Our History

Honoring Our Legacy

PASTOR ARNE DAHL: Higher Ground Church has deep roots, being originally founded in 1979 by Pastor Arne Dahl, a Norwegian who had pastored for many years, seeing firsthand the powerful days of revival with Smith Wigglesworth. After Pastor Dahl moved to America, he pioneered two churches prior to retiring to Florida to recover from pneumonia. While there, the Lord spoke to him, saying, “Up, for I have given Sisera into your hand.” With this word, he was led to move to the Stuart/Jensen Beach area where in 1979 he started a home fellowship meeting in the home of [Pastor] Tom & Rosemary Smith, which soon became a church named Calvary Full Gospel Fellowship. Then sensing the call of God, Pastor Dahl, at 81 years old, appointed Tom as Senior Pastor in February 1981. Pastor Dahl had two favorite scriptures that have been “pillars” of our vision through the years…. Joel 2:28 – “It will come about in the last days that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” The second one he always encouraged people with was Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

PASTOR TOM SMITH: The church grew under Pastor Tom’s leadership, and the Lord miraculously enabled them to purchase thirteen acres of prime property in the heart of St. Lucie West, and they proceeded to build 10,000 square feet of brand new facilities. Soon, Revival broke out. Along with Wednesday Night, Friday Night and Sunday Morning services, every weekday at 10:00 a.m. sometimes more than 100 people daily came hungry to praise God and learn His Word. Men would take time off work, mothers and children would gather at the altar to worship and receive prayer. Many miraculous healings occurred. It was an awesome outpouring of the Holy Spirit! Larger facilities were needed, and a 23,500 square foot Multi-Purpose building was added in 1997. Pastor Tom lives by the scripture in Philippians 3:10 – “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

PASTOR DAVID PAUL SMITH: The growth continued, and eventually in February 2002, Pastor Tom went into semi-retirement and passed the mantle of the church pastorate to his son, Pastor David Paul Smith. Pastor David’s vision, strong prophetic anointing, preaching, and pure hunger for God’s presence continued to take the church to greater depths in God. There he also founded Kidzone Preschool Academy, a well-rounded preschool and academy dedicated to the best education possible for students ages 2 years through 3rd grade. The campus consists of five separate buildings and includes a 10,000 square foot indoor playground, which is the largest indoor playground in the State of Florida. Pastor David had been coming to the Knoxville area for many years, and earlier, while living in the Knoxville/Gatlinburg area, God gave him a desire to one day plant a prophetic church here. After several years of seeking and praying, God led Pastor David and Pastor Tom to plant a church, and Higher Ground Church was birthed.

PASTOR LIZ OELSCHLAGER: Recognizing the call of God, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Tom commissioned and appointed his daughter, Liz Oelschlager, as Senior Pastor on Sunday, August 4, 2013. Having received her Associate of Ministry Degree from Christ For The Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, and serving the ministry in various leadership positions over the next several years, Pastor Liz has a gift and heart to minister the Word simply, practically, powerfully and with passion. We are excited about the awesome future ahead for Higher Ground as we continue to burn with the call of God to touch people’s lives, that they may know the real presence of the real God, and see their lives radically changed by the power of the Gospel. Moving ahead, Higher Ground exists to be refreshing habitation of God’s presence and Spiritual Awakening, fueling personal revival, and bringing life, hope and healing to our community.