LEWISTOWN - It may not be typical for a youth pastor to transition into the position of lead pastor within the same church, but Rev. Dave Purdy insists that there is "nothing special about me."
Purdy is the new lead pastor at Evangel Baptist Church in Lewistown and describes himself as a regular farm boy and long-time Penn State fan. He lives with his wife, Kim, and children, Caleb and Kylee, in Lewistown, and has served as youth pastor at the church for the last 10 years.
"I'm very loyal to whatever it is I'm putting my energy into," he said. "God has just seen fit to use us in ministry here."
Sentinel photo by JULIANNE CAHILL
The staff of Evangel Baptist Church stand at the construction site of their new worship center. The new sanctuary will seat 550 people and is expected to be completed in 2013. Pictured from left; Rev. Dave Purdy, lead pastor; Sean Moon, minister of worship; Margie Aurand, secretary; and Rev. Ed Kauffman, family pastor.
When the position of lead pastor became available, Purdy said he was initially hesitant about whether it was the right fit for him.
"To be taking on a church of this size...it's a big responsibility," he explained.
Yet, he and his wife sensed that God was going to change their ministry. A reading of Isaiah 41:10 during a youth camp event is what connected with Purdy and encouraged him to apply for the position.
Isaiah 41:10 reads, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
"I felt like (the speaker) was just talking to me," Purdy said.
The reading made him aware that this position was what God had in store for him.
As he settles into his new position, Purdy said his goal is community outreach. He wants community members to feel loved not only by the church, but also by the savior. Whether church-goers show up in shorts and a T-shirt or a shirt and tie, Purdy said the congregation of Evangel Baptist accepts everyone as they are.
"We just want everyone in the community to know there's a place for them here at Evangel," he said.
In an effort to increase membership and attendance, the church offers a variety of groups and activities for people of all ages. Purdy said Evangel Baptist has a balanced age demographic and has as many children in the nursery as there are adults in their 70s and 80s.
"There's something for everyone," he said.
About 100 children attend Evangel's AWANA club every Wednesday night, and older teens enjoy meetings of Ablaze Student Ministries, the church's Sunday evening youth group.
Purdy said adults are also encouraged to meet outside of regular worship in smaller LIFE groups. LIFE groups meet in the homes of church members and allow individuals to connect with their peers on a more personal level through the study of God's Word and discussion of life's issues and challenges.
Evangel Baptist also encourages those with special talents to become a part of worship. At this time, Purdy said there are about five worship teams of musicians at the church.
"If you have a talent, there's a way for that talent to be used," he said.
The diversity of the congregation and staff at Evangel Baptist may be the reason for its rapid growth over the years. A sanctuary that once held about 250 people was last used for worship on Oct. 24, 2012, Margie Aurand, church secretary, said. Since then, worship services have been held in the all-purpose room which seats up to 400 people. Even that is getting a bit snug.
Purdy said construction began on a new worship center that is expected to open in 2013. The new building will hold up to 550 people.
Though Evangel Baptist is constantly changing and expanding, Purdy said the welcoming, family-focused atmosphere is something that will not waiver. Every improvement is one more step toward including a greater number of community members in the ministry.
"We just want everybody serving. We want to reach out," he said. "You're loved by God and we want everyone to know that."
Evangel Baptist Church is located at 375 W. 5th St., Lewistown. For more information, call 242-2769.