Johns Creek Christian Church making a difference

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Johns Creek Christian Church is a place that lets the congregants be themselves without judging. Indeed, it’s a church that is all about acceptance.

The Rev. Richard W. Voelz is senior minister to the small but growing church, and he says the Christian Church congregants (also known as Disciples of Christ) welcome all who want to come to worship.

It is the oldest purely American church, getting its start in 1801 in Kentucky.

“We do not require any testaments of faith, catechisms or credos except one – that is Jesus is Lord,” said Voelz.

The exact meaning behind “Jesus is Lord” can be interpreted in hundreds if not thousands of ways, he said. And it is left to the individual to determine for himself what that meaning is through Bible study and questioning.

“We are committed to the unity of all Christians and concentrate on the things that bring us together and not the things in the world that would separate us,” he said.

“We like to say we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world,” he said. “All are welcome here, and all means all.”

The Christian Church does believe in full-emersion baptism of adult believers and celebrates Communion at each Sunday service. However, new members who have been baptized in another faith are accepted by the church as baptized, Voelz said.

The Johns Creek Christian Church got its start in 1977 in the Seven Oaks living room of Mark and Darci Jones with another couple. With the help of associate members from the Peachtree Christian Church in Atlanta, the congregation grew to about 150 members.

For the first three years, Peachtree Christian supported the fledgling congregation and paid the minister’s salary.

“We were able to get Dr. Jack Snellgrove, who was the minister of my church when I was a teenager. He was looking to come back to Georgia to retire. He spent eight years with us until he did finally retire,” Mark Jones said.

“The Christian Church has its roots in Methodism, and it will look very much like a Methodist service,” Mark Jones said. “We rented the Warsaw Methodist Church for some time until we got property of our own.”

They purchased two parcels on Bell Road totaling 12 acres and built a sanctuary there.

“It’s neat that you know everybody. Even as we continue to grow, you have that feeling. It’s not like some churches where you sit on the back pew and you walk out and nobody knows you and nobody speaks to you,” he said. “It really comes down to a matter of where you feel comfortable.”

The church contributes to Christian Church worldwide missions through the Disciples Missions Fund. These support missions foreign and domestic.

The church participates annually in what is called “A Week of Compassion,” which helps with disaster relief locally and beyond.

“We are active with the North Fulton Community Charities and have started a relationship with the Impact Group, which helps the homeless in Fulton and Gwinnett counties providing transitional housing,” Voelz said.

The church is concerned about social justice and helping the people who are often hidden in North Fulton.

“There is no lack of need for ministering,” Voelz said.

The church also sponsors a local Boy Scout troop and operates a preschool and a mother’s morning out program.

Last year, JCCC started a relationship with the Gwinnett-based New School of Music and it has provided space for the school to teach instruments and voice.

“We are a sort of satellite campus for them,” Voelz said. “If you come every night, you will generally find something going on.

“There are small group ministries,” he said. “We have a choir I am quite proud of. It is going to sing with the Gwinnett Symphony and Chorus.”

Every Sunday night, the church sponsors youth groups for the high school and middle school students.

“We want to be a church where all are welcome – where all are growing in their faith – and a place to bring all questions and all doubts,” Voelz said.