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Urban Hope Conference

How Gospel Churches Bring New Hope To Forgotten Neighborhoods

The Urban Hope Conference is all about planting gospel-rich churches in forgotten urban neighborhoods. Join us as we talk about preaching and theology, trauma and trafficking, discipleship and service.

The Urban Hope Conference focussed on planting gospel-rich churches in forgotten urban neighborhoods. Our speakers talked about preaching and theology, trauma and trafficking, discipleship and service.


Hopelessness falls heavy on the neighborhoods of our inner cities. 2020 has only re-emphasized and increased the struggles of urban poverty: violence, addiction, inequities and injustice, neglect. By God’s grace, there is much good in these communities as well: loyalty, rich relationships, care and perseverance. Yet in many respects, these neighborhoods are largely forgotten by church planting efforts.

Where does hope come from? Where is the power to make a difference? It comes from Jesus Christ and his gospel, through local churches filled with love and truth.

The Urban Hope Conference is all about planting gospel-rich churches in forgotten urban neighborhoods. Join us as we talk about preaching and theology, trauma and trafficking, discipleship and service.

There is hope. It’s found in the cross of Christ—the one who promised to build his church. Join us as we learn, grow, and work together to plant churches of hope in forgotten neighborhoods.

Featured Speakers

D.A. Horton

D.A. Horton serves as the Program Director for Intercultural Studies and Assistant Professor at California Baptist University. He is also an Associate Teaching Pastor at The Grove Community Church in Riverside, CA. He and his wife Elicia have been married for 17 years and have three children. D.A. is working on his PhD dissertation in Applied Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned his B.S. in Biblical Studies at Calvary Bible College and his Master’s degree in Christian Studies from Calvary Theological Seminary. He has authored several books with his most recent, Intensional: Kingdom Ethnicity in a Divided World, published through NavPress.

Doug Logan

Dr. Doug Logan, Jr. serves as the President of Grimké Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, where he also serves as the Dean of the Grimké School of Urban Ministry. He is the Associate Director of Acts 29. He also serves as the Pastor for Church Planting at Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia. Doug coaches several urban church planters primarily across the United States. He also preaches across the world, training church planters and consulting churches on developing diverse pastoral leadership teams and churches. Doug has earned his Master’s Degree in Church Planting and received a Doctorate of Divinity Degree at Lancaster Bible College in Pennsylvania where he serves on the Corporation Board. Doug is President and Founder of the On the Block Collective, an urban ministry resource collaborative. He is the author of On the Block: Developing a Biblical Picture for Missional Engagement. Doug and his wife, Angel, have been married since 1996 and have three adult sons and three grandchildren.

Sharon Dickens

Sharon Dickens is the Director of Women’s Ministry for 20schemes and a member of the Ministry Team at Niddrie Community Church. She has over 20 years of experience working in the community primarily with families and people who have experienced or are at risk of homelessness. She is also the author of Unexceptional: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things Through God (Ten of Those).

Tony Merida

Tony Merida is Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C. He’s also the Dean of Grimké Seminary and Director for Theological Training for Acts 29. Tony has written several books including The Christ-Centered Expositor and multiple volumes in the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series. He’s happily married to Kimberly, and they have five children.

Matthew Spandler-Davison

Matthew Spandler-Davison serves as the Executive Director of 20schemes and Director of Church in Hard Places with Acts 29. He is originally from Stonehaven, Scotland, and is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen and was awarded a doctorate by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Prior to ministry Matthew served in the British Coastguard and worked for the Scottish Parliament. He is married to Tracy and has two daughters and two family dogs. Matthew is currently the pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church, in Bardstown, KY.

Tyler St. Clair

Tyler St. Clair is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Church Detroit in Detroit, Michigan. He also serves as the network lead for Church in Hard Places in Acts 29’s U.S. Midwest Network. Tyler is married to his best friend, Elita, and they have five amazing kids.

Mez McConnell

Mez McConnell is the senior pastor of Niddrie Community Church and Director of 20schemes. Mez is the author of numerous books, including The Creaking on the Stairs: Finding Faith in God Through Childhood Abuse (Christian Focus) and Is There Anybody Out There?: A Journey from Despair to Hope (Christian Focus). He’s married to Miriam and has two daughters. You can follow him on Twitter.

Cindy Zulker

Cindy Zulker serves as an advisor to NEU Church Planting. She has degrees in counseling (B.A. and M.A.) and studied theology and church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Cindy currently serves Day One (Providence, RI) as an advocate and first-responder for sexually trafficked and abused women. She also leads The Awareness Project, a group of women seeking to bring awareness of sex trafficking in RI to men, women and children around the state.

Jonathan Reid

Jonathan Reid is the founder and executive director of Fostering Hope New England based in Providence, RI. Fostering Hope empowers churches and individuals to care for children and families impacted by foster care with a vision of ZERO children in foster care waiting for a safe, supported family. Jonathan is a trained practitioner in the Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) and Trauma Competent Caregiver (TCC) models of trauma-informed care and has trained hundreds of families, professionals, and church volunteers. He is passionate about helping churches serve their communities with greater trauma-informed compassion and competency. Jonathan and his wife Virginia have fostered 30 children including 6 who have become part of their “forever” family.

Rich Fulton

Rich Fulton serves as the Director of Special Projects and Events at NEU Church Planting. Rich is a life long New Englander. Born and raised Connecticut, Rich received as BS in Business Administration from Castleton State College in Vermont. Rich spent many years in business management, then participated as a founding elder at Godspeed Church in East Providence, RI, where he serves as Associate Pastor. Rich and his wife, Susan, live in Seekonk, MA.

Joel Kurz

Joel Kurz serves as lead pastor of The Garden Church in the Upton neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Additionally, Joel is the director of ONE HOPE, a ministry seeking to develop and train leaders, pastors, and plant churches in poor urban communities. Joel is married to Jess and together they have four children. The Kurz family lives in west Baltimore.

Susan Fulton

Susan Fulton serves as co-Director of Coaching and Care for NEU Church Planting. Susan graduated from the University of Hartford with a BA in Sociology and from St. Joseph’s College with a Bachelors in Social Work. She recently completed classes at the Professional Christian Coaching Institute to become a Christian Life Coach. Susan is passionate about discipling and coaching women involved in ministry and urban church planting helping them to thrive in the roles God has called them to.

John Ames

John Ames is the church planting pastor of what is now Faith Community Church in Providence, Rhode Island. He received an M.Div with an urban ministry concentration of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Missiology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to serving in Providence, John worked in church planting and urban ministry in both Boston and Waltham. Having grown up internationally, he embraced many global perspectives including a love for soccer. John is married to the love of his life, Jenny, and they have a seven year old son named Micah and a three year old daughter named Mikayla.

Jonathan Lugo

Jonathan Lugo Estrada is a Church Planting Apprentice at NEU Church Planting with experience as a church planter in San German, Puerto Rico from 2015-2018 as well as in a senior pastorate for the last 2 years. As a church planter, Jonathan was focused on reaching communities of poverty and the formation of new disciples. Married to Tereangeli, Jonathan and his wife have three kids. He is pursuing his Master of Theology in Divinity and Bible at the Seminario Teológico de Puerto Rico.

Jim Davis

Jim Davis serves as co-Director of Coaching and Care at NEU Church Planting, encouraging and meeting with church planters, pastors, and inner-city workers and their families to help them sustain balance through the challenges of urban ministry. Jim grew up in inner-city Providence, and after 27 years of a successful career with Blount Fine Foods, he entered full-time ministry, serving first at Barrington Baptist Church as the Associate Pastor and Director of Visitation, and then for eleven years as the missionary pastor of Faith Community Church, Providence.

Tim Zulker

Tim Zulker is the Executive Director of NEU Church Planting. In 2003 he founded what would become NEU Church Planting with his wife Cindy with a vision to see the church in New England grow through evangelism and church planting. He was one of the planters of Godspeed Church in East Providence, RI in 2005. Prior to founding The Philip Center, Tim had been in campus ministry, serving with Princeton Christian Fellowship at Princeton University from 1983 to 1994 and then with Cru at Brown University from 1994 to 2003. Tim holds degrees in English Literature (MA) from Boston College and Christian Thought (MA) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.



7 PM Evangelism: Speaking the Message of Hope | Mez McConnell

7:40 PM Panel Discussion: Don't Just Recruit Planters. Care for Them | Matthew Spandler-Davison, Jim Davis, Susan Fulton, Rich Fulton

8:15 PM Preaching Gospel Hope | Tony Merida


12 PM Theology as Hope for the Inner City | Doug Logan

12:50 PM The Cross and Ethnic Conciliation | D. A. Horton

1:30 PM Breakout Sessions:

  • Discipling Women in the Inner City | Sharon Dickens
  • Discipling Youth in the Inner City | Tyler St. Clair    
  • Starting with a Missionary Mindset | John Ames        
  • Why Your Ecclesiology Matters, or Don’t Forget Your Documents! | Joel Kurz
  • Sex Trafficking and the Inner City Church | Cindy Zulker
  • Why Trauma-Informed Training is Important for Gospel Centered Churches | Jonathan Reid
  • Developing Community Relationships for Your Church Plant (Spanish) | Jonathan Lugo

2:50 PM Why We Must Plant Inner City Churches | Matthew Spandler-Davison

3:30 PM Wrap-up and Conclusion


  • Until Dec. 31st: Early Registration for $39
  • Starting Jan. 1st: Regular Registration for $49


We are hosting this conference entirely online. Registered attendees will receive each receive a link to log on to the conference and participate. More information will be sent to attendees during the week before the conference.

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