By Holly McCray
OKC-St. Luke’s United Methodist Church will open a satellite campus in Edmond on March 30, as one of Oklahoma Conference’s largest churches expands to a fourth location in the metro.
The new worshipping community will meet at Edmond’s Sequoyah Middle School, with video preaching by Bob Long, St. Luke’s senior pastor. On-site leaders will be Josh Attaway, Drew Haynes, and Tisha Tate, according to the Feb. 2 announcement.
The church also has under contract about 12 acres at the Edmond intersection of Interstate 35 and Second Street (Route 66), confirmed Rev. Dr. Long.
In 2013, St. Luke’s became a multi-site church in Oklahoma City. Two existing United Methodist churches, OKC-Asbury and OKC-Fuente De Vida, officially closed, then affiliated as satellites.
The main campus now is referred to as St. Luke’s Downtown, at Northwest 15th and Robinson. Dawn Richards is campus pastor of St. Luke’s Asbury, and Wendi Neal pastors St. Luke’s Fuente De Vida.
The new campus is named St. Luke’s Edmond.
Although there’s ample and ongoing history in Oklahoma of two or more individual churches sharing one pastor (i.e., "a two-point charge"), satellite churches appear to be a new concept for the Conference.
This worship style typically includes video preaching, using big projection screens at the satellite sites. This is the format now used at St. Luke’s Asbury. Rev. Richards leads on site, with video preaching by Dr. Long.
The Edmond satellite also will use this format.
More than 5,000 satellite churches operate in 47 states, according to Long. Two-thirds of those are in mainline denominations, rather than nondenominational.
And United Methodism ranks No. 2 among mainlines with the most satellite churches, Long noted.
"I really think a lot of churches should be doing this in the Conference. There is a 90 percent success rate among multi-site churches," he told the Congregational Development committee in September as he spoke about St. Luke’s research and plans.
During one era, eager Methodists were starting a U.S. church every week, noted Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
"We have to back up our [United Methodist] rhetoric about making disciples. I’ve prayed over this many nights and days," the bishop said in a February interview.
He is a sower of the seed now sprouting as St. Luke’s Edmond. He wants innovation in reaching people for Christ and believes the multi-site model can succeed for Oklahoma United Methodists.
"Come dream with me so we can keep our Church alive. Catch, cast, and stand up for the vision," he invited. "I want more dreamers and visionaries. This is part of the Strategic Plan."
He pointed out that Edmond has one of the fastest-growing populations in the state.
The Conference’s newest church plants, Connect and Summit, are taking root there. Existing UM churches in Edmond are expanding their facilities. Paying its own way, St. Luke’s joins these ministries in the Edmond mission field.
"St. Luke’s is willing to put themselves on the line," the bishop said. "This is can-do attitude."
Chuck Nordean is the Conference’s director of Clergy and Congregational Development. He said the new satellite has the affirmation of Congregational Development.
"This is bold. The Spirit is at work in this," said Rev. Nordean.
"St. Luke’s model is a good one because they understand both quality worship and being in mission daily. I believe we have incredibly strong churches in Edmond, [and] St. Luke’s is confident they’ve done their due diligence."
St. Luke’s also has studied the effective satellite ministries of UM Church of the Resurrection in Greater Kansas City. Long gained knowledge from senior pastors of similar churches in Georgia, Mississippi, Philadelphia, and Ginghamsburg (Ohio). He has opportunities to draw on their expertise when pastors of the nation’s 100 largest UM churches meet together. St. Luke’s is one of those.
Oklahoma’s bishop acknowledged some tension among Church leaders about St. Luke’s Edmond. "I understand," Hayes said.
"I understand also that you’ve got churches of all denominations heading to Edmond."
He continued, "We cannot become territorial. Each church has its appeal in the community. When one person is won for the Kingdom, we all win."
Both the bishop and the senior pastor described meeting with various groups as St. Luke’s proposal was processed by the Conference. Across months, they sat down with district superintendents, pastors and church planters in the Edmond area, and the Bi-District Board of Church Location, as well as the September Congregational Development meeting.
"There has been a real sensitivity to others," said Long in a recent interview. "Nothing would make me sadder than to think we hurt another Methodist church. Our worship service will be very different. We’re happy to help and work with anybody.
"I believe our [collective] presence helps each other, so that all together it gets people to talk about and come to Methodist churches."
He offered Church of the Resurrection as an example. After the opening of Resurrection West, a satellite with video preaching by Adam Hamilton, two established UM churches nearby also grew, Long said.
He also has deep respect for church planters. Long’s first appointment after seminary was to start a new church in Houston.
He said, "They dropped me off in the neighborhood and said, ‘Good luck and God bless.’"
Sharing Christ is foremost for Long. He went to work, without land or a building, without knowing if anyone was even interested. But he did know a lot of people lived there, with more arriving. Long planted and grew that church.
He has led St. Luke’s for 22 years.
"I think we have DNA here, even before I came, that we are open to new ideas and trying new things that line up with our values, our mission," he said.
More of St. Luke’s current members live in Edmond than any other area.
"It’s nice to have a core group to start," Long said, "but our goal is to win people to Christ. It’s very exciting."
Frankye Johnson turned to Scripture to express her support for St. Luke’s Edmond. She is South Oklahoma City District superintendent.
"I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks directly to this situation actually before we get to the Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel. I further believe Bob Long, his team, and the congregation of St. Luke’s are taking seriously that mandate of our Lord to make disciples of all people," she stated.
From Matthew 9:37-38 (RSV): "Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore [to] the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers...’"
Rev. Johnson wrote, "I believe the harvest is so plentiful in Oklahoma City, Edmond, and throughout our Conference that there is room for all of us to send out laborers. I pray that we re-focus our attention on reaching the mission fields that are right in our backyards. Recognizing that we are taking a risk, I support this adventure!"
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