It was spring 2003. My business was starting to do decent and I had a good bit of residual income. I was also doing ministry full time as well with Raffa Front-Line Ministries. We had formed a discipleship school that was growing.
The purpose of Raffa was to help people to know and hear God. We had several different locations throughout Georgia. We had a school campus in Dalton, Blairsville, and Dacula. Our home campus was in Dacula at our home church Cornerstone Fellowship.
The school was experienced tremendous momentum.
We also hosted area meetings every month where the students were able to practice what they learned in the classroom and for the public to experience what was happening in the school. The meetings were high impact and full of energy. I would usually lead Praise and Worship for these meetings and Brother Larry would bring a message and speak as the Lord led him.
The campus of our home church was strong and some of the church leadership began to have some concerns. We were approached by leadership with the idea of starting our own church. At first, we balked. It was not our intention, ever, of starting a church. But, the leadership insisted, saying that we have all the ingredients already present.
After prayer and discussion and various meetings with other leaders in our lives, we accepted the call for this next season and founded His Presence Training Center and Church on March 7, 2003.
The leaders in our lives decided for the church to be run by the young leaders, so Jay Powell was given the position of lead pastor, Chris Brasfield was over discipleship, and I was given the position of worship leader and administration.
Personally, I was excited! This was everything I had dreamed of as a kid. I always dreamed of traveling doing music and preaching the gospel. Then, I wanted to pastor and lead a church. Here was the opportunity to have it all at the age of 25.
For the next five years, I poured myself into the church. There were several pivotable moments and stories of faith and transformation that I could share, but perhaps another time.
We launched the church at Bogan Park Community Center that March. We had a group of about 70 that first service.
A month later, we found a location in Lawrenceville at Airport Road. During the summer of 2003, we began renovations on the space. I worked closely with Chris to buildout the space. Chris and I did a majority of the day to day buildout. We would host church work days where the people could come and help out.
Nothing tests the quality of friendships like doing a renovation project with your friends. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but the fabric of our relationship was beginning to feel strained. Fortunately, these projects don’t last too long and soon we were finished and the church moved in.
For the next few years, we experienced and built a wonderful community of believers.
Our leadership was young and we all lacked the business decision experience of church. We relied heavily on the leading of the Lord (as any pastor would), but we did not have any outside mentors in our lives to walk us through decisions and vet our leading.
In 2005, we made a decision to move the church from our small location that we were maxing out to a facility nearly 10x our current size. We had big dreams. We wanted a place that would host a training center for all types of people. We had a community center idea to invest in low income neighborhoods that surrounded the church. We wanted land to host activities and community.
The problem was the price tag. The initial price tag was also close to 10x what we were paying. Even with faith, we knew that we could not do that. With what we felt was the leading of the Lord, we approached the owner over the next several months and got a reduced rate that was a stretch but “kind of” manageable. We were only going to pay about 3x what we currently were paying and the facility was ready to move in. So, we made the decision to move.
Shortly after moving in, the church hosted a block party at the Collins Hill Wal-Mart. We had the unique idea at that time to give away 100 backpacks to low income kids. We got several donations from area businesses and the backpacks were filled with school supplies. At the event, we provided a band, jumpy houses, free activities, and even had a few sports mascots show up. The best part was the kids and the support we received from the community.
At this point, we were starting to experience momentum again and had a desire to have a community center that would host afterschool programs for these neighborhoods around us.
We had amazing ideas, but soon the reality of having to manage the day to day of the facility began to tax us. The economy was starting to tank due to the war on terrorism and bailouts and the people in church were starting to feel the strain. Churches around us were closing left and right. Churches and ministries everywhere were struggle to make ends meet. We just did not have the backing or reserves to make it through.
Our landlord was amazing. He never demanded payment from us and always extended grace. The writing was on the wall. We went through series of last ditch experiments to find purpose and continue the fight, but it seemed we were at the point where it was time.
Jay and I talked regularly. Jay was experiencing a lot of pressure and as a young leader he was having trouble managing it as well as working fulltime and providing for his family of six. He was ready to end the church. My wife was ready to end it. I was ready, but uncertain. We all felt compelled that we would start it back up in a few months after “taking a break”.
We met with our mentors who were divided on our decision. Brother Larry encouraged us to keep the church for the sake of the people. But, ultimately, Jay and I decided it was time.
We had a dinner for the people at Jay’s house and talked about the decision.
I loved the church. I loved the serving and building. The decision deals with me a bit, even to this day. I wonder at times what could have been. It seemed that everything I had dreamed for my life had just happened and I was entering my 30’s wondering what I was going to do now. I needed a new vision for my future.