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Renegade Church turns Incredible Pizza into home

Camille Doty

By Camille Doty
April 8, 2012 at 8 p.m.
Updated April 7, 2012 at 11:08 p.m.

While there are the typical rows of chairs for church-goers to sit in, one corner of Renegade Church's sanctuary is comprised of tables and chairs. "We started out with a more coffee shop kind of a feel," said Steve Bielstein.

Renegade Church lives up to its name by being unconventional.

In less than two years, members have had service in a night club, dance studio and a restaurant. A faithful few turned a storage closet into a children's ministry room.

Before settling into the former Incredible Pizza building last Sunday, members spent half the day setting up and taking down the stage and sound equipment.

Now, The Word can be served at the former pizza parlor.

The character of the building remains; the neon signs and black-and-white checkered tile are in tact.

"The people make up the church. This is just the building," said senior pastor Bard Letsinger.

Steve Bielstein has been on board with the non-traditional methods since the beginning.

There are greeters with warm smiles and a food station filled with breakfast casserole, deviled eggs and pastries. Some members brought their plates into the sanctuary for service.

"You can't have the same restaurant in town serving the same thing," he said.

Many Crossroads residents are familiar with the establishment, making for an easy adjustment, Letsinger said.

"It feels like we've been here for years," he said.

The vision of the 225-member church is to do anything short of sin to reach people for Christ.

The Music Ministry sang popular hits, "One Vision" by Queen and "I Wanna Know What Love Is" by Foreigner. And the crowd chanted in response.

Although the pastor acknowledged the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he didn't want the service to be drastically different from any other Sunday.

"We need to remember Him more than just one day out of the year. We need to remember Him 365 days," Letsinger said.

His true-to-life style resonated with 8-year-old Seth Birmingham, who's one of his biggest fans. The Vickers Elementary School student quotes the scripture and the pastor's jokes during the week.

"It can help me have more faith in God," Seth said.

The second-grader used to complain about going to church, and now he gets upset when he doesn't attend, according to his mother.

Gina Birmingham, Seth's mother, was drawn to the preaching and the people. The former one-time visitor calls Renegade home.

"I just came one Sunday to help out. I liked it so much I never left, "she said.

About half the congregation attended the holiday service, and Letsinger said that it comes with territory.

The Victoria native said many of the young families are probably out of town or with relatives. He said the doors will be open for members to return next week.

"We're going to be here for a while," Letsinger said.



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