GFC – 8 Yrs Old – Now What?

8 years ago – on June 8, 2003 – a group of people gathered for the first official service of Grace Fellowship.

It’s absolutely amazing to see what God done in those 8 years, and all the glory and honor for the great things that have taken place are God’s and His alone!

I’m so thankful to be a part of a church family that is learning what it means to be fully committed to knowing God intimately and making Him known! Our vision has not changed; we are purposed to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is sharing the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that Jesus died for our sins – He was buried – He was raised from the dead & He was seen by many. We do not intend to get sidetracked from sharing the message of the cross and resurrection in our generation in order to impact this generation and generations to come.

Grace Fellowship started without a Pastor, but with a committed core of people who wanted to see something different happen in Wise County. I’ve learned since coming here that people have been praying for something like this to happen in our area for years.

Through a very interesting process – again only something God could do – the core group made contact with me & Janet. We had been in a great church for several years – Fellowship of The Woodlands (now Woodlands Church). After a very interesting 6 month dialog with the Core Leaders, Janet & I knew God was calling us to GFC.

One of the funny memories I have of coming to Bridgeport for the first time was that I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave The Woodlands to move to Wise County. Ha! Now I’d wouldn’t want to leave Wise County to move to The Woodlands!

However, my most vivid memory is when we came to look at the area for the first time and John Kaker took me to the Bridgeport HS Cafetorium where the church was meeting at the time. As we stood in that room at BHS it was if the Spirit of God spoke to my heart and said: “There are 100’s of really good kids here and many of them are probably lost – why don’t they get the same opporunity to have choices like students in metropolitan areas – why is it when people plant churches they always do it in the suburbs of growing cities and never in rural settings?”

It was like a statement and a question that really grabbed my heart. As I pondered this, I knew that if we came to Grace Fellowship it would be because the Core Leaders would be in agreement that our focus would be on reaching people who were unchurched. And after accepting the call to be GFC’s Pastor in Jan. 2004, I began to ask God to give us all the people no one else wanted or that no one else was reaching; to give us the hurting, the outcasts, those who thought they had no hope. God answered and we began to see lives changed and my greatest joy is that in the past 7 1/2 years we’ve seen over 1200 people make first time commitments of their lives to Jesus Christ.

What does the future hold? Even greater things. We’re praying through how we can continue to keep the main thing the main thing and take what we’ve learned to other rural settings. I’m not sure what that entails yet, but I do believe it involves planting satellite churches in other areas in the near future.

In the meantime, I want to share with you once again most of the original vision I wrote for GFC before I preached my first sermon as the “official” Pastor. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read, reflect on it, and pray for me & our entire GFC Family. Pray that we will remain humble, teachable, obedient and committed to the Great Commandment, Great Commission, and Great Condition – that Loving God, Loving People, Loving Life will be more than just words!

VISION STATEMENT WRITTEN BY PASTOR BJ IN FEB 2004

I see a church that impacts the character of Wise County & beyond, with thousands of people attending each week. A church where children come to a place that is exciting and fun as they learn about God and His love – where they beg their parents to come back week after week.

A church where students can’t wait for the weekend – not because of the big game – or a big date – but because of what God is doing in the Student Ministry of our church. A church that produces thousands of young men and women who will become our missionaries to the world as many of them go off to college and other communities

A church that raises up an army of fully devoted followers of Christ – many who are called to serve God in a full-time ministry. A church where families, marriages, and relationships are healed and strengthened. A church that is bathed in prayer.

I see a church with enough land to develop a facility that can be a focal point in the county – for church, school, and community with recreational facilities and fields that can be used for all kinds of sporting events.

A church that meets the practical needs of people; that loves like Jesus loves – by reaching out to all people regardless of their past, race, or social standing.

A church where the unchurched and lost are welcomed and experience God’s love when they walk on our campus or attend our events. A church that impacts our community with kindness.

A church that starts similar high impact churches and becomes a great missionary sending body – sending and supporting missionaries all over the world. A church of thousands of small groups that care for, encourage and bless our church family and our community

A church that sets the pace and tone for excellence in all we do for God and His Glory – that is known for innovative and Christ honoring services that are culturally relevant.

A church that becomes a training ground for young men and women who are pursuing Christ by using their musical and technical talents and abilities.

A church that sets the standard for many others to realize that God wants to do amazing things and that there are thousands of people in small towns and rural areas that are hungry for God and for a church that will encourage them to experience God.

I see a church that is known as the “friendliest church I’ve ever attended” I see a church that can only be explained by saying – God did it ! A church that is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish a GIANT VISION IN ORDER TO HONOR AN AWESOME GOD!

About bjrutledge

BJ & Janet were married in July 1977 They have three grown children who are all married: Jeremy & Whitney Rutledge, Chris & Julie Hurst, and Josh and Hannah Rutledge. They also have four grandsons, and a granddaughter. BJ says perhaps our greatest legacy is even though our kids are PK's, they love Jesus and are all involved in ministry in the local church. BJ has served at churches in Dallas - Bossier City, LA - Houston - and was at Fellowship of the Woodlands (Woodlands Church) in The Woodlands before coming to Grace Fellowship. BJ is the Lead Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Paradise, TX.
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9 Responses to GFC – 8 Yrs Old – Now What?

  1. racheldurban says:

    I am so thankful to be a part of this church family and on staff here. I am truly amazed at what the Lord continues to do in this area, and I am beyond grateful for all of you!

  2. Allen L. Williamson says:

    So Thankful for such a great Church and Pastor.

  3. RANDEL & DELINDA BUCKNER says:

    WE ARE SO BLESSED TO HAVE YOU AND JANET AS OUR PASTOR. GOD HAS DONE AMAZING THINGS FOR MANY FAMILIES IN WISE COUNTY AND I AM PROUD TO TELL PEOPLE I’M A MEMBER OF GFC. WATCHING LIVES CHANGE AND COME TO RELY ON GOD IS SUCH A BLESSING. OUR SON AND HIS FAMILY COME AND OUR GRAND DAUGHTER MADY LOVE IT! THIS IS WHAT YOU AS A PARENT WANT FOR YOUR CHILDREN TO LOVE TO COME TO CHURCH SO THANKFUL THEY DO.

    RANDEL & DELINDA BUCKNER

  4. Awesome article. I remember your Vision well. I also, remember when you all came. It has been an amazing 8 years. I am so glad our family is a part of this great Church and working for God.

    Stacy Newsom

  5. Kara and I are truly thankful for Grace Fellowship Church! What a huge impact the church is making in Wise County and beyond. It is a blessing and huge honor to be able to serve @ GFC. Thank you Pastor BJ and Grace Staff for all that you do. GOD is GOOD!
    LOVE(LOUD) Jonathan, Kara, Jackson, Davis and Grant Shriver
    PS. One of our favorite parts of the Vision Statement:
    “A church that starts similar high impact churches and becomes a great missionary sending body – sending and supporting missionaries all over the world.”

  6. Donna McKibben says:

    Wow, what an amazing vision. It’s so cool to see your vision come to life and it is awesome to be a part of what God is doing here at GFC. Our lives have been transformed and I know it is because of all that God is doing right here in Paradise. Thank you BJ for all you do for the kingdom of Christ.
    Donna McKIbben

  7. Pam Clark says:

    Pastor BJ, I thank you with all my heart for what you bring to Wise County. I know your vision and share it. It truely is a privledge to watch what God is doing here and be a part of it. You and your staff do an amazing job loving people and sharing The Good News. I love our church family. Praying Big and Loving Loud, Pam Clark

  8. J'Lyn Ryan says:

    What a privilege it is to have been a part of the origination of GFC. God is so good! Even in that first year, I had a vision of what GFC could be, but I’ll have to admit my vision was limited. EVERY DAY I thank God for you and our great staff who lead. I remember the first time you gave your visionn statement; I got chills on my arms because I knew God had sent us a leader who would help us enlarge our vision and we would see the lost come to the Lord. Thank you for your leadership. May God continue to bless you and our staff in the next decade and beyond.

  9. Jerry Burnett says:

    Good stuff! So awesome what God is doing here!

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