It was that church. It was that church with the amazing story to tell. It was the first church of its kind in the area. In fact, at its founding over 100 years ago, it was known as the First Church of God Tulsa. It was that church that moved as the neighborhoods changed, as the city grew. In the 70s, the church moved out to the middle of a cow field that later became the crossroads of the city. It was that church with great pastors, forward-thinking leaders, and deep roots in the Church of God in Northeast Oklahoma.
It was also that church that experienced hurt and never healed. It was that church that whose own growth was stunted by the well-meaning efforts aimed to keep the church from experiencing more hurt. And it was that church that one day looked around and realized their immediate community had changed to a predominately hispanic area that no one in the congregation was equipped to minister to.
Southpark Community Church was the church that, like so many other older churches, found itself no longer making significant kingdom impact. Their numbers had been declining for 10 years. Their people were hurting and unhappy. Their community was distant. The church was dying. But those at Southpark didn’t want to give up. They wanted to find a path forward, a way to use their resources to reach people for Christ.
The church decided to sell their property and use the catalytic event of moving as an opportunity to make significant changes. They brought in a pastor who had worked with another church turnaround. David Treloar came to the church in 2012 and the property sold in early 2014 to a large hispanic congregation. Southpark was now able to do something new but they had no clear direction.
David knew this church needed help navigating to their new path and he could see that they needed to make some significant changes if they were going to be successful on that path. He reached out to Doug Talley, Indiana’s State Pastor and HGC’s Transformation Catalyst at the time.
“I needed an outside voice to come in and say the things I couldn’t, to repeat the things I’d been saying but no one was hearing, and to tell me the things that I hadn’t yet realized.” says David.
I needed an outside voice to come in and say the things I couldn’t, to repeat the things I’d been saying but no one was hearing, and to tell me the things that I hadn’t yet realized.
Doug Talley and Steve Chiles, a local, respected leader within the Church of God, gathered the research provided by the congregation, spent time onsite, met with many groups within the church and created a list of recommendations.
As a result, the church decided, nearly unanimously, to make some hard changes that would equip them to do ministry differently, including changing their bylaws and relaunching as a new work.
“As a church, we didn’t have a clear path but we were on a trajectory that was inevitably leading to some kind of change. HGC brought the tools and processes that allowed us not to die but to start a new thing.”
On July 5, 2016, Southpark Community Church celebrated its final worship gathering. On August 15, 2016, Thrive Church was born.
The committed launch team joined together at the end of this summer for 40 days of prayer. Meeting weekly for corporate prayer and seeking out God’s direction for the new work, they defined their passion and purpose. Thrive is a church that yearns to ‘join God in rescuing the world, one disciple at a time’. They want to be about connecting people to God and Jesus, where people can Thrive.
In September, Thrive held it’s first monthly meet up, hosting 40 adults and 29 kids for a picnic at a park. Next week, Thrive will launch its small groups with over 40 adults participating. Meet ups will continue and as the core grows, Thrive plans to start holding monthly preview services with the goal of going to weekly as the group grows.
“At Thrive, people are our focus, so a building or an event won’t drive the timeline. People drive the timeline. There are over 1,800 church is the Tulsa Metro Area and our community doesn’t need just another church. It does need a place where people can connect to the kind of life God designed, where we are reproducing disciples and developing the fruit of the Spirit in our inner lives.”
HGC is so excited to watch what God is doing at Thrive and to walk alongside David and his team as they discover their path toward kingdom impact. Tom Planck, HGC Multiplication Catalyst and David’s coach shared Thrive’s story and said, “When I visited with the Thrive team in July, I was amazed by one thing for sure—the potential of what God has to work with there. I firmly believe a high impact church is being born!”
Thrive is just starting down a new path but they are committed to using their legacy to achieve kingdom wins, to reach lost people for Christ.