My Journal Now

The Winston-Salem Journal, our local major newspaper, came by last week for an interview with Mike Willard and myself about our recent church merge. Here is the article from the paper:

Fused Spirit: Churches say God guided merger and new church's best days are ahead
By Melissa Hall

Mike Gianopulos of The Refinery (left) and Mike Willard of Main Street Baptist Chrurch.
(Journal Photo by Kelly Bennett)


The members of The Refinery, a local nondenominational church, have met in the pastor’s home, a movie theater and other locations around Kernersville since Mike Gianopulos started the church about four years ago.

The Refinery started with about nine people, Gianopulos said. Its membership has grown to about 100. Gianopulos said that about four out of 100 new churches make it past two years.

The Refinery was healthy and growing, but it was at a crossroads.

Gianopulos realized that if it got much bigger he would be spending less time with pastoral duties and more time doing administrative things. He met Mike Willard, the senior pastor at Main Street Baptist Church, at the movie theater and the two struck up an immediate friendship.

“God had something up his sleeve,” Willard said.

Members of The Refinery and Main Street Baptist started working together on such community activities as the Spring Folly and the Christmas Open House.

Last spring, Gianopulos had an idea.

“What if Main Street and The Refinery become one,” Gianopulos asked Willard.

“I wish I had kept count of the number of times I asked him if he was crazy,” Willard said.

Willard said that building bridges between the generations is a primary mission at Main Street. The Refinery uses contemporary worship, and Main Street uses a more traditional form.

“We can do more together,” Gianopulos said.

Gianopulos started looking for other churches that had merged, and what he found was that most of the time a dying church merged with a healthy church or two dying churches merged. He could not find any cases where two healthy churches merged.

Willard and Gianopulos talked and prayed about Gianopulos’s vision and could find no negatives. They took the plan to their respective leadership teams, and they approved it.

Both congregations voted in June to approve the merger.

The Refinery had to move from its previous location by July 29. They started worshipping together Aug. 5. The church has three worship services on Sunday mornings.

There is a traditional service at 9 a.m., a blended service at 11, and a contemporary service in the fellowship hall, also at 11.

“I’ve been excited,” Gianopulos said. “Our best days are ahead of us.”

Melissa Hall can be reached at 996-6601 or


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