Marine-turned-church planter seizes gospel opportunities in military communities

When Scott and Katie Groves stumbled upon a Facebook advertisement for Pillar Church of Jacksonville, North Carolina, they never thought God would call them to church planting at Pillar Church just six years later.

As a military family new to the faith, the Groves needed a solid church to disciple and walk with them through life’s ups and downs. Scott’s career with the Marines had led his family to live in five places in just 13 years, making it vital for them to find a church where they could get plugged in quickly.

A man who introduced himself as JD greeted the Groves at the door the first time they visited Pillar Church. Moments later, they were surprised when the same man walked inside the gymnasium where the church was gathering to preach the Sunday morning sermon.

“We were blown away because we had never been greeted like that before,” Scott said. “He was super personable and grabbed our attention right away.”

As Scott put it, the church’s ethos was clear: “Whether you’re here for three years or three months, we are going to give you everything we’ve got by preaching you the gospel, seeing you grow as a disciple, and then helping you take that wherever you go next.” And for the Groves, that is exactly what happened.

After several years of being discipled into mature Christians, one of the church elders asked Scott if he had ever thought about teaching a small group. “I hadn’t thought about teaching in general at all,” laughed Scott.

Yet, since they started attending Pillar Church of Jacksonville in 2016, the Groves knew they wanted to minister to young Marines and their spouses. So, they took a step of faith and opened their home to host a church small group in their community right outside Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Soon, Scott invited the growing group to bring lawn chairs because they had run out of seating inside his home.

“Our guys and girls in uniform travel all over the world on the government’s dime,” Scott said. “It’s them as Christians going with other non-Christians somewhere. They’re able to carry the gospel with them and to witness and minister to those people who they’re with.” This thought echoed in his mind as he wrestled with a call to church planting – right when it seemed like his career with the Marines had a promising trajectory.

Everything changed for Scott after participating in a rapid response mission with the Marine Corps to Quantico, Va., where he could share Christ’s love and care with Afghan refugees. “There was something that drastically changed inside of me that I was like, man, I think I’m done with the Marines full time,” he said.

So, Scott declined the opportunity to continue his career with the Marines before he was sure what the next step would be. Soon after, the door opened for the Groves and a team from their church to replant a church through the Praetorian Project – a family of churches strategically planted in military communities to provide long-term discipleship for highly transient people.

Since Pillar Church of Havelock launched this Easter, the church has started to build inroads to reach Marines and their families at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Because many of the church members have access to the base, the church has been able to start a Bible study and another small group for families who live there.

Roughly 80% of the church’s surrounding community is made up of individuals who have a tie to the military. “It’s a mission field in and of itself,” Scott said. “The gospel needs to be preached to the lost inside the trenches and the lines of the military.”

Inviting other churches to consider joining in the movement of planting churches in military communities, he said, “You get to go on mission and be part of seeing Jesus made known to the people beyond those gates and inside of the military bases.”

To learn more about how you and your church can play a vital role in bringing Christ to the U.S. Military through church planting, visit

Published November 14, 2023

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