Northland Oviedo, Lake County Become Independent Churches

Olivia B

The change allows each church to focus on specific needs of its community

“It’s like that day when your parents tell you it’s time to move out of the basement.” This is how Pastor Dan Lacich describes the exciting news that Northland Oviedo and Northland Lake County will become independent churches in 2019. This is a journey that’s been in the making for a long time.

Roughly 15 years ago, God was speaking to the hearts of several Northlanders about their neighborhoods and communities where they lived. Active small groups and neighborhood networks throughout Central Florida were passionate about loving their neighbors. In Mount Dora, a few families were dreaming about starting a church in their community – a place they could invite their neighbors.

Not long after, some Northland families who lived in Oviedo felt the same call. Little did they know that God would accomplish just that, developing vibrant, others-centered, community-impacting churches for over a decade.

God was instilling these dreams in these Northlanders’ hearts during the “Rink days,” when hundreds of people packed into The Rink for each of the seven services that occurred over the weekend. Some congregants made long drives to Longwood from places such as Mount Dora, remembers Pastor Vernon, only to find that they couldn’t even get a seat in service.

At the same time, newly emerging technology opened doors for Northland to worship concurrently with global partner churches, as well as start a concurrent service in Lyman High School’s auditorium in 2001. In response to the call God was placing on some congregants to start smaller gatherings, Northland decided to use this technology to launch “satellite sites” in Mount Dora (moved later to elsewhere in Lake County) and Oviedo.

Pastor Dan Lacich remembers when, in 2004, families in Oviedo banded together to “take the gospel where they actually lived” through worship and serving. Before they were able to hold a service, three hurricanes ripped through Central Florida. “We were given an opportunity to serve our community before we even held a worship service,” says Dan.

When the two sites each started, they were extensions of Northland’s Longwood site. Through newly emerging technology, Northland was able to live-stream services from Longwood to the sites.

“At that time, it was important to us to sing the same songs and hear the same teaching at all three sites,” remembers Pastor Vernon. “We figured if we could be connected and united in that way, then why not?”

One aspect of the distributed church vision was that God’s nature – unity and ubiquity – should be reflected in His people, the church, as much as possible – on earth as it is in heaven. Concurrent worship was a foretaste of eternal worship around the throne.

But over the years, each site began to take on its own personality, influenced and shaped by the communities they were serving. Pastor Vernon shares: “There is a phrase from the Reformation – semper reformanda, meaning ‘the church must always be reformed’ – that applies to what God has done at Oviedo and Lake County.”

As Oviedo and Lake County’s congregations have learned how to serve their neighbors well – Oviedo placing an emphasis on discipleship in small group communities, while Lake County partners in service with several local schools – we at Longwood have learned from them along the way. And as each site took on its own personality, the leaders at Longwood decided to let God work in each congregation as He saw fit. The churches developed their own elder boards, worship teams, youth ministries and other initiatives unique to them. Pastors such as Dan Lacich, Jeremy Bell and Brian Katauskas taught and shepherded the congregations as the Holy Spirit was leading them. And each site reached a place where it is able to financially sustain itself.

These changes have been celebrated over the years as all three of the sites have grown together, learning from and supporting one another. The unity that was desired from the beginning is still present, even though it looks different.

Following much prayer, the leadership teams of all three church sites have been working on the launch of Oviedo and Lake County as independent churches. A partnership that started as a “mother ship” and daughter sites has evolved into a “sisterhood,” emphasizing a continuing relationship of equals.

This change will allow the other churches to focus on the specific needs of their communities while continuing to grow and serve their congregations. All three churches will continue to partner in many ways to serve on mission both in the Central Florida area and globally.