They were an unusual sight. Tattoos covered Rick’s bulging forearms. His long hair and biker’s vest contrasted sharply with John Freed’s suit and tie. Yet tears flowed freely as the surgeon and biker hugged. Rick’s shoulders relaxed when he finally stepped back, and a smile tugged at the corners of his lips. “She was OK,” he said. “You prayed with her. Thank you!”
A year before, one of Rick’s daughters, the only Christian in the family, had died in a car crash near the church. Rick was already doubtful about God, and her death had pushed him into a bitter, resentful space. Then John Quedzuweit, a pastor at the Granite Bay Hilltop Seventh-day Adventist Church, showed up at his door because Rick’s other daughter had requested Bible studies.
“Go away!” Rick yelled. “I don’t want anything to do with you Christians!” Yet Pastor Quedzuweit remained patient and then gently reassured Rick, and as the mourning father relaxed, he opened up about his daughter’s death. Eventually Rick agreed to study the Bible, yet his daughter dying alone with no one to pray with her continued to haunt him.
One day Pastor Quedzuweit mentioned Rick’s story to Dr. John Freed, head elder of the Granite Bay church. “Where was it?” Dr. Freed asked. “I think I was there. I stopped at an accident that day and prayed with the girl in the car.”
The next Sabbath Pastor Quedzuweit helped Rick and Dr. Freed connect the dots around Rick’s daughter’s death. Dr. Freed had been the first to arrive on the scene when Rick’s daughter crashed. He stayed with her and prayed with her until the ambulance crews arrived. “She wasn’t in pain,” he assured the big biker. Rick’s relief was palpable as he flung his arms around Dr. Freed and let the tears flow.
A Growing Church
“That divine encounter between Rick and John highlighted what God is doing through the Granite Bay church,” says Pastor Quedzuweit. “He is using this church to care for people and help them understand His love and last-day truths.”
Senior pastor Doug Batchelor agrees. “Our goal is to lead people into a saving relationship with Jesus. We seek to disciple them in the truth, then teach them how to live out His teachings and share the good news with others.”
This focus on discipleship in biblical truth has helped the Granite Bay church grow rapidly since it was first planted in 2007 by the Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. Today a church family of more than 1,000 members comes together each Sabbath for preaching, fellowship, and service. Yearly evangelistic series and weekend seminars draw in the community. The church has planted at least two other churches. In 2022 it baptized 58 individuals. It also works closely with Amazing Facts International in producing and broadcasting truth-filled media.
“God has blessed Granite Bay in amazing ways,” says Darrin Dee, an elder at the church. “We cannot take any credit for what God has done here. We pray often and remind ourselves that this is God’s blessing.”
Planted to Grow
The Granite Bay church began as the vision of Pastor Batchelor, who also serves as president of Amazing Facts International. “We wanted to plant a church in an unreached community that would be a place for local and media evangelism,” explains Batchelor. “We had maxed out the Sacramento Central church and wanted to multiply our service to bless other churches.”
A group of about 20 people volunteered to start the church plant with the guidance of Pastors Jëan Ross and Quedzuweit. “That core group was absolutely committed to preaching the truth, implementing the cycle of evangelism regularly, getting members involved, and supporting missions,” says Quedzuweit. “We met for several months to pray and plan before we launched. We’ve never seen such a dedicated group of people. Everyone wore five hats and helped with everything.”
The group was purposeful about everything they did. “We thought about why we would want to go to church, and realized it was to understand the Bible better,” explains Ross. “We designed a service that prioritized the teaching of the Word and minimized distractions. We were very intentional in focusing on the distinctive characteristics of our Seventh-day Adventist message.”
“We went into this with the idea that we’ve always heard about the evangelism cycle, but now it was time to see how it worked in practice,” he adds. “We wanted to teach people who didn’t know about the Word, implement the evangelism cycle, and call people to decide for Christ. Following the right method worked.”
After about a year the church plant outgrew the school space they had been renting, and moved to a rented church facility. “We really started to grow then,” says Ross. “We had a lot of young families coming and were very active. We grew from 15 people to 400 in under three years.”
A Beneficial Partnership
About this time Batchelor began to preach more often at the Granite Bay church. Though the plant had been his idea initially, he was not heavily involved in the initial stages of growth. Amazing Facts offices were near the Granite Bay church, but the church had grown primarily on its own.
Amazing Facts had bought a property in the growing city of Granite Bay, California, for a new office complex and a church building equipped for media production and broadcast. Unfortunately, the local permitting and building process took far longer than anyone expected, and a temporary move to an industrial building became necessary.
By 2020 the newly completed Amazing Facts office building and church were ready for occupancy. “I believe the timing was divine,” remembers Dee. “COVID hit the moment they moved into the new offices. Amazing Facts was in the perfect position to minister to the world during the pandemic. The church never shut down, either. We met in the parking lot until the new church building was ready in the fall.”
“It took 20 years to build the church,” says Batchelor. “I kept asking, ‘Lord, is this what You want? If it is, I’d love to dedicate the church without ever using our line of credit.’ That’s exactly what happened. The Granite Bay Hilltop church and the Amazing Facts office buildings were dedicated with no debt or ever touching the approved loans.”
The Granite Bay church and Amazing Facts cooperate closely in producing truth-filled media. Church services, Sabbath School classes, evangelistic series, and weekend summits are all filmed and broadcast on the Amazing Facts networks.
The Granite Bay church has been shaped and blessed by its affiliation with Amazing Facts. Yet its growth cannot be attributed solely to Amazing Facts. Many other factors, ones that other churches can duplicate, have helped the church grow and prosper.
The Granite Bay church plant began with a vision of becoming a church that would share the three angels’ messages with an unreached community and be a place for local and media evangelism. That vision has fueled the church’s growth for more than 15 years.
Pastor Ross spent the entire first year preaching through the book of Revelation. Then he took the congregation through Hebrews, Romans, and Daniel. “We wanted to get people into the Word of God,” he explains. “My goal was to present truth in a way that made sense and allowed the Bible to speak for itself.”
Dr. Freed and his family began attending Granite Bay during those early years. “The verse-by-verse preaching drew us in,” says Freed. “We were hungry for biblical knowledge. We were looking for a church that focused on our unique Seventh-day Adventist message and stood up for the truth.”
“We try to be consistently biblical in our messages,” says Batchelor. “We do expository preaching. Either we choose one topic and use many scriptures to explain it, or we choose one passage and use it to teach many truths. Our goal is to preach the gospel and the three angels’ messages and contextualize them for the times in which we live.”
Implementing the Cycle of Evangelism
The Granite Bay church invests heavily in the yearly cycle of evangelism. In addition to the church board, an outreach leadership team is responsible for all aspects of evangelism. These leaders plan for prework, advertising, yearly evangelistic meetings, discipleship, small groups, and ongoing revival.
“Evangelism is the heartbeat of our church and has brought in many new members,” says Ross. “Any church that implements the cycle of evangelism will grow.”
“Evangelism has been part of my chemistry ever since I became an Adventist,” says Batchelor. “I am passionate about helping people learn the cohesive message of truth that Adventism teaches. Some people downplay evangelism, but we have found that people are starving for biblical truth. When we stick to the fundamentals and are creative in presenting the truth, people and churches grow.”
“Working together creates camaraderie,” says Dee. “It keeps us praying together and seeking God’s blessings.”
Carefully Chosen, Consistent Leadership
Church leaders are carefully chosen at Granite Bay. “We’ve kept our leadership team small,” says Ross. Five to eight elders work with the pastoral team. “We look for people who understand the church’s mission and are committed to being involved.”
“We’ve realized we cannot push a person into leadership,” adds Quedzuweit. “They must have an interest and a desire. We’ve never tried to start a ministry by appointing a person. We’ve prayed and let God grow things in His time and way.”
Yet everyone’s gifts are welcomed. “We try to use the spiritual gifts of everyone who comes,” explains Batchelor. “We want everyone to know that their contributions are important.”
Consistent, long-term pastoral leadership provides stability for the church. Ross has led the church since its inception in 2007. He now serves as an associate pastor alongside Batchelor and four other pastors specializing in outreach, youth, young adults, family life, and member care. “We’ve been blessed with fantastic pastors,” says Dee. “This church would not be what it is today without them.”
The Priority of Prayer
“Prayer is one of the biggest keys to our growth,” says Quedzuweit. “We have faithful prayer warriors who have met at 9:00 a.m. every Sabbath since we first started the church.” Prayer meeting holds a weekly place in the church’s schedule. The elders also pray together weekly.
“We need to be praying incessantly for God’s will at this time in earth’s history,” says Dee. “Things are going to get worse. We need to prepare by being prayerful, studying the Bible, and doing evangelism. We must find God’s will for our churches and work with Him.”
“I’ve often thought about what our mission should be,” says Batchelor. “Jesus said to go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that He commanded us. You really can’t get a better mission statement than that.”
Not every church has the advantage of an internationally known media ministry in its backyard, yet all churches can step out in faith to answer God’s call to make disciples. “Every church can get involved in their community and love people for Christ,” says Quedzuweit. “We need to preach the truth and welcome people without judgment. Then we must be willing to get involved in their lives. That’s harder than giving a Bible study, but that’s where the real results come.”
“Even small churches can commit to doing something for Christ,” adds his wife, Cathy. “Things may not change overnight, but if you are praying and doing something, God will work.” The Granite Bay Hilltop church is modern-day evidence that the cycle of evangelism, biblical preaching, prayer, vision, and fellowship are still divine keys to church growth. They are God’s backdrop for the sacred moments when a brokenhearted biker meets the surgeon who prayed for his dying daughter—moments when lives are transformed and a church is grown.