Live Oak —
In the early part of 1981, a vision and a desire was placed in the heart of Bob Champion to establish a family church - one that would be a teaching center and driven by world outreach ministries. With the support of Champion’s family, his wife, Carol, and their children, Eric and Caprill, the dream was born.
Melody Christian Center has been firmly built on the beliefs that a Christian must know God’s word and must follow its teachings to be an overcomer in life. Throughout its 31 years in ministry, the Bible remains to be the center pillar in which all programs and ministries are built upon.
The church has seen many changes in the past three decades. According to the church’s history, its first service was held in the former Brim Funeral Home building and housed Melody’s first sanctuary and school on the 1.6 acre property. In 1984, the former Allbritton home located on 3.7 acres was purchased for the purpose of relocating Melody Christian Academy and expanding its children’s ministry.
In September of 1985, Champion and his family moved to pastor a church in Alabama. Frank Davis was then appointed to serve as the church’s lead pastor. Under the leadership of Davis, in May of 1988, the church moved into a new 8,000 square foot sanctuary situated on 10 acres of land. Two years later, the church added 10 more acres to the property.
The church continued to move forward in the 1990s and experienced enormous growth within the decade. Some of the significant events include the acquisition of interest in WORL 91.3 FM in 1992, followed by complete acquisition in 1997. The church constructed an athletic facility in 1993, and expanded facilities including the fellowship hall and the sanctuary for children and youth services, and renovated the existing building.
Davis began his role recently as CEO of Melody Christian Church when he stepped down as pastor, and the church appointed Darrin Baldwin as lead pastor.
Baldwin was born on Aug. 3, 1977 in New Jersey. He resided in the garden state until 1987 when his family ended up in Live Oak. “My dad saw an ad for some property in the New York Times, and about a year later, we moved to Florida,” Baldwin said. The family was attending Southside Baptist Church when some friends invited them to attend an event at Melody Christian Center. “There was something special about the church. It was different. It was very lively, and we fell in love with it,” said Baldwin.
The family plugged into the church for about two years before unfortunate circumstances had the family moving back to New Jersey during the summer before Baldwin’s ninth grade year.
“That’s when my life started turning upside down,” he said. By his junior year, Baldwin was involved with drugs and got kicked off the baseball team. He was arrested following a car wreck that happened while he was under the influence and illegal drugs were found inside his vehicle. Six months later, his parents bought him a one way Amtrack ticket and sent him to live with his brother in Live Oak.
His life was in a mess, and even recalls sitting on his roof with a fist pointed at God, angry because of where his life had led him. Instead of starting life afresh, Baldwin found himself on a downward slope that seemed to have no end. Depression had him on the verge of being an alcoholic. However, at the age of 19, his life dramatically changed in February of 1997, when Baldwin joined some friends from Melody Christian Center on a trip to a church in High Springs. That night when the altar call was given, Baldwin surrendered his life to Christ and soon began his journey in the ministry.
A little over a year later, Baldwin enrolled at Rhema Bible Training Center in Oklahoma.
Just 10 miles down the road, Laura Davis, a girl he met while attending Melody Christian as a child and the daughter of Frank Davis, was attending Oral Roberts University. “That was a God thing,” he said. The couple attended youth group meetings together, and in fact, she was there the night that he was saved but they never dated.
In Oklahoma, Baldwin said, “We hung out some then. That sparked something, but nothing was ever official.”
Baldwin graduated from Bible college in 2000, and in unusual circumstances that the couple admits was “God ordained,” the couple was married on May 26, 2001. He continued to serve as the youth pastor at Shore Christian Center in New Jersey until 2002 when God directed their path back to Live Oak.
Ten years later, Baldwin became lead pastor of the church he fell in love with as a child. “We’re thrilled about moving forward,” Baldwin stated.
Leading the church moving forward, Baldwin expressed many goals in motivating a bright future at Melody. “We want to see an increase at the Live Oak campus,” he said. “We want a strong online campus (through media sources), a strong emphasis on leadership that will help us develop a multi-campus church. We also want to be a church that is diverse and reaching the unchurched.”
The church has young leadership that has a passion that is driven toward this generation. “We’ve always had a strong youth program,” Baldwin said. “And I don’t want anything to be normal. We desire real faith for real life. It doesn’t have to be done the same old way it’s always been done. We’re excited about what God is doing.”
Baldwin, his wife, Laura, and their three children, twins Sophia and Isabella, and Darrin Christian, have a vision to reach this community and abroad. “We have a heart to reach this generation,” said Baldwin.