Small Church Strives To Meet Need For Connectedness

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One unique thing about Payson Christian Church is that interim Pastor Jerry Peyton uses three-minute video clips from contemporary movies in his allegorical sermons on Sundays.

Peyton has been using this method at various churches for a decade. Instead of telling parishioners an example or illustration, he shows a three-minute movie clip, using everything from "Lord of the Rings" to "Hook."

Nearly half of the membership is comprised of families raising children, but Peyton said, "If people are 9 years old or 90 years old they really like to see it. Most good movies have a good-guy-bad-guy scenario. Start reading the Bible, there's all kinds of good-guy-bad-guy stuff in the Bible. You can grab all the clips out of "Hook" (the Steven Spielberg movie with Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook and Robin Williams as Peter Pan) where you have this nice, fun, laughable pirate who is out to kill kids ... so how's he do it?

"He tries to convince Peter he has a daddy and a mommy who doesn't love him, and he does ... the Bible shows the same way it works. There is God who really loves you and there are people who try to convince you that God hates you."

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Interim Pastor Jerry Peyton has two master's degrees, one in divinity from the University of Arizona and one from Trinity University in international human rights. Peyton has spent the last five years speaking on human rights.

Peyton's favorite section of the Bible is the last part of Romans 8 because, he paraphrased, "God causes all things to work together for good, so that tells me God is in control and I can relax. Nothing created can ever separate us from Christ's love for us."

Peyton was doing some teaching on Sundays at Payson Christian, then, when the previous pastor, Steve Cook, left in August 2004, the congregation asked him to assist them in their search for a new pastor with the right balance of personality and leadership.

To facilitate this process, Peyton met individually with each member to take an honest look at the strengths and weaknesses of the church; the changes that needed to be made and the issues that needed to be resolved; determine the congregation's identity; the contributions they can make in Payson; and figure out why God put the members in the community.

This effort led to the identification of one of the church's primary strengths: a team of seven or eight musicians to lead contemporary worship at the sanctuary on Rancho Road.

"As I surveyed all the church members, that was one of the strengths that kept coming up," said Peyton. The contemporary worship team has been together about four years and is comprised of vocalists and musicians on guitar and keyboards. One member has even written songs. They perform at concerts in the Rim country and in the Valley.

"At a heart level we look at other churches and say, ‘you know, that is a great group of people over there. We don't need to try to copy them, we need to support them in what they are doing,'" said Peyton of the congregation's other strength.

The men's and women's ministries at Payson Christian meet for fun and fellowship, Bible study and prayer at various times during the week.

Besides Sunday School, the youth groups are active in the church, drawing in friends to participate in fellowship trips to amusement parks, plays and Christmas programs. The youth group meets at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Peyton said efforts of the congregation that reflect its commitment to family members include involvement in Habitat for Humanity, the New Beginnings Pregnancy Care Center, Gideon Society and Rim Country Men's Fellowship.

Payson Christian Church is a nondenominational, unaffiliated church founded in 1979. The members describe themselves as Biblical, evangelical, and theologically conservative with contemporary worship services.

Payson Christian Church is located at 501 E. Rancho Road. Sunday School is at 9:45 a.m. and worship services are at 10:45 a.m.

This story is a another part of the Roundup's continuing series on how the churches in the Rim country add beauty and grace to our community.

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