New Pastor Takes Immanuel's Reins

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 18, 2007

After more than two years of searching, Springfield megachurch Immanuel Bible has found a new senior pastor.

The church, which draws thousands of worshipers every Sunday to its sanctuary at Braddock and Backlick roads, has named the Rev. Ron L. Jones, a 44-year-old Texas minister who took to the pulpit 16 years ago, after a career in marketing.

But the church hasn't been idle while waiting for the right leader to appear, church officials say. An ambitious expansion project to squeeze more worship and other space onto the tight 13 acres the church sits on is underway.

"In one sense, I'm kind of stepping into a stream that's already moving," said Jones, who is the fifth pastor of Immanuel Bible, founded in 1965.

Jones replaces the Rev. Michael J. Easley, who left in 2005 to become president of Moody Bible Institute, an evangelical organization in Chicago that operates undergraduate and graduate schools, a publishing house and a network of radio stations. During his 11 years at Immanuel, Easley built the church into one of the largest congregations in Northern Virginia, averaging more than 3,500 worshipers to its weekend services.

The church also helped launch a place of worship in Gainesville, Gateway Bible Church, and has been funding the growth of Grace Bible Church in Lorton.

In Springfield, the church sprawls over much of its existing site -- parking is so meager that many Sunday worshipers park in satellite areas and ride a shuttle to the sanctuary -- so the expansion plans focus mostly on pushing the church up, rather than out. The church's classroom wings will be expanded, enclosing a courtyard to create a soaring atrium, adding a 7,800-square-foot cellar under it and adorning it with a slender 112-foot steeple.

But Jones isn't focused on just brick-and-mortar building plans. He wants to open more satellite church locations to reach worshipers farther away from the Springfield facility.

To fund that, the church has launched a capital campaign with the goal of raising between $15 million and $20 million, Jones said.

"What we're trying to do is take our ministries to the communities," Jones said.

In his 16 years in the ministry, Jones has built something of a reputation as an expert on God and money. With his wife, Cathryn, he developed Becoming Financial Soul Mates, a money and marriage conference for couples. They also publish a newsletter on the same topic, and Jones is the author of the book "Jesus, Money, and Me." Before arriving at Immanuel, he was executive pastor at Pantego Bible Church in Fort Worth.

Jones, who lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for 20 years, said he sees plenty of similarities between the crowded, high-paced area and the Washington region. But he also sees one big difference: "There is a high concentration of Type-A personalities here."

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