Mayo Sowell and his wife Kai have taken a unique path to ministry. Working alongside Dino Rizzo and ARC (Association of Related Churches), the couple launched LIIV Atlanta in September of 2022 and serve as senior pastors there.
Mayo is a former professional football player who says he actually met Jesus while he was serving a prison sentence for selling drugs. When he met Jesus there, he told Kai that he thought he was called to plant churches, and she said she would help him do it.
But, planting churches was nothing they had done before, and they didn’t know where to start. Luckily, he exited prison with the Church of the Highlands, where he learned from one of the best, Pastor Chris.
Called Back to Atlanta
When Mayo Sowell and his wife were getting started in church planting life, they avoided Atlanta at first — which is the city where they lived when Mayo was arrested. They went to California, then Philadelphia, but realized God was calling them back to Atlanta.
They wanted to be part of the influx of influencers in the city and region — from hip-hop artists to professional sports teams, to major Fortune 500 and Fortune 1,000 companies.
Most of all, though, Mayo Sowell says they wanted to plant an authentic church that loves God and loves people, operates with a level of integrity, and is a place that people can continue to trust.
“Our hope is that we can disciple people and teach people how to leverage their influence to pull others up and push them forward,” Mayor Sowell said. “Ultimately, we want our city to experience the victory of Jesus Christ, period.”
The Vital Role of Serving
As the founder of Servolution and author of “Serve Your City,” Dino Rizzo has first-hand experience with the vital role that serving has in ministry. It’s something that Mayo Sowell holds near and dear to his heart as well.
A huge part of successful church planting, Mayo Sowell said, is helping people take the hand of Jesus because they need that before they can receive His words. The Sowells did that by becoming a resource for the community they were serving.
But, to do that, they relied on resources from others — from the Church of the Highlands, from ARC (Association of Related Churches), from Dino Rizzo himself, and from many others they met along the way.
Relying on Counsel
Mayo Sowell emphasizes that one of the most important things he did before he started his church in Atlanta was counsel with Pastor Chris, Pastor Dino Rizzo, and others. He prayed with them and asked for their insight.
In doing so, Mayo realized it wasn’t yet time to go to Atlanta, and it’s a good thing he didn’t.
Three weeks after that story, the COVID-19 pandemic began. And then, not long after, the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis happened. At the time, Atlanta was a very polarizing city.
“The church would have not happened on the tail of COVID and in the midst of Mr. George Floyd,” Mayo Sowell explained. “It would have made me force, ‘Am I this or am I that?’ But, because I submitted to spiritual counsel… Everybody agreed, it’s now time. And now, that’s what you get, LIIV Atlanta.”
Dino Rizzo recalls a story of something his father-in-law often tells him that is pertinent to Mayo Sowell’s story. He explains that his father-in-law tells him that if you have someone who can’t handle a no, then they shouldn’t steward your yes.
In other words, seek counsel from people you trust when church planting, and open your heart and your mind to the possibility that God’s answer to what you’re searching for at that time might be “no” or “not now.”
About Dino Rizzo
Dino Rizzo, a 35-year ministry veteran, co-founded Healing Place Church with his wife, DeLynn, where he served as senior pastor for two decades. Through his passion for inspiring believers to serve their communities, Dino Rizzo founded Servolution and authored “Serve Your City.” As Executive Director of ARC (Association of Related Churches), Rizzo oversees the planting of over 1,000 churches worldwide and is on the Senior Leadership Team at Church of the Highlands.