“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11, NASB).
Michael and Bonni Hines planted Foundations Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, in September of 2018 as part of the Open Bible East RAM Network church-planting initiative. Since then the church has outgrown its temporary location, filling the space to capacity at both Sunday morning services and at their midweek adult gatherings. In recent weeks church leaders agreed to terms on a lease for the back portion of a large abandoned retail store on the eastern edge of the city in an area with little or no access to a gospel-centered, Spirit-filled church. We wanted to find out more about this church and its leadership, so we asked some questions.
What made you choose Williamsburg for a church plant?
Michael: The first time we set foot in Williamsburg was Valentine’s Day weekend of 2013. Snow was falling and we were struck by the timeless beauty of the city – the cradle of the Republic. Yet amidst the rich history that stretches back to the first settlement of Jamestown in 1607, we noticed that Williamsburg, like much of the Atlantic Coast, is filled with people from all walks of life who have abandoned the faith of their forefathers. We were surrounded not only by unchurched people, those who’ve never really encountered the good news of Jesus Christ, but also by thousands of the de-churched – men and women of all ages and backgrounds who’ve given up on church, the Bible, and God Himself. They are drifting through life without an anchor, cut loose from their foundations.
Bonni: It wasn’t long after we came to Williamsburg that I found myself out by Marquis Parkway, a struggling big box retail development just off the freeway on the southeastern edge of town. I was running some errands for the kids at a Kohl’s department store and saw the lights turned out in the old JC Penny building. “Closing down” sale signs were plastered across the windows. I couldn’t shake the inescapable feeling that this place would be perfect for a church one day. Not just any church, but our church.
Michael: At that time I was working with a para-church mission, leading ministry trips to Israel where Bonni and I had lived and worked between 2002 to 2007. I found myself on the shores of the Sea of Galilee speaking to a group of pastors at the place where Jesus appeared to Peter after he denied him. “Do you love me?” Jesus asked. After hearing Peter’s answer, He said, “Then feed my sheep.” All I could think of were the thousands of scattered, lost people in Williamsburg and the command of Jesus to feed them.
Bonni: It was a season in my life where I had in many ways given up on the pastoral call. It felt like we’d “been there, done that,” but the door of local church ministry was now closed for us. Michael was traveling, and I was stuck at home. And then something would always bring me out to the east side of town. As I would stare across the empty parking lot from Target or Kohl’s, my eyes would be drawn to the empty JC Penny building. I could “see” the parking lot filled with cars, the building filled with people hungry to meet Jesus. It was a spark of hope during a difficult season.
Why this location?
Michael: All the Lord has done this past year has prepared us as a church body to go to the harvest field in our area. More than 32,000 people live within a five-mile radius of our new church location, and there are fewer than half a dozen small, traditional mainline churches. Meanwhile hundreds of new housing units are currently under construction just a few minutes’ walk away. What’s more, our location is less than 15 minutes from the gates of Fort Eustis, home to an additional 30,000, active duty servicemen and servicewomen and their families, many of whom have never had a clear opportunity to respond to the good news of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul speaks of his ambition to preach the gospel in places where Christ is not yet known, lest he “build on another man’s foundation” (Romans 15:20). The heart of Foundations Church is to do the same: to know Jesus Christ and make Him known among those who don’t yet know Him in order to make disciples, raise leaders, and plant churches. We are proud of the mission we share with the larger Open Bible family of churches who have provided incredible support throughout the entire process of launching Foundations Church a year ago.
Where are you going?
Bonni: We started our ministry living in Jerusalem in the Middle East. We had no family, few friends, and there was a war going on around us. But we learned to listen to the voice of the Lord and have always sought to teach others to do the same. So our hearts have always been to raise disciples who can make disciples of others, pastors who can pastor others, churches that can plant other churches. And we do that by rolling up our sleeves and working hard, spending tons of time with people, one at a time, helping them get free, forgive, and grow up and obey the voice of the Lord. Now after one year we are beginning to see the fruit of that investment in people: disciples willing to make disciples. And that’s how we believe we’ll equip others to go out into the mission field of the world.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
You can watch an interview with Michael and Bonni Hines or learn more about Foundations Church here.