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Unique Calling Leads New Staff Members to North Texas Church

What could have been a devastating time for a rural church in Texas ended up being a time of growth and greater impact.

Celebrating five decades of the Lord’s faithfulness, Lakeview Assembly of God in Seven Points, Texas, has seen God in the details of their ministry since 1972. But in the first months of 2023, what could have been devastating for the church ended up being a time of growth and greater impact.

Founded by Don Bell, Lakeview Assembly started in a bait shop that filled beyond comfortable capacity on its first Sunday.

This rural church just inside the North Texas district flourished under the leadership of Bell but the congregation found themselves searching for a new senior pastor in late 2022 after Bell announced his retirement.

Bell’s daughter, LaDonna, and son-in-law, Christian Savis, 49, had been serving for 20 years as the youth pastors but were pursuing other business ventures that had started to consume much of their time and energy.

“The church had never walked through a pastoral transition before,” says Savis, “so we knew this would be hard for them. Although the thought of submitting our name to the board had crossed our minds, things were weird after COVID, I was managing a cabinet business, and I just didn’t feel qualified to lead the church.”

In addition to the loss of their senior pastor, the music pastor of 30 years also announced that he felt God transitioning him from Lakeview. These two key positions would have to be filled in a matter of months for the church to survive.

All of a sudden, Savis recalls God relentlessly stirring his heart about stepping in as pastor of the church.

“I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think about anything else,” Savis states, “and it was like this ‘Damascus experience’ where the Lord just grabbed hold of my attention and told me what He wanted me to do.”

Finally surrendering to the unrest in his spirit, Savis decided to approach the conversation with his wife. Savis asked his wife if God had been putting anything on her heart and she said that she felt God telling her they were to submit their names as potential pastoral candidates.

“That confirmation was what I needed,” Savis says.

Within just a few weeks, in February 2023, Savis and his wife were voted in as lead pastors by an overwhelming majority. Now in a role that Savis had not anticipated, he knew that he needed God to provide a music pastor for the church and began to pray for the right person.

Bobby R. Bonnette, 46, grew up at Lakeview Assembly and had gone to college on a music scholarship. However, while attending school, Bonnette states that he stepped outside the Lord’s will for his life and found himself working through addiction recovery.

After finding his way back to the Lord, Bonnette started working at a recovery program in Tyler, Texas, and met his wife, Jennifer, who was also employed at the facility.

“It had kind of been an understanding that when the current director retired, Jennifer and I would run the program,” Bonnette says. “That was just our plan, it was what seemed a natural next step.”

In early 2023, Bonnette’s mother passed away and the funeral was held in the Seven Points, Texas, area.

“I saw a lot of old friends and people I never thought I would see again because I honestly had no intention of returning to Seven Points,” Bonnette says.

Something began to stir in Bonnette, though, during the funeral and his spirit felt an unfamiliar excitement when he struck up a conversation with Savis.

“I knew Bobby had a music background so I just asked him if he could come play for a night of worship some Sunday,” Savis says.

Bonnette said he was available on Sundays and the invitation led to him and his wife making the hour drive to Lakeview for the next few months.

“It had been 20 years since I had left and all of a sudden, I felt drawn back to the church,” Bonnette recalls.

Through his own “Damascus experience,” God had provided, yet again, for Lakeview.

“Instead of the church crumbling during these transitions, God used these unique experiences to revitalize our church and we have seen nothing but His blessing since the transition,” Savis says.

God has also given a fresh heart for outreach to the congregation, led in part by Bonnette’s testimony and previous work with those struggling with addiction. Lakeview Assembly now thrives as a multi-generational church with a heart for the lost and those struggling with addiction and homelessness.

Lakeview continues to reach the marginalized in the community through an addiction group called “Free Indeed” and sees salvations and miracles in their services almost every week. More than doubling in size since the beginning of the year, Savis and Bonnette realize the size of the task to which God has called them.

Ashley B. Grant

Ashley B. Grant has a master's degree in Human Services Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University and is a credentialed Christian counselor through the American Association of Christian Counselors. Grant also holds certifications in crisis pregnancy counseling and advanced life coaching. Ashley is a fourth generation Assemblies of God preacher’s kid and has one daughter and three sons.