EDMOND—It’s almost 10:30 on Sunday morning, Jan. 14. Already a gathering of early arrivers has assembled in the worship area. Many already have taken their seats. A line of cars file into the parking lot, unloading families, couples and singles of all ages who also make their way inside.

In the lobby area, small clusters of people are standing around chatting as they enjoy coffee and donuts. Parents check their

A wall of donuts welcomes newcomers to Grove Community church plant with an encouraging message, “Donut Worry Be Happy”

children into their classes, getting security tags for their kids and greeting their teachers. At 10:30 a.m. sharp in the sanctuary, the band strikes up, signaling that worship is about to begin with more than 250 souls present for the church service.

This scene isn’t unusual for a Sunday morning in the North Oklahoma City Metro. What is unusual is that a majority of the 250 people have never before assembled as a church. This is the launch day of Grove Community Church, now meeting weekly on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. at Heartland Middle School.

Edmond, Grove Community isn’t an overnight success, a long road led to this church launch.  Church Planter, Jonathan Baker explained, “I wrestled through the call to start a church for about seven years. For every valid excuse I had to not start a church, God not only challenged its veracity, but filled the doubtful corners of my mind with the reminder that obedience to God, glorifies Him, not ourselves.”

“Starting a new church is a spiritual endeavor,” said Alan Quigley, Mobilization Team leader for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). “It takes prayer and seeking God’s face. It requires a fervent heart for evangelism in the planter.

Grove Community Launch Team volunteers serve newcomers with age-appropriate children’s ministry.

“Planting a healthy church is hard work, and it involves the partnership between the planter and his wife. It impacts the entire family. Jonathan and Sarah came to the BGCO at a time of transition in our church planting strategy. The Lord led our team to reshape our process to help insure we plant healthy, sustainable and reproducing churches.

“We are pleased to see how the Lord has moved to confirm His will, by working through Grove Community leaders in this new launch. Our prayer is we can repeat similar successes many times and in areas all around the state. ”

The new Church Planting Group process described by Quigley, now requires church planting candidates to participate in a four-day Church Planting Assessment Center (CPAC). At CPAC, church planter candidates present their vision of church planting and demonstrate their aptitude and readiness for church planting in various exercises that are observed by a panel of experienced assessors.

In this case, 25 assessors considered the Bakers and eight other church planter couples and individuals at a CPAC at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center last year. At the end of the process, the Bakers received a recommendation to plant the church they proposed to start in the Northwest Oklahoma City area. They were then connected with training, coaching and strategic counsel from experienced church planters, with funding starting in September.

“The Church Planting Group helped our church plant by introducing me to leaders who are experienced with launching a large church plant,” Baker said. “We were blessed to have counsel from church planting strategist Steven Earp of Moore, Elevate, and our coach, Rusty Gunn of Sand Springs, Church That Matters.

“In addition, the BGCO facilitated our relationship with strategic training for large church launches provided through the Association of Related Churches (ARC). I am very grateful for all three of those relationships!”

BGCO Church Planting Group Specialist Jimmy Kinnaird said the goal is to set up the new church for success from the start. “The Bakers sensed the Lord calling them to an area of the Oklahoma City metro that is experiencing high growth where large launches are possible,” Kinnaird said. “This type of plant takes place on the growing edge of suburbs. Its unique appeal is that many people who are moving into these areas, churched and unchurched, are new and, therefore, open to new relationships, routines and opportunities.

Church Planting Pastor Jonathan Baker casts a vision for discipleship that is “Dangerous” enough to change the world at Edmond, Grove Community’s launch.

“The East Deer Creek/West Edmond area is growing at 8.2 percent, more than double the state’s average. We gladly affirmed the strategic plan created by the Grove Community leadership team and look forward to seeing a healthy, growing and multiplying church there.”

Baker credits the initial success of the church plant to the cooperative ministry of many partners. “We are not planting this church alone,” he said. “We are thankful for the Cooperative Program, the Oklahoma State Mission Offering, the BGCO Church Planting Group, along with our church multiplication sponsors and partners, Edmond, Waterloo Road; Mustang, Chisholm Heights  and Capital Association. They provide continued financial, prayer and other support during our planting phase.” 

The hard work of the plant also was shared by a large team of volunteers. “Our Launch Team essentially went through two phases or seasons,” Baker said. “It began with a small group of people to help establish the vision and plan. We referred to this group as our Leadership Team in the early days. We knew God was behind this through how He was developing this team. Each person came with an incredible story of how God drew them to this journey and with a primary gifting that was essential to our mission.

“This team worked hard to build the foundation of what Grove Community would become. We then began to reach out to others who sensed the call to make up our Launch Team.

“God continued to affirm us by adding to our group some incredible people. We ended up with 30 people on our Launch Team and wouldn’t be able to accomplish what took place on Launch Sunday without each and every one of them. We truly are blessed with some of the best people I have ever met serving alongside us.”

On Jan. 21, the new church continued to meet, as the launch team expected. “With the large launch strategy, it is expected to have a 50 percent drop in attendance after launch Sunday,” Baker said. “Many people show up that first week because they love you and want to support you. Some people come to try it, and it’s not the right fit for them. But then you steadily grow from there. We had that drop. The next week we were down from 250 to 120.  However, we all were encouraged because we felt like this was a better representation of what our church actually is becoming.

“The community component of the next week was awesome as people were talking and getting to know each other more. The worship was dynamic and intentional. Then the response/invitation was powerful and freeing. We handed out cards for people to write down sins or excuses of why they were not currently fully devoted to Christ, and we saw most of our people bringing them forward to place at the altar or coming to the back to pray with someone.

“We got to see people no longer trying to appear perfect, but simply embrace their brokenness, cling to the cross, and experience freedom therein. It was special.

“We’d like to see this continue for 2018. Our prayer is that we be a part of something that is unexplainable yet undeniable resulting in God alone receiving all the glory and praise. We hope to see Sunday after Sunday people walking away from encountering God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this before. What can’t our God do?”

To learn more about church planting in Oklahoma, visit OklahomaChurchPlanting.com.