Two Austin churches to combine congregations

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 17, 2002

In 1980, a fraction of the Austin Church of Christ's congregation left the familiarity of the downtown church to become the Northwest Church of Christ.

Northwest initially met at the YMCA, then rented time and space in the Faith United Methodist Church building, which they purchased when the Faith church folded. Through hard work and dedication by a growing membership, plus generous and timely donations, the mortgage was paid in full in July 1994.

Splitting up and starting over is never easy, although it's sometimes necessary to promote growth. For the past couple of years, there has been a lot of praying, negotiating and planning going on in both the churches. A vote, regarding a permanent reunion, was brought before each congregation this fall. As a result, they decided to get back together.

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The first Sunday service with the two churches as one will be held on Jan. 5, 2003. There are still matters to be ironed out, of course, as always when two organizations merge. The ice has been broken, however, the parties from both sides have had fellowship suppers and core meetings together and much healing has already taken place.

"It's the best thing that happened in years," said Wilma Sola, a member of the Austin Church of Christ. "I've been in the church since I was 13 and it means a lot that we've been brought back together."

Dave DeFor, full-time pastor of Northwest for the past 12 years, and Steve DeFor, part-time pastor at the downtown church, will be staying on as co-pastors with the unified Church of Christ, which is located at 100 2nd Street SW in Austin.

The DeFor brothers will take turns preaching Sunday sermons, yet follow up on each other's theme so there will be a degree of continuation of the teachings.

"In the last couple of years we have really prayed about getting the two churches together. At different times in the past we have too, but I think more seriously this year," Steve DeFor said.

The first concern was to see how it could possibly be done and worked out.

"It has not been easy. To make a change is never easy," Dave DeFor said. "They are comfortable there, we are comfortable here. The unknown of what will happen when putting two churches together -- leaving the building -- you get used to a certain building and that's where you want to worship."

"All those put aside, I think putting those two (churches) together, we will be able to serve God in a lot better way," Steve DeFor said.

The pastors, though brothers, have their own special talents to draw from as they serve the Lord and His people.

When asked where his talents lie, Dave DeFor replied, "I have the gift of meeting people, making friends and reaching into the community.

I'm a visionary, a planner, but I don't have the gift

of good organization. teve does, though."

With a side glance at his brother, he added, "My brother thinks I can start a conversation with a post."

Steve named teaching, genuine love for people and concern for their spiritual development and growth as his special gifts.

"I'm trying to teach that," he said.

"Originally, when Northwest started and they purchased the Faith United building, the plan was to have it for only five years, but those years have come and gone," Dave DeFor said.

Since that time, the congregation has grown, not just in number, but also in years. The need for easier accessibility -- fewer steps to climb -- was one of many reasons why the downtown church became the obvious choice of locale for combined worship. At this time, the core group's different committees are planning the programs of the future – ministry, worship, Christian education, youth programs and combining of finances, to name a few.