In 1995, the Leake family left Maryland for California where Tom would attend the Master’s Seminary, not knowing where God would lead them afterwards and having no expectation of planting a church. However, while he was in seminary, God gave him a growing burden for church planting, and the need seemed particularly evident back home in Maryland. That conclusion was particularly reinforced by virtue of Roger and Robin Zeender’s encouragement during this time. Not having any support from other churches or organizations, Tom shared his burden with Dr. Alan Plumley, whom he eventually convinced to help him plant a church. Before returning to Maryland, Tom communicated his vision to many friends and ministry contacts, challenging them to help with the church plant. Although many were encouraging, only the Leakes, Plumleys, Zeenders, and two other families committed to the church plant by January 1997. During the six months prior to the Leakes’ return from California, Tom and Alan led this core group of five families (using taped or written messages from Tom and other forms of communication) in planning for the formal start of the church. Newly-ordained Pastor Tom Leake and his family returned to Maryland in early July of 1997, and the inaugural service of the new church was held on July 13th.
In the beginning, our name was Grace Discipleship Church. We met in a small commercial space on Main Street in Laurel, which was owned by and graciously made available to us by Robin Zeender’s dad, Elmer Williams, who also had a heart for church planting.
Membership and attendance grew very slowly for the first few years. Although the Lord added five more families the first year, we were still very small. We focused on the basics: worship, preaching and teaching the word, fellowship, and evangelism. For the first several years, we shared a fellowship lunch together every Sunday, building strong relationships. In October 1999, the Baltimore area was experiencing fierce thunderstorms virtually every day. On a Friday evening, just two days prior to our next Lord’s day, one member driving by the building noticed some fluorescent stickers on the windows. Upon inspection, it was discovered that the Laurel City Hall had deemed the building unsafe for occupation and we were, in essence, “evicted.”
Without a place to worship, the church body was relegated to meeting in the Zeender’s backyard for three consecutive Sundays. By God’s grace, although the storms persisted from Monday through Saturday, He provided three beautiful sunny Sundays for us to meet. We were in awe.
During this three-week period, the Lord made Fulton Elementary School available, and so we began our “short stay” there on the fourth Sunday after we were forced to vacate our previous location. It was at Fulton Elementary School that we began setting up and tearing down our entire worship environment each and every Sunday by unloading and reloading our truck, everything from pulpits to platforms to sound equipment to decorations. We were incredibly blessed by the faithfulness of many of our members who would arrive early and stay late so that we could hear the exposited Word and worship God “in spirit and in truth.” About this same time, we changed our name to Hope Bible Church.
Slowly more and more people from all walks of life and ethnicities came, attracted to the small church with strong Bible teaching and a caring family atmosphere. Growth increased and ministries expanded more steadily in the ensuing years. Although we anticipated a 2-year stay at Fulton Elementary School, the Lord, in His perfect timing, provided our current location on Oakland Mills Road not until January 2010, after much prayer, toil and sweat.
With about 400 people attending weekly, it has become clear that God is building Hope Bible Church in His own sovereign way for His own glory. We are actively preparing for what we believe will be a dynamic, God-honoring, Bible-centered ministry for many years to come. We are delighted that you have already or are considering joining with us in this great work!