With humble beginnings as a Bible study group, no one thought the Lanham-Bowie Project would turn into Restoration Praise Center, one of Potomac’s fastest growing and among its largest congregations.
“Being part of the Lanham-Bowie Project is one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of,” said Dr. Naeem Newman, elder at RPC. “It’s something that will last until God comes. Each week, lives are changed, people are being baptized and turning their lives over to Christ.”
Newman and his wife, Mytonia, were the first to host the Bible study in 2005 that led to the formation of RPC. “We had an interest in studying the Bible, just to learn more for ourselves. We decided we wanted a pastor to help lead us,” said Newman. “A couple of other families from surrounding churches were interesting and Pastor Melvin Hayden, youth pastor of Community Praise Center (Alexandria, Va.), at the time, was happy to lead out.” The group met the first Friday of every month and as they continued to grow together, they approached the pastor with the idea of starting a church in Bowie (Md.). Tears came to Hayden’s eyes and he said God had given him a vision, at the age of 12, to start a church in his hometown.
The small group had no idea what plans God had in store. Pastor Paul Graham was hired on to oversee the project and in 2008, the congregation began renting space from Capital Christian Fellowship on Greenbelt Road. More than 700 people attended the first official church service that November and since then as many as 600 worshipped there every Saturday.
Today, RPC is under the leadership of three pastors — Graham, senior pastor, Kelvin Mitchell, pastor of administration, and CJ Cousins, discipleship and media pastor. In 2013, construction for a building the congregation could call their own began and on May 23, 2015, RPC opened its doors in its new location on Old Stage Road in Bowie, Md. More than 1,100 people attended, leaving standing room only before the worship service began.
The building’s contemporary design and multipurpose capacity was a collective idea of church members in hopes of creating a church building that was service-oriented and not just focused on being open to the community seven days a week. RPC offers cooking classes, a club for fitness and wellness, groups that facilitate spiritual growth. A daycare is also in the works with the goal of introducing kids to the church’s children’s ministries.
The City of Bowie is an affluent community and some say the area is too rich for a church to be successful there, but RPC is working to prove that stereotype wrong. “There is a misconception that people that are well-to-do, upper middle class or wealthy are hard to reach or are impossible to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Cousins. “We focus on need-based evangelism. We go into communities and like Jesus did, meet people’s needs, develop relationships and then give them the gospel of Jesus.”
Ugochi Ikpeoha, an attorney-advisor, moved to the area in January 2009 and “had no idea” that this new church home in Bowie was going to be on the horizon. Ikpeoha believes RPC can be a resource to the affluent community of Bowie and give the residents something they cannot buy. “They say that the best things in life are free,” Ikpeoha said. “So there’s still more to be had that can’t just be bought –that’s a walk with Christ.”
The future of RPC in Bowie and beyond
Plans are already being made for RPC’s future. “We realize that at some point we’re going to pack this facility out,” stated Cousins. With this in mind, RPC members host grow groups in Upper Marlboro, Laurel, Silver Spring and other nearby areas, providing a basis for a next possible church plant. RPC’s goal is to eventually become a multisite church — one church with multiple locations. Graham adds to that by saying the light of where the Holy Spirit moves cannot be contained to one place.
“God is developing and growing His people as disciples at RPC,” said John Cress, vice president for pastoral ministries. “He is using them to impact their community through service, making Restoration Praise a beacon of hope to their community and beyond. Their pastoral team is one of the best I’ve seen. They powerfully work together to generate momentum in spirit-led ministry and have created a spirit-led congregation that is impacting the world for Jesus. For that I am most thankful and pray that God will continue to multiply this ministry.”
Story by Alexis A. Goring
Feature Photo by Photo By: Deedré Cousins