WHAT IS A CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH?
During the English Reformation in the 16th-17th centuries the faithful believers who wanted the church to remain pure and faithful to Scripture, often called Puritans, were split on how to properly reform the distortions and manipulations of the Roman Catholic Church and the state Church of England. While some wanted to reform the church from within, the ‘Separatists’ separated themselves in order to worship God freely, according to God’s Word and personal conviction, free from any higher state or church authority. This is the tradition of the free church, where each local congregation is responsible for its own affairs, hence Congregationalism. The local body, under Christ, is the highest human authority for faith and practice, led by biblical convictions rather than denominational mandates or traditions. Congregationalism is the early predecessor to modern non-denominationalism, independent and free from any ecclesiological hierarchy (outside local governing authority). Not independent of fellowship and unity with other believers in other congregations, but independent of external dogmatic dictates and assumed higher authorities other than Christ as our head, and Scripture as His authority.
We affirm the spirit of this tradition, and in it cannot take responsibility for any congregations other than own. Each local congregation is free to act and govern according to Scripture, from firmly held convictions, guided of the Holy Spirit. The local body addresses its’ particular issues and each member has a right and duty to take interest in the doctrine, order and mission of the local church.
For more details click here.
The city of Sanford was founded in 1877, shortly after in 1890, a People's Congregational Church was founded to serve the needs of this growing military and agricultural city. The body has had several names and directional shifts in its’ long history but was always committed to ministering to the people of Sanford. The church, like the city, has seen many highs and lows in the last 125 years, and both are now undergoing a revitalization. Sanford is renewing and growing, and being located just south of the Historic downtown in a thriving neighborhood, Grace Fellowship Congregational Church is well-placed to have a gospel impact in the city.
CALLING A NEW PASTOR
In January of 2016, Larry Leonard, the pastor of 16 years, retired and the members were looking for new leadership and life in the historic congregation. In February Tim Iamaio came in for pulpit supply. He preached and grew with the congregation through May 16th, 2016 when the remaining members unanimously agreed to call Tim as their pastor to lead spiritually and help revitalize. The pastoral search committee agreed that his vision of biblical exposition, establishing biblical eldership and intentional discipleship was what was needed to grow the church spiritually and numerically. He was ordained at Grace Fellowship on August 12th, 2016.
Since then the Lord has continued His work as we grow in Christ and seek to bring the light of the gospel to the neighborhood and the nations. The process of revitalization and change has not been without challenges, but many important lessons were learned, and strides made as we continue to see God’s faithfulness. We now have elders, deacons and a growing membership which is committed to growing in Christ and telling of the salvation that we have in Him!