Story Behind REF

River’s Edge Fellowship & Sterling Acres Baptist Church Merger

In January 2023, Bill Denman from Sterling Acres Baptist Church approached Pastor Travis Yeargans Sr. from River’s Edge Fellowship about a potential merger. After much prayer and discussions with the River’s Edge elders, they decided to present the idea to the congregation. The congregation excitedly approved the idea and the discussions to merge began in earnest. 

Just a little background about these two churches prior to the merger:

Sterling Acres Baptist Church was a well-established congregation with a rich history. The church was formed in 1956 as a mission of Beaumont Baptist Church and incorporated as Sterling Acres Baptist Church in 1957. The church grew consistently from that point and was very active in SBC/MO Baptist/KC BR life. SABC was engaged in serving the community through a ministry called Workers for Christ. Workers for Christ engaged people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and met many needs in the area. Several members have been actively involved in Baptist Builders and Disaster Relief efforts over the years. SABC has been a faithful partner in the city for the cause of Christ. 

Unfortunately, as we have seen all too often, the numbers at SABC declined as its membership aged. As the surrounding community began to change demographically their ability to effectively reach them grew more difficult. With the retirement of Pastor Welby Jones, the leadership determined a different approach was needed. 

River’s Edge Fellowship was planted as an unaffiliated Baptist church in 2006. Travis Yeargans Sr. was the founding pastor and continues to serve the congregation to this day. The church was started with a view toward urban ministry. The core team believed God could use them to build Christ-centered influence in a culture that was becoming more and more demonic. REF changed locations a few times and landed in Raytown, MO in 2012. 

River’s Edge began to affiliate with BR-KC in 2014 as a campus of Lenexa Baptist Church. That connection helped them in community engagement through evangelism, Vacation Bible School, and various other community events.  

Pastor Travis met Welby Jones, the former pastor of Sterling Acres, while pursuing ministry opportunities in the Raytown area and immediately developed a friendship. Sterling Acres would allow River’s Edge to utilize their facility for hosting missions’ teams, baptisms, and other activities that their facility could not accommodate. 

Little did we know that God was up to something much greater than a church friendship. He was planting the seeds for a church merger.

Fast forward to 2023. The congregations had two combined services together and held VBS at the Sterling location. After much prayer and some negotiations about the details of a merger, a vote was held at each congregation on July 9th. Each church voted overwhelmingly to merge. The excitement was palpable. 

An important part of this story is that the demographics of each congregation were very different. Sterling Acres was a majority white, older congregation. River’s Edge a majority black, mostly young families. As a combined church we have become a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church overnight. We are “A multi-ethnic, multi-generational family of Christ’s disciples on mission to advance the Kingdom of God.” We like to shorten that by saying we are multi-ethnic on purpose

We recognized early on that what we are embarking on is a great Kingdom advancement. In a polarized world the church cannot continue to be separated. Maybe, just maybe, God wants to use our merger as a way to draw the lost, encourage the saints, and model a picture of heaven here on earth. We petition your prayers for this sometimes difficult assignment we have accepted. 

Now as one church our aim is to reach our community and city as a place where people of different ethnicities and ages can come to be transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and can serve Him and our city together.