Oasis Church: Refocused and headed in a new direction

Jan 4, 2021

By Irene A. Harkleroad
Photos by Augie Clarkson and Adam Clarkson

When Bob Van Horn, senior pastor of Oasis Church in Yuma, was introduced to the ReFocus Church Revitalization Process in 2019, he wasn’t all that interested.

Keith Durham, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention church health facilitator, and Rob Peters, founder of Corpus Vitae, had presented to process to pastors throughout the state.

“I already knew my shortfalls,” Van Horn says. “I knew I wasn’t leading the way I needed to. And I didn’t really need anybody to tell me that. We were considered a successful church. However, on the inside we were a successful church on the downslide.”

By 2020, he was willing to reconsider his choice.

In an unusual move, Oasis and its church plant, Ekklesia, combined to better serve Yuma. Van Horn had adopted the church-focused strategy of the previous leadership. Augie Clarkson, Ekklesia’s pastor, took church to parks and neighborhoods.

Van Horn and now Executive Pastor Clarkson agreed Oasis needed a completely different strategy that better fit the direction they felt God was leading. Van Horn remembered ReFocus.

When he found out there was a new group starting in February, he signed up.

The ultimate gain from the first step: Transparency.

“Through the process, we found our people were willing and open to whatever direction God was going to take us, as long as they were led through it with open communication,” he says.

Van Horn, Clarkson and three others comprised a core team, doing most of the work behind the scenes. They completed self-diagnostics to determine if they were capable of leading the change or needed help in communicating the vision or understanding the whole concept and direction. They developed a vision advisory team of 25 people representing a cross-section of the congregation and worked closely with them but didn’t formally unveil their findings to the church until they were equipped with a 90% solution. The church was excited about what was being accomplished.

Small group leaders, the next tier of leadership, were trained during the summer. The mass kickoff, postponed from August due to COVID-19, began in January with a five-week sermon series.

Oasis’ 2021 focus is communicating with every person who attends so they can clearly articulate the vision, strategy and structure; where each person fits; and if interested, how to be involved in leadership.

“The life of a church comes in cycles: growth, plateau and decline,” Van Horn says. “We want to refocus to avoid decline. God’s [provided] tremendous potential in this area. We want to be best used of Him instead of just sustaining. There’s so much more to the kingdom of God than just sustaining.”

Van Horn has grown as a leader. He has confidence Oasis members want to go forward and make a difference for the kingdom of God. The church has concrete steps to make it happen. No more shotgun approach. They are laser focused.

Van Horn offers a challenge to Arizona pastors.

“Are you laser sharp in your focus as to how God is calling you to lead the congregation?” he asks. “If not, consider refocusing for the kingdom’s sake. We want to be our absolute best for Him, so we might reach a world that desperately needs to be reached.”

Keith Durham coordinates and delivers ReFocus training throughout Arizona.

“This six-step process helps churches of any size develop clarity of vision, where all leaders know and are headed in the same direction,” he says.

Eight churches completed ReFocus training in 2020. Durham’s vision is to train an additional 16 churches in 2021.

Irene A. Harkleroad, a freelance writer living in Carefree, is a member of Black Mountain Baptist Church, Cave Creek.

Augie Clarkson is executive pastor of Oasis Church, Yuma.

Adam Clarkson is a member of Oasis Church, Yuma.

Next Steps

— Keith Durham is available to meet with pastors and churches to explain benefits and details of the ReFocus church revitalization process. For more information, email Durham at kdurham@azsbc.org.

— Register to join the next group of leaders participating in ReFocus by contacting Durham.

— Visit corpusvitae.org for a basic outline of the six steps of ReFocus with corresponding short videos.

— Plan to promote and give to the Arizona Mission Offering in your church in September. This offering helps support church revitalization, including the ReFocus process, in our state.

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