By Riley Ethier
An exciting, new church began in the Raleigh-Durham area when a group of Christians planted Oak Hill Church on June 12, 2016. Lead pastor and founder Keith Wagner planted the church after feeling a deep call from God to reach out to Millennials across the nation.
I was able to talk to Pastor Keith about his call:
“My call to plant Oak Hill came from a burden to reach Millennials with the gospel and to help train them to become Christian leaders by ongoing mentoring.”
After months of planning and a great deal of sacrifice by Pastor Keith alongside his family and close friends, the new church was ready to begin.
Pastor Keith says that he envisions the church as simple and as Biblical as possible. He stresses Biblical preaching, evangelism in church members’ homes, and the discipleship of new believers and young adults. Pastor Keith outlines his vision for the church:
“My vision is to witness Millennials come to Christ and grow to the point where they are able to witness and disciple other peers. When I see that happen I will know we are on the right track.”
Oak Hill places great emphasis on reaching out to Millennials, which is appropriate because Millennials are the generation that the church is losing as a whole, globally. Millennials are people who were born between roughly 1980 and 2000, and they comprise nearly a quarter of the United States population — at over eighty million strong. This eighty million includes the two million Millennials that inhabit North Carolina, as well as the 800,000 native to the RDU area around Oak Hill Church.
Pastor Keith believes that he has a responsibility to the next generation as a mentor:
“The role of my generation in the church is to be a bridge of mentoring. That means giving the Millennials the opportunity to lead with me and others empowering them toward excellence in all aspects of their lives and walk with the Lord.”
Oak Hill’s other members also share this belief with Pastor Keith. Take Linda Haney, Oak Hill’s pianist, for example. Linda is also very passionate about her own role as a mentor:
“I believe that [Millennials] deserve a church where their needs, desires, and preferences, particularly in the area of music, are of the utmost importance. The role of the ‘older’ people, like myself, is to be there to give advice and wisdom from a lifetime of experiences in the areas of family, relationships, finances, career, etc.”
Linda believes that God has given her the opportunity to mentor directly to Oak Hill’s music team, which is led by Millennials. Watching Oak Hill reach Millennials brings Linda, and the rest of the church, great joy, as Linda explains:
“It is so exciting to see Millennials realize their need for God and to see them desire to ‘grow in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 3:18).”
The young adults at Oak Hill also take great joy in being mentored by people who truly love God and who truly love them. Brianna Wagner, Pastor Keith’s daughter and Oak Hill’s music team leader, is thrilled by the opportunity to lead worship in a new church plant and to have experienced mentors like Pastor Keith and Linda alongside her:
“I’m thankful Oak Hill emphasizes [mentorship] because it gives me an opportunity to learn both spiritual and practical wisdom from a variety of older adults who collectively have had far more life experience than I have.”
Emily Stacy, Oak Hill’s drummer, is very thankful for the support and the opportunities that Oak Hill gives her.
“Being a Millennial myself, it is a big deal to impact my generation. It is important to mentor and disciple others who are able to do the same so that eventually we are able to reach an entire generation that will reach the next so that the Gospel can flourish.”
What sets Oak Hill Church apart from more traditional churches is its weekly structure. A large number of traditional churches meet once a week in their own sanctuaries; but, Oak Hill’s members meet weekly in members’ homes. These Tuesday “Homegroups,” as they are referred to, are Oak Hill’s way of recapturing the personal nature of the church as it is outlined in the Bible, as well as their way of sharing Christ with those who do not have Him. Pastor Keith has tried to structure the Homegroups in a way that will both engage people without Christ by showing them what true Christian fellowship, prayer, and Bible study looks like and give Christians a chance to have fellowship, prayer, and Bible study with one another.
Then on Sunday, Oak Hill Church meets at the Oak Park Tearoom. Mike and Lou Anne Lester, owners of the Oak Park Tearoom, are family friends of the Wagners and are happy to allow Oak Hill to operate out of its facilities each Sunday.
Oak Hill has been pleased to welcome new visitors each week since the church’s inception and members are constantly inviting new people to have fellowship with them. The church meets each Sunday at 10:30am at 5208 Holly Ridge Drive, in Raleigh NC, and information for when and where the Homegroups are going to be that week are given at the end of each service.