Posted on : Thursday April 21, 2022

SALISBURY, Md. — Saturday’s a “happen” night, right? It is at Compass Church (CC) in Salisbury!

The church plant started on March 6, 2021, meeting at Allen Memorial Church in Salisbury, and has continued to grow strong. In fact, leaders expected the first service to be just the core team and maybe a few others, but to the amazement of the leaders, 135 people showed up. Pastor Mark Thomas said, “We were supposed to have a few soft launches and get squared away, but people were excited about the vision.” Thomas said he and his team understood what the crowd meant— this wasn’t the soft launch they anticipated. “We thought, ‘it starts tonight!’”

Kip Grangier holds up a sign during Compass Church’s one-year anniversary celebration. Grangier made a decision to follow Christ and was baptized at Compass Church. He had never been a part of a church family before he began attending Compass. Now, he and his fiance regularly attend services. Pastor Mark Thomas and Grangier were childhood friends who played baseball together. They recently reconnected and Thomas, as well as others from the church, invited Grangier to CC and he accepted the invitation and Christ! (photo by Wendy Williams)

The name “Compass Church,” Thomas explained, refers to pointing people to Jesus, and the church does that in a variety of ways. One is intentionally meeting on Saturday evenings. Thomas shared that CC’s vision is to reach families with kids. Church leadership realized, however, that many families in their community are busy on Sundays. They have children who play sports and parents who work on the weekends. Some made intentional decisions to stay home together on Sunday mornings. CC’s 6 p.m. Saturday services opened a door for these families, and they walked in.

Thomas is thrilled at what God is doing. “About 30% of those in attendance are kids and youth, which is pretty cool,” he said excitedly. “And, we have grown 25% since January 1.” Reflecting on the church’s beginning, Thomas said before launching CC, the core team that planted Compass took time to pray to ensure that meeting on Saturdays was God’s will. “We all felt clear that this is indeed what the Lord was calling us to do, and He has blessed and honored that.”

Compass Church also emphasizes connections. Since November, they doubled their small groups from five to eleven, and those groups are doing the bulk of the church outreach. “Seventy-five percent of our outreach is through our small groups,” Thomas said. “We preach and practice that we don’t want to be a church of consumers but contributors.”

The small groups enjoy fellowship, Bible study, and prayer. At least quarterly, they’re “on mission,”  connecting with the community. These activities include feeding ministries, helping schools, and being active in local neighborhoods doing outreaches with food and bounce houses. And while serving, they’re getting to know people, inviting them to CC, and sharing the gospel as the Holy Spirit leads. Remarkably, the church, including small groups, is on target for 40 outreaches by April 30.

CC members are especially excited to be sponsoring a local T-Ball team that starts this weekend. The league leaders even invited Thomas to open the season with prayer. The sponsorship actually goes above and beyond the norm. “We financially help them, but also our small groups will take turns cheering the kids on and bringing sports drinks, water, and fruit for the team. That is to build rapport, relationship, and the opportunity to invite people to church and tell them about Jesus.” Before even starting, the church’s excitement about those plans prompted three newcomers to the church. Thomas said church members had invited people to worship, but what prompted these particular friends to visit was hearing about how much the church is doing in the community, especially regarding the T-ball league. “They were impressed that we didn’t just sponsor the team but that we were also bringing snacks and drinks — they were blown away! They said, ‘We didn’t think about going to a church, but you sound awesome. We’re going to check you out.’”

Compass Church members distributed about 90 bags of food during a drive-up distribution during a Sharing the Harvest ministry in partnership with SonRise Church and  Maryland Food Bank. (photo by Wendy Williams)

Church members also occasionally help at Crown Sports Center in Fruitland. Thomas said it’s a great local gathering place. On any given Sunday, hundreds of families play soccer, hockey, and lacrosse. Earlier this month, the church assisted with the center’s Easter egg hunt and served over 500 children. The Crown Sports event coordinator was appreciative and commented to Thomas that they couldn’t have had the egg hunt without the church’s help.

Mark said the church is growing in maturity as well as numerically. They witnessed ten people make confessions of faith, and they baptized ten believers. Additionally, he reported church giving has increased. “As a pastor, that’s encouraging,” Mark shared, adding that it reflects strong spiritual growth as people surrender their lives, including trusting their finances, to Jesus. Mark shared another huge blessing, “God is already raising up two church planters.”

In addition to the unique outreach and ministry opportunities Saturday meetings provide, Thomas explained it has also been logistically beneficial. As a new plant, they needed a place to meet. They had a list of churches to call, but Thomas and his wife, Shannon, felt led to start with Allen Memorial Church Pastor William “Bill” Warren. Warren and his leaders were kind and supportive, providing an opportunity for Compass to meet and pay “very low rent.” CC members are grateful and have strived to give back to AMC, providing a sound technician when needed, power-washing the building, and helping with AMC’s food ministry.

Thomas said that in addition to AMC and Bill Warren, he’s thankful to the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Executive Director Michael Crawford for his support and encouragement; and to BCM/D Church Planting Catalyst Jamie Caldwell and Church Planting Coach Phil Gifford. Additionally, he is appreciative of the North American Mission Board, and the Eastern Baptist Association.

“God has been good—it has been awesome—the past year has been a whirlwind…..God is moving on the Eastern Shore! We are going to continue to be on mission for the Lord as we ‘point people to Jesus’ and plant churches that plant churches!”

Sharon Mager is a BCMD communications specialist and BaptistLIFE correspondent.

Feature Photo: Mark Thomas shares a message on Saturday night at Compass Church. (photo by Wendy Williams)