After years of prayerful consideration, the session of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Muncie, Indiana began in the early 1990s to explore the possibility of establishing a daughter church. The Westminster session considered several possible locations and eventually settled on Yorktown. Mike Kelly and his wife Sandy responded to the call to serve as the first pastor of the new congregation. A native of Missouri, Mike had served as an intern at Westminster during his seminary training at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.
On Sunday, Sept. 27, 1992, 35 members of the core group, along with their children, met in the cafeteria of the Yorktown Elementary School for New Life’s first service. The day’s work began before the service, as people joined together to move lunch tables out of the way, haul chairs down the hall and unfold them in rows, set up the pulpit and small electric piano, move desks and chairs in a classroom for nursery space, and set up a Sunday school classroom in the school board meeting room. This process would be part of their Sunday routine for the next eight-and-a-half years, until the church became “particularized” (financially independent from Westminster and led by its own officers and pastor) on June 4, 1995.
One day, Pastor Mike and Sandy drove past the corner of County Road 500 West and River Road in Yorktown and noticed an empty field which they thought was ideally situated for a church. After the two of them prayed, Mike knocked on the door of the field’s owner to inquire as to its availability. Mike asked the owner for a minute of his time, and the man replied, “You now have 59 seconds.” Undeterred, Mike explained his intention, to which the man responded that he had always dreamed that the property would one day be used for a church. They then began the negotiations for the purchase of land on which New Life stands today.
In August 1995, Pastor Kelly left New Life to be the head pastor at Green Lake Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington. New Life then called Tim Stigers to serve as pastor. From Tim, the congregation learned the importance of sincerely caring for one another and the community. Pastor Tim also oversaw two major developments in the ongoing ministry of New Life: the implementation of the team concept as a means of administering the church, and the construction of our first building. By God’s grace, funds for the new building were accumulated much more quickly than anticipated. The congregation broke ground on April 30, 2000, for the new sanctuary on the property at CR 500-W and River Road.
After two-and-a-half more years, Pastor Tim resigned as pastor. In the spring of 2004, New Life called Bob O’Bannon (wife Mary) to serve as its third pastor. Bob accepted the call and was ordained and installed on September 14, 2004. This was a return home of sorts for Bob, who graduated from Ball State and worked as a reporter for the Muncie Evening Press.
Under Bob’s leadership, the church developed a vision statement – “To spread God’s kingdom throughout Muncie, Yorktown and beyond as ordinary people are empowered for extraordinary living by the power of the Gospel.” Under this vision, the church grew slowly, but during the last half of 2007, God blessed New Life with a strong growth spurt, jumping from about 112 to 200 people. By February of 2008, weekly attendance had reached an average of 210 people, and by 2010, it was not unusual for there to be as many as 340 people worshiping with us on Sunday mornings.
During this surge in attendance, a number of other significant changes occurred in the life of the church. In April 2009, the church opened a new educational wing on the east side of the building, which includes a fellowship hall, kitchen and four additional classrooms. Also in 2009, the session extended a call to Brian Allred to serve as assistant pastor. Brian is a graduate of Mid America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana. The church has been extremely blessed by the teaching gifts of Rev. Allred, who has been preaching occasionally, overseeing Sunday School and life groups, and has started CABS (Center for Advanced Biblical Studies) to offer seminary-level training to the church and community.
In the fall of 2010, we began offering three Sunday morning services instead of two. Less than a year later, in September 2011, New Life started a new pledge campaign to raise funds to expand its sanctuary so the church could return to one Sunday morning service. The campaign set the goal of raising $320,000 in pledges before breaking ground, and in early 2012, by the grace of God, that goal was reached. We anticipate that the new sanctuary will be complete in spring 2014.
These expansions are all taking place with a view to a larger goal – the planting of Gospel-centered churches in central Indiana. Upon the completion of the new sanctuary, New Life will begin the process of planting its first daughter church, in hopes of planting more such churches in the future, and in hopes that every church planted will also plant churches, so that ordinary people will be enabled to live extraordinary lives by the power of the Gospel.