Las Vegas’ resident population is estimated to be around 630,000. Of that number, 92 percent do not know Jesus. The numbers underscore the reputation by which this place is known — “Sin City” and “The Entertainment Capital of the World” — but a new church plant is at work to bring transformation.
Leading the way are Las Vegas natives Heiden and Neena Ratner and the team at WALK Church. “We believe that Jesus has placed a primary calling on all of our lives and that is to make disciples of all nations,” said Heiden Ratner.
Planting a church, leading, sharing the Good News — it isn’t what he planned to do with his life, but now he can’t imagine doing anything else.
While growing up, Heiden Ratner’s dreams consisted mostly of playing Division 1 college basketball. And he was on his way, playing as a guard for James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, when an invitation to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting changed everything.
“It was during that time that I realized I was missing something. … It was there that God really began to draw me to Himself.”
When he went home for the summer, Heiden Ratner thought he would try starting a small group Bible study. “I’d never been to church in Las Vegas in my life. And so I just decided to hit people up that I knew.”
Neena, whom he had known from high school, was among those he invited to attend the study.
“That’s where we connected again, and I saw something change in her life, as well as mine.”
After they got married, the Ratners eventually returned to Las Vegas, and Heiden Ratner kept leading Bible studies for friends and former teammates.
“I really sensed God placing His finger on my heart, saying, ‘I’m calling you to something different. I’m calling you to something bigger … but it’s going to look more like full-time ministry. It’s going to look more like a church plant in the city.’”
Heiden Ratner began studying as a church planting apprentice at his home church, Hope Church, and then began forming a launch team that included people from around the city.
“I love this city. I love the people in this city. … But more than anything I love what God is doing in this city,” said Heiden Ratner.
WALK Church launched Sept. 20, 2015. The number of believers who gather in the middle school cafeteria where the church meets on Sundays is growing, currently averaging around 180 to 200 each week. Rooted in Colossians 2:6, the name of WALK Church points to the foundational directive to walk in the ways of Christ.
WALK Church is all about getting out into the city. Their small groups are dubbed “charge groups” and they meet in homes around Las Vegas throughout the week. People are charged to get involved in the areas about which they are passionate.
Every move the Ratners and WALK Church make is about expanding the gospel into “Sin City.” They want to plant more churches in the city, meet more needs and give lost, hopeless people a place to find support. In the midst of mesmerizing sights and sounds and the influx of millions of tourists, this church is on a mission to make Jesus known.
The Ratners are church planting missionaries featured in the recent Week of Prayer for North American Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. Learn more about the Ratners at anniearmstrong.com. (Missions Mosaic, NAMB)