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A healthy church is a growing church

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Christina Stock Photo The children at Grace Community Church had a lot of entertainment stations to choose from, one station even had a donated car that they could paint.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Grace Community Church celebrated its 20th anniversary April 27-29 with a charter member banquet, a showcase and a celebration. Following the music and worship on Sunday, everybody was invited for the Grace family reunion in the park next to the church.

The celebration and reunion included a barbecue, games and live music by the band RetroFit.

Rick Hale has been the senior pastor of Grace Community Church since the beginning. Before heading to the park to join his congregation for the party, Hale took time to talk about Grace Community Church’s origin and future.

“Our first meeting was with 90 people crammed into a home,” Hale said. “That was the first meeting to even think, talk and pray about if we should start a new church.”

With the decision made, the church needed to find a home. “We rented the Sally Port Inn — I still remember they charged us $100 a week and I thought, ‘What a great deal, they are so kind,’” Hale said. “We met at the Sally Port Inn — 200 people showed up. Then, the next week we met at the Sally Port Inn again and over 200 people showed up. We could have never imagined it. After that, we were at the Civic Center for four years, from ‘98 to 2002.”

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The concept of the church was to offer a home for anybody who believed in Christ and God in a family friendly atmosphere and to be a purpose driven church. A heavy focus was not to have only one leader, but to grow leaders, which was achieved in a 5-step membership class. Groups were founded that met regularly to study the Bible, books and participate in workshops. One of these early book programs was Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Another focus of the church was the youth and especially people who did not have a church.

“Our goal was never — we call it stealing sheep from other churches — we never wanted to empty the other churches. That’s not good; that’s not real growth for God’s kingdom,” Hale said. “Our goal was to build a church, to reach unchurched people. We wanted to be a healing, welcoming church for people who never been to church or dropped out of church. That’s who came. They were looking for a church that would love them, that would be kind and welcoming to them. But the big vision is for people to find and fulfill God’s purpose for their life. A lot of people just don’t know what their purpose is. I am on planet Earth. Why am I here? Our goal is to let them know, God has you here for a purpose and we want to help guide you and find it — and once you find it, fulfilling that purpose.”

Asked what the future of Grace Community Church looks like, Hale said, “Right now the buildings and facilities that we have on our site are meeting our needs adequately. There are times though when we are starting to push on the walls a little bit in certain areas.

“We have plans. We masterplanned actually our entire 22 acres. Our vision is to have 10 percent of Roswell finding a home with Grace. We are almost halfway to that point. That means about 5,000 people. We actually have the plans where we can build enough buildings to house on any given Sunday morning 5,000 men, women and children,” Hale said.

“We are excited about the future of our community and we love to be in our community; we love to be involved in our community. Jesus said, he came to serve. If we want to follow Jesus, that means we need to serve our community,” Hale said.

Next to the celebrations on that day, Grace Community displays a painting of the artist Kim Wiggins in its lobby commemorating the anniversary.

“For our 10th anniversary we commissioned Kim Wiggins — a member and wonderful artist — to paint a painting in honor of our church and all what God has done in our church,” Hale said.

“It is displayed in the lobby. For our 20th anniversary we commissioned him again. I said, ‘Kim, at our 10th anniversary you focused on the ministries of Grace. Can you paint a painting that would symbolize our mission for our community?’ He knocked it out of the park. It is a wonderful painting that he has donated. We have 200 signed and numbered prints for sale. He was wonderful in donating that painting, so we can raise money to do service projects in our community and around the world. It is a wonderful painting and anybody in Roswell will love it. It’s a picture of the courthouse and a young lady standing in front of the courthouse holding a candle. This is the symbol that we ought to be the light of Jesus in Roswell,” Hale said.

In a phone interview with Wiggins he explained the creative process and background of the painting he titled “The Sacred Light.” “The inspiration for the painting actually came when I sat down with Pastor Rick and Pastor Lendell,” Wiggins said. “We discussed what their vision is for the church in the future.

“They said that their biggest desire is for people to reach out in their community and love one another and share the gospel of Christ, beginning in our community and then spreading throughout the world.

“I took that concept and decided to create something that represented our community,” Wiggins said. “In the painting the courthouse is right behind the young girl. She is lit up and represents the light of Christ. It’s a symbolic painting of the believers being a spiritual witness to the world.

According to Wiggins he and his wife have been with Grace Community Church for 18 years.

“We visited the church early on when it was on Main Street. Later on our children started going to Grace. They loved the children’s program and so my wife and I thought to just move to the church and start going there because our children loved it so much.

“It’s been a wonderful church. My wife Maria is in charge of the four-and-under children at church and we just love being there.”

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.