Our Leadership

Liz Oelschlager

Senior Leadership Team
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Liz serves as Senior Pastor of Higher Ground Church. Born in Columbus, Ohio, she lived there until her family moved to Florida when she was eleven years old. At the age of 15 she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Upon graduation from high school she attended Christ For The Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas and received her Associates of Ministry Degree. She returned to Florida, where her father was now pastor of the church which started in their home. She met her husband Gil at the church, and they were married in 1988. Together, they served in various leadership positions through the years. Liz was Director of the Music & Arts Department for both Adults and Youth, and also responsible for yearly major Holiday evangelistic productions. Because of the anointing and favor of God upon the church, their music was on the cutting edge of ministry in the area, and many requests were received to come minister in other churches and events, including the opportunity to travel and minister in Brussels, Belgium, and Paris, France. The CWC Praise Team recorded and produced three of their own CD’s, with many songs written by team members. Along with her husband they ministered at church outreaches on the streets, and also took the Youth Dance Team Ministry to several detention centers, where God moved powerfully upon the juvenile inmates as the Word was shared through the youth’s music, dance, testimonies and preaching. Their ministries combined have seen hundreds and hundreds of lives saved and touched with the anointing of the Spirit!

In February 2007 Gil and Liz joined her parents in relocating to the Knoxville area. After several years of prayer and waiting on God’s direction, they helped Pastor Tom pioneer Higher Ground Church. Later, recognizing the call of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit, he commissioned and appointed Liz as Senior Pastor on Sunday, August 4, 2013. She has a heart and gifting to minister the Word simply, powerfully and with passion, bringing the practical and spiritual aspects of our lives together! She truly desires to see people know the reality of His presence, be led by the Holy Spirit, and to walk in the fullness, victory, and power of God.

Pastor Liz and Gil have one teenage daughter named Shelby Rae, who is home-schooled, loves ballet, dance, voice and guitar, and her red-nose pit bull, Gracie [who is the sweetest and best dog ever!]. Shelby actively serves the ministry in the areas of administrative help and as a praise team member.

Gil Oelschlager

Senior Leadership Team
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Gil is Pastor Liz’s husband and a very integral part of life here at HGC through his gifting of Evangelist and Pastor. He has a true heart for people, desiring to see them develop and prosper in their walk with the Lord. He serves alongside her in the ministry, bringing keen insight and wisdom from the Lord to the ministry, and also is the Technical Consultant in the area of sound and computers. A native of Pennsylvania, his family moved to Florida when he was six years old, and even owned property in the very same neighborhood where Liz lived at the time. Gil and her went to the same ballpark to play, same schools, but they never crossed paths until they met in church in 1987 [God has His timing for everything!].

In Florida Gil served in various positions in the church through the years as Associate Pastor, Youth Pastor, Cell Group Leader, Lighting Technician and Head of Maintenance, and he earned his Associate of Theology Degree from Calvary Bible Institute. Very active at church outreaches either on the street, at the beach, or as a Prison Chaplain, he was always seen reaching out and serving people, praying for people, and helping them however he could. Together Gil and Liz took the Youth Ministry and Dance Team to several detention centers, and saw God move powerfully upon the juvenile inmates as the Word was shared through the youth’s music, dance, testimonies, and preaching.

Having built his first house at the age of 18, he now owns a Remodeling/Property investment company wherein he pursues his passion of buying properties, “Turning Houses into Homes” and providing people with quality places to live. He is an official “half-back” here in Tennessee, but not an official fan of the Vols [and is well aware those could be fightin’ words!].

Thomas E. Smith

Senior Leadership Team
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Tom Smith is Apostle and Revivalist of Higher Ground Church, actively serving on our Leadership Team.   Getting saved during the Revival and Outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the 1970’s, his calling and passion is to see the next great Revival come to our church, our city and our nation.  He was a successful building contractor and land developer who moved from Columbus, Ohio to Florida in 1973. It was at this time that the nation entered into a two year recession. Being deeply troubled about his business finances, he became depressed and saw no way out of his dilemma. He was not a “church goer,” but on Easter Sunday his wife asked him to go to church with her, and he consented because, after all, “It was Easter!” That one hour service would change his life and direction forever. The Holy Spirit used his daughter, Kathy, who slipped a Bible into his lap. He began reading the Word and before he knew it, he found himself surrendering his life to Jesus and asking him to come and take over his life. This did not come from someone at the pulpit, and he didn’t totally understand it, but he knew he needed God in his life. So he opened his heart to Him that day, and when he walked out of church, he knew something was different, that something had happened inside of him. Over the previous past few months, he had developed an intense bitterness in his heart toward his father. Three days after surrendering to Jesus, he realized he had been delivered from this bitterness.

He got so excited about Jesus, he began serving in whatever way he could. He became very active in the Presbyterian Church, and eventually became involved with the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International. He served as President of the Chapter in Stuart, Florida for three terms. He witnessed the Holy Spirit begin to move in the city, and Revival began as many people were being saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. About this time he met Arne Dahl, a retired 75-year-old Norwegian pastor. Then, in 1979, Pastor Dahl started a home fellowship meeting in Tom and Rosemary’s home, which developed into a church named Calvary Full Gospel Fellowship. Then, sensing the call of God, Pastor Dahl, now 81 years old, appointed Tom senior pastor of the church in February 1981. Please see “Our History” for more on Pastor Tom’s continued ministry in the church.