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Meet the Pastor: Gary Schell of Church in the Oaks
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James 1:22-25: But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in [what he does.

Gary Schell has been a pastor at his home church, Church in the Oaks, for five years, and the lead pastor for the last two. While it may seem a natural progression to pastor in your own church God’s plan for Schell led him half way around the world before coming back home.

Schell grew up in a ministry family, and his fathers’ churches always supported church members being involved in active ministry. He first felt the call to be a missionary in his teens, but his own plan was to become a city planner. Throughout his undergraduate university years, he never stopped being involved in lay ministry, and during an all-night prayer session he felt he needed to step out in faith in vocational ministry. He then changed the masters track he planned on pursuing at Tyndale University College and Seminary, and it was at Tyndale that he developed his passion for the lost and for missions.

This passion for missions led him and his wife to the Trans Africa Theological College in Kitwe, Zambia. The school was founded in 1967 by Reverend Glen Kauffeldt, and Schell served as the professor of Bible and Theology for two years.

The Schell’s then moved to the Pan Africa Christian College in Harare, Zimbabwe. He served as the academic dean for five years in the school providing a theological component to those who were either in or preparing for full time Christian work. During his tenure he was involved in most areas of the school, from academics to practical training and even fundraising.

The Schell’s next landed at the Cornerstone Church in Pretoria, South Africa. At the time Cornerstone was a large church of around 1,500 members and Schell was the pastor of missions and discipleship for around three and a half years, mobilizing the church for missions and discipling new believers. Cornerstone was in a period of heavy growth at the time, with 30-40 new believers joining the church a month. He also ran a ministry training center in the evenings, with students required to have a direct ministry placement. While Schell has a love of theology and teaching his passion is for a missional church that reaches the lost.

“The church in Africa was so alive,” says Schell. “Despite their poverty they were so rich in life. When they came to Christ their faith redefined their lives, and they truly understood that the call of Christ was a call to disciple.”

Schell’s passion has informed his role as pastor of Church in the Oaks. The goal is to make it a church of mission, not simply a church that does missions. To that end the church has been increasing its mission budget every year and is increasingly committed to missions around the block as well as around the world.

Related to this vision Church in the Oaks has seen recent consistent growth in its congregation, with most growth being through conversion rather than transfer from other churches. In fact, around 10% of the congregation are new Christians, which both creates difficulties in keeping a balance between edification and going to the lost and marvelous opportunities in discipling hungry young believers, a problem many churches would like to have.

“An enriching and fulfilling life is lived for God and others,” says Schell. “Church should not be about ‘does it meet my need.’ Learn to give your life fully to God. We only have a short time to lay up treasures in heaven and we can miss opportunities.”

Church in the Oaks meets on Sunday morning from 10:30 am to noon for worship at 150 Conway Drive. Pastor Schell also teaches a class on Sunday nights at 630 pm on “Foundations-Christian Faith Essentials” at the church.