A new church has formed in Wadena and has quickly grown as the lead pastor seeks a permanent place of worship.
Robert Segovia started his first day as lead pastor of Epicenter Church July 2, a month after he resigned his position as youth pastor at Wadena Alliance Church. The idea to start Epicenter Church blossomed from a desire to continue to serve the community he's been a part of for over 13 years and reach out to those in the community in need of Christ.
In the first church gathering 44 attended. The next gathering doubled the number and at a community church service at the Wadena County Fair, 110 attended. Segovia said after another gathering, they were averaging about 80 in attendance while renting The Depot on Sunday mornings in Burlington Northern Park.
The church has been approved for a conditional use permit by the Wadena Planning and Zoning commission, and if approved by the city council July 10, the church will begin meeting in the old Currie's TV and Appliance building July 22 on First Avenue. The building has been remodeled recently and is owned by Kyle Davis.
The church will not be fully launched until Sept. 9, when a launch celebration of sorts will take place with a number of events to engage the community. At that launch period, Segovia plans to have a children's ministry in place along with the regular worship service, small group gatherings and youth group on Wednesdays.
The name Epicenter came out of the place that Segovia found himself in. He was in the middle of a difficult situation, that being leaving the Wadena Alliance Church, a place he very much enjoyed working.
Segovia said a difference in the future of the church led him to step away from the Alliance ministry, though at the time he didn't have a plan to plant a new church.
Segovia described the situation as similar to a story in the Bible in 1 Kings, where Elijah is in a moment of panic after seeing God do miracles. Elijah goes on a journey and finds God, who asks Elijah what he is doing.
"Sometimes a journey is what defines us," Segovia said.
Epicenter Church is the journey that Segovia said he and his family are ready to embark on.
While Segovia is younger guy (34) and has previously served in youth ministry, he said a focus on younger generations is not the only direction of the Epicenter Church.
"When we first left (the Alliance Church), it was assumed it was going to be a next gen church," Segovia said. But that's only a part of the church, he said.
"Our approach would be reaching the next generation, but that does not define the ministry," he said. "Our model is that we always want to keep on moving forward. As much as we may see an influx of young families, it won't be who we are. We desire to see a congregation filled with every single decade."
Segovia said the look of the church may be unique for the area but it's shaped by the different churches he's been involved in.
What led Segovia to this point involved a journey of walking away from God as a teenager and getting straightened out not long after meeting his wife.
"My wife has been pivotal in every single ministry opportunity," Segovia said.
He recalls after a less than honorable evening out with friends in his hometown of Brownsville, TX, he had a call from his youth pastor. He had hit a rock bottom of sorts and felt that this may be his chance to turn his life around. He was asked to serve as a translator for a missions group traveling into Mexico. He agreed and met with the mission's team from the Wadena Alliance Church, including a young Gina Malone. That was June 2003 and by December 2004 the two were married and living in Wadena. Segovia was working in construction with his father-in-law when an injury brought him into a position of worship ministry. He soon realized that God was pulling him in that direction and before long he was hired to lead worship at a non-denominational church in Dickinson, ND.
Another opening brought Segovia back to the area working as youth leader at Journey North in Baxter. Just nine months later, Segovia felt a pull to serve back in Wadena after learning of recent suicides in the community.
He credits Pastor Tony Stanley of the Verndale Alliance Church for encouraging him to get in touch with Pastor Aaron Andrews at the Wadena Alliance Church. Segovia said Andrews fought to bring Segovia into the church and he is grateful to him for his help. To do so he had to be licensed with the Alliance Church.
After serving at the Wadena Alliance Church for more than a year and a half, Segovia said it became clear that the church leadership wanted to go one direction while Segovia was being pulled a different direction.
"We were not in sync," Segovia said. "Our desire to reach the community was not going to be in tune."
Segovia said parting ways allows both churches to continue to reach out and share a message of salvation, without hindering each other. He said he continues to value what the church does and cheers on their work.
"I see this as a moment that we are going to reach different age groups and different people in different ways," Segovia said.
The mission statement of Epicenter Church "is to reach the lost, share God's word through relevant messages, and empower people to fulfill their purpose. Never compromising the truth of the Bible, never putting preference before mission, and always putting God at the center of all we do."
Segovia spoke of the troubles that the community of Wadena deals with including poverty and addictions. While these are not unique to Wadena, they create a unique ministry opportunity.
"I just believe God gives us a love and desire to reach people," Segovia said. "A lot of the needs that are present cannot be treated by anything else."
Segovia said his desire is to work with existing churches to reach everyone in the community.
"We hold very conservative values, but I believe, in our approach, we are very fluid," Segovia said. "We want to reach people that maybe would never set foot in a church. We want them to experience the love of Christ above anything else."
Go to www.wadenaepicenter.church/ to find out more about the church.