By PAUL SIMS
While a new Starkville church will employ technology and gather in a converted car dealership, church leaders say their purpose is simply this: To follow Christ and help others do the same.
On Sunday, Pinelake Church will open its fourth campus in Starkville – the first outside the Jackson metropolitan area. The others are in Clinton, Madison and the Reservoir area of Flowood.
“Our mindset is we are one church and we have one mission, vision, purpose and all of our campuses are overseen by one elder body,” said Chip Henderson, Pinelake’s senior pastor.
Henderson said: “Most of what we do in Starkville for the first 12 months will be closely aligned with what we’re doing at the Reservoir campus. Increasingly that staff will let the ministry be directed exactly at the needs of the Starkville and the Golden Triangle community. Outside the Sunday morning sermon, the Pinelake campus will arise out of and meet the needs of Starkville.”
Henderson will deliver the message around 80 percent of the time. Others who will be teaching this year on Sunday morning are: Michael Manuel, campus pastor at Clinton; Tim Smith, associate pastor at the Reservoir campus; Jason Smith, student minister in Madison and Kyle York, a former Mississippi State University quarterback student minister at the Reservior campus.
Josh Gilreath, the Starkville campus pastor, says the message will be delivered to Starkville via fiber optics in high definition. Typically, the messages are delivered at the Reservoir campus, Gilreath said.
Personnel at the Starkville campus will capture the 9:30 a.m. message and use it for their 10:30 a.m. service locally.
If the local campus went to 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. services, there would be about a five- to 10-second delay, Gilreath said.
“It’s not last week’s message. It’s the message of the week,” he said.
Gilreath says other aspects of the service will be live, including a band. He’ll also have a role every week to include hosting, response and baptisms.
Pinelake’s campus pastors are responsible for teaching every Wednesday night, he said.
The other staff at Pinelake Starkville are: Jason Stoker, the small groups pastor; Ken Broom, the worship pastor and Brad McNair, the children’s and pre-school pastor.
Pinelake’s main target group is people “who don’t have a church home,” Gilreath said.
“God has given us a lot of favor to reaching” people 18 to 50 “ ... who haven’t been in church for a long time or ever. God seems to have given us grace in reaching those people,” Henderson said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t reach other people, that just seems to be our sweet spot where God has given us a lot of grace.”
The church’s mission is to help people become fully-devoted Christ followers who learn from, live for and lead others to him, Henderson said.
“We’re trying to follow Christ and help others find the hope that we’ve
found. One of our mantras (is) we’re just beggars trying to tell other beggars where we found bread,” he said.
Expansion to Starkville
As for Pinelake’s expansion into Starkville, Henderson said: “We feel like God initiated it. We’re truly trying to respond to what God has started in that area.”
About 187 individuals or families from the Golden Triangle area who have registered for Pinelake events and there are people who have said “we would love to have a church like Pinelake,” Henderson said.
There are about 100 students from Pinelake who attend Mississippi State University. “We have a core group coming here,” Henderson said. “College is so critical. We want them to have continuity with spirit life.”
Another aspect is MSU itself.
Information on an MSU’s website says students from 75 foreign countries attend the university.“College campuses are strategic for reaching the next generation for Christ,” Henderson said.
Regarding a question about working with what’s already in place in the area, Henderson said: “Pinelake is not the answer. We don’t see ourselves as the only church, the church, that we’re right and everybody else is wrong. Our thought is that God wants multiple life-giving churches in a community to effect community and cultural change for Christ. We want to link arms with other churches that profess Christ as savior.”
Henderson says Pinelake has partnered with other churches across denominational and racial lines.“We want the world to see there is only one body of Christ. It is all of us who follow Jesus. Pinelake is a multi-racial church. We want our church to reflect what heaven’s going to be like,” he said.
“We’re going to reach out to the community. Hopefully within the year, we hope to have a care center,” which will offer non-perishable food items to people who are in need, Gilreath said.
He says the community can expect dynamic worship, relevant Biblical teaching, and God encounters, adding it’s “pretty cool to think that in a facility where mechanics use to repair cars, God is now going to use it to repair lives.”
The former automobile dealership where the church is located opened about five years ago under the Millsaps name, then as Team for about two years before it closed in February 2010.
“It was the only building we found with needed square footage (of at least 20,000 square feet) ... (and) open space and it was in our price range and it could be converted,” Gilreath said. Crews took out all the non-load-bearing walls and created a 535-seat-worship center along with a children’s and pre-school area and a small amount of office space, he said. The conversion project took about seven months, Gilreath said. The project cost is estimated at $4 million, Henderson said.
Pinelake Starkville is located at 200 Highway 25 South about one-half mile north of Highway 12.Service times will be Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. For information, visit http://pinelake.org/  or call 323-1747.