Eric Patrick, pastor of Harvest Ministries in Little Elm, has baptized 17 people since the church's founding.

LITTLE ELM, Texas (BP) – Eric Patrick’s journey from dispensing medicines to saving souls as a church planter transported his family 40 miles north of downtown Dallas to the burgeoning town of Little Elm.

After seven years as a pharmacy tech and eight as a pharmacist working for two large hospital systems, the Florida native felt God pulling him in a new direction in 2019. He stopped practicing pharmacy and began teaching financial literacy and running a web-based marketing business to support his family. 

Patrick, his wife Antoinette and their two young daughters joined Flower Mound’s Rockpointe Church in 2019, where Antoinette still serves as human resources director. It was a good fit. “We got plugged in at Rockpointe,” Patrick recalled. 

Harvest members prepare “Glory Packs” for area elementary-aged kids in need as a service to the Little Elm community.

During a season of intense prayer and Scripture reading, Patrick penned the following: “I pray that God gives me wisdom and surrounds me with those that are part of His ordered steps in my life in my pursuit of ministry. I don’t know what my ministry will look like, but Lord, if it is your will, make it known to me.”

In the summer of 2020, with COVID-19 just beginning, Patrick was asked to lead an online Bible study on the book of Daniel. As he led the group, leaders and others at his church affirmed his calling to one day become a pastor. 

Ron Holton, Rockpointe’s lead pastor, was among them. He recommended Patrick seek further education for the purposes of becoming a church planter. Though he had already earned a doctorate to prepare him for his previous career, Patrick enrolled in a master’s program at Dallas Theological Seminary in 2020.

“Eric never blinked at any of it,” said Holton, noting Rockpointe has a vision to plant 10 churches by 2030. “He is well-read. He attended conferences, asked questions. They downsized and lived conservatively and intentionally. … [He is] among the hardest-working and most intellectually bright planters I have ever worked with.”

A call to plant … but where?

As his extended education continued, Patrick was advised to consider where to plant a church. Should they move to his native Tampa? Memphis also came to mind. “We didn’t know where we were going for a while,” Patrick said.

But with Patrick’s mother recently relocated to Dallas and other family living nearby, the pull of North Texas stayed strong.

The Patricks took a compass, centered it on the Metroplex, and drew a large circle encompassing outlying communities. They began visiting locations, driving through neighborhoods, and renting vacation homes for extended periods so they could experience living in the areas. Mesquite and Balch Springs seemed a possibility. They talked to realtors, attended public events … yet the answer seemed to be, “No, not yet.”

That changed when Patrick drove north between highways 121 and 380 to Little Elm. As he looked around, he knew he had found the place. He saw neighborhoods and businesses, but not many churches.

Little Elm, incorporated in 2001, had about 47,000 residents by the 2020 census. That number is now approaching 60,000, making it one of the fastest-growing communities in Texas.

Patrick attended meetings of the Little Elm Chamber of Commerce, meeting another pastor employed by Denton ISD who invited him to join a Bible study for teachers and administrators at Braswell High School. Despite the long drive from Flower Mound, Patrick jumped at the chance. He shared his vision of starting a church in the area.

As an assistant principal showed him the high school campus, Patrick was overwhelmed. The cafeteria seemed familiar. He realized he had dreamed about being in that very spot, speaking to people.

“From there, God kept pulling us,” Patrick said. “We built relationships with district administrators and principals.” 

The school district agreed to allow the new church to lease the high school cafeteria for Sunday services. After three preview services – Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day – attracted 150-200 people, Harvest Ministries officially launched on Aug. 13, 2023, drawing more than 300. 

The church has attracted a steady multiethnic attendance of 150 each Sunday since opening. Some teachers and administrators from the high school come, as do many students.

“The fact that the youth will come to their school on a Sunday is a good sign,” Patrick said.

Even before the official launch, Harvest held an evening vacation Bible school last June in the school gym. Twelve children trusted Christ. On Father’s Day, one dad was baptized and immediately afterward baptized his daughter.

Advancing the mission

Excitement is high. Plans to increase youth activities are underway. The church is reading through the Bible together this year “to promote biblical literacy,” Patrick said. They hope to be in a permanent facility within five years.

Harvest’s values include “kingdom multiplication,” the pastor added—focusing on making disciples and planting at least one church by its fifth year.

Patrick credits both their sending church, Rockpointe, and Send Network SBTC – the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s church-planting partnership with the North American Mission Board – for getting Harvest this far.

Rockpointe provides financial support and counsel. Send Network SBTC provides quarterly financial support and resources. Patrick said he is grateful for the chance to network with other planters and participate in the SBTC’s Black Church Network. Joe Ogletree, pastor of Image Church in Cypress, serves as a mentor and coach to him.

“It’s so important to be able to connect with other planters who are six months to two years ahead of me and to have that network of planters and pastors to provide support in more ways than one,” Patrick said.

“I’m not that great, but God is. He keeps showing up and showing out. We need to lean on Him.”