Real Life Church opens here with  two contemporary services Oct. 4

Times photos / Jessi Dreckman Brandon Tanksley, shown here with wife Whitney and their son, Camdon, 2, will serve as location pastor of Real Life Church, which plans to hold its first services Oct. 4 in Gainesville  in a converted airplane hangar at Gainesville Memorial Airport.

Real Life Church will host its first services in Gainesville at 9:30 and 11 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, in a former airplane hangar at the Gainesville Memorial Airport on Bulldog Drive across from Gainesville High School.

The church is being opened here by Real Life Church in Mountain Home, Arkansas, where its weekly contemporary services attract an average attendance of around 1,100 people, according to a news release announcing the opening of the Real Life Church in Gainesville. The church is affiliated with the General Baptist denomination, said Brandon Tanksley, location pastor of the Gainesville congregation. 

The Mountain Home church celebrated its ninth year on Sept. 11, Tanksley told the Times Monday. The congregation first held services in 2011 in a school then moved to a bus garage and later retrofitted a riding stable as its gathering place before building its current building three years ago at 1326 Rossi Road, off the Highway 62 Bypass. The Mountain Home church is led by lead pastor Vince Daniel.

Two contemporary services each Sunday

Tanksley said the Gainesville church will have two contemporary services each Sunday featuring a full live worship band playing the music “people are hearing now on contemporary Christian radio.” The service will unfold in a dimly lit auditorium featuring theatrical stage lighting, he said.

While adults are gathering in the auditorium of the retrofitted airplane hangar, children from birth through fifth grade will gather in the “kids area,” where an age-appropriate curriculum and service will be shared. “We want to instill in the kids the same things we teach adults.” 

“One of the biggest things we strive for is safety. It’ll be a very safe environment; we make sure all families feel safe having their children there,” Tanksley said, adding that all volunteers will have “background checks on hand.” 

Each of the two services will last about an hour. “We want to make Sunday the most exciting day of the week,” he said. 

The church is “very volunteer driven” and exists in a “very serving culture,” Tanksley said. Those who have been working to convert the 160-foot-long hangar, which the church is buying from Robert Obert, are “generally half and half,” Tanksley said, meaning half the volunteers are Ozark Countians who are part of the launch team, and the other half are staff members and volunteers from the Mountain Home church.   

While focusing on the gospel, the church operates with four different kinds of value statements, Tanksley said: 

“We’re better together. 

“We’re never finished. We keep moving forward. Our mission stays the same, but our methods may change. We’re always trying to reach one more person.

“We’re generous. Churches talk about tithing and offerings. As a church, when we make our budget, right off the top we take that tithe, and it goes outside the church’s walls. We give it away.

“We refuse to be good – because good stops you from being great. We strive for excellence in everything we do.”

Tanksley said that, as RLC has organized, the First Baptist Church in Gainesville has been very supportive, offering its former youth center on Third Street as a place where youngsters could be watched while the RLC launch team has held “vision nights” a few doors away in a rented meeting place.


‘We felt the Lord calling us’

Tanksley said census reports showed that, as a whole, about 80 percent of Ozark Countians reported themselves as “unchurched” or as ones who had “fallen away from church at some time in their life.” Real Life Church’s biggest goal in Ozark County, he said, is to see that number decrease. “We want to reach the lost – reach that one more soul, one more person, one more family,” he said.

Tanksley grew up in Cape Girardeau in a family that owned farms that grew corn, beans and wheat. “Both my grandpas were farmers,” he said. “I was going to follow in their footsteps.”

He graduated from Cape Central High School and then, in 2015, earned a degree in agricultural science from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky.

He married Whitney Bramlett, his high school sweetheart, also a Murray State grad. They have an almost-2-year-old son, Camdon, and another baby on the way. 

Whitney Tanksley teaches seventh- and eighth-grade science in the Gainesville Schools. “And she’s also an amazing speaker,” Tanksley said, mentioning a sermon Whitney recorded recently for a national youth conference.

After college, Tanksley worked in seed-company sales for three years. He and Whitney started attending a church in Dexter soon after their marriage, and it wasn’t long before “we felt God doing something in our lives, but we didn’t know exactly what,” he said. 

They were asked to be leaders in the Dexter church’s student ministry, and at one of the conferences they attended, they heard a speaker say, “Ordinary obedience leads to extraordinary opportunities.”

Musing on that statement, Tanksley said, “I think that was God calling me into ministry.”


A season of trusting

He hid that thought for a while as he started a new job. But when the company restructured and he was laid off six months later, he was invited to consider the youth pastor’s job in their church. 

“We felt the Lord calling us, tugging at our hearts,” he said. “We had no clue what that was or how it would look, but we dove in and said, ‘God, if this is really you ...,’” he said, recalling something a pastor had said during his childhood: “If it’s God, it will grow. If not, it will go.”

They kept praying, and in April of this year, “out of the blue,” Pastor Vince Daniel called Tanksley and said Real Life Church was looking for a pastor for its new Gainesville location. 

The two had met previously at church conferences. 

When he told Whitney about the phone call, she told him, “I believe this is what God has had us wait for.” 

They came to Gaines-ville in May and felt an instant bond. “Our hearts completely broke for Gainesville,” he said, meaning it in a good way. Whitney told him, “I always imagined being a missionary somewhere, but I didn’t know it was going to be in southern Missouri.”

She told her husband she believes Gainesville is to be their “mission field,” and he agreed. 

Their last day in Dexter was May 31, and he started work June 1 at RLC in Mountain Home, “learning the way they work and the mission, vision and values of the church. We want to replicate here the culture they’ve built there,” he said, adding that the RLC mission is “to show real life to real people through the real savior, Jesus Christ,” and its vision is to “reach one more.” 

Tanksley is now working on a master’s degree in Christian studies through Jackson, Tennesse-based Union University.   

The Tanksleys are in the process of moving into their new home in Gaines-ville – and preparing for the launch of the new church they’ll be leading here, starting with those first Oct. 4 services. 

The opening was delayed a few weeks due to the increasing number of covid-19 cases reported recently in Ozark County. At the RLC services, staff members and volunteers will be wearing masks, but masks are not required for those attending, Tanksley said.

He and Whitney don’t know exactly what’s ahead. But they aren’t worried. “We’ve been through a season of trusting,” he said, “learning that God always has our back – even when it feels like he doesn’t. As a couple, we’ve faced a lot of different things where we have to trust, and this is one of them, where we have to step out of the boat … like Peter did.” 

For more information about Real Life Church, call 417-989-8884 or visit

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423