Here is a recent article that was posted in the Southwest Tulsa County Newspaper just last Thursday. God is continuing to give us favor and credibility in this area so that we can continue to be effective in reaching people. Special Thanks to Tracy LeGrand for spending an hour with me listening to what God is accomplishing in us and through us at Solace Church.
Solace Church — Growing Large and Growing Strong
By Tracy LeGrand
With no mega churches – such as Guts or Church On The Move – located west of the Arkansas River, Berryhill’s Solace Church intends to eventually fill that niche. However, while reaching thousands is a core mission it isn’t the No. 1 motivator.
“Our mission statement is ‘Love God, Love People,’ and that is our take on what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40,” said Lead Pastor Matthew Blair. “It is that simple. We are a place of refuge, of comfort and of love.”
Blair, a Berryhill High School 1996 graduate, trained as a cleric at Hillsdale College and comes from a Free Will Baptist background. But when he and wife Jennifer Blair were moved to begin a church, they decided to make it non-denominational and therefore inclusive of anyone.
“It is a legitimate question to ask – why another large church,” Blair said, describing the 2004 formation of Solace Church. “But, as my wife and I say, God spoke to our hearts to start a church in Berryhill. I believe we’ve been led to create an environment that is relevant and open to help people be receptive to God’s love. Everyone has different seasons of life. Wherever someone is in that, we want to help people take steps to Christ. Basically, I really believe that we are following a mandate from God so I’m driven by the challenge of having this church fulfill its purpose which is to be a place of refuge and love – both now and eventually for thousands of people.”
Families with children are among those drawn to the church. Currently there are 100 members in grades six and below, he said. About 70 high school and junior high school students attend with their families. Having a full band and music as part of the ministry is “meant to lead people to worship. It is not about putting on a performance.”
Technology will continue to play a part.
“This is a modern, technology-driven ministry,” said Blair. “We use all the social media and our Web site to reach out. For example, this past Sunday, a mass text went to about 1,000 people to let them know we’ve added a third Sunday service. Previous to that we had about 430 show up on average and this past Sunday it was more than 500 folks. We had to add another service because we’re literally running out of seats to put people in.”
Although the congregation enjoys the picturesque hilltop setting at 6607 W. 42nd St., space needs dictate larger space while staying in west Tulsa. A successful pledge campaign has raised about $1 million toward the capital needs of a new facility.
Outreach efforts are extensive and pointedly are aimed at local, national and international goals. Since 2009, on the first Sunday in December, the church gives away all tithes for that day toward missions. In 2010, $30,000 was raised and $10,000 of that went to purchase food which church members packaged up and distributed personally to the needy in Tulsa. The remaining funds – along with other monies raised – go to other projects such as an orphanage on the Ivory Coast of Africa.
“It is so exciting that we’ll be sending three people from the church to live in Africa and run the orphanage and we will continue to fund that,” said Blair.
Solace’s mission could not have grown to the degree it has were it not for Jay Howard (youth pastor), Shad Foley (worship and care pastor), and Ronda Shelton (administrator), said Blair, as “this team frees me up to be lead pastor. There are also at least eight volunteers here on a weekly basis that helps us keep up the momentum.”
Formerly known as Fellowship of Berryhill Church, the church name was changed in August of 2010 to better reflect its mission of love and inclusivity, he said. The intention was to clarify the church’s focus as a refuge and a comfort — solace to those who seek it.
“People who are hurting and broken can find love here,” he said. “Love People, Love God is not just a phrase here. It is the heartbeat of our church and our mission.”