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Scottsboro church opens doors of first permanent buildingcomment (0)

June 29, 2006

By Lauren Brooks

In its almost seven years of existence, Agape Baptist Church, Scottsboro, has met all over town. Church members have worshiped in a high school, union headquarters and even in a department store.
But now — finally — they have a permanent church home.
“We began the church without a building, budget or a staff,” Pastor Roger Mardis said. “But we had the conviction that God wanted us to start it.”
Agape Baptist began in September 1999 with just a few families and changed locations as the congregation grew. 
Most recently, the Tennessee River Baptist Association church was meeting in the former Belk-Hudson department store in a shopping center.
Last summer, the church was able to purchase 27 acres and began construction on a new facility. 
On June 18, the congregation worshiped for the first time in its 37,000-square-foot auditorium, which is the first building phase on the property.
According to Mardis, about 300 people attend worship each week and more than 200 participate in Sunday School. The new auditorium will hold up to 500 people, and Mardis said he hopes it will soon be filled.  Dennis Crownover, chairman of the deacons, attributes the church’s rapid growth to the love of its members.
“I’ve been part of three churches since I’ve been saved, and I’ve never seen or felt love like in this church,” he said. “People in the community have heard about it and want to be part of it, too.”
Dianne Thomas and her family are among Agape’s charter members. 
“This is the friendliest and most open place I’ve ever been,” said Thomas, who currently serves as children’s director. “There’s freedom to worship and we’re all on the same page.” 
As far as her goals for the church and the children’s program, she simply wants to be salt and light in the community.
“We’re hoping to reach unchurched families and show them Jesus,” Thomas said. 
Before the idea of starting this church was ever mentioned, Mardis said he had jotted down what he thought was crucial in a church. Looking back, he said these ideals are alive and well and form the backbone of Agape.
“We’re more in love with truth than tradition; we have a personalized world missions program, biblical preaching, we’re evangelistic and it doesn’t matter what your skin color or background is, everyone is greeted with open arms,” Mardis said. “Our goal is to share the love of Christ, and we’d be hypocritical if we didn’t live up to our name (Agape — love).”
According to him, choosing a name was a congregational decision and it has fit the church well.
Besides the reputation of its name and members, Mardis said he also considers the actual building to be part of Agape’s testimony.
“We want to have the city realize that our church has vision,” Mardis said. “Our building doesn’t look like a church by design. We wanted folks to say, ‘Wow! What’s that?’ when they saw it.”
From providing the department store rent-free to paint and Sheetrock without charge, both Crownover and Mardis point to ways God has led and provided for Agape.
“Every time we have had a need, God has met it,” Crownover said. “It’s unreal. So many things have either been free or at a great reduction. There’s no doubt that God is in this.”
And the church has started the second of what Mardis said will probably be many building campaigns. 
He said he isn’t worried about funds because the church members know it will take commitment.  
“We know who we are and what we have to do,” Mardis said. “We realize that stewardship is a lifestyle for us.
“God’s enabled us to reach so many people, but we know the best is yet to happen,” he said.

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