Herbert Cooper believes church planting brings hope to the world
August 1, 2014 | Valorie Coleman
Church planting is one of the main topics of the 100 year celebration event for the Assemblies of God. Herbert Cooper, a 1997 Evangel graduate, is passionate about this topic. He believes the church is the future — the place where broken lives will be mended, where people will find meaning and where those seeking will find God.
He doesn’t just talk about it. He leads by doing. As pastor of People’s Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, he has worked alongside his staff and congregation to support numerous other church plants, and in 2011, they established a second location of People’s Church in Midwest City. More than 5,000 people are in attendance each week through the two locations of People’s Church. Additional church plants are in the works, including one out of state.
“What an incredible history we have from our first 100 years of the Assemblies of God,” Cooper says. “We’ve watched the hand, the grace and the favor of God upon us.”
“What’s on my heart now is a mission to reach people who are far from God. The church is the hope of the world. I don’t believe the government is going to change hearts. Christ is, through the church.”
Cooper’s passion to share the love of God with broken people has been apparent for a long time. When he came onto campus as a student at Evangel University, his heart was tender and pliable. The touch of Christ was very fresh on his life, as he had given his heart to Him in a locker room meeting of Fellowship of Christian Athletes during high school.
He was recruited by Evangel to play football, and he was a starter on the team. Even with the rigorous schedule of academics and athletics, he traveled consistently on weekends to preach. By the time he graduated, he was already a seasoned speaker and minister for Christ. He spent the next five years in evangelistic ministry, traveling as a sought-after speaker for youth gatherings, national and international audiences.
A distinct call from God came to him and his wife, Tiffany, in 2001. They were to plant a multicultural church in a major American city. In January 2002, they sold their home in Springfield, Missouri and the People’s Church in Oklahoma City held its first service in May. The church began with only eight people gathered in the Coopers’ living room.
A pastor’s heart
Now, after 12 years in the role, Cooper reflects on the challenges and triumphs of pastoring in 2014.
“For me the hardest thing is that people are just so broken. I don’t know what it was like in the ’20s, but I can tell you peoples’ lives are broken now — addiction, abuse. They need Jesus. They need help period.
“One of the most challenging things about ministry, after you lead people to Christ, is to see them become all God desires them to be. I want our people to get an education. I want them to stay married. I want them to honor God and not to have premarital sex. I want them to stop cutting themselves and to get a good paying job and to break free from government assistance. I could go on and on. We provide help through counseling, programs in the church, celebrate recovery and even job fairs. We are trying to help people be all they can for Jesus Christ. He said, ‘I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly.’”
Regardless of the challenges, Cooper is encouraged.
“I love seeing lives changed,” he says. “I do what I do because of that. I think every minister of the gospel would say the same thing. The simple gospel message of Jesus changes hearts and lives. He puts lives back together. He puts marriages back together. He keeps fuel in the tank. Jesus really does all that.”
Success God’s way
When he reflects on his time at Evangel, Cooper remembers an environment where his faith grew exponentially, his confidence blossomed, he was mentored by people who invested in him and he met his godly wife. He cherishes those memories and encourages students to slow down and enjoy the college experience.
“For those entering college, enter with humility and a hunger to learn. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Don’t wish, hope and dream for the next season. Prosper where you’re planted. Get all that you can out of that season of university life.”
And for those graduating, he gives these words of advice: “You have not finished learning, you’ve just started. You want to be a life-long student. Learn business, learn marriage, learn ministry. Get planted in a local church, in the family of God. That has to be a priority.
“If you’re going to be a success, becoming all that God wants you to be and do, you have to say no a whole lot more than you say yes. Say no to what’s good so you can say yes to what’s best. Seek first the kingdom. My wife and I someday want to hear, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”
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