When Mike Haman was attending Louisiana College in Pineville 21 years ago, he’d come home to Baton Rouge on weekends to do what needed to be done at the newly established and very small Trinity Christian Center.

Now, Haman, 40, is the senior pastor of what that little church has grown into — Healing Place Church, one of the largest nondenominational churches in the state of Louisiana.

Explosive growth and unprecedented success, however, have not changed the church’s mission to serve the community and the world, he said.

“That’s what this church has been about from day one — serving,” Haman said. “For the first couple years I served wherever needed. I’d cut grass, set up tables and chairs, set up and tear down.

“I loved it and I was addicted to it and I knew God was calling me to be a part of it,” Haman said in a recent interview at his office, just over a year after he officially replaced the church’s founder and his mentor, the Rev. Dino Rizzo.

“The foundation that has been laid here at HPC has been a great foundation, a solid foundation, it’s been built on Jesus,” he added. “I honor Dino and (his wife) DeLynn and their sacrifice as our founding pastors. For us the spirit of honor is always the right thing and the people of the church still hold to that. God blesses that and that’s the spirit we want to move forward in.”

And since the Rizzos resigned in the fall of 2012, the church has kept moving forward. Attendance has steadily grown — about 10,000 came for Easter Sunday services — and several local and international branch campuses are expanding or being planted or started.

“We want to continue to grow and multiply the spirit of the church in a lot of different places,” Haman said. “Last September we planted a campus in Honduras,” in addition to campuses already planted in Swaziland and Mozambique, “which is about to go multisite.”

Each Sunday, the modern and spacious arena building at Highland Road is filled with thousands of worshippers who crowd onto the 56-acre campus for two services, while hundreds more watch online. The church’s “old” building, now called the Annex, serves youth ministries and a Spanish congregation on Sunday afternoons.

A growing St. Francisville congregation recently moved into the renovated Oxbow Restaurant after meeting for eight years in the West Feliciana Middle School, and a six-year-old congregation in El Paso, Texas, is also growing. Plans are being made for a Livingston Parish ministry “when God opens that door,” Haman said.

In 2010, Healing Place purchased the historic Winbourne Avenue Baptist Church buildings in north Baton Rouge, and that “Dream Center” congregation has since grown from dozens to several hundred, Haman said.

“There are a lot of great healthy signs here at the church,” Haman said. “We want to be diligent and go where God wants us to go.”

He wasn’t born to preach

Haman was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to an elementary school teacher father and office worker mother, and he has an older and younger sister. When he was 13 years old, they moved to Baton Rouge where his dad taught at Jimmy Swaggart Ministries’ Family Christian Academy. He and his sisters attended the school and his mother worked in the office.

“Faith was very much a big part of our family,” Haman said. “To me it was faith and sports — mostly sports — but then as I grew older a transition took place in my heart.”

“I can’t ever point to a specific (born again) experience,” Haman said. “God has always been a part of my life. The sun is shining — I don’t know how it got there — but I know the sun is shining.”

Haman graduated from Family Christian Academy in 1992, and, along with the rest of Baton Rouge and the world, witnessed the painful drama of Swaggart’s fall from grace.

Haman was a good enough high school basketball player that he was recruited by Louisiana College on a full scholarship.

He often led weekly devotions for the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes group, but whenever someone would suggest he consider entering the ministry, “I’d say no. I’ll never preach the gospel,’” he said. “Don’t ever use the word ‘never’ — God has a sense of humor.”

One day after a Bible study a coach approached him again about the ministry.

“I said, ‘no.’ I’d seen a lot of brokenness and pain and hurt and dysfunction in churches,” Haman said. “But then he said, ‘Mike, have you ever felt God might be calling you to bring some healing and some restoration and set an example?’”

And healing and restoration was exactly what Rizzo, Haman’s former high school youth pastor, was doing with the new Trinity Christian Center.

“That was a real turning point for me as it related to ministry,” Haman said.

“I’m thinking, ‘Well Lord, maybe I’ve walked through pain for a reason.’ I’m convinced God never wastes pain or heartache. The Bible says that every tear that we cry he collects in His bottle, in Psalms 56: 8-9,” he said. “God forgives our sin and forgets it, but he records our sorrows, so to me, pain was redemptive. That was a big epiphany.”

While coming home on weekends to work at the church he began dating Rachel, who was still in high school. They dated for two years, she graduated and they married after he graduated from Louisiana College with a degree in computer science. He was ordained that same year, 1996, and over the ensuing years served in most of the church’s pastoral positions. They changed the name of Trinity Christian Center to Healing Place in 2000.

Passionate about scripture

Haman says he is passionate about Scripture and has read through the Bible, cover to cover, numerous times.

“If you read your Bible daily, if you come to church weekly and if you serve at least monthly — if you are doing those three things, you are going to be making an impact somewhere, somehow,” he said.

He regularly memorizes verses, especially while driving his 3 children, ages 16, 11 and 6, to all of their activities.

“I have a sheet of paper of verses I keep in my car and constantly pull out that paper and rehearse the Word, and man, it makes a difference,” Haman said. “Instead of being stuck in traffic and being mad and frustrated, my spirit is alive!”

Replacing his mentor and close friend as HPC’s senior pastor has been difficult, but, he said, “I’ve discovered that when God gives you an assignment, He gives you a grace that is equal to the task.

“I’ve learned more about God’s grace over the last two years than probably all my life of being in church,” Haman said. “If your assignment is a size 6 God will give you the grace to fill a size 6, and if your assignment grows to a size 12, He gives you a size 12 grace.”

And he paraphrases II Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you,’ — exactly what you need.”

“I stay in a desperate, week-to-week, Sunday-to-Sunday, situation,” Haman said. “My heart needs to be full and out of that. That’s how you lead a church and how you feed people. I have to have the touch of God on my life cause without that I’ve got nothing.”

Growing a family

Healing Place, like most mega-churches, is large enough for a person to attend anonymously or they can get involved in one of many small groups.

The church’s philosophy, Haman said, centers around three words — gather, grow and go.

“Gather because relationships are important. We want everybody to be connected relationally,” Haman said. “Grow. Growing in your faith. We want people to be discipled, to be developed, then going. We are a church on the move. Go, go, go. We want to activate people.”

“We’re not trying to build a church, we’re trying to grow a family. Spiritual family is important,” Haman said. “We want to be big enough to reach the world but small enough to feel like home. Hopefully, this is the place where people can find spiritual family and call it home.”