Kyle Jackson would have started a church plant wherever God led him. As it turns out, God was leading him to Lago Mar — a beautiful, planned community surrounding crystal-clear lakes, not unlike a vacation destination.
Lago Mar is located in the Southside of Houston, and Jackson currently preaches from a rented space in the Lago Mar Lagoon Clubhouse. The pulpit, he says, is a mere stone’s throw from the water.
The setting is idyllic, almost dreamlike, but the journey has had its challenges. The church, which officially launched this April, has already had to change its name from Lago Mar Church to 3rd Coat Church for trademark reasons. And, of course, it was birthed in the middle of the pandemic.
To make things even more dramatic, its first service was on Easter Sunday, but neither Jackson nor the worship leader were able to attend, because Jackson tested positive for COVID-19 and exposed the worship leader to it before he became aware. The sermon had to be shown via video and they found somebody else to lead worship.
Still, 100 people attended and it quickly became clear to Jackson that God was at work and he was just “hanging on” and “hoping to not mess up what He was doing.”
The journey started when Kyle was on sabbatical from his job as a student and missions pastor at Heritage Park Baptist Church. He looked to God for guidance and felt a clear draw to start a church plant. The call was so clear, and his passion was so fierce, that he could only describe it as a “fire in his bones.”
As soon as he came home, he stopped by to see Trent Henderson, his senior pastor, to share his new passion. And he wasn’t shy about it, either.
“I'm not sure where yet, but I want to enter into residency with the Houston Church Planting Network and I want you to come alongside me in this process,” he told him.
Henderson laughed, perhaps amused by his boldness, and said he had a meeting next week with the director of Church Starting for Texas Baptists, and he wanted Jackson to come along.
One thing led to another, and Jackson embarked on a journey with Texas Baptists that helped prepare him for church planting. He continued his current job responsibilities at Heritage Park Baptist, but he also received monthly church-planting training.
Meanwhile, Jackson and his wife, Kacee were praying and trying to identify where they should go.
“We knew we wanted to stay in the Southside of Houston. It’s an area from Beltway 8, of Houston, to the Beach of Galveston,” Jackson explained. More than 55% of its residents consider themselves without a religious affiliation.”
It’s also a rapidly growing area. Four thousand and five hundred homes will be built in the Lago Mar alone, with many other communities growing in the surrounding area.
Jackson explained that, statistically, the average non-Christian is not willing to drive more than 2.5 miles to go to church, and it was that information which helped them choose Lago Mar, where no churches existed within that radius.
And so, the Jackson family built their new house and moved in at the end of February 2020 — just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Building a new church during a pandemic
Churches are a community of believers, and Jackson was going to have to build a new one in a time that restricted gatherings. He started where any pastor should — prayer.
He went on jogs, praying up and down every street, praying for the families that would live in the new homes and the families that had already moved in.
“As we met people I’d pray for them by name,” Jackson said. “I’d pray for the minivan with the three kid stickers or the smaller house thinking this may be someone retiring or downsizing.”
And one day, Jackson decided to visit the neighborhood Facebook page and introduced himself as a pastor who wanted to pray for the community.
The prayer requests flowed in. And as Jackson prayed on his jogs, he would pause in front of the homeowner’s property and send in a selfie to show them that they were being prayed for. That was the beginning of the new community.
“We had a core team of three families from our sending church that used to meet in my living room, and in Sept. 2020, we did a Facebook Live interest meeting where we introduced ourselves and told the community what we planned on doing — small groups.”
Thirty people were interested, so three small groups began meeting weekly for meals, prayer and Bible study. Today, 70 adults are involved in small groups and new people are attending Sunday services every week.
“We have about 100 that come on Sundays and about 150 that we call ‘ours,’” Jackson said. “People who have never read the Bible are getting to read the Bible. We were recently able to baptize a husband and wife in the lagoon.”
“The husband said he knew about Jesus, but didn’t know you could have a relationship with him. Then he turned around and baptized his wife, who was nine months pregnant and gave birth the next week!”
Clearly, the fire in Jackson’s bones is only burning brighter.
“We have seen people who have walked away from the church come back,” he said. “We have seen people who have never been to a church call this place home.”
To learn more about Texas Baptists Church Starting, go to txb.org/churchstarting.