The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

January 20, 2014

Rich Brown: Carthage congregation looking to grow beyond school gym

JOPLIN, Mo. — The church at 1814 W. Fir Road in Carthage may not look like a church, but looks are deceiving.

The sign in front of the building reads Steadley Elementary School, but if you take a closer look inside on Sunday morning, you'll find a pastor and his congregation instead of teachers and students.

Christocentric Life Pursuit Church is in its eighth month of meeting at Steadley. Services at the nondenominational church take place at 10 a.m. Sunday in the gymnasium.

The congregation is hoping to get into a more permanent location in the near future, said Tim Stark, pastor, who has helped establish two other churches and a Christian school. He and his wife, Sonja, who is taking on the children's ministry, are both 1986 graduates of Carthage High School.

People wanting to know about his church often start by asking the meaning of its name. That question comes up often, said Stark, a 1988 graduate of Rhema Bible Training College in Broken Arrow, Okla., who has served over 10 years as an associate pastor, youth pastor and in a Christian school.

"Someone coined Christocentric about 200 years ago, and it simply means Christ centered," said Stark, who was licensed and ordained with the Rhema Ministerial Association from 1997 to 2008 and is currently licensed with World Revival Network of Ministries. "I was reading an old theological book, and that word just jumped out at me. I said, 'That word is great.'

"The circles that I am around in tend to emphasize things like the Holy Spirit, revival and things like that. That has just not been the passion of my life. It has always been Christ. It is what it is. We want Jesus to be the pursuit of our lives."

Stark said he knew it would be a challenge up front with the name, but they are sticking to it.

He said that people have asked, "Are you one of those Jesus-only denominations?" and he tells them that they believe in the trinity.

The church has around 30 members with a Sunday school that currently has children from ages 4  to 13 meeting at 10:45 each Sunday morning.

Although Christocentric has a small congregation right now, Stark said he expects that to change as they continue their growth.

"We have big plans," he said. "I don't want to say we have big dreams, but if you are doing something for God, it ought to be over-the-top big."

He was quick to add that other churches are doing great things and that their church is not there to compete with them but rather to complement them.

Clint Kahler, a longtime friend of Stark's, serves as the music minister and Web developer.

"Our musical style is really modern and youthful, but we also have an appreciation for a lot of hymns," Kahler said. "We have a lot of great older songs with a modern twist, so we have a combination of old and new."

In addition to his ministry, Stark has another vocation as a respiratory therapist. He said that with the current state of the economy, it may not be unusual to see more bivocational pastors, such as himself.

More information about the Carthage church may be obtained by calling (417) 413-4080 or going to the Web site: www.christocentriclife.com.

Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email richbrown@ cableone.net.

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