EAST MANATEE — During the 1980s, when Tim Smith was a pastor in Boca Raton and his father was pastor at Westside Christian Church in Bradenton, the Gulf Coast became their favorite rendezvous for holidays and special occasions.
“Bradenton was one of our favorite places to come,” said Smith. “We have a lot of ties here. We made Bradenton a place where we came to see mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa. Lo and behold, I’m back.”
Now, after being away from the community for more than five years, Smith is returning as the new pastor of Faith Christian Church, 5215 Lorraine Road. Although moving boxes are still en route from Jacksonville, Smith has wasted no time jumping on board at his new church.
“I’m going to use the month of December to get to know people,” he said. “We’ll get the new year started with a little more direction.”
After the “Surprises of Christmas,” a series of sermons geared at reintroducing the congregation to the story of Christmas, 2010 will be directed at “connecting, growing and serving,” said Smith. He hopes to invigorate the church’s mission by strengthening the congregation’s faith.
“I want to make the Bible relevant,” said Smith. “The Bible is a guidebook for living. This is how it can make your life different.”
Smith also wants to reach out to the spiritually “lost” and invite them to be a part of Faith Christian. He hopes to accomplish this by using small ministry teams created within the church.
“If we can get people to come together in small groups, experience life together and serve people, they will be a long way down the road with Christ,” said Smith.
Faith Christian Church elder Sam Jameson said by talking with Smith he already knows there is a lot of work to be done within the church, and “that’s a good thing.”
“We’re looking to reach out to the lost and become energized Christians,” said Jameson.
Faith Christian Church has been around since 1996 and was started by Pat Mooney and a small group of people from Westside Christian Church, according to church history.
They had “a vision to plant a church out east” and bought 25 acres on Lorraine Road in 1998. The congregation had its first service on the new property in 2001.
Faith Christian’s pastor selection committee interviewed nearly 200 applicants before narrowing the field to five and then choosing Smith.
He replaces Scott Clark, who had been at the helm since 1998.
“We wanted to get the best guy for the job and he is it,” said Jameson. “There were so many things that drew us to him.”
One thing that impressed Faith Christian’s congregation was Smith’s family and values. Smith has been married to his wife, Deborah, for 36 years and has three children and five grandchildren.
His father ministered at Westside Christian Church for 11 years, and his brother was an elder at Faith Christian before being called to the ministry.
But the biggest attraction was Smith’s spiritual background, and his skills in growth and development, said Paul Palmer, an elder with Faith Christian since 2001.
Smith came from a mega-church in Jacksonville where membership topped 3,500. During his ministry career, he planted two churches, one in Colorado Springs and another in southern Georgia.
“He’s grown two churches from the ground up,” said Palmer. “He knows the process of a growing a church and what changes need to take place.”
Palmer said those changes were long overdue at Faith Christian Church.
“We felt like there was a wall we were hitting,” he said. “If you want to do things the way you’ve always done, then you’re not very contemporary anymore. Tim brings some fresh ideas; he brings ideas from all aspects of the church.”
Jameson said the congregation is looking forward to the energy, enthusiasm and experience Smith will bring to Faith Christian Church.
“We’re looking for great things to come,” he said.