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River of Life pastor envisions megachurch

Pastor Dan Strength, 57, stands in River of Life Thrift Store in Brooksville. The church’s 30 members meet in the store, for now. The store, Strength says, is just the beginning.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Pastor Dan Strength, 57, stands in River of Life Thrift Store in Brooksville. The church’s 30 members meet in the store, for now. The store, Strength says, is just the beginning.

BROOKSVILLE — River of Life Full Gospel Church, which has been meeting for about a month in its thrift store, will have its "kickoff" services today and Sunday.

Founded by its pastor, the Rev. Dan Strength, the church has a core group of about 30 people.

Along with a traditional Sunday morning service, the church will offer a contemporary praise and worship service on Saturday evenings when casual dress will be welcome and the emphasis will be more on teaching than preaching.

"There's a generation of people that just don't have the respect for the church anymore," Strength said. "I think you really have to get hold of their hearts with good contemporary music. Amazing Grace doesn't get it anymore."

Strength, 57, who prefers to be called "Pastor Dan," has a vision for a megachurch.

"I have a plan for how to get there that's mostly in my head," he said. "I really see a megachurch here in Hernando County. Some of the ingredients are the casual thing, the nondenominational thing and not getting so involved in particular doctrines, like healing or speaking in tongues. I think that's what the people need, and we have to adapt to that need. We don't change the Gospel, but we've changed our methods."

Strength has been a minister for 38 years and began Eastside Pentecostal Church of God in Ridge Manor in 2005. He pastored there for a year.

"We had a very successful ministry there," he said. "We established a Christian school, and it grew very rapidly."

After the death of his father and two six-month pastoral appointments in other states, Strength decided to return to Florida and begin a nondenominational church. It is associated with Anchor Bay Evangelistic Association.

"We have a cross-cultural group of people," Strength said. "I'm beginning to get people around me that share this vision, and I'm getting them involved. They share the same burden to help people."

Strength said he not only wants to minister, but wants to equip others to minister. He already has more help than he needs at the thrift store.

"There is a place for everybody in the work of God, and a lot of times it's just practical," he said. "I have a lady that wants to go into Brooksville once a week and do a soup kitchen-type thing. There are people who have a desire to do things, and one of the functions of a pastor is to find out what people's gifts and callings are and help them develop it."

Strength said the ministry has helped people with their rent and utilities and last week sent about $1,000 worth of items to Costa Rica.

"This is not a business to make money; it's definitely a ministry," he said. "The people who are helping in the store have come alive. They found out what they are called to do, and they love it."

Strength said the church is looking for volunteer musicians, worship team members and children and youth workers. His sister and brother-in-law will soon move from Michigan to help with some of the ministries of the church.

The church will offer ministries to children and youth, as well as adults.

"We're going to do everything a church does," Strength said. "I love Hernando County and the people here. We're facing some hard times with people being laid off and all kinds of things going on. The church has got to be there to do a lot of practical stuff. That's what this church will be doing."

The name of the church, River of Life, reflects its message, Strength said.

"The idea is that the Holy Spirit is a river, and God flows through us," he said. "It's not us doing the work. A river isn't stagnant. It's alive and flowing.”

>>if you go

Church, store hours

River of Life Full Gospel Church meets at 7 p.m. Saturdays and at 11 a.m. Sundays at its thrift store, 18620 Cortez Blvd. in Mountain Park Plaza, Brooksville. Thrift store hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call (352) 428-7506.

River of Life pastor envisions megachurch 09/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 11:20am]
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