How 2 men started ONE Church


I met pastor Matt McGue at Northridge Church. Big John Perkins, the grandson of Dr. John Perkins, invited me. Afterward, we went out for coffee and Matt shared the vision of the church he wanted to plant. I thought it was great and needed by our city.


I searched to help Matt find someone to be a co-planter of this church. I introduced him to quite a few people. In the process, we became friends. Suddenly, it hit me: I thought I had the perfect person. I shared with Matt that my dad had planted a church over 20 years ago. My brothers and I were the musicians and I had occasionally preached.


I shared with Matt that my father is a worship pastor for a homogenous Caucasian church in Kansas City, Missouri, and we had been talking with him about moving back down South. I told Matt, “He is the perfect person.”


Matt, excited at this prospect, flew to Kansas City to spend two days with my father. Matt came back to Jackson and we met up. He said, “Man, I really love your dad. He is a really great guy. We had a good time talking and sharing over the last two days. But I have been praying and the Lord spoke to me. I believe you are the person the Lord wants me to plant this church with.”


I was stunned. I had been excited at the prospect of my dad moving back home and planting a church with Matt. I never saw myself as the person who would plant this church. I had been a church music director for 12 years. I had become accustomed to a salary and benefits that would be a burden financially on a new church. My dad was retired and could possibly raise some of his salary. Matt asked me to pray about it and I did.


I prayed and waited. And I prayed and waited. I felt like I wasn’t hearing from God. This was a huge decision that would greatly impact my family and I did not want to get it wrong. Weeks went by and one day, I was sitting in my living room watching “The Voice” on NBC; Christina Aguilera began singing a song called “Say Something” by A Great Big World.


At that moment, all of the emotions of such a major decision hit me at once and I prayed to God with a fervor that communicated to Him, “That’s exactly how I feel. Lord, if you want me to leave the church I have been at for the last 12 years and co-plant a church from scratch, You are going to have to say something.”


I didn’t know Christina Aguilera could garner that type of spiritual gravitas, but it happened. I believe I heard clearly from the Lord. Now I felt comfortable turning in my resignation letter. This is the same resignation letter I had held on to for exactly a month. I remember it vividly because I only changed the month, not the day, of the letter.


Matt then began teaching me civil rights. It was weird that a white person knew more civil rights history than I did. This nudged me to step up my game.


He also introduced me to Mission Mississippi. I knew of Neddie Winters and Dolphus Weary, but I had not been involved in the organization. I met Brother Al Lind, Neddie Winters and Paige Haven through the organization. They each would later become a part of ONE Church or the EmbRACE Multiethnic Church Conference in some capacity.


Brother Al Lind has become a confidant and is one of my biggest supporters. Neddie Winters is quickly becoming a spiritual father who meets with me on a regular basis, calls me and even fusses like a real dad sometimes and has shown unrelenting support for me, ONE Church and the EmbRACE conference that I was blessed to co-found with Matt.


Last June, Matt left Mississippi to plant another multiethnic, socio-economically diverse, difference-making church in Douglasville, Georgia. And I am pleased to let you know that the 2019 EmbRACE Multiethnic Church Conference is June 7-8 at Pinelake Church. This is the third annual conference and our featured speaker is Dr. Tony Evans.


I hope you will visit ONE Church. We meet Sundays at 10 a.m. at Duling Hall in Fondren. More information may be found at and



Donavon Thigpen is married to Alice Thigpen and is the proud father of Genesis, Zoë and Eden. He is also the lead pastor of a multiethnic, multigenerational and socioeconomically diverse congregation at One Church.