The over 22,000-member Southeast Christian Church in Kentucky will open its seventh campus through a merger next year.
The Louisville-based evangelical church announced through an email sent to church members over the weekend that an agreement has been made with River Valley Christian Church in Goshen to become the newest SECC congregation.
The merger comes after River Valley’s senior pastor, Brandon Braun, was diagnosed with Leukemia in August.
According to WDRB, leaders at Southeast Christian were approached several months ago about a possible merger with River Valley Christian Church. The merger was approved through a vote by the River Valley elders on Sunday morning.
“We’re excited to share with you that the River Valley Church Family voted and agreed to join the Southeast Christian Family,” Pastors Dave Stone and Kyle Idleman of SECC said in a joint statement. "Join us as we praise God for this unique opportunity to continue to build His church as we share the hope and love of Jesus throughout our communities.”
Terry A. Roach, chairman of the elders of River Valley Christian Church, said in a statement last week that the decision was made for a few reasons.
“[T]he options were to maintain status quo, sell the church and move the church to a smaller building or merge with a larger church,” Roach explained, adding that the church has benefitted from “having some people give big checks when we needed them.”
“God’s wants a strong vibrant church that will — as our original Bylaws expressed — carry out the program of Christ as expressed in the New Testament (i.e. the winning of souls to Christ and the edification of the saints). It’s about being a bright light on this hill where we have been flickering. It’s not about RVCC, it’s not about Brandon, it’s not about the staff and it’s not about our family culture. It’s about God and his plan for the Goshen/Prospect area!”
Roach explained that when they turned to Southeast for help, they were told that Southeast leaders had been “praying for how they could impact the Goshen/Prospect area.”
“[T]hey considered our coming to them as an answered prayer,” he explained.
Roach said that the River Valley leadership wasn’t immediately convinced a merger was the right move until the Southeast leadership made them several assurances.
SECC agreed to put Braun on staff and that their health insurance would cover him. The megachurch also agreed to keep current River Valley staff or provide them with a buyout plan.
Of other importance to River Valley is its mission partners, to which SECC assured that it has a large mission budget.
SECC also agreed to “take over or pay off the loan” on the River Valley church building, Roach added.
Stating that the River Valley name has much importance to the congregation, Roach said that he was also told that the new SECC campus can be called Southeast Christian Church-River Valley.
In a statement directed at the members of River Valley, the SECC leaders proclaimed that they are committed to building upon River Valley’s “heritage and mission of sharing the hope and love of Jesus.”
“We’re grateful that we’re like-minded with similar missions, unified under the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:13),” the statement reads. “This is a unique opportunity for the bride of Christ to be healthy, collaborative, and effective. May we always be bonded in prayer and stand together as one through the grace of Jesus Christ!”
Along with three campuses in Louisville, SECC also has campuses in Elizabethtown, La Grange, and Jeffersonville, Indiana. The new campus is expected to open in spring 2019.
Stone, who has pastored at SECC for the last 12 years, announced in September that he plans to step down and allow Idleman to transition into the role as the congregation’s leader in 2019.
A GoFundMe crowdfunding page has been created to benefit Braun and his family as he goes through cancer treatment. So far, nearly $7,000 have been raised in three months.