It All Started With Six People in a Living Room

Pastors Joe and Deborah Oakley and four other people began Grace Fellowship Church as a Bible study in the home of Gerry and Trudy Krause in the Fall of 2001. They had no money, no people, no building and no financial support, but they had a big vision and big faith in a big God who does big things through people with big vision and big faith! They had a vision for a contemporary, Spirit-filled church that experienced the manifest presence of God and extended His kingdom on earth. God gave us a slogan to describe this in a simple way: “Touching Heaven ~ Changing Earth.”

  Our church actually began as a prayer meeting.  Pastor Deborah was meeting with two other women to pray about starting a ministry together. They consulted their husbands, who felt they would eventually minister together, just not at that time. As the three couples continued to pray, they began to sense that God’s direction for them was to start a church.  Through many confirmations, they began to move forward.

  However, we did not want to run off and start something without getting counsel. Pastor Olen Griffing is our father in the faith and we consulted him along with Pastor Joe’s father, who is also a pastor.  Both felt we should pursue starting a church. That gave us the faith and determination to move ahead and we began our first church service in a home in Dec., 2001. Within a few months, we had grown to over thirty people and were running out of space in the home.

  On Easter, 2002, we began meeting in the gym at the YMCA in South Grand Prairie. Over the next year we had “portable church” where we set up and tore down for each service. We also started our praise team at the Y.  Up until that time, the band consisted of Pastor Joe on acoustic guitar. Now, we had a guitar, bass, drums and several singers. Over the next year, we grew to over 100 people and began looking for a more permanent location.

  In early 2003, we were in prayer over where this permanent location would meet when Pastor Joe had a vision.  In this vision, he saw the pastor of another local church open the door of the house where we were praying, the pastor threw in a set of keys and said, “Here, you take it.” Within a week that same pastor called and asked if we were interested in their building. We immediately said yes.

  Since Pastors Joe and Deborah both worked full-time jobs when they started the church, the church had saved money for this very opportunity. We were able to purchase that church’s chairs and equipment and move in with everything we needed to function. God has blessed us in this location and we have experienced steady growth in numbers and spiritual maturity.​

  In the Fall of 2004, Pastor Joe had another dream.  In the dream he was up on the platform and in the middle of a service, people of all ages and colors began walking into the church. After the service, they said they all felt led to join Grace Fellowship Church. Pastor Joe woke up wondering what the dream meant.

  He found out a few months later. Another church was meeting in the same shopping center where  we are currently.  Their pastor resigned, leaving the core group without a shepherd. Pastor Joe met with the church leaders to see if there was any way we could help them.  One Sunday morning the members of that church met and voted to merge with Grace Fellowship. Then, just like in Pastor Joe’s dream, the people from that church – people of all ages and colors - came into our church service.  The congregations embraced each other with love and acceptance.  The joining together of our congregations took us to a new level of faith and excitement. That dream from God imparted our vision to be a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-generational church.  Since then, we have intentionally worked towards diversity in our membership

  We began to grow substantially in early 2006 and our leadership team began to pray about if and when we should go to two services. We were feeling led to do so on Easter Sunday, but asked the Lord for a confirming word. Some of our leaders went to Gateway Church for a pastor’s meeting.  During lunch, Pastor Robert Morris came up to Pastor Joe and asked, “Joe, have you gone to two services yet?” Pastor Joe answered, “No, but we’ve been praying about it. Why?” Pastor Robert said, “I got a word from the Lord during worship that someone here should go to two services.  I didn’t feel right about giving it at that time, but when I came into the room and saw you, I knew it was for you. And do you know when you should start it?  Easter Sunday.”

  Needless to say, we started two services that Easter Sunday. Our previous high attendance had been 220, yet that Sunday we had 350 in our two services. That’s 60% more people than had ever attended Grace Fellowship before! 

  Since then, we have steadily grown in numbers and maturity. We currently have 700 regular attenders and we believe God will continue to build the house, spiritually and physically. Our current building has been a blessing, but now we are outgrowing it.  It is not big enough to fulfill the vision God has called us to. We are praying and giving toward buying land and building our own building. We have a desire to truly impact the community around us as together we “Touch Heaven and Change Earth.”​