A Homegrown Faith: The Heartbeat of Holland Chapel

How many things do we pass by in life and never seem to really notice? For years, I passed Holland Chapel Baptist Church, usually on my way either to or from Dallas when I was in seminary. Chances are, you have seen it, too, if you ever traveled down I-30 in Benton and saw its steeple reaching up into the sky. However, in the dozens of times I passed the church, I never wondered, “What goes on there? What are the people like? What do they do?” 

Thanks to my interview with Luke Brown, one of the pastors at Holland Chapel, I am no longer ignorant of what goes on there, what the people are like, and what they do to impact their community for the kingdom. And I am glad for it. The church stands as a testament to God’s faithfulness for over 77 years of its history in Saline County, and by all accounts, God has even more planned for this church in the next 77 years.

The Way Back Home

Luke didn’t arrive at Holland Chapel from some far-off land like Cincinnati or Tuscon. No, Luke is a homegrown pastor brought up in the church where he now serves. He credits Jay Jacobs, the student ministry pastor at Holland Chapel at the time, and their “top shelf” youth ministry for being integral to his spiritual growth as a teenager. Jay’s investment in Luke paid off when, during his freshman year at the University of Central Arkansas, Luke surrendered to the ministry. 

At the time, Luke was young and hungry. He knew he needed more biblical education, so he made the ol’ switcheroo and transferred to Central Baptist College. He pastored at Park Place Baptist Church in Bryant for a season, but eventually, God led Luke back to Holland Chapel. “They called and said, ‘We want to bring you home and serve in children and family ministry.’ That was my role for a few years until I transitioned to Discipleship Pastor and doing overall discipleship things here, small group ministries, you name it.” 

After a few years at Holland Chapel, Luke got the call to pastor a church in East Texas. Luke and his family enjoyed their time in Texas. But Holland Chapel still held a special place in his heart. After two years, Luke got a call. “Holland Chapel called and asked if I would come back as the teaching pastor. We were feeling homesick despite the wonderful church and everything being great. Looking back, it’s clear that God orchestrated all of it. Returning to Holland Chapel felt like fitting right back in.” Finally, the proud son of Holland Chapel found the way back home.

A Different Approach to Leadership

One of the biggest changes at Holland Chapel has been its leadership model. “Instead of a traditional lead senior pastor, we function with equal parts. We all pastor together. All pastors share equal authority. It’s very much a team approach.” Luke then gives me a great picture to emphasize how this model works. “We use the illustration of walking on thin ice; you lay flat and distribute the weight so you don’t fall through. Here, we share the weight of leadership.” 

Maybe you’ve been part of a group with high standards that challenged you to be better and believed that everyone had a part to play. Listening to Luke talk makes me think of the New England Patriots dynasty and the mutual accountability among players that contributed to the team’s success. Well, that’s what is happening at Holland Chapel. “Yes, we are friends, but we’re also in this together, holding each other to high standards in our leadership. It’s a blessing because you know the people you’re serving with have your best interests, and the kingdom’s interests, at heart. If there’s any correction, it’s done out of love. You respect the person who’s your friend, so you take the feedback better, which helps you grow. It’s different from getting critiqued by an upper-level boss you rarely see.” Luke tells me this approach helps sustain their leaders and prevent pastor burnout, an issue common among many pastors today.

God is Faithful in All Seasons

Holland Chapel is 77 years old and an established church in the community. So, what one word does Luke use to describe the church over that long stretch of time? Faithfulness. “God’s faithfulness through every season has been apparent,” Luke tells me. “God wants to accomplish something through this body. He’s preserved it and held it together. He’s sustained it through every imaginable season you can possibly think of.”

Luke reflects on the current changes at the church and how God has proven faithful in them. As Luke tells me, it all began during the pandemic. “The shift towards a plurality of leaders was already in motion. When the senior pastor had to step away, the church faced immense challenges.” Despite these challenges, the church’s leadership continued without a senior pastor, sharing responsibilities and rotating through the pulpit throughout the pandemic. Luke recalls, “They thought, ‘Hey, let’s see what this looks like. We were already tracking towards shared leadership, and it seems like God is moving things along quicker.’” 

With this change came greater trust between leadership and the congregation. “The transition built trust within the congregation, showing them that even without a traditional senior pastor, the church could thrive. It’s built a lot of trust within them that God’s good. He’s over this.” 

A Disciple-Making Mission

At the heart of Holland Chapel’s mission is making disciples for Jesus. “We are a community of disciple-making people,” Luke tells me. This is something deeply embedded in the church, reflecting a long-standing tradition of faithful men and women investing in future generations of believers. Here’s how Luke explains it for me: “Four of the six pastors were brought up and discipled here, which I think is awesome. So, when I say ‘disciple-making people,’ they always have future generations in mind, whether it be kids ministry, student ministry, opening their home for growth groups, and loving young families with kids. They know that God will use their investment. God used people who poured into my life.”

At a recent church service, Luke brought the church’s summer interns up to encourage them and remind the congregation that three of the church’s six pastors got their start in ministry through Holland Chapel internships. Making the investment isn’t about seeing immediate benefits but seeing them 10 to 20 years down the road. Seeing those interns on stage, Luke tells me, makes it “real for [our congregation]. They can say, ‘You know, I will teach children on Sundays.’ ‘I will invest on Wednesday night in small groups for students.’ God uses that. And I think it puts a fire in them to make disciples.”

Where does establishing believers in the faith happen? Luke tells me it’s in the church’s small groups. “We have Life Groups, which meet in homes and are primarily driven by age and stage of life. We also have Connect Groups centered around common interests like hiking or golfing, and Growth Groups that focus on traditional Bible study,” Luke explains. In addition, Luke tells me that the church uses the Celebrate Recovery program for individuals and families impacted by addiction.

Jesus in Every Home

Wouldn’t we all love to say that we take care of our own? At Holland Chapel, that rings true to them, and it is something they’ve done for generations. That being said, the church is making an impact outside its four walls, both in its community and abroad. Globally, the church supports missionaries in India, Panama, and other parts of the world. Locally, the church is embedded in its community through a number of initiatives. “We have a missions and outreach pastor who focuses on getting Jesus to our community in different ways,” Luke explains. One of the most life-changing ministries for the church is Celebrate Recovery. “We’ve seen a lot of fruit from Celebrate Recovery. Many people get their first taste of the Lord’s goodness there and then get plugged into the church,” Luke shares. 

In reaching the next generation, Luke highlights the church’s partnership with Amplify, a two-day Christian music festival for young people held every year in the church’s backyard, which used to be a local airport. Luke tells me how the festival grew out of Holland Chapel but became something larger than what one church could do on its own. “We needed other churches. Getting pastors and churches on board with helping. Through Amplify, we have tens of thousands of young people gathered right here at this airport. There’s no way a church of 700 people can staff an event like that. The event is two days but it takes a lot of planning and coordination to make it happen.” How important is it to have churches work together to make Amplify happen? According to Luke, “It’s invaluable.”

Unexpected blessings have come out of the church doing Amplify. That’s because these churches working together on Amplify have created a greater sense of community among pastors in the area. “We know pastors here in this town on a personal level. So many of us pastors were raised here. I’ve gotten with Nick, another pastor, to get pastors together on a small scale. We’ve done that with pastors to pray for and encourage one another. We’ve got some big churches out here. We don’t pastors in them to feel like they’re out there on an island. That’s the best way to help churches—to make sure leadership is healthy. That’s what pastors getting together helps do.” 

Luke adds that Holland Chapel regularly prays for other churches during their worship services. “It’s not a competition. We’re kingdom-minded; we do this thing together.” When Luke wonders what it would look like if all churches in the city were working together with one kingdom in mind, he tells me, “It would revolutionize our community. Jesus would be in every home!”

With Our Eyes Fixed on Him

Yes, God is faithful in all seasons. Holland Chapel has stood for 77 years to demonstrate that wonderful truth. Disciple-making is in their D.N.A., and Luke’s story is a great example of the fruit that comes from men and women thinking about the next generation. The church’s unique leadership model emphasizes shared responsibility and the fact that it takes all of us to truly be the Church. Outreach efforts like Celebrate Recovery and Amplify are helping to spread healing and hope throughout Saline County.

I hope by now you see that Holland Chapel is more than that church you pass by on the interstate. And that steeple does more than draw attention to the church; it points to the faithful God who has sustained this congregation in all seasons and will continue to do so well into the future. Through 

We are thankful for the exceptional work of Holland Chapel Baptist Church and all the churches in our city that are making disciples and establishing believers in the essentials of the faith. They’re helping the whole Church grow.

Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:15-16

Chris Loux, Communications Director – CityChurch Network

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