IF YOU GO
WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Sundays
WHERE: West Orange High School, 1625 Beulah Road, Winter Garden.
WINTER GARDEN — The head pastor of Hope Church, which launched Sunday, Sept. 20, at West Orange High School, said it all started at a youth camp when he was 15 years old.
Wes Beacham felt called into full-time Christian ministry that day. And he pursued it, thinking he would be a youth pastor for the rest of his life.
He worked at a church in Jacksonville for three-and-one-half years and at Orlando Baptist Church for another eight. But two years ago, he felt God telling him to start a church.
No. Not now. Not me.
Beacham said those words for a year. He asked mentors and pastors he knew to pray about the idea with him.
And out of those prayers, Hope Church was born.
Beacham set his sights on the Lake Nona area or Winter Garden, and after spending some time in Winter Garden, he realized it was the perfect location for the church. So, he packed his things and moved from Orlando to begin forming a 50-person team that became Hope Church’s foundation.
COME AS YOU ARE
“We’re starting a church for people who don’t go to church because they’ve been to a church,” Beacham said.
For people who have left the church, Beacham wants to show them a different experience from what they are might have known in the past. For those who feel burned by the church, Beacham invites them to try Hope Church once. His goal is to have people understand they don’t need to follow a set of rules to come to church. He wants them to view their experience not as a religious one, but an experience resting on a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“You don’t have to believe what we believe to belong,” Beacham said. “We don’t have a set of rules or standards that you have to check off before you decide to Hope Church. We just want you to come and let God do the work.”
That’s one of the reasons why Brooke Kobylinski is excited to be part of the launch. Kobylinski met Beacham when he was the youth pastor of her church in Jacksonville. She was new to going to church, but she felt Beacham really impacted her.
“He was just a great mentor in my life, probably in my darkest days,” she said. “Above everything, he just knows how to love people.”
In 2008, Kobylinski moved to Orlando and attended the Beacham’s church. Now, her family is planning a move to Winter Garden to be part of the church.
She’s excited for the openness the church will have to all people.
“Some churches are open, but maybe not to everyone,” she said.
Many of the 50 who are helping with the launch are people Beacham has done ministry with throughout his life. But a portion of them are people Beacham hopes to reach — people who have not been attending church because they feel hurt from past church experiences.
“Our church is designed for lost and hurt people,” he said.
He hopes the church grows someday to thousands of members, but he believes it is God’s task to build the church.
Focus on Jesus. Beacham wants people who come to focus on a relationship with Jesus, not religious church-motions. “The way to start that relationship with Jesus Christ is that you admit that you need Him, believe what he did for you on the cross,” Beacham said.
Serving the city. Hope Church already is active in serving West Orange High School, the school where the church meets on Sundays. It is part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes there and also does other service projects at the school. So far, the church has prepared lunch for the entire staff, pressure-washed the steps in the auditorium and trimmed the palm trees. Church members also serve Thursday dinners for the football team.
A emphasis on community. “Life happens best in authentic relationships,” Beacham said. In January, the church will launch community groups, gatherings that meet in homes around the West Orange area. People who attend the groups can share prayer requests, pray for one another, and be encouraged through reading and discussing Bible passages. He hopes to use the stage on Sunday mornings as a place to share stories of how living in community has affected the members of the church.
Openness to people who feel hurt by the church. If people are hurt by the church, Beacham encourages them to try Hope Church just once. His goal is that everyone who attends will receive a hug, high-five or “hello.” If people feel hurt by their past experiences in church, Beacham believes they should automatically be enabled to meet with a pastor of the church to talk about it.
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].