50 Years of marriage and ministry

In August of 2025 Paul and Darla Johnson will be celebrating 50 years of marriage and ministry. In a decision that will surprise no one that knows them well, they aren’t retiring or even slowing down all that much. So, while 50 years of marriage and ministry is not a finish line for them it is an incredible and special marker of a life devoted to God and to one another.

To celebrate 50 Years of Marriage and Ministry our dream at Aspen Grove is to give them something they would really love. And what they really love are things that are God sized, eternal, and demonstrate Trinitarian love. So, we want to recruit 50 church planting couples and give each of them $200,000 to start the church that God is putting it on their heart to start in the United States. That would be one church started for each year of marriage and ministry that Paul and Darla have had so far. 

In order to give them a gift like this we need your help (probably literally you whoever you are reading this, even if you have no idea how or why you are reading this right now).


  • In Matthew chapter 9 Jesus tells his disciples that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” And, he doesn’t tell them to recruit and he doesn't tell them to network and he doesn't tell them to raise money. He tells them to pray. Jesus says, “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest fields.” One thing that has marked Paul and Darla’s last 15 years of ministry is dependent prayer. Strategy and planning and process are still important. Recruiting, networking, and raising money is a part of this gift. But, the center of it is dependent prayer and faith. As a part of this gift to them, please join us in praying that God will send out 50 workers into the harvest fields he has already prepared through this gift. And join us in praying bigger than that, that God would send out workers into fields he is preparing that we don’t know about but you do, into fields that none of us are aware of but that God is already preparing. Let’s sow more prayers than we raise money and watch confidently as God works! 

    Email drew@mercy-hill.com with the subject 10,000,000 prayers and you will get aided to our monthly prayer chain sharing prayer requests and answered prayers as we go on this journey. 

  • We’ve created a special fund called 50 for 50 where you can make a donation of any amount. The suggested donation is $500 for a simple and beautiful reason — we’ve been told the average pastor will influence 10,000 people in their career. $5,000,000 ÷ 10,000 = $500 and $5,000,000 will get us half way to our goal with individual donations. If Paul and Darla have had an impact on your life join us in making a contribution to this gift. If you don't know Paul and Darla but you believe in the things they believe in join us in making a contribution to this gift. 


  • Do you know a couple who remind you of Paul and Darla? Do you know a ministry leader who is ridiculously committed to God, to his/her spouse, and to evangelism? Maybe they have never thought about church planting but this message is a nudge that God uses for you to give them another nudge to pray and that prayer leads them to join our team of church starters. Check out and share the rest of this 50 for 50 page for more details and direct interested people to the form at the bottom of this page.  

  • We are hoping to recruit 20 churches that will give $100,000, 30 churches that will give $50,000, 40 churches that will give $25,000 and 50 churches that will give $10,000. That is 140 churches and $5,000,000! Wow, we’ve got a lot of connections to make. If you are on the leadership side of a church the simplest and most helpful yes would be for you to think and pray about how much you can give and how much God is asking you to give and then say yes. 

    Email drew@mercy-hill.com to start a conversation or to let us know where you're from and how much you are going to give and we can work out all of the logistics. 

    In addition to supporting this gift through the church budget we would also love it if you would champion this opportunity in your church and invite individuals to participate on their own as well. One way would be to share a brief video we created explaining this opportunity and spend 4-6 weeks inviting people to participate. We’ve got print materials in the works for you to use that will help with the story telling, reminding, and all of that. Some of this will help raise money - which is super important - but we think it will be even more helpful when it comes to getting people to pray, getting people to help recruit or be recruited, and getting people at your church excited about yet another big thing that God is up to in our world.

  • We are going to need lots of coaches with experience who are ridiculously committed to God and who will be ridiculously committed to church starters that at times will break the mold. Is that you? Send drew@mercy-hill.com an email and let us know you want to coach, why you think you'd be a good coach, any experience you have in coaching church starts or something adjacent to that.

  • We need 50 individuals/couples/teams to say yes in order to make this dream a reality. The first step in becoming a planter with us is prayer. Spend some time making sure planting a church and planting a church with us is a calling and not just a good opportunity. Then, fill out the form at the bottom of the page and we'll be in touch with next steps. We want to work with people like Paul and Darla who are ridiculously committed to God (as individuals and together), who are ridiculously committed to each other (if they are married), and who want people to meet Jesus through a church God has put on their heart to start. 


Fine Print

There are only two rules.

And a bit more fine print.

In order to be a part of 50 for 50, (1) Planters agree to become a part of Converge. (2) Planters agree to being coached. 

If we get more than 50 qualified applicants we are going to pray and we believe God will help us discern. Right now the "we" of prayer and discernment are people from the Aspen Grove Network.

If you want to be a part of the we, let's talk (drew@mercy-hill.com). We're all about widening the circle.

If we get more money and we have more planters, we'll start more churches. Any leftover money will be donated to Converge church planting efforts.

While we are in the process of fundraising and recruiting we will keep all of the incoming money in a specially designated fund. Aspen Grove is going to cover all of the expenses related to the fundraising.

With the input of the coach we are going to let the church planters use the money however they want (empowerment and trust). Who knows, they might try something that has never been tried and we'll all learn from it. 

Rule #1


Paul and Darla are above and beyond sort of people. They are generous and they believe in and testify to a God who provides. So we want your recruiting of people and your gift of money to be above and beyond your current plans and even your current dreams for church starting and leadership development as an individual or as a community. We’re doing it too. This is just one part of our dreams and plans related to church starting and leadership development and facility expansion and we are planning to pursue all of them simultaneously in an uncertain economic, political, and global environment. If you think of it, times of uncertainty are actually awesome times to start churches and to join God in calling people to Himself. 

Rule #2


We believe so much in assessing the fitness and readiness of church planters and the filter of Godly wisdom it inserts into the process of recruiting, empowering, training, and releasing a church planting couple. However, for this gift we want to ask you to use a different filter. Paul and Darla started their first church when they were 20 — we don’t want to say that only 20 year olds can plant churches but it feels like we are once again sort of in a spot where we are saying that they can’t. So, to honor Paul and Darla, don’t look at age or any of the usual limiting factors. Instead, find couples like Paul and Darla who are ridiculously committed to God (as individuals and together), who are ridiculously committed to each other, and who want people to meet Jesus through a church God has put on their heart to start. Pray that God would lift off every filter and replace them with those two commitments as you pray and plan about who you could recruit for this project. Wouldn’t it be cool if some of these 50 couples aren’t even Christians right now as you are reading this!

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