Easter Sunday will see the public launch of two new Grace Brethren campuses – an emerging trend in church planting that expands the reach of the gospel while making the best use of God-given resources for administrative purposes. Both congregations, while equally proclaiming the gospel, have different histories in very distinctive communities.
After nearly a year of planning, the Licking Heights campus of Grace Fellowship, Pickerington, Ohio (Keith Minier, lead pastor), will go public on Sunday. Led by Jeremiah Olson, the campus is meeting at Licking Heights High School in Pataskala, about a 25-minute drive from the main campus in Pickerington. The communities are on the east side of the Columbus metropolitan area, a region with more than two million people.
In Lancaster, Pa., the former Grace Brethren Church on Rohrerstown Road will greet their community publicly for the first time as a campus of Grace Church in nearby Lititz, Pa. (Ivanildo Trindade, lead pastor). Both are part of south-central Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, a region of more than 500,000 people that is known for quaint farms, Amish fare, and historic sites.
Grace Fellowship, Licking Heights Campus, Ohio
Olson, who arrived in central Ohio four months ago to lead the campus, is beginning with about 390 members from the Pickerington church who have committed to launch the ministry. While the setting may be different than the Pickerington campus, where approximately 3,000 people worship on Sunday, Olson said that many steps have been taken to minimize that difference.
“It doesn’t feel like a high school,” he stressed. Draping and piping will segment off some spaces and signage will not only provide directional information, but also reinforce the Grace Fellowship brand. Worship will be held in the high school theatre, which has been upgraded to a state-of-the-art concert venue, with sermons via video from Grace Fellowship’s lead pastor, Keith Minier. (The newly installed equipment, provided by the church, will stay with the school when this “season” is over, according to Olson.)
The group at Pataskala has been meeting for worship for the past three weeks. They have worked out any problems and trained volunteers in the various aspects of the ministry – from parking lot attendants to child care workers and the many others needed to make services go smoothly.
“A lot of people are super excited,” said Olson, who served as worship pastor at Grace Community Church, a Grace Brethren congregation in Goshen, Ind. (Jim Brown, senior pastor), for more than 14 years. Those involved in the campus have been provided with invitation cards that they are using to encourage friends and neighbors to attend.
He also anticipates visibility with an event that is popular with those in the Pickerington community – Eggsplosion. The church has scheduled two helicopter egg drops – both on late Friday afternoon (March 25) in Pataskala and Pickerington.
It is an event that has become associated with Grace Fellowship in Pickerington. “We expect the Pickerington event to attract five- to six-thousand people,” notes Olson. Between the two sites, with programming to begin within 15 minutes of the other, they expect seven- to eight-thousand people to attend.
Any prayer requests for the weekend?
“This will be our first chance to interact with people who have heard something about Jesus, but never responded,” noted Olson. “They will come here to experience God in a way that is, hopefully, fresh and different. Pray that we’ll put our best foot forward,” he added, noting this is a great opportunity to share the gospel.
Grace Church, Lancaster Campus, Pennsylvania
“We are excited to see what God is going to do!” said Scott Becker, campus pastor at Lancaster.
Last year, the existing Lancaster congregation gifted their facilities to the Lititz church with the focus on launching a new ministry. After more than 50 years of ministering in their community, they recognized it was time for a change. The relationship was formalized in January as property was legally transferred.
The past few months have been spent updating the interior look of the building and the exterior signs. The fellowship hall has been transformed into a modern, welcoming café.
Most importantly, the endeavor has been covered with prayer. “We have a great prayer team that has been meeting twice weekly to commit the work to the Lord, provide for the physical and spiritual needs of the projects, and to guide us through the entire process,” noted Becker, who spent the previous 13 years as a church planter in Ireland. “God is answering and we feel like He has already started doing some great things as a result of all of the prayer.”
The Lancaster group continued to meet through the transition, albeit under the radar, and have added members of the Lititz campus who call Lancaster their home. Becker, whose ministry in Ireland had been supported by the Lititz church, joined the team in the fall and has been leading worship services, including preaching, since that time.
Visitors to the “new” Grace Church in Lancaster will notice an updated worship style and restructured children’s ministries. “Leading up to the launch, we have already seen some new young families becoming a part of the ministry here,” he noted.
Part of Sunday’s service will include an installation of Becker as the pastor. Elders from the Lititz church will be on hand to pray with he and his wife, Rebekah, at the end of the service.
“We are hopeful that the promotion and outreach we have done and the new road signage will draw the attention of our community,” added Becker. The congregation hopes that people’s lives will be transformed when encountering the Gospel message as they see and experience God’s real love and real life in action through the church.
“We have done what we can do, now we are waiting to see what God will do!”
How can we pray for you? “For God’s strength and for His Spirit to be moving powerfully in the hearts of all who are present,” answered Becker.