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New church provides solid foundation for young family

Congregation is one of 72 launched in 2004


Joe Westbury

Worship team leaders Jamie Pierce, David Pope, and Stephanie Clanton lead the congregation at The Church at Greenbrier in a recent worship service. The eight-month-old church was one of 72 started last year by Georgia Baptist churches. A goal of at least 100 has been set forthe current church year as the state convention struggles to keep up with the state's exploding population. The congregation, a chuch plant of Warren Baptist Church, meets at Greenbrier High School in Evans, outside of Augusta.

Jason Stewart never felt comfortable attending traditional churches. There was just something about the suits and dresses and large crowds that didn't foster, for him, a worship experience.

But a visit to a new church start outside Augusta in the town of Evans changed all that - and his family is eternally thankful.

"There was something about The Church at Greenbrier that just worked for me. I felt accepted. It was a place without a dress code where you could come in sandals or a suit and still fit in. I didn't sense that at a lot of other churches."

Even though churches may have had an official "come as you are" policy, few actually practiced it; there was still a dress code that just couldn't be avoided, he says.

But there was something about a church meeting in a high school auditorium that set it apart from the others that kept Jason and his wife, Beth, returning with their two children.

Stewart, 29, admits his marriage was on its last set of legs when the family attended the church's launch service in September. He and his wife, Beth, had been separated for five months and were making a last-ditch effort to keep their family together.

"You could say I was back home on a trial basis," he explains.

"I was going through a period when I had so much turmoil in my life. I didn't know where to turn and just seemed to be wandering without aim or purpose. I was working long, hard hours at the concrete foundation business I own and would go home tired and exhausted. I'd eat dinner, have very little interaction with Beth or my children, and go to bed and then go back to work.

Joe Westbury

The Stewart family of Evans was given a new lease on life when they began attending one of Georgia Baptists' 72 new churches in 2004. The congregation is a church plant of WArren Baptist Church of Augusta. Standing outside the children's ministry area are, left to right, Beth, son Brice, Jason, and daughter Harley.

"I was on a treadmill and I had no quality in my life," he adds.

Beth had been a Christian for only two years and was praying that her husband would come to faith in Christ. It was a prayer that would eventually be answered at the new church start.

Stewart says listening to pastor Chuck Gordon's sermons in such a casual setting helped keep him in church - or at least in the high school auditorium - long enough for the message to get through. They were among the first families to attend the launch service last fall.

Four months later in a January worship service he took that step of faith and walked down the aisle. He told Gordon of his struggles and, after counseling, accepted Christ. He was the first person to be baptized by the new church.

"I don't think I could have been further from God than the day I accepted Christ. But since then I've been studying my Bible and moving forward every day and I'm not going to turn back," he says.

Today he even brings his faith to the workplace. He provides employment for a few work release prisoners and during lunch, which he provides, he conducts a 15-minute Bible study. One of the employees began attending church with him and accepted Christ the day prior to his wedding.

Beth's prayers were answered that day when her husband walked the aisle at The Church at Greenbrier. And, today, the family is a family once again.

On May 7 the young couple celebrated one of a series of miracles that has characterized the first year of their walk of shared faith - their 11th wedding anniversary. It never would have happened, they agree, without The Church at Greenbrier.