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Faith & Fellowship: Jackson church offers relaxed attitude, welcoming atmosphere

JACKSON -- Come as you are.

That simple statement applies to more than just the dress code at Fellowship Church, 1229 N. Highway, Jackson.

"We love people regardless of where they're at, where they're from," emphasized Pastor Jacob Wallace. "If there's one thing that I can stress the most, it's that we accept everybody and anybody, no matter what your background is. ... Whoever wants to come and make a transformation in your life, we'll take you."

Fellowship Church was founded in September 2004 as an outreach of the Assemblies of God church in Sherburn, where Wallace currently serves as the youth pastor. Initially, the church had a congregation of just six, and only Sunday evening services were offered at 6 p.m. each week, but now the schedule has expanded to Sunday mornings, too -- at 10 a.m. -- with about 45 to 50 in attendance each week. The church offers a café style setting, with congregants sitting at small tables instead of in pews.

"It was actually my senior pastor (Steven Nordyke) -- his vision to start one," Wallace explained about the church's beginning. "We felt the need to reach out to some of the younger people, some of the younger generation. ... We felt a need to reach out to people who have problems with meth or those from divorced homes, broken homes, people who come from a pretty rough background -- reach out to those kinds of people. But anyone is welcome. We reach out to anybody that we can. We're a very family oriented church."

Beginning in September, Wallace will become a full-time pastor at Fellowship Church, which is a big leap of faith for a young pastor with a wife, Kristen, and two young sons, Caleb and Samuel, to support. But Wallace looks forward to devoting his full attention to the growing ministry.

"It's a huge step of faith, but we've grown that much in a year, and we're expecting even greater things. Already, in the back of our heads, we're thinking about expanding, building a new building. ... We have plans to add on to the facility right now, and my goal is to have 100 (people) by the end of this year. We want to see things happen and reach as many people as we can. I'm just humble and thankful that God would use us to plan and start a church and see it succeed like it has."

A "typical" service at Fellowship Church is both conventional and unconventional, according to Wallace.

"First of all, I want people to know that it's very relaxed, come as you are," he explained. "I sometimes even wear shorts to preach. Our Sunday mornings start off very high energy. Our worship is very high energy, very connected, very heartfelt. We worship for maybe 20 to 30 minutes. We show a lot of video clips. It's very visual. We'll take today's movies and integrate them into our services. Sometimes we make up our own videos and integrate them. The messages are very relevant. I usually speak for 15 to 20 minutes. It's like a traditional service, but in a non-traditional way. We have the worship, the offering, the preaching of the word, but we do it in a way that's very comfortable, relaxing, but also very eye-catching and relevant.

"Sunday morning is more teaching, and the Sunday night service, that's more heartfelt worship. We spend a lot more time in worship, and I don't do a lot of preaching and teaching in the evening services. It's more about our Christian walk with God and how we show him our appreciation. There's a lot of music and praying for each other's needs. We try to develop relationships in that sense. If time allows, I usually try to give 10 to 15 minutes of word of encouragement out of the Bible, so they can go out and tackle another week."

Besides the two weekly services, Fellowship Church also offers some focused ministries to give its members opportunities for growing their faith and building relationships.

"Our main focus is the Life Groups, which are basically groups of people who meet in different homes during the week," Wallace said. "That's how we continue our fellowship during the week. ... Life Groups is the strength of our church.

"We also have men's and women's ministries, which meet about once a quarter, sometimes twice a quarter. ... On Sunday, we're really focusing on our children's ministry. We really try to push our children's ministry, because the children are the future of the church, and we need to build them up. One of our greatest strengths is our youth ministry, which has meetings on Thursday nights. Jen Sorbe leads that, and she's just doing a great job with it."

New visitors to Fellowship Church are asked to fill out a form that provides feedback to the members and also a means for following up on the visit.

"A normal response that we get is that 'it's not really what I'm used to,' but they always seem to come back," related Wallace. "We think that if somebody comes back at least three times, we've got them hooked, and we get them involved in the ministry."

Wallace is an Assembly of God licensed minister, and Fellowship Church is connected to the Assembly of God churches in southwest Minnesota, but Wallace stresses that its ministry is unique unto itself.

"We just saw the need not to be too churchy, if that makes any sense," Wallace said. "We wanted to created a place where people can be who they are, know that they are going to be accepted regardless of their background. My vision is to see the richest person in Jackson and the poorest person in Jackson sitting next to each other.

"... Our mission is what we call the three Rs: Our mission is to relate to people, respond to community needs and reflect the love of Jesus, and that's why we exist as a church."

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Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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