-The story of Hope Christian Church
In 1999 Dennis Murphy, his wife Donna, and their baby daughter moved from Los Angeles to Fairfield, CA, to help the Lord establish Hope Christian Church. This small gathering of people from two-parent churches of Crossroads Christian Church of Vacaville and First Christian Church of Suisun, Hope is now active in planting churches themselves, being a charter member of the Vine Church Planting Network.
Starting with a small gathering of 20 people on October 3, 1999, we met at Nelda Munday elementary school before growing large enough to move to Rodriguez High School, and then to our own building. Hope Christian Church has become a loving, healthy, thriving family of God creating new ministers and churches for Jesus. We continue to celebrate our anniversary every first week of October.
Hope Christian Church is an independent non-denominational church and a 501(c) 3 non-profit corporation. We also enjoy the blessings of many associations and allegiances working together in various kingdom ministries such as local homeless, world missions, and church planting. We trace our biblical heritage to a national revival movement that began during the Second Great Awakening of 1790-1840 and continues to plant new churches today.
-Dennis Murphy's calling
I was raised in a Disciples of Christ church family on the Illinois Prairie. I enjoyed the love and nurturing of living in several small towns. I enjoyed a somewhat idyllic life similar to Huck Finn and Richie Cunningham of the television show "Happy Days." The significant difference was that my father was the local minister. Being the only son, I had a propensity to living up to the reputation of a "P.K." (Preacher's kid). I've always had a bit of an ornery streak, and back then was a bit of a hellion. As one of the elders once said, "His halo is held up with devil's horns." This was not the best of affirmations for an eight-year-old, but it was reasonably accurate.
Through college and into the first ten years of my professional business career in marketing and sales, I perfected the art and science of an individualistic lifestyle.
Career, travel, and sports were my priorities. Somehow some of the harsher social misfortunes escaped me as I pursued personal fulfillment by advancing my career. Looking back, I believe the farming work ethic, and athletic background, and two loving parents held fast. I grew in my career through competitiveness and graduate studies for an MBA leading up to being recruited, transferred, and promoted to Los Angeles in 1987. Yet, this was not enough.
I began to search for personal growth through business empowerment and leadership training. I even helped start and co-owned a human resources training company. I became involved in seminar empowerment training to support others' personal growth. I even expanded my own development by becoming active in community service projects with non-profit agencies. It was then I began to realize that maybe I should think about going back to church to grow spiritually. I still believed in God as I did as a child, but come Sunday morning, I never found the drive to make it past watching football. So, I did not go. Little did I know what lied ahead for me five years later would cause me to come running back to be the prodigal son.
In 1996, I told my mother, who lived in Illinois, Jeanette Murphy, that Donna (my wife) and I had given much prayerful consideration over my pursuing ministry. Her first words were, "I've known that you would do that for years." I wish she would have spoken earlier–it would have saved us some sleep! My only sibling, my sister Debbie, was a bit more surprised. Debbie commented that she saw my transformation begin during my father's death five years earlier. However, she had the impression my spiritual growth had peaked at my marriage to a good Christian woman and my church leadership.
The more in-depth story of my calling begins with my father, Rev. Taylor Murphy, and his influence on my decision. He was a Disciples of Christ minister for 35 years. And let's just call it a typical P.K. rebellion, but I always said I would never follow in my Dad's footsteps. I was raised with and kept a firm belief in God. I just left the work up to my Dad. It was his business. I was going to become successful in my own business. My actions for God were limited to being kind to others and respectful of God, but I never really bothered to know who he was. Looking back, I simply relegated Jesus to my back pocket like a spare twenty. I never knew when I might need Him, but it was not today. That day finally arrived when I got the phone call.
The call came to me at my office, and it hit me hard. I was told that my Dad just suffered a severe stroke and was going into a coma, and the Doctor was asking me to fly back to Illinois because it "Didn't look good." Reeling from the shock, the only thing I could do was close my eyes tightly and pray to "Hang on Dad, I'll be there soon!" Well, it wasn't just one day when I really needed God; it was actually five days at the hospital when I began to earnestly and humbly seek Christ. I did not realize how powerful Christ's promise of salvation was until later.
I prayed for my Dad's comfort and for my own as I braced myself for what I thought was going to be the worst experience of my life. I struggled with the tearing at my heart those five days, knowing I would be without my best friend. He was supposed to be my best man at my wedding; we were going to baseball spring training, and many other dreams were supposed to come true. They never would. I was having a lot of trouble letting him go. It didn't happen until the last night of our bedside vigil. As my family calmly planned his final arrangements, I came to understand what going home to heaven really meant. I realized I was being selfish. As much as I would miss my own Dad, I had not thought about how much he had missed his own father. After all, they had not been together since 1936 when my Dad was a boy of eleven years. It struck me like lightning!
One of the many profound meanings of salvation is being reunited with those we love.
My heart and my tears began to wail from the pent-up struggle and pain. I helplessly let go of my Dad into God's hands, knowing that I would see him again very soon, according to Christ's promise. After my weeping had subsided, I placed my hand on my father's heart. I repeated his favorite benediction, Numbers 6:24-26. 'May the Lord bless you and keep you: May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. Now and forevermore. Amen. My father died two minutes later, on March 26, 1991.
At precisely the same moment Dad passed, I felt a rush of heat around my heart and an overwhelming exuberance and peace feeling. I was enraptured. The rush that overcame me emotionally and physically is still awkward and difficult to explain, but it was beautiful! Instead of being painfully sad, it was the happiest moment of my life. I was filled with so much joy my jaws hurt from holding back the smile, so I wouldn't offend my family. I wanted to bust out, shouting! But all I could say as I held up my mom and my sister was, "Dad's in heaven."
There it was. A straightforward and simple statement. "Dad's in heaven." For me, it's a double entendre. The only way I can repay either of them, my earthly father, or my Heavenly Father, for what they have done for me is to serve Jesus with all that I am. I'm not about to face either one of them without giving everything I've got within me to the One who paid for it all!
And so my call began.