WHO WE ARE
An inclusive family of Christ followers, inspiring, challenging, and equipping each other to participate in God's great story.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
THE IMPORTANCE OF FREEDOM
Since our beginnings, Baptists have been the champions of religious freedom. Roger Williams, founder of the first Baptist church in America, wrote in 1640, "An enforced uniformity of religion throughout a nation or civil state…denies the principles of Christianity and civility." Later in 1920, on the steps of the capital in Washington DC, George Truett, pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX declared liberty to be a "right," "a matter of principle," and "a gift from God." In other words, Williams and Truett believed strongly that God created humanity with a free will, not to be coerced by ecclesiastical or civil authorities.
At NorthHaven, we still believe that the freedom of an individual and congregation is an important facet to the practice of faith. Walter Shurden identifies four freedoms that Baptists have championed throughout the years: Soul Freedom, Religious Freedom, Bible Freedom, and Church Freedom. Every individual and congregation preserves the right and responsibility to relate to God, or not to relate to God, without the dictates of an imposed creed, interference from clergy, or intervention from civil government.
Jesus never coerced or demanded conformity. He always encouraged personal submission to God, but always allowed for individual choice. He decried those who manipulated religious practice for their own political gain. Jesus knew that for true spiritual transformation to take place, individuals needed to decide for themselves and render a personal choice. At NorthHaven, we encourage every person to pursue their personal relationship with God as they determine through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We do not stress strict dogmas or demand blind loyalty. We promote and practice religious freedom, thus empowering individuals to work earnestly in developing their understanding and application of faith.
AN INCLUSIVE CONGREGATION
NorthHaven Church exists for those individuals and families seeking a progressive Christian witness taking Jesus for his word, that all people are invited to follow him. Regardless of ethnic background, economic position, political affiliation, or past indiscretions, NorthHaven welcomes you to be a part of our family and experience the grace and love of God. For too long, churches have focused upon an exclusionist approach to faith. Instead of seeking ways to welcome people into the family of God, we have built doctrines and dogmas that have divided God’s children.
An example of this inclusivity comes in both our Communion practices and our membership policies. We practice open communion at NorthHaven, which means that you don't have to be a member to observe this sacrament with us. Any professing believer of Jesus Christ is welcome to come to the Lord's table with us. Our membership policies allow believers who have been baptized through any tradition to partner with us, with no need to be baptized again. This remains true even if the person did not go through baptism by immersion. For new believers, we still practice baptism by immersion.
At NorthHaven, we want to be known for welcoming all people and empowering them to be disciples of Jesus. In addition, NorthHaven exists for those individuals and families that have felt the cold sting of hurtful religion. Unfortunately, there are too many stories where the church has failed to love as Jesus loved…too many stories where grace is only a word and not a practice…too many stories where the doors to the kingdom have been slammed shut and not thrown open. At NorthHaven, we offer an invitation to any persons who have suffered at the hand of hurtful religion. We welcome you, scars and all.
Finally, being an inclusive congregation means promoting and practicing an egalitarian view of family and church life. We believe men and women were created equal to serve as co-laborers in the home and church. We believe in a shared responsibility between husbands and wives; where mutual submission encourages humility and respect. As well, we hold that God calls and equips men and women for the purpose of service within his church. Gender should never be a factor in whether a person serves God in any manner of ministry. God loves every one of his children equally, so his church should seek to do the same. We ordain both men and women as ministers and deacons of the Church.
CHURCH AND STATE SEPARATE
Should church and state remain separate? Are you like us, do you feel like some churches have been turned into a strong-arm of a political party? Do sermons sound more like political stump speeches than prophetic messages? Has the term "evangelical" been turned into a political tool rather than describing believers seeking to spread hope to the world? Do you think people should be given the right to worship God and practice their faith freely without the interference of the state? At NorthHaven Church, we do.
As Baptists, we have a cherished history on these issues. On July 16, 1651, three Baptists set out for Massachusetts where they would be arrested and imprisoned for preaching a baptism contrary to the state church. Obadiah Holmes was publicly whipped for his crime. Their story would be told to revolutionaries like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, as America began to create a foundation to build upon. Baptists John Leland and Isaac Backus championed religious liberty for every person, regardless of religious affiliation. Because of their determination, the free exercise of religion and the non-establishment of religion by the state were included within the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
With freedom as our foundation, NorthHaven believes every person has the right to worship, or not to worship, God as they feel convicted. To ensure this right, we promote the principle of separation between church and state. Roger Williams was the first to use the image, calling for a "hedge" to exist between religious and civil authorities. Thomas Jefferson built upon this image when he wrote to the Danbury Baptists and championed a "wall of separation" between church and state. Both men understood the importance of keeping church and state separate. If they are allowed to merge, both will suffer great consequences. At NorthHaven, we believe both institutions are important for the greater good of society, but must remain separate to be successful. From the pulpit, you will not be told what candidate to vote for, which party to give your allegiance, or that your faith may be in doubt because you support someone different than the norm. NorthHaven believes everyone is entitled to their opinion, as they read Scripture for themselves and apply those principles to their life.
A MISSIONAL CONGREGATION
NorthHaven is committed to making a difference in the community and world. We are constantly looking for local and global opportunities to embrace people with the hope of Jesus. We are a missional congregation engaged in the culture and dedicated to working with others. We forge networks and partnerships that share our passion for helping the poor, the needy, and the sick. We take Jesus at his word when he said, "whatever you do for the least of these, you do it for me" (Matthew 25:40).
NorthHaven offers missional opportunities to members and non-members through sending teams to Africa with HisNets to distribute mosquito netting, gathering supplies for displaced veterans, sending care packages to soldiers serving in Iraq, feeding the homeless in Norman, repairing homes in the Rio Grande Valley, adopting local students through the Regional Food Bank, and many more ventures. NorthHaven is committed to being the presence of Christ where we discover needs. If you, or your family, wants to be part of this new and exciting missional strategy, please join us this Sunday and get plugged in to the excitement.
FOUR FRAGILE FREEDOMS
Freedom is our watchword. We have a rich heritage of freedom that was won at great cost. We cherish certain ideals that have helped define Baptists.
Baptists have always upheld the liberty of conscience. This simply means that genuine faith is voluntary, not coerced. Each individual is directly responsible to God in matters of faith. And each person has the equal right of direct access to God. Our concept of the "priesthood of the believers" grows out of this.
On any list of historic Baptist principles, the authority of Scripture will have a prominent place. From the Anabaptists of the 16th century, to British Baptists of the 17th century, to Roger Williams and John Clarke in the New England colonies, the Bible – especially the New Testament – has been the sourcebook of belief and practice. Each individual is free to read, study and interpret scripture for himself/herself. No man-made creed can replace the Bible. No person or denomination can coerce belief in a certain interpretation.
If freedom is best for individuals, it is also best for churches. This is called the "Autonomy of the Local Church." Baptists have always insisted on independent, self-governing congregations. No general body outside the church can dictate, make policy, or write creedal statements that are binding on the local church. Each local church, by majority vote, manages its own affairs, calls its own pastor, selects its own officers, and cooperates with other groups.
Baptists have historically held that "Separation of Church and State" is best for both. Baptists added their influence to the writing of the First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This is America’s unique contribution to the world. Yet, W.R. Estep, Baptist historian writes concerning our present situation, "never, since the writing of the First Amendment, has separation of church and state been under such intensive attack."
Historically, Baptists have been persecuted, whipped, imprisoned and banished for standing by these ideals.
Empowering individuals and families to develop their spirituality is a priority at NorthHaven. Through meaningful worship, insightful Bible study, challenging book studies, reflective small group discussions, strong binding relationships, and exciting missional endeavors, individuals are encouraged to reflect upon their spirituality and connectedness to God. At NorthHaven, we believe the mind, body, and soul are the three essences that make up our individuality. However, through the pursuit of our individual spiritual formation we recognize the importance and necessity of being part of a community. Whether it is family or church, we move forward together in an effort to bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus.
MEET OUR CHURCH STAFF
We love our ministerial team! Get to know them better here, and say hi when you come visit.
In 1999, the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma began planning for a series of new church starts in Oklahoma. In 2001, Rick McClatchy, CBFO Coordinator, invited the First Baptist Church of Norman to partner with CBFO to begin a new church in Norman. In the spring of 2002, the national CBF in Atlanta commissioned a planning group, Vision Decisions, to do two studies, a demographic study and a focus-group study of the Norman area. The studies found that a new moderate Baptist church in Norman was feasible, and that northwest Norman would be best location for the new start. One of the members of CBFO purchased a piece of property at 36th Avenue Northwest, just south of Franklin Road, as a possible location for the new church.
In 2003, approximately twenty-five members of First Baptist Church formed a core group to help plan a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church in Norman, and began meeting in homes to help plan the new work. This group was augmented by a few couples from Moore, south Oklahoma City and Midwest City, who were seeking a progressive, moderate Baptist church in which to worship. The planning group continued to meet and plan until the spring of 2004, when a new church was constituted. T. Thomas, Coordinator of CBFO, took the lead, along with Bruce Prescott, head of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists. The first formal worship service for the new church was held on April 18, 2004, in the Chapel of First Presbyterian Church, located on University Boulevard in Norman.
A CHURCH TAKES SHAPE
The new Baptist fellowship grew quickly from an initial group of thirty to seventy-five members. Ordained ministers in the congregation rotated preaching duties, and two capable volunteers agreed to lead the worship service. Harold Jones became the interim minister of music, and June Price became interim pianist. When the Presbyterian Chapel became too small to house the group, arrangements were made to move worship services into the Sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church.
With no formal organizational structure, the new church divided itself into planning teams to facilitate worship, deal with finance, personnel, Bible study, and facilities. Other groups were designated to file papers of incorporation and seek IRS approval of tax- exempt status. An ad hoc committee was formed to help select a name for the new congregation. The name "NorthHaven Church" was selected by the membership as the official name of the congregation. The congregation accepted an offer from an anonymous donor of a ten-acre piece of property as a permanent location for the church.
As of August 15, 2004, Lavonn Brown accepted appointment as Interim Pastor of Northhaven Church. Sheri Ridenour was approved by the congregation as Secretary and Clerk; Harold Jones was appointed Minister of Music; and June Price accepted a position as Organist and Pianist. On January 1, 2005, the church began operating as an IRS-approved 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, under a calendar-year budget approved by the congregation.
FINDING A HOME
In 2005, NorthHaven embarked on a series of ambitious programs. The decision was made to begin raising funds for a new building, to be located at 4600 36th Avenue, N.W, just north of Tecumseh Road and south of Franklin Road. During the spring of 2005, pledge-cards were mailed out to members to determine what amount of funds could be raised internally before starting on a formal fund-raising campaign. By June of 2005, more than $600,000 in gifts and pledges had been collected. A building team was created and plans went forward to hire Kaign and Associates to design an all-purpose structure to serve as a worship center, education center, and to provide office space for a pastor and church staff. Donations continued to pour in, and no further financial campaign was needed, thanks to a few generous and dedicated church members.
In July of 2005, the Building Team, led by Manning Close, presented preliminary plans for Phase I of a building program at an estimated cost of $2.5 million, subject to satisfactory financing. An ad hoc committee was created to seek a loan to help finance the proposed structure. Engineering studies were approved for platting the site, and projects were adopted to create a new four-lane street in front of the church and to bring water to the site and do a water storage and drainage project. In January of 2006, construction bids were opened and a contract was signed with Landmark Construction Company at an estimated cost of $2.8 million. Completion of the 15,000 square-foot project was estimated to require fourteen months. Ground was broken formally on March 26, 2006. The first service was tentatively scheduled for Easter Sunday, 2007.
CALLING A PASTOR
In the spring of 2006, NorthHaven began an eight-week study designed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship entitled "It’s Time," calculated to turn the congregation from a program-driven organization toward a missional organization. From March through April, the church body attended adult Bible study classes to study the "It’s Time" material and make decisions about what kind of church NorthHaven should become in the years ahead.
In July of 2006, the church reappointed Lavonn Brown as Interim Pastor for an additional year, subject to the call of a new pastor. On October 1, 2006, Don Gilmore began his duties as Interim Minister of Music, replacing Harold Jones, who had resigned. At the July church conference, a Pastoral Search Committee was approved to seek a permanent Senior Pastor. That committee, chaired by Deborah Friant, began a systematic process that culminated with the unanimous (85-0) selection of R. Mitch Randall as Senior Pastor on December 17, 2006. Mitch and Missy, his wife, and his sons, Cole and Tanner, came to NorthHaven from the First Baptist Church of Bedford, Texas, where he previously served as pastor.
PROGRAMS AND MINISTRIES FLOURISHING AS THE CHURCH CALLS MINISTERS
Over the years, NorthHaven's ministries have been built up by fantastic ministers. Our children have been an emphasis within the Church. JJ Waggoner and Kim Divelbiss have both done absolutely amazing work with the kids in our community. This ministry has brought smiles to many faces, and produced wonderful students and adults.
The student ministry has steadily grown. Rich Lubbers stepped in as the first youth minister as he attended OU. Later, after having many volunteers serve in this role, NorthHaven called Bryan Partridge as their second full time minister. Since, NorthHaven Student Ministry, or NHSM, has developed a strong identity. They are highly active within the Church. They continue to be a safe haven for students to find faith and community.
Our music ministry has seen Mark Lucas, Kelly Miller, and currently Cheryl Tarter lead our choir and Church in worship. Through Easter musicals, incredible special music and classic hymns; NorthHaven music ministry continues to lead our congregation as we worship our Lord.
We have seen children transition into student ministry and even college ministry over the years. We now have college students that meet together under the leadership of Brant Elmore. They call themselves "The U," and have regular Bible studies and fellowships.
One of NorthHaven's most impactful ministries is the Day School. Kim Divelbiss serves as the director, and runs a fantastic program for children. We have seen many community kids come through this program, which has provided great education, faith principles and joy. Parents love to drop their kids off in the care of this wonderful ministry.
Many things over the years have helped to shape who NorthHaven is today. Below are some of the major milestones.
- NorthHaven opened membership policies
- First, individuals can partner with NorthHaven by making a profession of faith, followed by baptism. Second, individuals can reaffirm their faith and baptism even when their baptism comes from another Christian tradition. We will continue our practice of believer's baptism by immersion, but will honor the conscience of those coming from other traditions.
- NorthHaven has ordained three ministers into the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Rich Lubbers, Bryan Partridge and Kim Divelbiss.
- NorthHaven completed a building process in which they constructed the Rick Price Education Wing.
- NorthHaven changed their Sunday schedule to include a second worship service.
- Pastor Mitch Randall resigned to become the Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
- NorthHaven called Rev. Jakob Topper as pastor in October 2018. His first Sunday as Senior Pastor was November 18, 2018.