Pastor Jason Hitte and his staff dedicated a brand-new Lakeside Church campus Sunday, Feb. 19, and more than 2,300 people entered the doors to experience God’s love and grace at the grand opening.
The church, which worshipped previously in a small warehouse space on the west side of Oakland, moved last weekend into a 48,000-square-foot campus with a 1,000-seat sanctuary and space for a future daycare and school.
It was quite a celebration after nearly two years of construction.
“It was incredible,” Jason Hitte said. “We were optimistic and hopeful and anticipating a good response. The church was excited. It was just a good celebration. We’re thankful to God for our building.”
“I think it just exceeded everything we had prayed and hoped for,” said his wife, Caroline Hitte, who also serves on the staff.
“We’re still processing what God did yesterday,” Jason Hitte said. “This building is equipped with state-of-the-art everything, the sound, the production, video. … but the church is more than audiovisual equipment. The title of my message as we dedicated the service was, ‘It’s Not the Building, it’s the Body.’ Obviously, the focus (Sunday) was on the building, but I wanted to make sure people knew we weren’t celebrating the building but the body of Christ.”
Caroline Hitte said the leadership team always is looking for ways to make the worship time exciting.
“We refer to them as worship experiences, because we believe God is a God who can be experienced,” Jason Hitte said. “That’s important to us that when people come to our church to worship God that they experience the love of God, the presence of God, the power of God.”
The Hittes have a desire to give back to the community, and they said their congregation is full of people who are passionate and driven to support this idea.
“We strongly believe the church exists for the community, so we want to be the church that makes the community better,” Jason Hitte said.
This is fulfilled in Lakeside’s worship services and through its outreach program, which includes feeding the community’s hungry. The church also still operates a Freedom Center at its old location, staffing an outreach director and providing benevolent services to those in need.
“One of the things our church has always been committed to is generosity,” Jason Hitte said. “We’ve always been a giving church. We’re focused on generosity, and a portion of our budget goes to local missions, a portion goes to national missions, and a portion goes to global missions.”
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the church continued to operate with “extreme generosity,” the Hittes said.
“In 2020, it might have been easy to explain holding back, but we trusted God and poured out into the community,” Jason Hitte said. “That’s been the history of our church, and God’s been able to bless that.”
The church broke ground in 2020, and construction started the following year.
“In 2020, during COVID, when people were not gathering and meeting, we launched a new campus and started construction on a new campus at this site,” Jason Hitte said. “That’s a testament to God — that in a year like 2020, it was so crazy, it was the start of new beginnings. … We’re thankful; God is good.”
The new site serves as a satellite campus for Southeastern University, from which Jason Hitte graduated in 2009.
The church has launched Lakeside Leadership Academy, a 13-week course offered three times per year. Jason Hitte said it was born out of a desire to reach the next generation and a dream to equipment young leaders.
“We started pouring into young people in our church, the youth who had a calling to ministry, and they’re still with us at 24, 25 years old,” he said. “They’re young people that we just recognized the call of God on their life, and we cultivated that … and now they’re leading.”
Lakeside has 24 full-time staff members and 10 part-time staff.
Lakeside Church was founded by Jason and Caroline Hitte in 2007. It began with a handful of families in their living room, moved to increasingly larger spaces and has grown to include two campuses and a large online presence today.
The church previously met in the industrial section of west Oakland for about 12 years in a sanctuary for just 400 people.
“We were running three services, we were using seven different parking lots, and before we left they were lining up on Oakland Avenue. It was time (to have a larger space),” Jason Hitte said.
Lakeside exists to make disciples, and the church’s focus is to share the love of Jesus, present the hope and freedom of God’s word, and guide people to grow in faith as disciples of Jesus. The independent Christian church is not part of any denomination but is a church partner with Association of Related Churches.
“What I love about our church is if you grew up Baptist, you can belong here,” Jason Hitte said. “If you grew up Presbyterian, you can belong here. If you grew up Pentecostal, you can belong here.”
The church also celebrates being multigenerational and multicultural.
“We feel like the church should be an accurate reflection of what heaven is going to look like,” Jason Hitte said.
“All the glory goes to God,” Jason Hitte said. “We firmly believe that if it’s good, it’s God.”