"I'm seeing a congregation that is increasingly enthusiastic and willing to be more involved." " Ted Davis
The pews at Fowler’s Mill Christian Church have been filling up recently in response to its new pastor, whose enthusiasm and spirited speaking style seem to be bringing people back to church.
Since December, Ted Davis and his missionary wife, Jody, have shaken things up at the historic church, with interactive sermons that ask questions of the audience, programs about mission trips to Haiti and a weekend women’s seminar that drew participants from several churches.
The Davises were hired when longtime pastor Roy Williams retired after serving Fowler’s Mill for 43 years. Church leaders were concerned the congregation was dwindling, and a new approach was needed to bring enthusiasm and growth.
“After those many years with one congregation, there was no fire in the church and we had to figure how to get there again with somebody new, with different ideas of how to build the church and a different way of teaching,” said church elder Lester Hillier. “We had become complacent and that had to change if we were going to survive as a church.”
Attendance had trickled to as few as a dozen people at the services and when Williams retired, the three elders saw it as an opportunity to change direction in order to attract more young families and youth.
“The membership was down, so we needed to do something,” elder Ron Marx added. “We needed to be teaching the Bible story, because that’s what it’s all about.”
When the church advertised it was searching for a new pastor, the Davises were serving a church in southern Illinois.
“I strongly believed that Fowler’s Mill needed us and we believe God appointed us,” Davis said.
He told his wife to start packing for Ohio.
“Ted came to me and said, ‘I think we need to go there,'” Jody recalled.
Both Davises are Ohio natives — Ted from Lisbon, Columbiana County, and Jody from Cadiz, Harrison County in southeast Ohio.
They had met in Steubenville when Ted was looking for a building to start a church.
“The moment I saw her I said I was going to marry her,” he recalled.
The couple works as a team, building and serving churches throughout Ohio, West Virginia and Illinois. Recently, Ted was looking for a church in serious need of revival, where he could help it grow before he retired.
“My goal is to build a spirit-filled church,” he said. “I’ve always been a teaching pastor.”
The Davises got to work immediately. With the blessings of the elders, they changed the service format, upgraded the music program, improved the outdated sound system, added a Wednesday night Bible study, sent the church leaders to college classes and scheduled programs they hoped would bring back former members and attract people in the community who were looking for a church.
Ted’s preaching style is charismatic and admittedly a little unorthodox.
He moves away from the pulpit and asks the opinion of the audience, often calling them by name. He encourages audience participation.
He uses scriptures from both testaments, as well as historic references, to explain much of the symbolism used in Bible stories. He frequently asks for “amens” as he makes each point.
The elders said they can see a change already, with the congregation doubling and tripling at most services, and steady increases in the number of visitors and baptisms.
“Ted’s sermons are available online now, so if you miss church or want to go back and review it, you can,” Marx said.
The elders keep the congregation informed about church events, news and prayer requests via email.
The Davises plan to add a second service on Sundays, with one emphasizing traditional music and the other, a more contemporary service. They are giving young people responsibilities such as ringing the church bell, helping with the sound system and upgrading the church’s website.
“We need that because the young people are our future,” Ted said. “I’m seeing a congregation that is increasingly enthusiastic and willing to be more involved.”
The church elders said they are encouraged by the results they have seen so far.
“With Ted’s teaching, we all are learning things we had no idea were in the Bible,” Hillier said. “He is building a level of excitement that is good to see. Our congregation has almost tripled in six months and we’re using the youth to promote the spiritual growth of this church.”
Marx added, “Complacency is no longer a problem here.”
Fowler’s Mill Christian Church, built in 1842, is an independent, Bible-based church at 10755 Mayfield Road, Munson Township. Worship services are held at 10 a.m. Sundays. For more information, visit www.FMCC.us.
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