A passion for starting new churches brought Pilgrim Benham and his wife back home to Manatee County where they opened and are leading another new church.
In January 2015, Benham and his wife started Shoreline Calvary Chapel. They partnered with the Lakewood Ranch branch of the YMCA to host the weekly 10 a.m. services that Benham leads as pastor.
“We really wanted to be a church that teaches the Bible so people understand. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what the Bible actually teaches, so we teach from and through the Bible,” Benham said. “But we’re not just a Bible college, we want to be the balance of a life-giving community and give back to the community.”
He said he hopes, through Shoreline Church, those who attend can find hope.
“We are living right now in some really confusing times, so we’re looking for answers – I think the biggest thing I want people to know is in a loving and honest way, we can have answers for why the world is crazy and we can look to scriptures for hope,” Benham said.
The Shoreline Church congregation has grown to about 140 people in its nearly three-year existence.
Benham said the congregation has a wide variety of people, but what he’s found most interesting about the congregation is the diversity in age.
“We have a huge contingency of millennials. They’re really seeking truth and they’re coming with their notes and iPads, they’re hungry,” Benham said.
The partnership with the YMCA has also allowed for people to see the service going on during their workouts. Benham said more than once someone has walked in still wearing their workout outfits.
“They see the church there so they stay for service and end up loving it and getting involved,” Benham said.
For those who can’t make it in person, the Shoreline Church website also has a live stream for services and recordings of past sermons available.
For Benham and his wife, it’s a homecoming.
Benham attended Bradenton Christian School until middle school, when his family moved to Atlanta. His wife went to Bayshore High School.
When they got older, reconnected and got married, they found themselves back in Manatee County.
This is their hometown and they don’t plan to leave again, Benham said.
“We want to be a blessing to the community, and if there’s someone looking for truth, there’s a church in our backyard that isn’t getting caught up in the confusion of the world,” Benham said.
Through their partnership with the YMCA, the church is also able to help and participate in YMCA community outreach events, like passing out turkeys around Thanksgiving to families in Pride Park, Benham said.
Shoreline Church is not the first church the couple has started. In 2010, Benham said they planted the first non-denominational church in downtown Tampa.
“That’s kind of what I do, is start new churches,” Benham said.
He has set a goal of growing the number of new churches too. Benham hopes to build 20 new churches in Florida in the next 20 years.
He admits it’s a lofty goal, but he said he wants to raise up leaders to help plant new churches across the state.
Shoreline Calvary Chapel
Services start at 10 a.m. on Sundays
Where: Lakewood Ranch YMCA, 5100 Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, Bradenton
Information: 941-702-4640, www.thisisshoreline.com