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Lifepointe builds first building

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Aug. 23, 2013 at 3:23 a.m.

After spending almost 6 years worshipping at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts, LifePointe Fellowship is building a church of its own. Standing next to the concrete slab that was poured on property on Nursery Drive about a month ago, Leslie "Les" Cole, the founding pastor of the church, is excited for the change. "I feel like it's placing us out in the community, so I'm excited about it for that reason," he said.

For more information

•  To learn more on LifePointe Fellowship church, visit lifepointevictoria.com or call 361-573-5433.

• Service time: 10:30 a.m.

• Location: Leo J. Welder Center, 214 N. Main St., Victoria

Leaning over a center table at the LifePointe Fellowship Church office on Forrest Street, the Rev. Les Cole flipped through a book of blueprints.

The renderings illustrated a busy, one-story, 14,000-square-feet church that's currently under construction at 8150 Nursery Drive in Victoria.

"The time has come to establish permanence," Cole, 52, said. "Building a building identifies us in the community. ... It's time to move forward."

For the past six years, Cole has been leading LifePointe at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts. The church moved to the Welder Center in 2007, after spending a month meeting at the Howard Johnson Hotel on Houston Highway.

Before launching LifePointe Fellowship, Cole was the missions and church planting pastor at Parkway Church and served briefly as the interim pastor.

When Cole stepped down from Parkway - a decision Cole made after the church decided to go in a different ministerial direction - he said he was approached by about 75 people from the church asking if he was going to plant and lead another church in Victoria.

"We weren't sure what our process would be. We knew we were unemployed, and we knew there was a core group of people interested in starting a church," said Cole, who had more than 20 years of church planting experience nationwide. "I needed a week off to think about it. But I realized as a church planter, it's always in my blood."

What developed in that week off was Cole's vision for LifePointe Fellowship.

"The first week, we had 250 people show up," he said. "We got there about an hour early to make assignments and establish function for the day ... but that was our launch. It was that easy.

The church was immediately successful, Cole said, and has been growing ever since.

"We had a little bit of a dilemma in the beginning because we were big enough to be mature but not yet mature. It was like trying to build a 747 while it's still flying. That's challenging," the pastor said.

When the congregation moved to the Welder Center, Cole said LifePointe attracted an even greater number of people of varying ages and belief backgrounds who were drawn to the church's contemporary environment. It has also been missionary focussed since its founding, which Cole said is the church's primary identity.

So when the opportunity arrived for LifePointe to finally transition into its first permanent building, Cole said he felt like the church's mission was finally expanding.

"It's been on my heart that we were going to land somewhere eventually," he said. "We want this building to be larger than just us. We want the community to feel like it's theirs and take ownership of it."

Mary and David Caulkins, of Victoria, said they first attended LifePointe two years ago when they moved from North Carolina.

They were previously attending a larger mega church but said the quaintness of LifePointe and Cole's strong theological teaching style enticed them to consider church in the theater house.

"Les is an awesome minister and person, and he says everything from the heart," Mary Caulkins said. "Initially, it was strange to go to a small church, but I've never felt this comfortable in a church before."

As a member, Caulkins said she was pleased to hear Cole's plan for building a church for the congregation to expand.

"When he announced it, everyone cheered. I don't know anyone not excited about it," she said. "The Welder Center has been awesome, and it's been a neat building to worship in, but I think we'll be able to reach more people with a building."

Caulkins also said the building will provide a spiritually safe place for members to visit for fellowship and guidance.

"Because we have our own home, it grounds us in our faith. It's not about the building it's about us as a group of people reaching out to others," she said. "Now, we'll be able to do that in a grander way."

ACO Custom Construction Inc. took out a permit for the LifePointe building for $1,121,500, which Cole said he wants to have paid off in full in the next 10 years.

The pastor said he wanted the building to carry the punch of a larger building, even though it's customized for a smaller church body, mentioning that congregations smaller than 100 people make up the majority of Christian churches in the United States.

Cole said he hopes the new building will help grow and mature LifePointe and allow the congregation to full reach the needs of people in the Crossroads.

"A church congregation is not just a gathering of people, it's a fellowship. Some are in buildings, but if we limit church to a building, the cost is too much," Cole said. "It has always been our goal to be more than a building."

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