around the state, district officials voted to add a second assistant district superintendent position. The district hired Heitman, whose sole focus in the role is to oversee church multiplication in the eight counties that make up Chicagoland.
“We wanted Ron to take the experience he has with planting and growing PACs and share that with other church leaders,” says Illinois District Superintendent Phil B. Schneider. “We have the largest immigrant area in our nation. So who better to choose than a man who is already feeling that burden and God’s call?”
Heitman took on the role with enthusiasm, but with a caveat. He wouldn’t forsake his pastoral post.
“I felt like the Lord wanted me to come alongside other pastors from a position of strength as a fellow pastor,” says Heitman. “That way we can truly multiply churches together.”
The district agreed, breaking down his role as 40 percent assistant superintendent work and 60 percent pastoral work. In Heitman’s first year, the district already has seen results. One of his responsibilities involved putting together a team to help lead the campaign to multiply healthy churches, and then to set a strategy for moving forward.
“We want to empower church planting churches to create new church plants,” says Schneider. “Ron has already made great strides with that.” Schneider points out that 5 percent of the AG churches in the district are less than five years old. A total of 10 new churches are expected to be launched in the area this year.
Although there are a total of 100 AG churches in greater Chicago, Heitman is eager for more to open. His vision is to see every one of the 77 Chicago city neighborhoods have a vibrant AG church. That’s 300 different zip codes.
“The world is literally at our doorstep,” Heitman says. “With the Lord’s help, I believe we will see a healthy church reaching people for Christ in every zip code.”