The church started in 2001 in a condominium clubhouse with an attendance of 70. The congregation met in a funeral home, then a Seventh Day Adventist church before acquiring its first building in 2005—when the church had 300 members.
Pastor Perry was called to lead the church in 2006, when its first worship center was still new. With “progressive growth all the way through,” the church now has around 700 members. Another 100-150 are regular attendees whose membership remains in churches “back home,” where they may still maintain residences. More than half of the members are from non-Baptist backgrounds, and 95 percent are retirees who live in The Villages and in other retirement communities nearby.
Perry moved to The Villages from First Baptist Church in Tullahoma, Tenn., where he served as minister of education and administration. In Tennessee he taught a large Bible study class of senior adults.
“When the Lord called me here I said, ‘Wow, that’s my group,’” he said. “It is a unique ministry by the grace of God.”
The first church building site was landlocked on 10 acres until the church purchased adjoining acreage on County Road 42 in 2009. The church broke ground for the new worship center in January 2012. The new worship center is visible from the highway, and its Key West architecture fits into the prevailing community design, Perry said.
The larger worship center, which seats 858 plus 100 in the choir, will accommodate the congregation in traditional and contemporary worship services. It will also provide space for large, publicized outreach events that were impossible in the smaller worship center.
“The new building is a tool. We won’t have the hindrance of a facility that won’t accommodate the ministry that God gives us,” Perry said. “We have a wonderful opportunity to maximize our potential here.”
Even before the completion of the worship center, the church hosted parties for its neighbors and invited a dog-walking group to use its property that is large enough for dogs to run without leashes. A coffee shop in the worship center will serve as a gathering spot for Village residents.
“We want the community to be on our property—to be community-friendly,” Perry said.
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