By Melissa Wuske
LifePointe Christian Church started in 2006, with the help of Waypoint Church Partners, in Toano, Virginia, a fast-growing area outside Williamsburg. Over the years, the church grew roots in their community, partnering with Habitat for Humanity, helping cancel school debt in several counties, and more.
But as the “mobile” church entered its second decade, lead minister Phillip Murdock said, something became abundantly clear: the church needed a seven-day-a-week presence in the community.
FINDING A SPOT
After several years of searching for an existing building and coming up short, they felt stuck. In such a thriving area, every bit of real estate was taken.
The first time one of the Realtors in the church mentioned a nearby horse farm that was for sale, Murdock brushed it off. But when several others mentioned it too, he and some others decided to check it out. What they saw was a metal shell building with a dirt floor on 10 acres of land. “Could this work?” they wondered.
They began to pray and envision what could be. “The more we got into it, the more excited we got,” said Murdock. Toano is a blue-collar, somewhat rural area. On a lighthearted church survey, they’d asked, if LifePointe were a person, where would it go out to eat and what it would drive: a local BBQ joint and an F-150, the congregation replied. It turns out, “A farm just fit our people really well,” Murdock and his team realized.
RENOVATING THE SPACE
In 2018 the church purchased the horse farm and began the process of renovating the space. It’s been a challenge, but Murdock and the church have seen God’s faithfulness. The church members have given more than a million dollars so far in a generosity campaign—much which took place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our people have done so much of the work,” Murdock said, not just to save money, but to connect and invest personally in the project. They put in countless hours on the property, including gutting the 110-year-old farmhouse down to the studs and renovating it to house staff offices. Again, COVID provided challenges, limiting interactions and adding anxious days of contact tracing after productive weekends—but there were no instances of virus transmissions.
In recent months, as the deadlines got closer and the supply chains became more beleaguered, supplies have been harder to get and cost more than expected. But they’ve been able to maintain their Nov. 14 launch Sunday.
There were many hard days for Murdock and his staff. With many members of the church meeting online and people on different sides of divisive issues, sometimes it felt like, “you don’t even know who’s with you anymore,” he said. But God’s work “sustaining our people” was evident. Murdock, the staff, and members of the church buoyed each other up, confident in the work God had called them to—a call that remained unchanged, even in the present challenges and struggles.
Through “so much uncertainty,” Murdock said, there was “great opportunity.” Many other ministers he knows are struggling with how to bring people back to church as COVID-19 eases, but the new building provides a natural rallying point for LifePointe.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The building itself is evidence of God’s redemptive work. Church members tore down the four-foot kickboards around the sides of the riding arena that protected the metal walls from horse hooves. They salvaged and repurposed the wood for various parts of the building, including the worship area that the former arena houses. Murdock looks forward to preaching that analogy: like the wood, God’s people are reclaimed for a purpose.
From the outside, the building looks the same as it did before, honoring its roots, and inside the entryway there’s a lodge feel with a fireplace. It’s a feel that fits the space and the people, without being cheesy or overdone. The church has also recently redone its logo with a weathervane, an homage to the 10 weathervanes on the new property and an icon to show their purpose as a church: to point the way.
While the dust of renovating settles and the current realities of the pandemic take shape, Murdock can’t wait to see the ways God uses the building, from addiction recovery groups to stay-at-home parent small groups, and more.
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, and their son, Caleb, live and minister in Cincinnati. Find her work online at melissaannewuske.com.