In 1998, Huntersville's Lake Forest Church was opened with a promise to its founding church, Forest Hill Church in Charlotte: It would plant more churches itself.
Last month, Lake Forest fulfilled that promise and opened its first church plant in Davidson, tweaking a popular model of church planting that involves opening "satellite campuses" rather than a separate church.
"Since moving to Huntersville, we love the church that God has shaped us into," said the Rev. Mike Moses, senior pastor of Lake Forest Church. "However, to be true to the calling we felt from the Lord, we knew it was time to go - to bring God's message of love to a new location, reaching others who may have given up on church but not on God."
Lake Forest Church-Davidson shares a budget, vision and community ministries with Forest Hill. But unlike many satellite campuses, where congregations often hear sermons from the founding church's lead pastor on a video screen, Lake Forest-Davidson has its own teaching pastor.
"We didn't think that would be an effective way to reach out to the Davidson community," said the Rev. Michael Flake, pastor of the Davidson church and former missions pastor at Lake Forest. "Mike Moses wants to cultivate the gifts in me as a younger pastor in being able to teach there every week."
Flake was a natural fit for the job. He graduated from Davidson College in 2006 and loves the community. He's worked at Lake Forest for three years.
"I have a rich history there," he said.
Lake Forest also has roots in the Davidson community - it met at the Lake Norman YMCA in Davidson from 2002 to 2007 before moving to its own facility on Gilead Road in Huntersville.
When conversations about planting a church began in 2010, the congregation also discussed locating in Denver. That plan is not off the table, Flake said.
"It just not the right opportunity for right now," he said.
Lake Forest Church-Davidson held its first service on Aug. 21, and the set-up team placed 250 chairs in the Davidson Elementary School gym to make sure there were enough for everyone. About 150 people from Lake Forest were part of the church's core group, and they hadn't done much advertising other than word-of-mouth.
"Then we just had this stream of people," Flake said. "We had people sitting up in the bleachers. It was fabulous."
Church leaders estimate that about 450 people attended. About one third were from Lake Forest, one third were Davidson College students and one third were people they didn't recognize.
Unlike Lake Forest, the Davidson church sets up "church in the round," with the chairs surrounded the stage. But Flake and Moses preach each Sunday on the same Bible passage so that the churches' community groups can discuss the same material.
The two pastors also plan to switch pulpits throughout the year.
Flake said he considers the connection to the mission and values of Lake Forest, as well as the financial help, momentum and core group from the founding church "a gift."
"My job is simply to harness all of that and focus it in a good direction," he said.