Local church doesn’t mind its small size

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GALLOWAY – Heavenward Christian Fellowship celebrated its first Sunday worship service Jan. 8 on the grounds of the former Bethel Christian School at 247 N. Genoa Ave.

According to Senior Pastor Ron Mansdoerfer, the name is based on Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

The group’s desire and prayer is to be a Christ-honoring, spirit-controlled, biblically guided fellowship which strives to treasure God and invest in people, Mansdoerfer said. “Our intent is to practice a lifestyle of Bible study, prayer, worship and servanthood in a simple manner,” he said Wednesday, May 9.

Mansdoerfer works toward the goals with Associate Pastor Justin Benson and worship leader Billy Nichols.

“We are committed to being an extended family where all individuals will discover a warm, safe place to belong,” Mansdoerfer said. “We believe that loving God and others can best be accomplished when each Christ follower learns about, embraces and humbly uses his or her spiritual gifts.

“We are committed to helping people overcome the past, embrace the present, and anticipate the future through the power of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We promote hope, love, and unity. These words reflect the reason for our existence and the very heart of this fellowship.”

Mansdoerfer, who moved from Albuquerque, N.M., to take a job at Atlantic Christian School in Egg Harbor Township, said he met Benson from Pilgrim Academy and they started their church with about 40 members.

There are currently between 40-50 members, he said.

“We’re not a big church – I don’t know if we’ll ever be,” Mansdoerfer said. “We’re not aiming to be big; just a loving, family church.”

He said they haven’t advertised; there’s just a sign at the Bethel School site.

“I’ve always felt – God has put in my heart – the Lord said: ‘Take care of the people you have before you ask for me,’” Mansdoerfer said. “I’m certainly hoping to grow. But I’d rather grow deeper than wider any day.”

He said he would like to meet other area pastors after meeting a few at the National Day of Prayer celebration in front of the Municipal Complex on Jimmie Leeds Road.

Mansdoerfer said his background is Southern Baptist, but Heavenward Christian Fellowship has no affiliation.

“We’re trying to share the message of the gospel,” he said. “Our motto is ‘Treasuring God, investing in people.’”

Mansdoerfer has been a pastor more than 35 years in Tennessee, New Mexico and New Jersey. He has been involved in public and private education for more than 25 years, including serving as chief school administrator of Atlantic Christian School.

He and his wife, Stephanie, have been married 30 years.

Benson is a New Jersey native. He is married to Megan Giberson Benson, daughter of Port Republic Mayor Gary Giberson. Benson is dean of discipline and a teacher at Pilgrim Academy, from which he and his wife graduated.

Nichols works as an electrician and is earning a Bible degree at Liberty University. This is his first formal step into the ministry, although he has served in various capacities in other churches for some time. He is supported in his ministry by Glenn Taylor of the Glenn Taylor Band, who sings, plays harmonica and guitar. The worship style at Heavenward is designed to combine the rich heritage of the past with contemporary praise and worship music.

Heavenward focuses on fellowship. Each 10 a.m. Sunday worship service is followed by a coffee and fellowship time.

Home Bible studies are held 7 p.m. Wednesdays. Every two months there’s a “Manna from Heavenward” themed potluck meal. The church also offers a hands-on Art Night every other month to the community at large.

See www.heavenwardchristian.org  and Heavenward Christian Fellowship on Facebook.


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