A Dream Realized: Christ Community Church Moves Into New Facility
Nestled in the woods, mounted on a hill, sits a new, contemporary-styled house of worship that represents God's faithfulness to the body of believers who call themselves Christ Community Church.
The winding road leading to the church off U.S. 15-501 north seemingly parallels the journey members have encountered for more than two decades. From living room floors to strip malls to storefront buildings, the church has made its home wherever God has led them.
"We prayed for years and years for God to grow us, to expand us, to open our doors and make us a stronger relational group," says Russ Dierking, a church deacon. "This is finally what God was waiting for."
The 8.7-acre parcel of land where the building is located was an old tobacco farm not so long ago. And all that remains are a few pieces of carefully chosen wood that frame the front of the new coffee bar in the church lobby.
At first glance, the new building looks modern and seems utilitarian. If there wasn't a sign out front, people might think they've come to the wrong place. It doesn't resemble a traditional church at all.
Dean Engebretson, pastor of the church, admits the design is a little different but says the architecture makes a statement.
"It communicates very well who we want to be within the community," he says. "It has a contemporary look and feel to it, which speaks of relevancy. The outside to the inside flows very easily. It shows that we are a good gathering place."
The ceilings soar from 22 to 26 feet high, a far cry from the stuffy 9-foot ceilings in the old facility. The airy foyer with coffee bar fares much better than the makeshift welcome tent in their previous storefront parking lot. Church members say their old facility was good enough to worship in; however, it lacked a lot of the things a growing church needed to function.
"We've always relied on God and his timing to get us to the right place, says Kelly Mitchum, local PGA professional and deacon. "The timing was right and we can really see the blessings of God and his hand in this whole process."
Engebretson joined the church in 2005, and has since fulfilled the role as senior pastor and "visionary." At that time, the church had a steady crowd of 70 to 80 people on a regular Sunday.
Dierking, a 15-year member of the church, says the congregation stayed about the same size for many years, without any real growth.
"We knew something had to be done," says Dierking. "But we couldn't put it into words, and we couldn't put it into action. That takes a certain gift from God. Not everybody can do that."
Engebretson says the people didn't necessarily have a unified vision, but they shared the same hope that the church would someday reach its true potential.
"There was a sweetness about the fellowship and a caring for one another," he says. "They knew there was more to what the church could be than what they were currently experiencing."
Vision for Church
Engebretson shared his heart with the congregation and spoke his "vision" of what he thought the church could become. He brought leaders of the church together to prayerfully and strategically develop new direction. He says in time, everyone came together to follow the same path.
Three years later, the congregation has more than tripled in size, most of which took place over the past 18 months. The children's ministry, led by Brenda Wilson, is now "exploding," where there were hardly any children in years past. The youth ministry, led by Joyce Clevenger, is growing strong with regular involvement in mission projects and community outreach.
"We have a vision and a plan where we see God working and moving," says Dierking. "Something very special is going on here."
Engebretson credits God with the growth; he says no one is able to build the body of Christ but Him.
"When the Holy Spirit fills, empowers, and leads a church, everything the church does will cause it to grow -- spiritually, evangelistically or numerically," he says.
The casual "come as you are" services offer a blend of the traditional and the new. The praise and worship music is played and sung by talented local musicians and vocalists. Engebretson says the music team is geared more towards worship than production and performance.
"God's cue sheet is different than ours," he says.
It's not uncommon for Rob Ely, the worship leader to pause spontaneously between songs and pray aloud.
"These are holy moments where God is zeroing in on someone's heart or touching a person's will," says Engebretson. "The spirit of God is hovering over the people at that moment. We don't want to rush out of that experience."
Engebretson peppers his sermons with both instruction and motivation, but "only God can change a heart and life direction," he says.
Energetic and Engaging
It's hard to believe Engebretson once had a fear of public speaking. He says it was only after he became a Christian that he felt comfortable enough to stand up and share his faith and tell others about what God was doing in his life.
"Rather than having the churning and the anxiety, there was instead an excitement about speaking," he says.
Perhaps this is what Engebretson means when he says the church community is "authentic -- real, honest, transparent but not perfect."
He comes across as a real person, admits he's not perfect and has a way of making others around him feel comfortable.
"He speaks in truth and he's genuine," says Mitchum. "He has the ability to take scripture and make it real to our everyday lives."
Mitchum, along with his parents, has attended the church for more than 21 years. They were one of the handful of families who attended the first "services" in the living room of a private home in Southern Pines.
"If you got there early enough you would get a nice soft couch to sit on," he says with a laugh.
The living room couch seems like ages ago to Mitchum as he enters the new spacious sanctuary that seats 225 comfortably. There is now a huge nursery area for children, a cozy youth lounge and many multi-purpose classrooms -- amenities the church has not been able to offer in years past. And all of this is just Phase I of a planned three-phase project which include a 600-seat sanctuary, a two-story education building, and a family life center/gymnasium.
Engebretson hopes the new campus will give Christ Community a more visible identity. He says for many years the community didn't know who they were, or what the Evangelical Free Church of America stood for -- an association of approximately 1,500 self-governing churches, united under a common doctrinal statement based on the authority of God's Word.
"The worship is real. The community is real. The teaching is helpful. We have a plan by which to grow people and we're committed to developing leaders. I really think there is a place for us in Moore County," says Engebretson.
Christ Community Church offers services at 9 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday mornings. The church is located at 220 Campground Road, 1.8 miles north of Pinehurst Traffic Circle off U.S. 15-501. For more information, visit www.cccpinehurst.com.
Rachel Hernandez is a local writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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