Sometimes a field trip can pay off.
But it was much more than a trip when the campus pastor and members of Lifegate Church decided to drive around Fremont.
Robert Wilson, Fremont campus pastor for the multi-site church, read Mark Batterson’s book, “The Circle Maker,” which encourages prayer. Wilson and about 400 congregants from Fremont and Omaha then took a circular journey around the city, stopping to pray in various locations.
One of the end results is the church’s new location in the former Oriental Trade Company building at 2407 N. Colorado Ave.
The church had three services in this building on Christmas Eve with more than 340 people attending and the congregation looks forward to more growth and community service.
Lifegate has six locations — the original campus at West Dodge in Omaha, along with Midtown and Papillion. It also has campuses in Belgrade and Novi Sad, Serbia, which grew out of a relationship the church had with a Serbian pastor who wanted to bring an English-speaking campus to his town.
Fremont has the newest campus.
The average attendance at all six campuses is about 3,000 adults and 600 children and youth.
Fremont’s campus grew out of a desire by about 100 local residents who were driving to Omaha’s West Dodge campus. Residents wondered if a campus could be situated in Fremont.
The church officially announced plans to have a Fremont campus in 2017. It began having services with worship and prayer at 7 p.m. the first Monday of each month at Milady Coffeehouse in downtown Fremont. These monthly gatherings are continuing.
“It’s not like an official church service,” Wilson said. “It’s more of an opportunity for us to gather together as a community and continue to pray for the community.”
The first Sunday service took place Dec. 27 in the Colorado Avenue location. About 130 adults and 32 children have attended the first two Sundays.
Worship services start at 9:15 a.m., and Wilson said more services will be added as needed. Although the sanctuary seats 400, only 200 chairs are there now to allow for social distancing and to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures.
Besides monthly meetings at Milady, Wilson said Life Groups of 10 to 12 people began gathering in homes throughout the city in 2018. Participants prayed and discussed topics.
“We tried to cultivate and disciple our congregation through Life Groups, primarily,” Wilson said. “We tried to rally our congregation. We kind of consider ourselves as a church without walls.”
The church looked for ways to serve the city. More than 30 congregants helped serve during the Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner at Midland University in 2018 and 2019. Congregants have provided a Trunk or Treat during the downtown Fremont celebrations in the fall.
After the 2019 flood, church crews worked a couple of months helping families clean up and muck out houses. About 30 people from the church also helped remove trash on Ridge Road after the flood.
“We just tried to serve where it was needed,” Wilson said. “We try to be a good community partner.”
The church had looked for a place to locate since 2017.
“We really ran into a lot of roadblocks of not finding the right facility with enough parking—all of those things. We knew about this building, but financially we really weren’t in a position to move on it,” he said.
In February, after sermons on “The Circle Maker,” Wilson and congregants met in Menard’s parking lot to drive around the city and pray. Participants traveled to various Fremont various locations, including the Wooden Windmill restaurant, Midland University, the Fremont Family YMCA and the Fremont Nazarene Church parking lot.
About 200 vehicles with approximately 400 people from the Fremont and Omaha campuses made the trip, stopping to pray at the different spots.
“We had a podcast for each leg of the journey,” he said. “We weren’t praying for a building, we were praying for the people and the churches in the city.”
But at one point, a couple participants took a wrong turn and saw that the former Oriental Trading Company building was for sale. They inquired about it.
“The Lord put it on their heart and they bought the building and they gave it to us,” he said.
Remodeling of the 14,000-square-foot building began in late May. The building now includes a large sanctuary. It has an adult/multipurpose room and classrooms for children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
New carpet and painting were part of the project. Men’s and women’s bathrooms were remodeled and a family bathroom was added in between the two.
The interdenominational church believes in the essentials of the Christian faith.
Services have live worship and a broadcast message from the church’s main campus. Sermons come from Les Beauchamp, senior pastor, or Mica Eldridge, associate senior pastor.
“We function just like any other church,” Wilson said. “The only difference would be the message aspect of it.”
Not all messages are broadcast. On the first Sunday, Wilson preached at the church and will do so throughout the year.
As campus pastor, Wilson cares for the congregations presiding at baby dedications, weddings and funerals, making hospital and nursing home visits, and teaching, training, discipleship, building and growing the church.
The church has men’s, women’s and youth groups and children’s church during the services.
“Our hope is to partner with other churches in the city to reach people,” he said. “We call ourselves a ‘Tree of Life Church.’ We’re not religious per se. You come as you are. You come pre-loved, not pre-judged. We’re a welcoming community. Our vision is simple—to invite people everywhere to discover, live and give life in Jesus.”
Wilson said many people feel disqualified because of their past.
“We want them to know they’re not and God’s love extends to everyone, regardless of what they’ve done,” he said, noting that the church offers a nonjudgmental environment.
Wilson and his wife, Joyce, live in Elkhorn and have two daughters.