Spiritual Boom In Rim Country

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Times may be tough for some, but area churches are thriving and growing by leaps and bounds.

One of the more dramatic examples was the recent erection of a 42-foot steeple at Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Church at 507 W. Wade. It will soon be topped off with a four-foot cross.

"What I think is exciting is that all of the churches are growing, and not at the expense of the others," Shepherd of the Pines Pastor Todd Arnold said. "It seems like everybody is in a good position right now."

Shepherd of the Pines is adding a new sanctuary and office space, freeing up current office space to be converted into Sunday school and Bible study classrooms.

"Our new sanctuary will seat about 170, and we're also expanding our parking," Arnold said.

When it's all finished, hopefully by early summer, Shepherd of the Pines will be 4,000-square-feet larger -- more than doubling its current size.

"We have about four acres, and we are just connecting the addition onto our existing building," Arnold said. Amon Builders is the general contractor.

A few miles to the north, First Church of the Nazarene's new facility is rising impressively at the corner of Tyler Parkway and Highway 87 -- well ahead of schedule, according to Pastor David Runion.

"We're hoping to be in by the end of May," Runion said. "Our original projection was the end of July."

The first phase of the project is a 14,000-square-foot facility that includes a 4,000-square-foot combination worship center, fellowship hall and elementary school-size gymnasium complete with basketball hoops. This multi-purpose room will also serve as the church's sanctuary until a new sanctuary is built in the second phase of construction.

"We're probably at least a year away from getting started on that," Runion said. Central Construction out of Chandler is the general contractor.

Other churches expanding include:

  • Ponderosa Baptist Church is planning to break ground soon on a new church on Highway 87 just north of Roundup Road. The first phase will be 6,720-square-feet.
  • Calvary Chapel has purchased the existing Ponderosa Baptist facility at 1103 N. Beeline Highway.
  • Rock of Ages Lutheran Church dedicated its new 5,000-square-foot church at the corner of Airport and McLane roads last fall.
  • Payson Christian Church is adding a 1,800-square-foot addition onto its fellowship hall. Pastor Steve Cook is looking a completion date of April 1.
  • Mountain Bible Evangelical Free Church is currently adding a separate 6,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility. Completion is scheduled for early May.
  • Crossroads Foursquare Gospel Church has purchased First Church of the Nazarene's current facility located at 114 E. Cedar Lane. The two churches are currently sharing the facility.

Arnold believes a combination of factors are responsible for the growth spurt local churches are experiencing.

"It's the growth of the town and low interest rates that are allowing churches to expand their facilities," he said. "It may also be that there is just some spiritual revival going on in this town, although I don't know that for sure."

Runion, whose new church will be debt-free, thinks Arnold is onto something with his revival theory.

"I think it might be a kind of spiritual revival, at least from our perspective," he said. "It feels like people are hungry and just looking for answers and help and hope in a real place. That's one of the things we talk about -- trying to be real people worshipping a real God."

Cook agrees.

"We're starting to see a lot of people coming back to church, especially newlyweds," he said. "People are starting to come back to their roots."

Runion also believes local churches are succeeding because they're making an effort to reach out to all generations.

"We're intentionally building and programming to reach clear through every generation -- from the youngest to the oldest.

"We have two kinds of worship services. We do a very contemporary service at 9:30 and then do a more traditional kind of service -- we call it the classic service -- at 10:45."

Whatever the reasons for the revival, both Arnold and Runion are excited.

"(Shepherd of the Pines) is a neat church and Todd Arnold is a neat pastor," Runion said. "And what's happening with us has just been a miracle."

"It's just such a positive thing that all these churches are moving forward," Arnold said.

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