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May 26, 2021

May 2021 Church Planter Special Feature: Jason & Nicole Vaden

Kenny Stokes

Pastor for Church Planting

As we continue to celebrate our 150th anniversary spotlight on church plants, we are taking a more extensive look at some of our planters and their families. 

In May, we’re grateful to share about Jason & Nicole Vaden and Urban Harvest Fellowship, which they planted out of Bethlehem in 2010, in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

With church planting, no matter how much you give yourself to healthy people, resources, and accountability, there is always an inescapable element of isolation. You leave behind the treasured relationships and resources of an established church family and start from scratch.

For more than a decade, because the community of our church-planting context became even more limiting than we had anticipated, the relationships our daughters formed were largely outside the church. This brought with it setback, heartbreak, and the constant tension that comes from two worlds spinning on their axes in opposite directions. And when these tensions landed squarely on our marriage, we did not have the readily accessible, highly equipped confidants that our previous church family afforded. We had caring souls in our church plant, but none with the life-wisdom and experience to help us navigate the challenges we faced. We were connected to invaluable resources on the other end of a text, email, or phone call. But there is no substitute for incarnational, “boots-on-the-ground” soul-care.

All of that said, after these first 10 years of church planting, our three adult daughters (Hannah, Michal, and Eden) are better off for having faced those challenges (e.g., one of our daughters is currently walking through a major trial with a lot of uncertainty, and she is completely flourishing in the Lord as she does). And after 10 years of church planting and 25 years of marriage, my wife, Nicole, and I are more deeply committed to each other and in love with each other now than we were before. We know there is no other explanation than the life of God on us through the person of Jesus and his gospel.       

Can you tell us about a way you recently witnessed God showing his faithfulness to his people in your context?

After more than a decade of tear-filled labor and prayer in the poor minority neighborhood that UHF had strategically targeted, God has relocated us to a completely different poor minority neighborhood in North Little Rock. And when the Lord did this, he single-handedly answered 10-plus years of prayer for a pastoral teammate, additional church members, more financial resources, and our own building and property in the poor community of North Little Rock. What makes it even more breath-taking is that it didn’t cost UHF a dime. It was all freely donated as one God-sized package!  

Please share a passage or passages of Scripture that have been particularly motivating or encouraging to you in regards to your church planting work.

The final message I preached at our previous location was Psalm 126:1–6. It felt more than monumental for all of us. (You can listen here.) One main point in the message is not merely God’s promises of reaping “with joyful shouting” and coming again “with a shout of joy.”  But it’s to whom God addresses these promises. They are explicitly addressed to “those who sow in tears” and “he who goes to and fro weeping.”

Those phrases not only assume brutal seasons of plowing and sowing. They also allow for initial seasons of plowing and sowing that do not result in reaping. Metaphorically, the ground proves to be unproductive or some blight destroys the crop. On its face, the whole thing seems fruitless and unproductive. These conditions to the promises are not only to be expected. They are absolutely necessary. Because when God eventually acts and fulfills the promises, it becomes undeniably clear that he alone has done it, and the impact is uncontainable joy spreading among the nations (vv. 2–3).    

Has your church launched any ministries (soup kitchen, food shelf, church plants, etc.)? Tell us a little bit about it.  

Over the course of 10 years, the Lord has established sustainable platforms of regular gospel witness for UHF all around the Little Rock and North Little Rock metroplex: straightforward teaching in the Union Rescue Mission, Bible and prayer on the local junior college campus, weekly Bible teaching in nursing homes, tutoring and personal evangelism in the Boys and Girls Club, relational gospel-witness, home renovations in the neighborhoods, and full-time volunteer chaplaincy with the NLR High School Football Team.

As a result, the Union Rescue Mission residents worshiped with UHF for a year and a half. We witnessed one of their men come to Christ, and we baptized him in our church. A 20-year-old minority student at the junior college was soundly converted by merely unpacking the content of Isaiah 53. And a staff of coaches and more than 100 varsity football players have been saturated with the preaching of God from his word every Thursday during the football season for six years now!  

Current Prayer Requests

  • Praise God with us! Urban Harvest Fellowship persistently begged God for a second pastoral team member, increased membership, more resources, and our own building and property in the poor minority community of North Little Rock, Arkansas, for more than 10 years. Recently, after a two-month test run of combined worship with a 72-year-old, dwindled congregation, the Lord sovereignly gifted us with all of the above in one fell swoop! (Their 33-year-old pastor and I were previously acquainted, and we are significantly like-minded.) To further stoke our hearts with white-hot worship, the official approval for all of this culminated on Resurrection Sunday!
  • Please pray for uncommon wisdom in the tedious processes of transferring the previous congregation’s assets to our ownership and for intentional ways to honor their history as we do.
  • I recently turned 50. Nicole and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. And last August (2020) marked the 10-year anniversary of the church. All of these mile-markers have also brought with them an exciting but challenging season of parenting adult daughters. Please pray that the Lord would continue to help us transition well in our life seasons.   

Send a note of encouragement to the Vadens.

Thank you, Jason & Nicole, for your willingness to share more about your church plant as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Bethlehem Baptist Church!