Church at Lake Guntersville draws nontraditional crowd, growing rapidlycomment (0)
August 3, 2006
By Grace Thornton
A decade ago, the Church at Lake Guntersville was bursting at the seams in a decades-old brick building. A contagious love for the Lord and nontraditional worship environment had young families packing the pews, said church member Earl Johnson.
So when the Marshall Baptist Association church decided to relocate, its chance to grow was magnified twofold — it could gain more space and design the building to fit the church’s new media-driven style of ministry.
“When we moved, we made a pretty big investment in technology so we could use more contemporary art, drama and multimedia,” said Pastor Keith Langner.
“But we don’t want to be defined by our worship,” he noted. “We want people who have a heart for God to find new avenues of service and, most of all, see lives changed.”
But the worship style is drawing a definite niche of the Guntersville community to find that heart for God, according to Randall Stoner, director of missions for Marshall Association.
And as a result, many of Guntersville’s unchurched are finding a church home.
It was “a growing problem” that caused the church to relocate, Stoner said.
“I commend them; they are doing a great work, and their style was needed to reach a segment of the community that needed its own way of worshiping the Lord.”
The church has baptized more in the past year “than it has in a long time,” Langner said. “That’s the bottom line — that’s our goal.”
The ever-growing congregation marks a year in its new facility Aug. 7 and is close to filling the 500-seat auditorium.
“Half the people in our church now were not even in church at all before they started coming to the Church at Lake Guntersville,” Johnson said.
He noted that the church is “not compromising the Scripture but trying to present it in a way that makes sense to people.”
Services include movie clips and other multimedia presentations, and those who attend dress casually.
“We like to look at it as a place where everyone is welcome regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey,” Johnson said.
And just a couple of miles away, in its former sanctuary, a new congregation is viewing things from the same perspective — testimony that the mission of the Church at Lake Guntersville is continuing in that location even though the congregation has moved.
Pastor Steven Swords, a Guntersville native, moved back and bought the sanctuary from the church as it prepared to move, replanting a new church under its original name — Victory Baptist. With a southern-gospel style of worship, Victory began reaching out to yet another unreached group of its neighbors — and the church has grown.
“We could not move and assume the liability and upkeep of two different facilities, so we knew we had to sell before we moved,” Langner said.
“We had a couple of different options we were considering at the time, some that might have even meant more money for the church, but we were excited when we were contacted by Pastor Swords about the possibility of starting a new church. Helping them get established felt like an extension of our ministry and legacy.”
The Lord has His hand on both churches, Langner added, and as a result the community is getting on board.
“People get excited and tell their friends about it (what God is doing),” he said. “We are just trying to hold on and keep up with what the Lord is doing here.”