By Sharon Mager
CALLAWAY, Md. — Parenting — it’s exciting, thrilling, and joyful, but no parent will ever say the joys come
without hard work and pain. Seeing children grow, flex their wings, and leave the nest brings a bittersweet smile to the parents, but seeing children thrive on their own, in the will of God, brings joy like no other.
So it is with church planting, as Leonardtown Baptist Church (LBC), in Maryland, can attest.
LBC planted Redeeming Grace Baptist Church (RGBC) in Callaway, Maryland in 2009 and today — a decade later — the church has over 250 members, they bought ten acres, and they have started a building campaign.
Mark Dooley, the senior pastor of Leonardtown Baptist Church in 2009, shares that LBC was growing steadily, filling up two services each Sunday.
Church leaders prayed, seeking God’s wisdom. They desired to reach more people with the Gospel in their community, which had few evangelical churches. They could have spent millions of dollars to expand, Dooley explains, but the leadership felt that wasn’t what God wanted them to do.
“The decision (for the new campus) was more from both a theological and practical conviction,” Dooley says. The plant was driven by a strategic decision. ”Instead of, ‘here we are, y’all come to us,’ we decided, ‘let’s go plant sites where the people are’.”
Leonardtown Church sent out a core group of more than 120 people to start a campus church that they deemed would eventually become independent of them as the parent church. LBC Associate Pastor John Fields took on the role of campus pastor, and the new congregation met at LBC’s Christian Life Center for four months before moving to King’s Christian Academy, in Callaway, Maryland, less than ten miles south of LBC.
Fields left a year later to pastor a church in Utah, and the church called Adam Polk as associate pastor of LBC and campus pastor at RGBC.
Polk grew up in Tennessee, in an area he calls “the buckle of the Bible Belt,” a place teeming with Baptist churches. After graduating from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, Polk pastored a church in his hometown for over three years before he answered the call to move to Leonardtown.
When considering the campus and the location, Polk saw the great need for more of an evangelical witness in the heavily Catholic St. Mary’s County and felt drawn to the area. Polk says, “When I connected with Leonardtown — when I could hear and see their vision — it resonated with me.”
Over the last ten years, God has blessed RGBC, almost doubling their membership with an average of 220 people each Sunday. In 2015, they became independent from Leonardtown Baptist Church with a gift of $100,000 from LBC to move forward. RGBC purchased ten acres from King’s Christian Academy in 2018 and started a building campaign in February 2019 with a congregational commitment of over 1.3 million dollars. On April 28, their first “Big Give Sunday,” they collected over $124,000.00.
Polk is thankful for the continued growth they have witnessed, especially since their church is located near the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. “It’s a transient area,” Polk points out, and that affects the congregation with many people coming and going.
As a parent church, it took Leonardtown Baptist Church several years to rebuild, trying to sacrificially maintain established ministries while missing 120 active members. The loss wasn’t easy, admits Dooley. Many of the members sent by the church to RGBC were key leaders who left an obvious void, but the difficulty was to be expected, and God has provided. Over the years, other members stepped up to go through training and take on leadership roles, and God brought in new church attendees who plugged in and began to help.
Now LBC looks on proudly at their growing plant. Dooley is thrilled with the success of Redeeming Grace Baptist Church. Polk is happily leading the plant, now really a solid church, into their expanding future. One day, when God says they’re ready, RGBC will perhaps plant a church.
Life, in Christ, goes on.