We judge our success by sending capacity, not seating capacity

A Long History

The Summit began in 1961 when Pastor Sam James founded Grace Baptist Mission and preached its first sermon in Durham, commissioning it to reach both the city and the nations. Immediately after preaching this sermon, Pastor James moved his family to Vietnam and spent much of the next four decades serving on the mission field.

Within a year, the mission had grown into the new Homestead Heights Baptist Church. The church increased to a membership of more than 150 by 1965, and as it continued to grow, a new church building was constructed in the 1980s to host close to 600 people. Although it briefly exceeded capacity, the 1990s saw little growth, and membership eventually declined to a stable 300 members. Some members today have been a part of the church from the beginning and can tell stories of both the blessings they’ve experienced and the challenges we’ve been through as a church.

A Fresh Vision

In 1998, Homestead Heights was without a senior pastor and called Dr. Keith Eitel, then head of the missions department at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, to be the interim pastor. Under Dr. Eitel’s leadership, the church was challenged to renew their vision for reaching the world and to put their “yes” on the table as their commitment to do whatever God called them to do.

Prayer and fasting were emphasized again. People were reminded of God’s heart for reaching the nations for Jesus—especially unreached people groups. The church was coming back to the mission it was founded on, and there were big signs of revitalization. God was posturing the church for what was to come.

In December 2001 the church voted to call as the new lead pastor J.D. Greear, who at the time had been serving as the college pastor. Pastor J.D. immediately cast a vision for the church to engage the Raleigh/Durham (RDU) area with the gospel. Homestead Heights was re-launched as The Summit Church. With a new identity, it was time for a new beginning. Worship attendance at the time was about 300, but a goal was set to have 1,000 in worship the next Easter. The members came together in a show of unified energy and focus unlike anything anyone remembered seeing before. On Easter Sunday, more than 1,100 people experienced worship at the Summit.

Within the next two years, it became clear that God had even bigger plans. By the fall of 2002, The Summit Church had college students showing up for the first time. This was a huge answer to prayer as the church recognized that the nations were actually coming to them in the form of college students. They understood that if they could reach a student, they could also reach the city, state, or country that the student would return to.

Soon, the Summit outgrew its facility and began to look for a new location. In a great act of faith, the church sold the property it had owned since the early 1960s and began meeting at Riverside High School. A spirit of excitement and anticipation prevailed. New people came to faith and were committed to the church’s mission to reach people with the gospel. In the summer of 2005, the church launched its first week of ServeRDU (then called Week of Hope), which quickly turned into a movement. Since then, hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of service have been given year-round to the schools, prisons, shelters, and community ministries of the city.

A Regional, Multi-site Church

By 2007, the Summit had grown to 2,000 people worshipping in three services at Riverside and once again began thinking about ways to accommodate growth. The church explored how they could take advantage of the multi-site strategy and soon after began up-fitting a warehouse on the opposite side of town in the rapidly expanding Brier Creek area, a central location for the majority of the church’s attendees at the time. In addition, the Cole Mill campus was launched just a few miles from Riverside High to allow those who lived in the North Durham area to stay where they were and serve where they lived in order to be the church in their community. The Summit Church was now a multi-site church.

A Sent Church

At the same time, many individuals in the church began putting their “yes” on the table in a different way—in their obedience to the Great Commission. Their extravagant giving to missions and extensive involvement in short-term trips were no longer enough. The opportunity to be a part of God’s promise to bring salvation to the nations was not a burden but a blessing they couldn’t miss out on. The church began to see people give up high-paying corporate jobs, sell their homes and vehicles, and commit their lives to go and share the good news of Jesus among unreached people groups. A new theme of being “sent” began to pervade the people of The Summit Church. By God’s grace, the Summit has planted 250 total churches (42 domestic; 208 international), and over 1,000 people have been sent out with church plants as of June 2018.

Just the Beginning

God continues to expand the Summit’s reach, here in RDU and around the world. In the fall of 2008, the Summit launched the Downtown Durham (formerly West Club) campus, situated in an historic Durham neighborhood within walking distance of Duke University.

In the fall of 2009, the Summit felt led to minister to the growing Spanish-speaking population in RDU—a part of the community unreached by the evangelical church and hungry for the good news of Jesus. Under Pastor Raudel Hernandez’s leadership, the Summit en Español campus launched shortly thereafter with worship, teaching, ministries, and programs geared toward Spanish speakers. This campus is passionate about reaching the growing Latino community in RDU with the gospel.

In 2010 and 2011, the North Raleigh and Cary campus launched and the North Durham campus relaunched to tremendous success, and 2013 and 2014 brought the launch of the Chapel Hill and Blue Ridge (Raleigh) campuses, respectively. Our first Extended City Gathering in Alamance County became a campus in the fall of 2015, and the Cary campus moved and became the Apex campus in 2017. Also in 2017, we were able to launch not one, but two locations inside the walls of prisons. In the coming years the church hopes to see more campuses planted around the Triangle and more church planters sent to the nations.

God has truly done more than we could ask or imagine. He has blessed the Summit for a purpose—to be a blessing to others. By God’s grace, as he continues to move at the Summit, the church will continue to pour themselves out for the mission of God.

50 Year Celebration Video (2012)