Renegade Church hopes to create new Christmas tradition
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Dec. 28, 2012 at 6:28 a.m.
Standing stage left at Renegade Church, the Rev. Bard Letsinger hurled a few comfortable taunts at best friend and fellow Renegade pastor the Rev. Skip Mozisek.
The men donned Christmas-themed costuming as they prepared and rehearsed skits for the church's first-ever full-cast Christmas Eve performance.
In a few days, the Incredible Pizza building turned tabernacle was expected to fill with eager church-goers searching for Christmas Eve entertainment to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
The church Letsinger, 43, launched a little more than two years ago has come a long way from its 12-member congregation and Sunday morning worship at Dodge City Nightclub.
Membership at Renegade has continued to rise in recent years, and both Letsinger and Mozisek have been busy ever since developing and managing the growth of their purposefully non traditional congregation.
But during Christmastime, the pastors, who are also boyhood friends, wanted to stay true to a dream they had for providing its members with a Christmas Eve production.
"We want it to eventually be like what Northside did every year," Letsinger said, describing Northside Baptist's long Christmas tradition of putting on an elaborate dramatic retelling of the story of Jesus. "For so many people, that is what they did in Victoria for Christmas. It was part of their tradition."
When Northside announced last year they would be retiring their pageant, Letsinger and Mozisek thought they may be able to provide a new tradition at their church.
"We eventually want Christmas Eve in Victoria to be a part of Renegade," he said.
"But it won't be the same every year," said Mozisek, 45. "We want it to be different and better each year."
Part of Renegade's performance, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" included multiple mini-Christmas skits written by the pastors, live actors, video elements, music and worship, and a monologue performance of Letsinger's "The Innkeeper's Dream," a dramatic performance of the divine birth told from the perspective of the innkeeper where Jesus was born.
"I've done it in different churches all throughout the 90s. I enjoy acting, and for me, that's where I always got that 'attaboy' recognition," he said. "But I stopped performing it because I realized I wasn't doing it for the right reasons because I was getting all the praise for it."
Letsinger said he felt God asking him, "Are you doing this for me, or for you?"
When he realized he was acting for his own glory and not the Lord's, he stepped down from stage for a time.
"I didn't act again for like five or six years and I said the next time I was going to do it would be when we launched our own church and we had a special service for Christmas Eve," Letsinger said.
But even though Mozisek grew up with the Renegade pastor a few doors down from each other in the Shenandoah neighborhood, he never envisioned the two of them would one day be growing one of the fastest growing church plants, and be working toward creating a Christmastime pageant that may one day replace Northside's beloved Christmas pageant.
"The coolest thing about Renegade is that when you're starting something like this, the identity of it becomes a part of you; it takes on a lot of your personality," Mozisek said. "I knew a few years ago, and I still know this church is going to be a big thing for Victoria."
Both Mozisek and Letsinger are invested in Renegade's future and longterm growth.
And they hope as their guests multiply, the Christmas pageant cast and play will also increase in numbers and depth.
"Our aim here is to tell the story in a Renegade kind of way and really make it a part of the Christmas tradition of Victoria," Mozisek said.
After more than three decades of friendship, the men have finally found their niche and they're excited to share the story of Christmas with Victorians for years to come.
"Me and Skip are a natural fit. It's great to be doing this with your best friend and it makes Christmas more meaningful," he said. "It's a real example of Corinthians ... everybody has a gift and purpose and we need each others talents to make it happen."