When John first accepted the challenge to plant a new church in Hernando (in January of 2003) there was no core group except for himself, his wife, Wendy, and their three-year-old son, Javan. They moved to Hernando from Harriman, TN on March 31, 2003 to begin building a launch team from scratch. New Discovery Christian Church held its first meeting in John’s living room on a Tuesday night in May of 2003 with a whopping 16 in attendance! After much prayer (this cannot be emphasized enough), making many contacts, and sharing the excitement, the launch team began to form as the group continued to meet for Bible study in John’s living room on Tuesday nights.
Outreach events were begun along with a search for a place to launch the new church. At the time there were not many options in Hernando so at first we met in the home of Nat Miller (Overstreet) on Sunday mornings since it was larger than John’s house. We still felt like we needed more room so in August we started holding Sunday services in a bar! (Actually it was the VFW on Hwy 51 south in Hernando). The adults met in the dance hall area, the children met in the bar area, and the nursery was in the dart room! It was not unusual to see John literally sitting at the bar on Sunday mornings, surrounded by beer signs, as he looked over his sermon notes. He will tell you that our first baptisms (immersions) actually took place in a bar (We used a portable baptistery like the ones they use in prisons). Another unusual thing about meeting in a bar is that when you would leave church on Sunday’s you tended to smell like smoke from all the cigarettes that were smoked there the night before. Even air purifiers would not take the smell out of the air. Those were memorable times! In spite of the unconventional environment the Lord continued to bless us; the church grew to an average attendance of between 25-30. The folks at the VFW were extremely kind and accommodating to us and we will always be grateful for their help during that critical time.
In March of 2004, we relocated to the Hernando Middle School and began holding services in the cafeteria. The rent was over 12 times higher than what we paid at the VFW but we believed the change in venue would help us reach more people. We continued to build our launch team with a goal of reaching 50 before we publicly launched to the community. We continued to do outreach events like hosting the Community Easter Egg Hunt at Conger Park in Hernando, giving a free car wash at the bank across from Wal-Mart, distributing free bottled water at the parade for local servicemen being deployed to Iraq, and hosting a free community cookout at Conger Park.
On September 18th of 2004 we officially launched New Discovery Christian Church with 117 in attendance! We met in the Middle School for a little over 7 years. There was a lot of set up and take down over those years. We really learned to appreciate the invention of the wheel— when we unloaded our trailer, equipment was either put on a dolly or else it was on castors. We had to move out the cafeteria tables (thankfully they too were on wheels!), we had to set up our chairs, a backdrop, band equipment, and the coffee area. We would also roll in our giant box that contained the equipment for the children’s area. This was set up in a hallway and the nursery was set up in the computer lab. On Wednesday nights the school also allowed our youth group to meet in the gym and one of our Discover groups to meet in the library. The school principals, Mr. Richardson and Mr. Darnell were very kind to us and easy to work with. And I can’t say enough about Mrs. Lillie Lewis, the janitor, who faithfully showed up to let us in and cleaned up after us all those years. We will always feel indebted to her. The Middle School provided us with a wonderful facility/atmosphere; the Lord more than doubled our number from the time when we first began meeting there.
We had an official ground breaking service at our new property on our 5-year anniversary in 2009. We met in a large tent in the pouring down rain with around 180 in attendance. The band played and many of the people worshiped the Lord literally standing in the water that was running under the tent! The design of the new build was also unveiled with much excitement (the building was designed by Doug Thornton with AERC in Hernando. Doug and John graduated together from Corinth High School in Corinth, MS in 1983).
Bids were taken for the construction of the building and were initially more than we could afford. However, we were eventually contacted by a contractor who had built several churches in the area. He offered to build at a price we could afford. To make a very long sordid story short, he ended up breaking his contract and leaving in the middle of the job which delayed the completion of the building considerably. Randy Garrett, a contractor living in South Carolina, who also graduated High School with John, came to the rescue. He had already done much of the site work and then took over the construction of the building at a discounted rate, which was vital due to the circumstances with the first contractor.
The funding for the construction was secured with a building fund that the church had been adding to over the years and by the selling of church bonds. Many of the church members, and friends of church members, purchased bonds to help with the financing.
We were actually able to move into our new building on Christmas Eve of 2011. It was a very special service for us as a church with a lot of emotion after all the delays and obstacles we had been through during the construction process. However, there were still many cosmetic touches that needed to be completed before we were ready to have our Grand Opening to the community. Once these were completed, we held this special service on our 8 year anniversary, September 16, 2012 with 224 in attendance.We really feel blessed by our Lord in so many ways as we strive to help people make the ultimate New Discovery— Jesus!