Strong in faith, strong in numbers |

Strong in faith, strong in numbers

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Tom Flanigan paints during a One Community Church service.

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County’s evangelical Christian churches are growing in size and number. Individual churches employ an array of recruitment tactics – direct mail, newspaper and TV advertising, community service and lots of word of mouth – to get people in the door.”We believe in aggressive outreach – not in a slap-you-in-the-face, you-need-to-be-saved-today way, but in a loving way,” said Mike Atkinson, who has served as pastor at Agape Outpost near Farmer’s Korner for 17 years.Atkinson sees 100 to 200 worshipers in the Agape sanctuary each Sunday, but as many as 500 show up on Easter and Christmas Eve.

“When I came here, we had 10 members. Now, every year we minister to 5,000 visitors,” Atkinson said.Barely more than a year old, One Community Church in Dillon averages 135 attendees on a Sunday. And other new evangelical churches have sprung up recently in Breckenridge, Blue River and Frisco. Dillon Community Church can draw 800 to its outdoor summer services at Dillon Amphitheater.Additional worship takes place in at least three evangelical “home churches” throughout Summit County that each have 20 to 25 members. Four more are in the works.”A church is not a building, it’s people,” said Scott Wilson of Summit Cove. “We have a church that meets every Thursday night right here in our home. “I believe we’re seeing more people coming to Christ, and, as a result, you see more churches.”Wilson and his wife, Tina, have made it part of their life’s work to establish home churches throughout the county. She said the intimate setting and weekday worship schedule are perfect for people who find traditional church buildings aren’t a good fit spiritually or logistically.

“Cell groups are the No. 1 way religion is growing in America,” said Stan Johnson, pastor of Summit County Church of Christ in Frisco. “The leader may go to church, but others don’t. It’s a nonthreatening place to talk about God.”A few of Summit County’s demographic features make local evangelical outreach efforts particularly fruitful.According to local religious leaders, some of the growth in the evangelical population parallels overall population changes in Summit County. In particular, the influx of retirees and second-homowners-cum-primary-residents is helping to fuel the rise, since baby boomers are more likely to have grown up going to church than are younger generations.But that’s not to say the young adults who flock to Summit County aren’t also entering evangelical halls of worship. A person who eschews a high-powered career track, a fancy car and house in the suburbs for an outdoor, mountain-town lifestyle is often predisposed to some spiritual soul-searching.

“There are a lot of people who come here searching for something,” said Denny Middel, administrator at Dillon Community Church. “They search for adventure, and they’re desiring fulfillment in life. They may find it by looking at the blue sky and the mountains, but sometimes that’s not enough when you have a crisis in your life or when drinking at night and skiing during the day leaves you asking, ‘Is there more to life?'”A third group discovers the churches through direct services like food banks and emergency assistance.”We’ve gotten some of our growth through people we’ve assisted. We help you unconditionally, but we want to go beyond the food and the money,” Middel said. “We’d like to give you a spiritual foundation and let you know there are people here to encourage you to make right decisions and help you grow and find peace and joy in your life through Jesus Christ.”Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at

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