Though he grew up going to church, Keion Henderson never envisioned starting his own upon moving to Houston. He certainly didn’t foresee himself moving a ministry to Sugar Land.
Now, though, the former college basketball player from Indiana is nearly a decade into heading up one of Houston’s fastest-growing churches. And it just planted roots in Fort Bend County, where Henderson’s Lighthouse Church has opened a Sugar Land location called Lighthouse South.
“I never had a plan to start a church,” Henderson said. “(Sugar Land) was a full-circle moment.”
Henderson is the senior pastor at Lighthouse Church, which he started in 2009 with 100 members. It has grown to a community of more than 10,000. The new location is at 16305 Kensington Dr. in Sugar Land, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Sept. 5.
The church also has locations in central Houston and Humble and is set to open Lighthouse West in Katy later this year.
“I think it’ll be an added asset in Sugar Land to have another great entity that wants to give back to our community,” Sugar Land city councilman Naushad Kermally said. “It’s not just about the church, it’s about the community. They see an opportunity in all of Fort Bend County to have services here to benefit all of us down here.”
Henderson grew up in Gary, Indiana, and said he envisioned a life in ministry as a 14-year-old in the mid-1990s. He later played basketball at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. At the age of 21, he helped organize a church in Fort Wayne that grew to nearly 600 members.
He moved to Houston in early 2009 to succeed retiring pastor Willie Jones at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. However, in September of that year, Jones announced he would no longer be retiring – leaving Henderson in limbo.
“That crushed my heart and spirit and really put a damper on my confidence, because I left everything behind in Indiana that I had built through God’s help,” Henderson said.
But as he was leaving the church, Henderson said a lady reached out to him and said, “God showed me you were supposed to lead my family.” The woman said her and her family would get a group together to start a church if Henderson was willing.
Lighthouse Church was born from that meeting, with more than 200 people listening to Henderson preach his first message in a tiny, sweltering room at the Humble Civic Center in October 2009.
To get from that small room to a massive building in Sugar Land, however, took another twist of fate as well as a pair of fortuitous encounters.
In 2012, Henderson and his wife were vacationing in Cape Town, South Africa, where they encountered Bishop Tudor Bismark. Bismark knew the couple was in the Houston area and had heard Henderson preach before. He then offered a statement to the Hendersons.
“He saw my wife and me and told us, ‘I don’t know why, but God told me you were supposed to be ministering in Sugar Land,’ ” Henderson said. “I didn’t take it seriously at first, because I thought I was right where I needed to be.”
Fast forward a few years to a cruise ship in Mexico, where Henderson met Rhema Ehiemere while they were both preaching.
“I told him I wanted to open up a ministry because I believed in his gift and wanted to give him an opportunity,” Henderson said. “(Rhema) told me straight up that he lived in the Sugar Land area.”
Ehiemere is now the lead pastor for Lighthouse South.
Henderson still can’t believe how things have transpired and feels Sugar Land chose him more than the other way around. And earlier this month – seven years to the date after Bismark made his statement to Henderson – Lighthouse South opened.
Moving with the times
Lighthouse South will offer streams of current and past sermons and services will be available online, as will Facebook Live streams of sermons as well as one-on-one video prayer chats and a free app featuring podcasts and other information about the church.
“This is the way of the world, and so the church must also be able to deliver its message to the front door as opposed to asking people to only walk through the doors,” Henderson said. “We have to innovate so that we may stay relevant.”
Moving forward, the church will also look to offer professional counseling services for the Fort Bend area and open branches of its school and day care to service children with an education rooted in Christianity. Lighthouse South also will seek to build facilities for both recreation and community events offering prayer and financial services.
It’s an expansion – and a project – Henderson never saw coming when he arrived in Houston a decade ago. But now that it’s here, he hopes to bless Fort Bend County the same way it has blessed him.
“Most of the greatest things in life are not planned,” he said. “They’re part of a fortuitous set of events that are destiny-inclined.”