NOBLETON — The folks at Nobleton Community Church are excited about their new pastor, the Rev. Paul Lehmann.
The church, which has been meeting since the 1920s, has a small, elderly congregation. Members are hoping their new pastor will bring growth.
"I feel very positive that we're going to make this church grow," said Jay Miller, church treasurer and board member. "(Lehmann) has brought a lot of enthusiasm to the church. I'm very pleased."
Peg Harris, who volunteers at the church in a clerical capacity, agrees that Lehmann has enthusiasm.
"I think he's wonderful," she said. "He brings something new to our church."
Harris also appreciates Lehmann's compassion.
"We have a lot of people with illness, and he is extremely sympathetic to their needs," she said.
Lehmann and his wife, Jeannene, came to the church in July when the church's previous pastor of 12 years, the Rev. James Hughey, retired. Recently, the church hosted a welcome dinner for the couple with 65 people in attendance.
"It was a good turnout," Miller said. "I was very pleased with how things went."
Lehmann, 67, said what people refer to as his enthusiasm "may just be the anointing of the Holy Spirit."
"I believe God called me to the ministry in 1960 to be a missionary," he said. "That includes the preaching of his word, and that word has power when preached with anointing. I am passionate about sharing the gospel and declaring what the Bible says. I am enthusiastic about ministry to people."
The Lehmanns, who have been married for 45 years, served as missionaries for 30 years with the Christian and Missionary Alliance and helped with church planting and evangelism in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During that time, Lehmann served as director of the Haitian district of the alliance for five years, growing the district from nine to 36 churches.
After returning from the mission field, Lehmann served as an alliance pastor for 10 years, most recently in Michigan.
The Lehmanns moved to Florida last year. For the past year and a half, the minister has been teaching at seminars for pastors and lay leaders in Kenya and Tanzania. He preached a week of revival meetings in Haiti and led a marriage retreat in Paris.
"We moved to the Tampa Bay area to be near two of our three children," Lehmann said. "The two couples have planted a nondenominational church in New Tampa. So we don't have any plans to move to Hernando County and will be commuting for some time. We really enjoy being near five of our seven grandchildren."
Lehmann said he took the Nobleton job because he was not through with preaching.
"I was still looking for where God would place me to have an ongoing ministry," he said. "I accepted the call (at Nobleton) because I saw a group of God's people who needed a shepherd, and I was available."
Lehmann said growth at Nobleton Community Church is indeed a priority.
"To see this happen, we must make some gradual changes. But also, I want to minister to the existing congregation," he said. "As their pastor, I need to be there for them. I believe doing that will also cause growth."
When people see their needs being met, they will respond to his preaching, Lehmann said.
"They will have their faith increased for the healing of their body, and they will learn to trust God in every circumstance," he said. "We will visit people and reach out to the many guests that are already beginning to visit our church."
Lehmann plans to reach out to people in the community who have "given up" on church. When they visit the church, he wants their children to be ministered to in Children's Church. He plans to have vacation Bible school and good movies and entertainment for youth, as well.
"My wife is a schoolteacher and has ministered to children and women during our years of ministry," he said. "There are others in the church who are ready to step up and help, too."
With his experience in mission work, Lehmann said he also hopes to inspire his new congregation with his enthusiasm for missions.
The church, which was built in 1928 on Sentinel Street, has had a number of additions and now owns 40,000 square feet of land with three buildings and a garage, all debt-free.
To accommodate the expected growth, Lehmann hopes to expand the sanctuary, which now holds 80 people.
"I think we can do that and still keep the front look and character of the church," he said.
Lehmann said his goals for the church include more than growth in numbers.
"I hope to see this body of believers grow in their understanding of the Bible and grow in their knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ," he said. "They are really good people and very friendly with everyone. I believe as they get to know Jesus more and more and experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives, there is no limit to what they can accomplish for the Kingdom of God."