It’s been a long time coming.
Years of fundraising, planning and praying. A congregation that has more than doubled in the last five years is biding its time anticipating the big move to three miles away where construction of a nearly 20,000 square-foot church is coming to a close.
But for now, Sunday mornings mean a visit to Oak View Middle School in Newberry for Destiny Community Church members where hundreds of folding chairs are divided into two sections with an aisle up the middle. Welcoming committees are stationed at each entrance to the space that serves as a cafeteria known as Panther Palace during the week. No one enters the room without being greeted and acknowledged. Folks are gathered around two coffee carts catching up and preparing to take their seats.
The stage lights up and the sound check is complete as the DCC Band enters the spotlight.
Sound Technician Scott Law said he has run the sound board at the services held at the school for 10 years and he is looking forward to working with the state-of-the-art system being installed in the new church.
We’re a little different than most churches,” Law says about the use of music and stage performances. “We like people to be able to get into it,” he said. “If I’m running sound and I can feel it, that’s what I want everybody else to have. They can get into the worship and ignore everything else.”
And right on cue, the band starts a beat and the vocals come. “Let’s celebrate together,” lead singer Cyndi Law says and invites the crowd to sing along. She is working the stage inspiring hand clapping and causing the congregation to jump to their feet. The words to each song are displayed on the giant screen above the DCC band. “You are everything, I want more,” they sing in unison.
At the end of the song, Cyndi asks parishioners to reach out and welcome each other and the room erupts with a buzz of voices and then come hugs and handshakes. More than 150 people are at this 9:30 a.m. service. Another service kicks off at 11 a.m.
First-time guests are welcomed and encouraged to pick up a free gift. Then a round of applause welcomes them and then they hear, “If you’re looking for a church home, welcome home.”
The topic of discussion for Pastor Rocky McKinley, 45, during this service is marriage. On the screen behind him are the words: Till Death Do Us Part.
But before he begins to speak on that, McKinley tells the congregation, “Look around this room right now,” he said. “This is a full service.”
Then McKinley declares “This is important,” as he motions from himself to his wife of 25 years, Mandi McKinley, who is sitting in the front row. He repeats, “This is important.” And the crowd responds, “Amen.”
“Besides my relationship with Christ, this is the most important relationship in my life,” McKinley continues. And just to be clear he spells it out. “Some of you are having problems in your homes because you’ve got the Divine order messed up.
“It’s God, spouse, and then children,” he says. “Once you get the children in the right section of the totem pole, I promise you’ll see blessings flowing through your home.”
Then he advises couples who invest in diverse activities such as sporting events, annual Disney passes, hobbies and more, by urging them to invest in each other.
Through his talk about marriage, McKinley offers anecdotes about his own marriage. He admits to mistakes and shares stories of struggle and triumph.
He addresses the unmarried parishioners who might be looking for a spouse. “Whoever they are now is who they will be after you marry them,” he advises. “After you marry them, it is not your job to change them, your job is to serve them.”
It’s a mutual submission, McKinley emphasizes, and says it works both ways and that it’s not just wives who will submit to husbands.
McKinley delivers his topic to an invested room of congregants. With readings from scripture interlaced with anecdotes and personal testimony, he serves up the discussion points he has come here to make today.
“In order for your marriage to go the distance, there must be another man,” he declares. “And it cannot be Aquaman,” he jokes and the crowd laughs. “You must invite another man to this equation and his name is Jesus Christ.”
During the service, McKinley briefly mentions the status of the new church under construction. Congregants are excited about finally landing in a permanent spot in a few months.
“People can worship anywhere,” Danna Murray said about the church holding activities at the Oak View school campus. “But we’re excited to not be a portable church.”
McKinley said the new church is a brick and mortar that will facilitate what God wants the people to accomplish.
He first “planted” DCC back in 2006 in a borrowed building that is now a daycare in Newberry. He says DCC is an interdenominational church and that the move to holding services in the OVMS cafeteria was a blessing in some ways, he said.
While working around the school schedule and not being able to live stream services without access to internet seemed like a hindrance, he said, “We tried not to let being portable stop us.
“And it has probably pushed us out into the community more,” he said.
“I want to make sure we stay outwardly focused once we move into it,” he said and he listed the community outreach events such as neighborhood cleanups and sponsorships of sports and clubs in Newberry that DCC supports because of the temporary location.
McKinley looks toward the future generations of DCC and says, “There is a need for our own space. Our kids didn’t ask to be part of a portable church, their parents brought them here.”
And by building the new church he says it’s a chance to make sure, “We don’t leave a big debt for future generations.”
That accomplishment falls in line with the church’s four Core Values that McKinley preaches and practices, he said. “Discovery (connection with Christ), Dependence (relationships with others), Development (growth), and Direction (how to serve).”
McKinley’s hope is to instill these core values into his growing congregation.
“I believe it creates a well-rounded Christian,” he said. “The only thing you take to Heaven is your relationships.”
Suzette Cook has been a community journalist for 30 years. She was a journalism instructor for 15 years and earned her MAMC from the University of Florida. She is covering the county, school board, religion, arts, and the environment for Mainstreet Daily News.