Michigan pastor Scott Blanchard is not an ordinary church leader.
Although he had a strong desire as a kid to become a minister after accepting Christ at the age of 7, the obstacles he faced along the way were unlike those faced by the average pastor.
Sharing his dream with his friends in school, they doubted his abilities to be able to proclaim the Gospel to an audience. Blanchard was born with 80 percent hearing loss and speaks with a noticeable speech impediment.
Although his handicap gave him low self-esteem and made him lack confidence as a kid, Blanchard learned to face his obstacles and doubts head-on as he climbed his way to becoming a successful Detroit-area church plant leader.
Since its launch in 2010, the Blanchard-founded Lakepointe Church in Macomb has baptized over 150 people. In addition, it has launched a food pantry that provides a week’s worth of groceries to about 30 to 45 local struggling families each month.
But after eight years of holding services in a local high school, Blanchard’s Lakepointe Church congregation is now searching for a permanent home — one to call its own — and has raised upwards of $450,000 toward that effort.
“For me, there is a constant reminder that I am fulfilling God’s word and I am reminding myself that in Christ, all things are possible,” Blanchard told The Christian Post in an interview.
Pastor Scott Blanchard speaks during a service at Lakepointe Church in Macomb, Michigan in November 2017.
Where did it all begin?
Blanchard grew up in Troy, a town that lies north of Detroit. He said that it wasn’t until he was about two years old that he realized that there was something wrong with his hearing. As a young child, he fell behind in school and struggled with his speaking skills.
He attended a special program early on in his school years before he was sent to a private Christian institution. He said that from about fifth grade on, he knew that he wanted to spend his life preaching and be involved in ministry.
“I had a bunch of friends who told me, ‘Scott, you can’t preach … You probably shouldn’t. It is not for you,'” the 43-year-old Blanchard recalled. “I had this conflict with my hearing loss and low self-esteem and people telling me that I probably shouldn’t. I wrestled with all of that through my middle school and high school years.”
Blanchard attended Rochester Hills Christian School, a high school where students attend chapel. Once a month, Blanchard explained, the school would post a sign-up sheet to allow students to participate in the chapel services. Students could sign up to do things like sing, play music or even give a sermon.
Blanchard always wanted to sign up to preach, but his low self esteem kept him from doing so. He said that through ninth, 10th and 11th grade, he was too afraid to get up in front of his school and preach. Instead, he signed up to play Trumpet.
“I was afraid of people laughing at me, people making fun of me or people just not understanding me. I had all this doubt going on and all this fear,” he said. “I can play the Trumpet. No one makes fun of a trumpet sound. I was hiding my voice behind a trumpet sound. I wasn’t afraid of being in front of people. It was opening my mouth where I was a little nervous.”
However, that all ended senior year when he finally worked up enough courage to sign up to preach. He knew going into the senior year that he wanted to go off to Bible college but knew that he had to get over his fear of speaking in front of his own peers.
Although he signed up to preach, he wrote his scribbled his name on the sign-up sheet so that no one could read it.
“The day came to preach. I had a sermon done for three years. I was ready to open my mouth and give it. My first sermon was about Moses telling God that he can’t [speak to Pharaoh]. God told Moses that ‘I made you the way you are and I will speak for you.’ I was preaching to myself. It was a sermon that I needed to hear but I was preaching it.”
Afterwards, Blanchard said that his friends who originally warned him not to preach congratulated him and encouraged him for giving such a powerful sermon. Some even told him not to let anyone tell him that he can’t be a preacher.
Blanchard said that experience propelled him to more confidence in who he was and how God made him.
“That was a huge milestone in my calling,” Blanchard asserts.
Making his way up the “totem pole”
Blanchard went off to attend Pensacola Christian College in Florida. After college, Blanchard began working at Marcus Pointe Baptist Church in Pensacola, a congregation of about 1,500. He served there for a decade between 1999 and 2009. He made his way up the totem pole from janitor/daycare assistant director to assistant pastor.
In 2004, Blanchard was sent out to California to attend a conference at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. Among the many people that Blanchard met at the conference were church planters.
“I had never met a church planter in my life,” he said. “I believe that God planted a seed in my life that I was going to start the church that I would eventually pastor.”
Blanchard admits that he initially tucked that thought away in the back of his mind and didn’t really act on it until years later because he had questions. He wondered why God didn’t want him to pastor a church that is already founded.
Nonetheless, Blanchard researched for a few years what church planting was all about. Blanchard began to feel a stronger pull on his heart to launch his own church that he could pastor.
“About 2007, I go to my pastor at Marcus Pointe [Gordon Godfrey] and told him what I was thinking and that I didn’t have a timeline,” he explained. “My pastor began to mentor me and began to give me encouragement that he believed I could do that and offered to help me financially.”
In 2008, Blanchard gave Godfrey a one-year notice of his intent to launch a church plant. Blanchard and his wife, Karen, had their eyes on launching a plant in his hometown, given the automotive industry downturn that began around that time.
However, that required them to sell their home in the middle of an economic recession and housing market decline.
After months of not having even one potential buyer come to look at their home, Blanchard said that they received a call one day from a lady looking who ultimately gave them a cash offer that essentially allowed the family to almost break even on their home despite the 2008 crash in the housing market.
“We weren’t sure how God was going to handle that situation but he did,” Blanchard said.
Another challenge that the Blanchard’s faced in their quest to launch a church plant came when they applied for funding from the Southern Baptist Conventions North American Mission Board.
The Blanchards attended a NAMB retreat with about 12 other candidates for funding and several assessors. At the beginning of the retreat, Blanchard said that he was ranked 12th out of 12 candidates just based off of the information each candidate provided in their applications.
“When it came down to me, the assessors automatically assumed that the deaf guy can’t pastor a church. They ranked me at the bottom,” Blanchard said.
Yet each of the three days when he participated in interviews and presentations, Blanchard said that he was able to prove to the assessors why their initial ranking was wrong. By the end of the retreat, the Blanchards finished as the top-ranked candidate.
“This is confirmation that this is what God wanted us to do in light of Detroit’s economy,” Blanchard said. “God had a plan for all of this.”
Scott and Karen Blanchard, who now run Lakepointe Church in Michigan, stand outside of their former home in Florida after selling it to a woman who gave them a cash offer in 2009.
Launching the church
In October of 2009, the Blanchards held a preview service for their new Lakepointe Church that was attended by about 80 people. They held preview services once a month before the official launch in March 2010, where 300 people attended.
Lakepointe holds its services at Lutheran North High School in Macomb.
“In my church, I have no deaf people — only me,” Blanchard said, joking that he can only hear 20 percent of the complaints. “We have been growing and we continue to grow. We are up to 250 [average attendance].”
There are a number of ways that Lakepointe is giving back to its community.
Among them is a food pantry that the church runs at its office ministry center during the week. According to Blanchard, the church hands out about 2,500 pounds of donated food to area families in need.
Lakepointe has also partnered in the launching of two other church plants in the Detroit metro area. One of the newer church plants is in the town of Mount Clemens, a town where many suffer from poverty.
Through the church plant in Mount Clemens, Lakepointe aids in giving away about 200 meals to feed over 1,000 people for Thanksgiving every year.
Additionally, the church holds an annual summer outreach festival.
Blanchard said that the church plans to soon get involved in helping the efforts of an anti-human trafficking nonprofit. As well, Blanchard said that church does a lot of volunteer work with the local parks and recreation department.
Pastor Scott Blanchard baptizes a female worshiper at Lakepointe Baptist Church, which holds its services at Lutheran North High School in Macomb, Michigan.
Ready for a permanent home
Having existed for over a decade, Blanchard and the Lakepointe community are ready to find a permanent home.
The church began raising funds to put toward a down payment for property. Since registering for the crowd-fundraising app Pushpay in January 2016, the church has raised over $450,000 toward its goal.
According to Blanchard, about 50 percent of the money the church has raised has come from the app and from other online donations.
Although the congregation doesn’t yet have any prospective properties on its radar, Blanchard said the congregation wants to have enough funds available to offer a down payment once something does become available.
“We are in a fast-growing community so when something becomes available, they are not going to wait six months for us to have a campaign to have a downpayment,” he said. “We are looking for a building or a space that we can renovate.”
Blanchard has come a long way since the days of his childhood. Looking back on those times, Blanchard says that he can see how God has used him to fulfill His will despite all his fears and obstacles. Blanchard is confident that God will continue to pave the way for the next chapter in the Lakepointe ministry.