By Josette Keelor
FRONT ROYAL -- Discipleship Community Church started with two parishioners last November.
Last Sunday, they had 47 people for the 10:30 a.m. service at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, 40 Crescent St., Front Royal, said Pastor Sherl Johnson.
The congregation also attends Wednesday night Bible study at Johnson's home.
"Everyone comes," he said. "We don't have anyone that's skipping Bible study on Wednesday." A few who live an hour away or more use Skype to attend, but he said the rest make the drive. Starting in July, the 6:30 p.m. group will meet at the school.
"It's been awesome, 'cause normally you would have half your size," he said.
"We just don't want to be a Sunday church," he said. "We want to be a church every single day of the week."
Johnson, 34, moved his wife and three children to the Washington area last year when he had the opportunity to work here and study through Liberty University's seminary program. Previously a pastor at Pleasant Green Baptist Church in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, he initially had no intentions of starting a church or ministering again so soon.
But then, "My heart just felt empty and I realized just how much I missed being a pastor and caring for the people," he said.
The Johnsons moved to Front Royal, a town that reminded him of his hometown of Fayetteville, West Virginia.
Feeling called to serve, Johnson contacted the North American Missionary Board, which agreed to fund his effort, and asked Darrell Crawford, pastor at Living Hope Baptist Church in Kentucky, to sponsor his church by praying, helping with financial needs and sending teams of missionaries. Crawford sent a four-member team in April and 16 members this week to help with a community event on Saturday.
From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Proclaim will include live music and preaching, children's games and crafts, free food and prizes at the Gazebo at the Village Commons on Main Street, Front Royal. Music will feature Vertical Vision, Kristina Simpson and The Finchums.
"The main purpose is to proclaim the Gospel to the city of Front Royal and to show the community that we are a giving and serving church that wants to be involved in the people's lives," Johnson said.
"I feel like people today have the wrong idea of what church is supposed to be. And really as Christians we're supposed to be giving to the community and not taking from the community. That's the intent is to show them that we are here to give, to serve and to help."
He said his church appeals to those who didn't have a church before and those who didn't feel at home in their previous church.
Parishioner Dana Sewell of Front Royal joined seven months ago after a friend who was attending invited her and her husband to meet the Johnsons.
"We agreed to meet him," she said. "Um, did not have any intention of switching churches."
Now she leads Discipleship's children's ministry, for children 8 to 12, and she and her husband plan to lead skits at Saturday's event. Another parishioner, Mary Ann Beeton, leads a group for children 4 to 7. The church has a nursery, and Johnson said he needs a teacher and an attendant to lead a children's intellectual disability and developmental disability group called Kaleidoscope.
"It was absolutely what we've been looking for in a church," Sewell said. "True discipleship."
Contact Discipleship Community Church at 540-305-1589.
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org