Dale Locke felt like the dog that chased the pickup truck and caught it, when he received the green light from his district superintendent to plant a church. The following day, his D.Min. cohort left for their trip to South Korea. Kwang-lim Church, the largest United Methodist Congregation in Korea hosted the class. Dale joined the church members in all-night prayer at the church’s Prayer Mountain, crying out to God to help him plant a church.
“About 3 a.m., I felt God very clearly say to my insecure heart, ‘If you’ll go and trust me, I will build a community of hope in Palm Beach County,’” Dale, Founding and Lead Pastor of Community of Hope, said. “And that’s where we got our name.”
The Locke family moved to Palm Beach County Florida in June of 1996 and began evangelism ministries. Community of Hope wasn’t just Dale’s thing. It was a family affair. When their daughter, Haley, was five years old, Dale packed their Honda with water and Coke to hand out to people in the city.
Dale’s wife, Beth, also an Asbury Seminary graduate and now Executive Director of Family Ministry, has been a co-laborer with him throughout his ministry.
“We all feel like it’s our church that we planted together,” Dale said. “I trust my wife and my two daughters with their advice and input.”
That fall, Dale and his wife started Community of Hope in their living room with eight people. As the church grew, they changed locations five times. Currently, Community of Hope has two campuses and five-weekend services, with an average attendance of 2000 people and more than 1400 in small groups.
“All of this happened to us, not when we were doing well, but when we were struggling,” Dale said. “A lot of times, we can read or hear about a church’s success and walk away discouraged about our own circumstance, feeling we can never experience what we witness in another situation.”
But Community of Hope’s growth was fueled by adversity. When the church was eight years old, Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne, and Wilma directly impacted the area, cutting weekly attendance from 700 to 350.