By David Hall, pastor of Oak Grove Church, Bel Air, Md.
Three years ago Oak Grove Church entered some turbulent waters. We went through a “mini-split” in our church fellowship and as a result, eventually lost about 75 members. This created functional and emotional difficulties for our church, difficulties that had repercussions throughout the life of the church. Naturally, it affected attendance, and that also affected giving to support the ministry of the church. In addition, it impacted the relational equity within the church and affected “Body life” among God’s people. Navigating these waters were treacherous.
However, about a year later, while we were still dealing with the ripple effects of this turbulence, our minister of young adults shared with me that he believed it was God’s timing for him to start a new church. To be honest, the timing concerned me, but at least I assumed that the location of the new church would be a “safe” distance away from Oak Grove, not taking additional members and contributions.
Boy, was I wrong.
This new church he was planning would be only six and a half miles away! How would you react to such news? Personally, my first thoughts were not of the new church and those it could reach. I knew that as a church ourselves, we were just coming out of the setback of a split and were still feeling that we were a long way from recovery. Now our minister of young adults was telling me that most likely an additional 45 to 60 people would be leaving with him to start this new church a few miles up the Interstate.
Setback number two.
To be sure, I believed that God was at work and He would have us to start this new church. I was certainly not opposed to this ministry effort or to our minister of young adults in wanting to pursue it. But there were so many questions:
• How would we be able to run our ministries without these core people?
• What kind of impact would starting a new church have on our budget?
• How many people would leave to start this new church?
I cared not only that we survived, but that our own church thrived. But there was also tremendous faith; this strongly followed, replacing my fears with the affirmation of God. I knew that if our Lord was in this, He would be faithful to provide for our needs as well as those of the new church. I was reminded that God’s vision never lacks for His provision. So, as a congregation we pledged our prayers, our missionaries, and our gifts.
This past spring our church became a parent! Epic Community Church of Aberdeen, Md., launched in March of this year with Brian Watts, our former minister of young adults, as the lead pastor. It was wildly successful. On their first Sunday they had over 300 in attendance, the most ever at a Launch Service in the history of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, so I am told. The impact has been significant…lives have been saved, families rescued, the community beginning to be transformed. To God be the glory! We are thankful for “our baby,” this new church, and all that God is doing through it.
Actually, I expected that and was not surprised at the new church’s success in Aberdeen. But the rest of the story did surprise me.
God took our own “setbacks” at Oak Grove Church repeatedly and turned them into comebacks. He has brought over 100 new members to Oak Grove since September of last year. We are baptizing individuals on a monthly basis. We are reaching our budget. We started a Classical Christian School in September. He gave us back more than we gave away. God’s vision NEVER lacks for His provision.
To be honest with you, initially I was not for this new church plant locating so close to us, the parent church. All I could see were potential problems and difficulties for us. However, not only did it enable Epic to grow—a new church in a new place—but it also grew us at Oak Grove, numerically and spiritually. As a result, I would not hesitate to do it again. In fact, in a recent sermon I shared that I wanted us at Oak Grove to start more new churches.
So, here we “grow” again….in faith and in service to extend the Kingdom of God.
Dr. David A. Hall serves as the Senior Minister at Oak Grove Church in Bel Air, Md. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (410) 838-9898.