Encounter Church in Commercial Point, Ohio, is only one year old and already impacting its community, even in the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. Located about 20 miles south of Columbus, Commercial Point is surrounded by an area that is experiencing great population growth.

According to Rev. Mark Leist, the population demographic is diverse. But the need for Jesus is not. Encounter Church was launched in March 2019 because of that very reason.

“Within a five-mile radius of Commercial Point there are over 60,000 people, and it is rapidly exploding,” said Leist. “There is a mix of local, long-time residents and a mass influx of young professionals moving into the area. Approximately 79.2 percent of the people claim no religious affiliation at all.”

It’s that high percentage that drives Leist and his congregants to keep engaging in the community.

Almost a year before it launched, Encounter attendees were serving at local festivals, helping local firefighters and school administrators with their respective events and partnering with local churches to feed children whose parents are addicted to drugs. Other area churches seek ministry partnerships with Encounter Church for greater impact in the community.

Encounter continues to step up during the coronavirus outbreak helping provide meals to area children while school is out of session. Leist estimates they provided over 400 meals during the first week alone, impacting several families before the school system was able to initiate its efforts. Church services, small groups and Next Gen ministries have been moved online, and the response to faith-related conversations and questions has increased.

As the mandate to not hold public services in the state of Ohio continues, Encounter is still seeing people who are “hungry” to grow and learn in their relationships with Jesus. Discipleship is happening throughout the week via Zoom calls, and some people are a part of Facebook groups where they can share with others how they are doing in their relationships with Jesus. Men and women from other area churches, as well as the unchurched, are also attending Encounter life groups.

For Easter this year, Encounter partnered with another local church to hold a drive-thru Communion. Leist said, “We had a great turnout for the drive-thru Communion opportunity with a lot of people that we had never met before but had heard about us.”

Another Communion opportunity is being planned for next month. The church also helped organize an Easter parade, organized by a young woman from the church who is a new Christian. Several local news agencies covered the parade in their news briefs.

As those at Encounter continue in ministry, especially during these uncertain times, Leist is quick to point out that he’s most excited about men, women and children growing in their relationship with Jesus — about lives being changed.

“Encounter doesn’t exist to lift up the name of a particular pastor in our church but rather see God raise up leaders through our ministry,” said Leist, who is one of four pastors at the young church plant. “We are striving to be a leader and church planting ‘incubator’ for kingdom growth. Please pray for us, our current leaders and leaders that will come to and through our ministry to see countless lives changed for eternity.”

“While the quarantine associated with COVID-19 can be a tiresome and stretching season for many pastors, Leist is a great example of an adaptable church planter living on mission and fulfilling his calling no matter what challenges come his way,” said Dr. Ed Love, director of church multiplication for The Wesleyan Church.

“We believe God is going to grow the ministry impact during a time that appears to be difficult to minister,” said Leist. “We believe this is a pivotal time to make the greatest impact for the kingdom for the entire [universal] church. As I told a friend recently, this virus can be the very inoculation that the Church needs to remove the disease of complacency in us.”

Church Multiplication Sunday is a day to celebrate and invest in church plants in The Wesleyan Church, as they Unleash a Kingdom Force across North America. Learn more about Church Multiplication Sunday.