|Missionary calling leads to new Orlando church
Pastor Andrew Oates believes if the Apostle Paul were to
start a church today, Orlando—one of the world’s most visited cities—would be a
destination of his church-planting missionary journeys.
“If God calls us to reach the world and the world is here,
then God is calling us to plant churches in Orlando,” said the pastor of
With more than 50 million visitors each year and with the
second highest population growth in Florida, the region composed of two million
people is desperately in need of churches, Oates contends.
Following God’s call, he moved to the region specifically to
plant a church.
Located in an affluent Winter Garden suburb, the three-year
old church plant is surrounded by more than 60,000 homes.
“Redeemer was started in Horizon West, a 23,000 acre special
planning area of Orange County,” explained Mark Weible, director of
church planting for the Greater Orlando Baptist Association. “The
population of the area was estimated at just over 4,000 people in 2005 and is
expected to grow to as many as 63,000 people by 2030. The area is in need of
several new multiplying churches in order to keep up with population growth.”
“We could plant 20 churches here and it is still not
enough,” concurred Oates.
The church was planted in 2010 with a mission to have
members actively involved “in sharing Christ with our neighbors, our friends,
Orlando and the world,” he explained. “It is not the church’s purpose to make
disciples. It’s the people’s responsibility to make disciples. We are on this
“Andrew thinks like a missionary,” said Weible, “He is skilled
in community exegesis. As any pastor knows, proper Biblical exegesis is needed
to effectively teach the Bible. Likewise, missionaries understand
that they need to research their communities to discover how to present the
never changing message of the Gospel to an ever changing culture.”
Redeemer began with a small nucleus of Baptists meeting
together in living rooms and praying. Six months later, the group numbered
between 50-60 members, had outgrown the homes where they met and began to
search for a more permanent meeting space.
The gregarious pastor recalled that the church had $6 in the
bank, but church members were challenged to give sacrificially. They eventually began renting a store front
facility on Winter Garden-Vineland Road which snakes behind the Disney world
The facility was originally retrofitted as a church for
another denomination. Redeemer remodeled the facility with a warm and inviting
charm and large areas for members to gather.
During the first year, the Florida Baptist Convention
provided the congregation with $2,000 a month to underwrite the new church
start. That amount was expected to decrease to $1,000 the next year, but the
church determined they did not need the financial subsidy continued and
believed it would better benefit another church plant.
In three years, the church grew to 200 in attendance, but a
conflict developed within the congregation that resulted in 60 members
leaving. In one Sunday attendance
dropped from 200 to 140.
The church split was painful, said Oates, but helped the
congregation better “define who we are and what we are about.” Ultimately, he
said, the church became healthier as a result of the parting of ways.
Attendance has nearly grown back to the level it was before
The church, with its contemporary worship style,
conversational style preaching, and warm glow of candles, offers members a Lord’s
Supper observance each week as a means of recommitting their lives to Christ.
“We believe in a huge God who wants to move supernaturally
among His people,” Oates said. “We are not here to consume but to be consumed.”
The multicultural and multigenerational congregation
includes members from England, India and Puerto Rico, resembling the Orlando
community where members live, the pastor said.
David and Gerrie Osbourne were looking for a church that
would also appeal to their grandson, “teach the Bible as the inspired word of
God and that God is the center of our lives. This church is doing this,” he
“Redeemer has given us a church family,” David Osbourne
The church, he continued, is reaching people who are
“looking for something to hold on to and must decide if they are building their
house on rock or sand—broken people who now want to reconstruct their lives on
Al Delara said he had a deep emptiness in his life, when he
and his family found the Redeemer church while walking in their neighborhood.
He now defines that void as the “need of Jesus in our lives. We needed to be
He was spiritually saved and baptized at the church. The
pastor and staff demonstrated their care and concern for him. “This is an
amazing place. Everyone treats you as family.”
“I am a regular person and I fall at times, but this church
catches me,” he said. “This place has changed our lives.”
Redeemer Church is partnering with the North American
Mission Board to provide on- the-job training for future church planters. In
this collaboration, Mike Bard who serves as the church’s children minister is
applying real-life experiences to church planting principles.
When it starts the new church, Weible said it will come from
a strong lineage of multiplying churches. “We soon see a third generation
church plant in the area.”
As church members follow the course set by the apostle Paul, the
missionary journey in Orlando—the destination of the world—continues.