Our prayers in writing our history is to make known how God has kept a hedge of protection for His flock here at Christ the Messiah by those who were called to serve, our continuous plea for the Holy Spirit to abide with us to the end and for God’s kingdom here and elsewhere to grow and prosper until His return.
In July 1957, at the cusp of counter-culturism in the nation when its image was pristine and intact to the world, a young and energetic 26-year-old, Rev. John R. Compton and his wife arrived in Jacksonville, Florida to establish Christ Lutheran Church as a mission congregation. Prior to his arrival, he was ordained by the American Lutheran Church (ALC), which is now the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).
On February 2, 1958, his church with its 60 members was formally organized. The congregation purchased property where we are presently located. This land was once a fern farm owned by the Held’s who still live next to church. Vestiges of its beauty still remain on the property by the large oak tree, which we use regularly in our floral arrangements.
The ground-breaking ceremony was on May 4, 1958 to build a combination chapel-education unit. In June 1958, Christ Lutheran was formally received into the Eastern District of the ALC at the Eastern District Convention. Until its dedication ceremony on Nov. 2, 1958, Sunday Services were held in the Schultz Hall at the Bolles School, while mid-week meetings were held in Rev. Compton’s home.
Rev. Compton grew his congregation, baptized and confirmed many during his years at Christ Lutheran. He served from 1957 to 1966 before continuing his pastoral ministry in counseling and teaching. His last vocation prior to retiring was that he taught and mentored graduate students in theology at Loyola and Columbia. He was fondly thought of by many as an incredibly selfless human being with a deep, abiding and strong faith until his last breath at the age of 71. He passed away in 2002.
Pastor Tom Wolfe and Pastor Charles Dickson served from the period of 1967 – 1972. Much was not written in our history for this period.
The ‘70s was a significant decade rippled with social upheavals resulting from the Vietnam war, the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Watergate scandal and the 1973 US Supreme Court landmark decision – Roe vs. Wade on the issue of the constitutionality of a woman’s right to abortion vs. right to life. Skeptism abounded as we began to question the sincerity and motives of our government, institutions, religious organizations and even one another.
The crisis in the nation was reflected in the church when Rev. Charles Weishaupt, who was 51 years old, and his wife Vivian were called to serve. He was the founding father of Grace Lutheran Church in Melbourne Beach, Florida where he served from 1965 – 1973. His call letter dated January 16, 1973, from the President of the Eastern District of the ALC stated the ‘congregation is vacant’….and because you were in a place in your ministry for a new challenge and of your experiences, your maturity of judgement, and of your theological understanding, it would seem to me that you might be the Lord’s choice for the ministry of Christ Lutheran Church at this time.”
In 1976, having served 3 years at Christ Lutheran, Pastor Weishaupt retired from parish ministry and returned home to Greeley, Colorado, where he became the proud owner of Colorado Christian Supply. He continued his ministry and served as Interim Pastor to many area churches until 1988. After his retirement, he volunteered his time in various organizations: Lifetime Lions Club member, Meals on Wheels, etc. He was ninety-three (93) years old when he passed away on May 25, 2016.
In December 1976, Rev. Gerald Scheck, who was 46 years old and living in in St. Paul, Minnesota was experiencing a snow storm when he received his Call letter from the ALC. The call letter stated: “if you were to accept this Call, you would find it a place where you would have many opportunities for strengthening and guiding a congregation in its ministry for our Lord and Savior…and although weather itself is never a deciding factor, there are some delightful features about living in the State of Florida.”
During the burgeoning movement of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, tent meetings and large crusades in the 1970s – early 1980s, Pastor Scheck and his wife Donna accepted the call and led the congregation into renewal from 1976 – 1995. He was instrumental in bringing many to Jesus’ salvation and taught them in being good stewards and disciples in their walk with the Lord. He knew of the Biblical importance of Israel and had the vision for our church to support Israel. We still continue to support our adopted community Neve Zuf in Israel. The church thrived under his guidance with an active Sunday School program. Also, his wife Donna and his children actively participated in the church. She was a brilliant and gifted organist and committed herself to the church. His children, who were musicians, were part of the worship team.
In 1987, the Fellowship Hall was built to be a Christian School; however, the neighbors involved the City for the non-approval of the permit. Pastor Scheck continues to live in the church’s residential area. He was invited to participate in the church’s 60th Anniversary celebration; however, he was unable to attend due to health reasons. In his letter, he recalled the love, joy and kindness expressed to him and his wife Donna during the nineteen (19) years of sharing God’s Word as he observed lives being transformed as everyone grew together in the Holy Spirit. His wish is for God to continue to provide and care for us in His faithfulness as we grow in faith, trust and commitment to Him.
In the latter decades of the twentieth century, we continued to be burdened with the downward spiral of moral decay to an ever-increasing, non-Christian culture in its pursuit of materialism and consumerism. The destruction of the Berlin Wall, the downfall of communism and the reductions of nuclear missiles coupled with the rapid changes in technology, mobile phones and the arrival of the internet promoted global opportunities for economic growth; however, the attack of September, 11, 2001 gripped our psyche with a new form of fear as terms like ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and the ‘New World Order’ filtered into our consciousness.
From the constancy of economic downturns, increased inflation and unemployment rates, the traditional family life eroded. Double income households caused added stressors to families. The epidemic use of street drugs, crimes against one another, and single parent households caused the neglect for our children. Poor supervision for our children caused them to lose respect for authoritative figures, which led to the rapid rise of even more rebellious behaviors. Additionally, with more automobiles on the road and more social outlets caused a decrease in church attendance and memberships. The removal of prayers and the Bible from schools and state buildings, the errors in interpreting the truth of the God’s Word, the agenda for greater tolerance and acceptance of the alternative life styles and the request for pastors to perform same sex marriages, resulted in conflicting views within the church.
Therefore, it was no great surprise that these upheavals in the nation continued to be mirrored in our church. After Pastor Scheck’s resignation, the ELCA called Rev. Ronald J. Stark to serve. Shortly after his arrival, he was dismissed by the Bishop due to impropriety.
After Pastor Stark’s removal, the ALC merged with the ELCA. There ensued a power struggle where some members were willing to sign over control of the church’s property to the ELCA. When this did not occur, about half of the Council and the congregation left with their children. In a 1997 newsletter The Inspire stated “there was good reason for pessimism due to the loss of members, loss finances and strained relationships; however, God is to be praised because he has ordained Christ Lutheran to survive by His Grace and that it would flourish in the weeks and months ahead.” Words which still resounds in our ears and hearts today.
In 1997, Rev. Jim Fischer was sent to serve as Interim Pastor. He was very good and stabilized the body until the arrival of Pastor Enquist.
Prior to Rev. Walter R. Enquist’s arrival in 1998, the Dean of the Eastern District, ALC conducted a self- study with the congregation at Christ Lutheran with more than 200 participants. At this time, there were 258 active members with 120 in weekly attendance. The congregation rated high in all areas of needs for an active and vibrant church, with special emphasis in areas of worship, music and community service. They requested more teachers and training enrichment classes, a better youth program, development of a genuine program for evangelism, as well as, in stewardship and finance, and perhaps a better image of the congregation within the community.
During this period, a far younger Don Smith, who became a member in 1980, was the Chairman of the Call Committee. He led the way in putting together the Congregational Profile and submitted it to the Synod via Council. Over the years, Don and his wife Sherry remained active members of the body and served in varying capacities. Don served as the Council’s President and Vice President for many years and in spite of his move to GA, he still finds Christ the Messiah to be his home church and at eighty-two (82) years old agreed to serve again on the Council in 2019 as its Vice-President.
In June 1998, our beloved Rev. Walter R. Enquist and his wife Nadira was called by the ELCA to serve. For twenty-two (22) years, Pastor Enquist ministered in a charismatic ELCA congregation in the Bronx, and prior to that he served a congregation in Philadelphia where he walked and drove daily in those inner-city communities and never had cause to fear; however, on September 23, 1998, he was in the church office at Christ the Messiah when a young male entered requesting a lot of money. Pastor Enquist stated he did not have much. The robber then asked for his car keys and left. When his car did not start, the robber returned, and at gunpoint, asked him to get in the car and drive. Pastor Enquist, stated he was nervous and experiencing chest pains; however, he remained calm and inquired whether the gun-man was saved and if he knew Jesus. Needless to say, he lived to tell this story. Pastor Enquist experienced the same growth in his church as Pastor Scheck did during his years of ministry in the Bronx with building expansion with multiple Sunday services and other related church activities during the week.
When Pastor Enquist began serving, the congregation at Christ the Messiah was small and grew even smaller because some did not like his ministry style and left with their children. The economy was yet again in another downward cycle and when the market crashed in 2008, it left many without a pension. This forced many to remain in the workforce, to include our Pastor. During this period, we were approached by a cell phone company to place a cell tower on the property. The neighbors of the church met with church members stating they would support the church if we did not have the tower installed on our grounds. Heeding their petition, we declined the cell phone tower’s offer; however, the neighbors did not uphold their promise. The cell tower resides across the street from the church at San Jose Golf and Country Club.
For many years there was insufficient funds to pay for the ongoing upkeep of the grounds and facilities, which led to limited to no systematic maintenance. With continued budgetary constraints, Pastor Enquist volunteered to take a pay-cut and requested that we stop payments towards his pension. In 2006, I was asked to serve on Council as its Treasurer. For over a decade, the church operated in the red until Pastor Enquist’s passing. As our finances decreased, our faith grew as we became more reliant on God to provide for all our needs. By His Grace, we prevailed to keep the lights on and our doors open. Pastor Enquist – undeterred by the inordinate amount of challenges he encountered during his years of service – his faith never wavered and he never questioned God’s purpose. In his words “We believe the Lord has us here for a purpose and we desire to become all that He wants us to be.” Additionally, the adage of a Lutheran is ‘where you are planted you will grow and bear fruits.’ He referred to our church as a healing center to heal the spirit, soul and body and we have indeed seen many healed of their afflictions and restored to fullness over the years.
On February 8, 2004, with unanimous approval from Council’s and the Congregation, the name Christ Lutheran Church was changed to Christ the Messiah Church for better outreach in the community. Additionally, in March 1, 2004, with 56 active members, and the aforementioned concerns affecting the church and the ELCA, Pastor Enquist petitioned to join the Alliance of Renewal Churches because “we have a burden to reach the lost for Christ and to ask Him to have His way with us”…”we have learned the hard way that Christians need to fight against the enemy’s lies and ways, even as we seek to show love at all times”…”had we done more earlier, we would not have all the problems we do have. However, the good news is that it’s NOT TOO LATE FOR US to pray, to protest, and to take a stand for the Lord.”
On August 17, 2014, Pastor Enquist, at 72 years old, still in service at Christ the Messiah was called home. After his passing, his wife Nadira and his three (3) sons continue to actively serve. Nadira remained the Worship Leader; Theodore, Pianist/Treasurer; Matthew, Sound System Operator; and Timothy, Drummer/Assistant Financial Secretary. In addition, they regularly give of their time to care for the facilities and grounds.
From August 2014 – December 2017, we had three (3) Interim Pastors. As expected, unrest persisted and membership dropped and history repeated itself; in a very short time we were faced again with another power struggle by one of the Interim Pastors who wanted control of the church and its resources, which caused half of the Council to leave taking a few from an already diminished and fragmented body. We were vulnerable; however, by faith God kept his hedge of protection over us (Romans 1:17).
May 20, 2018, the Congregation, consisted of 13 active members, called Pastor Edward Lee Bez and his wife Rachel to serve. Pastor Bez is well qualified in service to God with fifty (50) years ministerial experience. He lived and experienced all of the changes that occurred in our society and is well versed with its impact on the church. Shortly after he arrived, he received unanimous approval from the Congregation to include in its by-laws the ‘Definition of Marriage’ as it is written in Scripture.
Throughout our history, in spite of adversity, by faith and due diligence, our church remained self-supporting. We give a tithe of our income to missions in China, India, Africa and here in the US. We are unphased by the fears most are enduring because we have learned to live by faith and be reliant on God for everything. We do not succumb to the pressures the enemy has in store for us – for we are strong in Christ Jesus. We are in expectation of the gifts of the Spirit to be free to operate within us to teach and enlighten us in a Supernatural way to fulfill His will and purpose. We anticipate, with Pastor Bez’s knowledge and skillset, that we will accomplish the needs set forth from the self-study done over two decades ago for our church to be an active and vibrant church and thrive again with ministries to meet the needs of the body and the community.
Our future will be defined by those who come to be a part of this body to be healed and manifest miracles in their lives and assist those to live a purposeful life. Our focus is to see stable, dependable Christians’ faith grow with the help of the Holy Spirit as we experience again the greater dimensions of God’s power, beauty and love in our lives. Our prayer is as we are tested with fire, we will not burn out but be refined as we grow into the likeness of Christ Jesus our Savior.
Gregory Lawrence has been a church member since 1972. His dedication and commitment are a testimony of his love for our God and his church. He and his family were present for many of the challenges our church experienced. He truly depicts the Lutheran mindset of where you are planted, you will bloom. In faithfulness, he has served over the years on Council as the Property Manager, President and for the past decade the Vice-President. He continues to remind those who have come after him to remain patient and always be kind because God has delivered us from the hands of our enemy many times and will continue to do so because even the blades of grass on the property belongs to Him. The Holy Spirit abides with us and there will always be a hedge of protection for those who love Him.
We are yet again at another cusp in societal changes. We have become desensitized by the atrocities we see happening in the world. The issues are insurmountable ranging from human trafficking, natural disasters, health care crisis, population displacement, civil unrests, etc. all attacking our senses. We find escape in a virtual world with constant information streaming through the portals of the internet and media. Our resources and time are heavily invested in this world which keeps us under constant surveillance. We have the ability to work and remain in the comfort of our homes and have no reason to leave with greater reliance from the internet and our cell phones. Video conferences can be done with anyone anywhere in the world via i-Phones and social media while our groceries and home goods get delivered to our doorsteps. We are consumed with Pop culture, fast food and trendsetters. Yet with all of the ease this world offers, we remain unhappy. Loneliness and depression are primary causes for the rapid rise of suicide. The enemy wants this world for us; however, it is not the New Jerusalem spoken of by Jesus.
We seek something far greater than what this world offers. The Great Commission remains our primary goal to spread the good news of our resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ to all the nations of the world. We are to remain active participants to share God’s word and that Jesus lives and reigns with us to the end. We are the salt, which has not lost its flavor. Let us shine as lights in the world, blameless and pure for everyone to see and be drawn to God and give Him the glory. We know that He who lives and dwells in us is far greater than he that is in this world.
Thank God for His Faithfulness and for everyone’s prayers to make this year a reality. As a result of your dedication, hard work, your gift donations and your unselfish sharing of your time, you helped make 2018 a truly historical year.
Special Thank you to:
Alliance Renewal Church: Mike Bradley & Pastor Eric Bluhm in assisting us in the interpretation of our Constitution.
Pastor Shirley Dandelake & Cindy Frye in proving pulpit supply until Pastor Bez & Rachel’s arrival in May 2018.
Council members: Greg Lawrence, Ted Enquist, Melinda McAnnally, Jan McClintock, Tim Enquist, Nadira Enquist and Gerry Nance for being available for the innumerable meetings and your speedy responses to my text messages.
Sound System Operator, Matthew Enquist.
And a special thank you for the support and encouragement from my family, especially my husband Blaine.
Pastor Bez & Rachel for heeding our Call.
I thank everyone for the unique opportunity and privilege to serve as the Council President this year. By the strength & guidance of the Holy Spirit and with your permission I look forward to serving again as your President in 2019.
In writing this historical sketch, I sought answers for the bigger picture of where our tenacity came from to survive when other churches with the same issues closed their doors in these tumultuous times. Undoubtedly, the Holy Spirit was our guiding force. My quest took me to our roots of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses that questioned the Catholic Church and paved the way for the Protestant Reformation over 500 years ago. I thank those who wrote and unselfishly posted articles of our church’s history and the Protestant Reformation movement on the Internet, and especially the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod Central Illinois District updated history 1982 – 2015. Information was also collected from Christ the Messiah Church’s archive, active members and personal accounts of living by faith. We have indeed lived by faith knowing that He who dwells in us is far greater than he who dwells in this world. It is not by might, nor by power but by His Spirit that we are overcomers.
I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. Martin Luther
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Written and submitted by Nalini Janice Hendricks