Feature Church: Gulfview Grace Church
Gulfview Grace Church, a Charis Fellowship congregation on the west coast of Florida, has been ministering to the Port Richey community for nearly 40 years. What started in 1981 in a travel trailer park has grown into an established campus with multiple ministries.
Lonnie Miller, the JaMar Travel Park owner, had a vision for starting a church in the Port Richey area. He contacted the Brethren Home Missions Council and began the church planting process. Pastor Jim Poyner, who was serving at a church in Dayton, Ohio, that he had planted a decade earlier, was contacted about leading the church plant.
Excited about the new challenges and possibilities, Jim and his family followed God’s calling and moved to Florida. The first service was held in the JaMar Travel Park recreation hall on January 4, 1981. Three years later, the church began constructing a building on land Lonnie donated adjacent to his park. Jim faithfully lead Gulfview Grace for 32 years before retiring in 2013. His son, Paul, was selected to step in as lead pastor.
Paul, who grew up in the church, had served in a variety of ministries before becoming the full-time youth pastor in 1998. He served in that role for 17 years until he became lead pastor. “Not only was it an honor to serve my heavenly Father in this new capacity,” he said, “but it was an honor for me to fill the shoes of my earthly father and continue the leadership of the church that he gave so much of his life to.”
Looking back over the past four decades, Paul is grateful for all of the people who have impacted the life of Gulfview Grace, most notably his father. Jim died in 2018, but his legacy lives on in the church. “His genuine love for people became the DNA of our church and to this day is very much a part of who we are.”
The mission of Gulfview Grace Church is: A family devoted to REFLECT the love of Christ, RESCUE the lost to Christ, and RENOVATE our life in Christ. God provided lots of opportunities for the congregation to put this mission into practice when the pandemic hit in early 2020. One specific way was through their existing food panty. Before COVID-19, the Gulfview Grace Food Pantry served 150 families on average week. The food pantry has moved to a strictly drive-through format and their numbers have doubled in the past few months. On average, they serve 300 families every week. This represents more than 1,000 people. For Thanksgiving, they did a special food drive where they served 412 families.
Feeding America declared Gulfview Grace Church as the main distribution center for their county. Every Thursday a team of volunteers prepares and packages meal boxes that are added to the food from Feeding America, and all of it is distributed on Friday mornings. The church is able to reflect the love of Christ to their community as they distribute food.
Gulfview Grace Church has also taken steps to create an online presence in order to adapt to the times. Offering a livestream service was something they had frequently talked about but had not yet done. When COVID-19 hit and they could no longer meet in person, they had to take immediate steps to go virtual. Pastor Paul said, “God has blessed us with a very creative team of young people who are photographers, videographers, ad specialists in computer and audio. They immediately volunteered to help us get this ministry up and running and they began to research everything we needed.” The volunteers continue to improve their livestream and online representation and the church is now reaching more people than ever. “Of course we want every person to be a part of a local church family,” Pastor Paul said, “but if we can help fill a need as we are in the midst of these challenging situations we are grateful for the opportunity.”