LifePoint Church Establishing Roots in Manahawkin

Jul 12, 2017
Photo by: Supplied photo

About 16 years ago, soon after planting a church in the West Indies island nation of Antigua, Pastor Wayne Gilliss began sensing a burden on his heart to start up a church in Manahawkin while serving at LifePoint Church in Pleasantville. Finally, after a 10-year stretch in the Pittsburgh area, Gilliss and his family returned to New Jersey six years ago.

“I have a bit of a history of planting churches,” said Gilliss, who on April 30 opened the doors to the newest LifePoint location, at 440 East Bay Ave. “God transplanted us in Pittsburgh for 10 years, but we made it back here in 2011, and that’s when things really started moving for a new plant in Manahawkin. I don’t really know why Manahawkin, but it just seemed like the place to go. So we started working toward establishing our place here.”

Technically, LifePoint has had a presence in Manahawkin since October 2015, when Gilliss and a small team of individuals hosted a Family Fall Festival at Manahawkin Lake Park. From there, LifePoint used one of the conference rooms at the Holiday Inn on Route 72 for small-group Bible studies. After a year, LifePoint, which is affiliated with United Pentecostal Church International, relocated its group studies to Pietro’s Pizzeria.

“A short time later, God led us to an empty storefront that used to be a mattress store,” he said. “It was really hard to effectively get new people because we were constantly moving around, and sometimes we weren’t even sure we’d be able to meet for our groups. So when we found this empty space, it was exactly what we needed at the time. We signed a yearly lease on March 1.”

Since the beginning of May, Gilliss said, the new LifePoint branch has seen slow but steady growth, with at least one new individual walking through the doors each week. Currently, he estimates the 9:30 a.m. Sunday worship service has 18 to 25 people each week, for now.

“I would love to see us up in the 40s and near 50 by the end of the year,” said Gilliss, who has been a pastor for 18 years. “We have expansion options in the new building, but at that point we will be close to the amount of people we can comfortably fit in. And that would be great for the time being.”

Of course, Gilliss doesn’t believe for a second that the road for LifePoint ends with the storefront on East Bay Avenue.

“Everything we’re doing is being done with the intention of growing,” he said. “I love watching and helping guide people to a relationship with Jesus Christ, and as a church we’re fully intending to keep seeing lives transformed in this area. And as God leads, we’ll do what’s necessary to keep expanding.”

So what can somebody expect when first walking through the doors at LifePoint? Once a newcomer is met by the door greeter and ushered to the welcome table, Gilliss said, the typical LifePoint service features upbeat worship and praise music and an uplifting message. The new location is child-friendly, and Gilliss encourages families to attend.

“We have dedicated space for children,” he said. “We’ve not seen any children yet, but we have the space for them. And we do have an active youth group which is tied to our main location in Pleasantville, so families with kids of all ages are welcome.”

Small-group Bible studies take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.

“We’re here to point people to Jesus Christ and see their lives changed by God,” Gilliss said. “I’ve seen heroin addicts delivered. I’ve seen people of all kinds transformed by the power of God, and nothing is more exciting than seeing that happen in a new location. We’re excited to be a part of the Manahawkin community, and we’re looking forward to seeing what God is going to do here.”

For more about LifePoint, visit lifepointnj.org.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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