How does a church come to exist?
Well, there are many answers to that question. In our case, though, the vision for this church began in the hearts of a few pastors nearby. That vision soon spread through their leadership teams and into the church bodies. People grew in excitement and eagerness to see Jesus Christ exalted through a church plant in Cullowhee. The vision wasn’t just for another place to go on Sunday mornings though. No, the vision God had birthed was for a church that would energize and participate in the movement of God’s Spirit in this region and out to the world. The church wouldn’t be just a place to go, but would become a group of people who would join the existing Gospel-oriented, Christ-centered, disciple-making churches in our efforts to glorify God by making Christ known and living out his kingdom priorities in the strength and direction of the Holy Spirit.
A huge part of the vision was to reach the students, faculty and staff of Western Carolina University and Southwestern Community College! College and university campuses are places of fantastic potential. Every year, students come from all over the world, in a high-energy, optimistic season of their lives and they come to learn and prepare to change the world. It seems only right, then that the life-giving, world-changing, universally-applicable message of Jesus Christ and God’s love for the world should be clearly heard and seen on campus. Sure. we hope to change the tide of increased secularization of higher education; not by shouting down critics, but by lifting up the message of hope and holy love found in Jesus Christ. The vision for this church is (and has been ) to partner with the community and this university -to be a blessing to each- and demonstrate that a life of passionate, authentic pursuit of Jesus leads to life and hope and joy. Are we a college church? Nope. Are we a non-college church? Nope. We don’t want to put lots of adjectives in front of the word, “church” but to be a Christ-centered, worshiping community that is comprised of all those who are seeking to love and follow Jesus Christ in the geographic community and the college communities nearby. So, again, are we a college church? Nope; but we certainly hope to serve the communities of college students at Western Carolina University and Southwestern Community College!
Once the vision was clear and established, the church leadership continued to pray and formed a search committee to find the man/ family God was preparing for this task.
God was developing and refining the vision for this church plant in the hearts of the church leaders in Cashiers, Franklin and Sylva from 2007-2009. In His sovereignty, Darryl and Anne Handy were planting a church with another group during this same time in the Northern Suburbs of Chicago, Illinois! When Darryl first spoke with Pastor Steve Kerhoulas about the opportunity, there was a fast, obvious and encouraging unity in the vision of what God wanted to do.
Between October and December of 2009, the Handys were intensely interviewed multiple times by the search committee and ultimately traveled to North Carolina for a final interview. Great encouragement and joy were the dominant themes during that visit and a week after the Handys left North Carolina, all were in agreement that the Lord was orchestrating a partnership with the Handys moving down and Darryl serving as church plant pastor of this new work in Cullowhee.
On the Ground
With the help of the three sending churches, the Handys moved into Cullowhee in January just before the huge snow storm that left them home bound for four days! After the snow thawed, the Handys spent the next months from January 2010 to July 2010 connecting with the three churches, getting to know Cullowhee and Sylva and making connections at WCU.
In August, on the third Sunday of the month and the last Sunday before classes started, Blue Ridge Community Church held its first public worship service. With over forty (40) people in attendance, the church hit the ground running with opportunities to encourage, support, sharpen, correct, teach and lead those who want to know and follow the King of Kings, Jesus Christ! Our hope is that you who read this will take time to thank God with us for the work He’s begun and sustained so far. Also, if you’re nearby, we hope you’ll consider stopping by our weekend worship service or participating in one of the many service, worship, Bible Study, discipleship or other gatherings we host. We’re committed to seeing Jesus Christ exalted in our lives and in our community.