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New life stirs Idaho resort community

Flanked by snowy mountains and abuzz with new housing developments, Hayden Lake, Idaho, is a resort community and favorite re-location spot for Californians. Eight years ago, Bruce Miles founded New Life Community Church, which now runs 2,700 on Sunday mornings. Though Bruce died of cancer last November, the work carries on under his successors, Terry Gurno and Mike Rima.

"This church was appropriately named because new life is happening all the time," Gurno says. "Two Sundays ago we had no less than 25 people per service receive Christ for the first time."

New Life has two campuses, both of which behave as fully functioning churches, though under the same ministry leadership. They are trying a bold, and perhaps unique, approach to Sunday mornings. Church services take place at both sanctuaries, five miles apart. Gurno and Rima write a sermon together, then deliver it in their own style at each site. Gurno and Rima vary campuses so that Sunday morning attendees don’t know in advance who will deliver the sermon. They want to build a church based on the message, not the messenger.

At the secondary site, which opened in early 2000, evening midweek classes are in full swing. In one room, three men sit at a table and watch a video.

"This is a class for new believers to learn how to work on temptation, how to pray, how to read the Bible," says teacher John Palmer. "We’re showing a short video about Jesus. Then we’ll discuss how they know they are secure in Christ. I’ve been leading this since the church started. We moved here from Southern California. We didn’t understand why, but it was to help this church. God’s doing a mighty work."

At the other original New Life campus, more classes are under way. In the young marrieds class, 80 people are dressed in full costume: clowns, cops, vikings, kings. Tonight they are having a party with refreshments and an emcee. Terry says most of the people here did not know Christ before coming to this church.

"This couple came here a year ago before they were married," he says softly. "They were living together; she was pregnant. Now here they are, married, both saved and living for the Lord. There is story after story."

Some of the people here tonight, Gurno says, aren’t even saved.

With the two campuses, New Life is able to hold six services every weekend.

"We want to reach people with no previous church experience," Rima says. "The community is filled with unchurched people."

"Pastor Bruce is the one God used to build this church," Terry adds. "He was very focused on winning the lost. God has called us to write the next chapter. Someone asked us how we know the two-site approach will work. We don’t. But we are asking the question, Does ministry need to change to fit the 21st century, and if so, how?"

Small-town Georgia church experiences move of God

The road to Moultrie cuts through areas where tobacco, cotton, sod, blueberries and peaches grow. In downtown Moultrie a man slowly sweeps the sidewalk in front of an old movie theater that has been converted into a senior citizens center. A few miles past the town square is Lakeside Assembly of God — a church that has seen phenomenal growth in the last three years.

"We’ve got a church full of people who are interested in the lost," says Pastor Brad Fussell. "Every Sunday we give a call for salvation, and we challenge the congregation to pray for the salvation of their unsaved family members and friends. Most of the growth we have experienced has been from among the unsaved and unchurched."

Billy Smith, a former atheist, says he accepted Christ as his Savior because of the prayers of his family and an auto accident that should have claimed his life. He was immediately delivered from alcohol and drugs.

"God has done so many things for me," he says, as tears well up in his eyes. "Two years ago I didn’t believe in God and now I lead a Bible study at a house for alcoholics and drug abusers."

As the midweek service begins, Fussell goes to a mike and greets the nearly 200 worshipers. After he has led praise and worship, a woman requests prayer for her uncle. Another asks for prayer for a couple who lost their baby. Some give detailed accounts; others spring to their feet and blurt out their needs.

When the Fussells came to the church seven years ago, 60 people attended. Today, more than 425 call Lakeside home. Lucille Allen Sellers, a member of the church since it began, cites three reasons the church has grown: "We are a church that loves people and is mission-minded," she says, "but most important this church just wants more of God."

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