But in the midst of such painful memories, a group of people in Central Vermont celebrated a more joyous anniversary. Faith Community Church celebrated their 7th anniversary as a church. Faith Community Church was born in the hearts of three families who began to meet for Bible study around my kitchen table in the summer of 2004. Feeling led of the Holy Spirit to form a new church in the Barre area, we began Sunday morning worship services in the conference room at the Hollow Inn on the second Sunday of September 2004. Thirty one people met on that first Sunday. We did not have live music, so we used "I Worship" DVDs. We jokingly referred to it as "Christian karaoke." The Sunday School met in a hallway. Children of all ages were in one class and my 13 year old daughter was the teacher. We had to set the whole "church" up every week and take it all back down at the end of the service. In those early days often the tithe check my wife and I put in the offering was the bulk of the income for the week.
The church has never claimed to be a group of people who have it altogether or who live perfectly. We have always been a collection of people with colorful histories, challenging life situations and a multitude of spiritual questions. But as we come to understand the timeless truths of scripture, our lives are being transformed to be more like Christ. It is a long slow process, but one worth being engaged in. Faith Community Church has always tried to be a church that helped real people find real faith in a real world. We have never focused on producing lofty theological statements that have little impact in daily life. Instead, we have focused on how to apply theological truth to our every day experiences. This has helped us carry our faith into the world in ways that most of us never thought was possible.
The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention but welcomes anyone who desires to worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth regardless of their religious affiliation, or lack thereof. Though the church reaches out to anyone who wants to come, it has been particularly successful at reaching un-churched young adults. The church has also been able to minister to a growing number of people who attended church as children but were not very active as adults. Though Vermont is one of the "whitest" states in the nation, the church has families from a wide variety of ethnicities and from several nations around the world. The church is known for its powerful praise team and for expository preaching from its various elders. Since the church uses a multi-leader approach, which includes three bivocational ministers and one lay leader, the church is able to focus a significant portion of its income on helping the poor, starting new churches and supporting missionaries around the world. It has been my joy to serve as one of those elders of since the beginning of the church.
Eventually the Lord allowed us to purchase a vacant building on the edge of town and convert it into a church facility. Since moving into that building, the church has birthed two daughter churches already, as well as helped several existing churches with youth leadership training and financial support. Though numbers are only one way to guage the health of a church, we rejoice that we had over 230 in worship this morning and that in our short existance we have already given over $150,000 away to various mission causes. Most importantly, we rejoice that over 85 people have professed faith in Christ and been shepherded through the baptism process so they could proclaim their new faith publically. To God be the glory!
Though only the Lord knows what the future holds, so long as the church keeps its focus on Jesus and follows God's Word, that future will be one that continues to impact the community for Christ. I look forward to watching God unveil that future as we walk with Him.