Rev. Michael Rogalski, LifePoint Church senior pastor, and Earl McJett, lay leader, used to meet for lunch at an authentic Szechuan restaurant that left Rogalski sweating from the spices. Since the pandemic began, they connect in other ways -- the pastor texting his friend daily.
Their friendship has created space for a particular kind of grace: McJett is African American, Rogalski is white. Both are leaders of LifePoint Church in Waldorf, Maryland, a congregation merged from two church plants. The resulting multiethnic congregation reflects the surrounding community, and that’s no accident. Even before The Wesleyan Church’s Marketplace Multipliers initiative, LifePoint prioritized equipping laity for kingdom work.
As McJett observed joyfully, “The Lord is moving, and the Holy Spirit is prompting different people at the same time. We were already commissioning our laity to go out and act on the Great Commission.
“I’ll never forget — it’s such an indelible image in my mind and heart,” McJett said. “We started discussing funding to build a sanctuary. We were standing on the property, and the road is a busy thoroughfare that goes between two communities. Pastor Michael looked up at the traffic, and you could see his heart breaking. He said, ‘there are so many people in those cars going by who need Jesus so desperately.’ He began to weep. That was genuine concern and love for people. It has to start with the kind of love that Jesus has for us. He loved us so much that he gave his life for us. The closer we get to that kind of love, the more genuine our outreach can be. People recognize that; they know when they’re loved.”
Before the merger, Rogalski recalled when someone pointed out the absence of diversity in the church and decided to pray about it. Rogalski promised, “we’ll be praying together,” for the congregation to resemble its community. Now, “We make sure that when people walk into the congregation, they see people in the parking lot, at the doorways and on the platform that look like them.”
Before Marketplace Multipliers, LifePoint leaders referred to equipping laypeople as “everyday missionaries.”
“The congregation not only comes from different ethnic backgrounds but from different social and economic backgrounds,” said McJett. “Each one has a marketplace they go to — school, home, work, even sports. In all our different spheres of influence, we connect with people. It is our responsibility to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit to connect in a way that reflects Jesus’ love for them. When we come together on Sundays, we’re being equipped to go out and be the church in all different areas of our community, of our economy.”
“God is at work as we are at work, regardless of our vocation, position or geographic location. God seeks to use each of our unique gifts right where we are to integrate our faith with work and expand our everyday influence to make disciples, far outside of Sunday services,” said Carrie Whitcher, a healthcare insurance executive who is a strategy team leader with Marketplace Multipliers.
According to McJett, race and ethnicity discussions have been part of the LifePoint DNA, citing, “the intentionality of Pastor Michael and the vision he shared with the rest of us.” Community discussions flow from relationships where there is space for love — and where there is love, there is space for shared grief, humility and joy.
“I’ve had clarifying conversations so I could better understand,” said Rogalski. “Shortly after Ahmaud Arbery was murdered in Georgia, we had a board meeting, and Earl shared his own story about why Georgia was close to his heart. It gave me a greater understanding of our differences and how unity in Christ is so important in understanding the differences.
Earl was brave enough to share and to let me share part of his story with our congregation.
“As a multiethnic congregation, we value that everyone is created in the image of God. Where there’s oppression and evil, as God’s people, we have to stand up and stand against that. It led to a conversation that Earl and his wife, Patrice, were part of, along with other members. What society would use to divide, we have made an intentional decision to understand and to work for the unifying power of the gospel of Christ.”
Rogalski knows that for a multiethnic church to flourish, it requires intentionality and humility from everyone. That is happening at LifePoint. McJett and Rogalski know great joy because of it.