It’s a story rarely heard in church circles. Words cannot adequately describe the incredible move of God that has taken place that led to the planting of Three Rivers Church. Pastors Mike, Zane, and Ian have been ministering in St. Marys, GA for a number of years. Ian since 1999, Mike since 2000, and Zane since 2009. In fact, they used to minister together at Victory Baptist Church in St. Marys where Pastor Mike led the music and youth ministries. Zane and his wife were in Ian’s Sunday School class.
For various reasons, all three would leave Victory Baptist Church to pursue other ministry opportunities. Pastor Zane was called to serve as the music and youth leader at Charity Baptist Church in Valdosta, GA. Pastor Ian planted Camden Crossroads Community Church in 2007. Pastor Mike planted Ignite Church in 2008. Over the years, each man was ministering in the community and shepherding the people in their congregations. In 2009, Zane would be called back to St. Marys to serve as the music and youth minister at Victory Baptist and in 2013, he was called to serve as their pastor. From 2015 to 2017, each church partnered together for various events and special services.
But it all changed with a conversation in 2016. Pastor Ian called Pastor Mike about an issue he was dealing with. Mike asked if there was time to chat in person. That conversation led to something that Mike and Ian had been mulling over for some time. Zane was invited to join the conversation and the three men sat in Pastor Ian’s office and shared about the challenges each faced. They longed for the opportunity to minister with godly men that would share the burdens, challenges, and blessings in ministry. They longed to impact the community more effectively. An excitement began to build in the hearts of each man. A multitude of conversations ensued and after much prayer, the Lord cemented the same vision and conclusion in each man. We are better together.
Is it possible? Is it feasible? Is it practical? What would happen if the three churches merged and became a new work in St. Marys? Eccl. 4:12 says, “And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Incredible wisdom. Imagine a thriving, healthy body of believers made up of all ages that cross racial boundaries where there are opportunities to learn and grow in Christ, opportunities to deepen your faith and serve the church and the community. Imagine a body of believers led by biblically qualified men and women serving together to impact the Kingdom of God locally and globally. Imagine timely, biblical sermons that challenge you, age appropriate instruction for children, students, and adults, opportunities for fellowship and accountability, and quality live music. Imagine the impact on your walk of faith and the impact in the community. Not only was this possible, Mike, Zane, and Ian agreed that this was the Lord’s direction.
That was the easy part, now the hard part. How do you cast a vision to three separate churches with their own reputation, their own DNA, their own ministries, their own way of doing things, their own personalities, and their own goals? Not to mention their own facilities, equipment, leaders, and other things too numerous to list. Some would say that was the hard part, others would say that’s the impossible part. Collectively, Mike, Zane, and Ian represented over 64 years of ministry experience and that experience taught them that people can be challenging. During their times of conversation and prayer, they were reminded of Prov. 21:1 that says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” If this was a work of God, then God would have to do the impossible.
Confident in the vision that God had given them, they each met with leadership at their respective ministries. Mike was already serving in a co-pastoring ministry with Mark Lang at Ignite. Mike and Mark had been talking and praying during the entire exploratory phase of this possibility. Mark came to the same conclusion. Once each church's leadership was on board with a potential merge, a meeting was held with leadership representatives from each church. Each pastor passionately shared the vision that God had given them. Each person saw the potential impact for the Kingdom. Each person envisioned an incredible work of God, each saw the potential testimony to the community, and each saw some potential problems. The three groups of church leaders decided to spend time in prayer and agreed to meet again. That next meeting was filled with possibilities, with prayer, and with praise. God had done the impossible. 11 men representing three churches were unanimous, united, and in unity. We are better together.
On February 19, 2017, each congregation voted to dissolve their respective church and agreed to plant a new work in St. Marys called Three Rivers Church. Our first corporate meeting together was on March 5, 2017 and we have been navigating new waters together ever since.
Why Three Rivers? Geographically, there are three rivers in our area: the St. Marys River, the Satilla River, and the Crooked River. These three rivers flow independently and come together in the Atlantic Ocean. Spiritually, Camden Crossroads Community Church, Ignite Church, and Victory Baptist Church have flowed together into one new body of believers.
We are Three Rivers Church.