Jonathan and Rebecca White frequently joked about moving to Florida from their home in Delaware. It actually happened in April when he was hired as the new pastor of West Orange Church of Christ, in Winter Garden.
White, 39, has led the congregation at the church at 1450 Daniels Road since mid-May after applying to the advertisement for a new pastor and successfully going through the interview process. He pastored a church for nine years in Delaware.
Allen Mann, executive minister at Church of Christ, is pleased with the hire.
“We are a simple church where families can come and connect with God while their children or teens have fun learning about Jesus,” he said. “We have an executive minister, a children’s minister and a youth minister, and Jonathan makes a great addition to our team as our preaching minister.”
“There's a wonderful staff here that I'm excited to be part of.” White said. “It's a very collaborative and encouraging group of people to be working with.”
Mann said White is an engaging speaker “who makes God’s Word relevant for people of all ages and brings a fresh perspective on what it means to live for Jesus in our modern society.”
The new pastor said he uses humor and refers to current events in his sermons to share the gospel. On a recent Sunday, he talked about gossip and how destructive it can be and referenced Taylor Swift and Kanye West as an example.
“We can get caught up talking about these things and talking negatively about people,” he said. “The life that Christ created for us is not where we're tearing people down but rather we're building people up.”
Because of smartphones and the Internet, people have immediate access to news clips, entertainment, videos and gossip from anywhere in the world.
“There has always been good, and there has always been evil,” White said. “We are more often more aware of the evil because of the saturation of the news and the media. … I don't think things are worst or better than any other time, but we just have immediate access to everything around the world.
“And we have the power to decide what we're going to focus on, the negative or the positive,” he added.
White’s focus is on strengthening his new church, expanding programs and exploring avenues of connecting with the community.
There is a plan to expand the church’s small-groups schedule in the fall. These are essential for building friendships and relationships within the church, White said.
The city of Winter Garden has approached West Orange Church of Christ about building soccer fields on the land behind the church.
“We like the idea of creating a community space on our property,” White said. “We want to find a way to make it happen.”
The church’s mission is to live out the fullness of Christ in the community and beyond by proclaiming the good news of Jesus, preparing followers for ministry and providing meaningful service to others.
“There is something beyond us calling us, encouraging us, challenging us, empowering us; so when we submit to our God, when we turn our lives over to Jesus, we have the power to change this world,” White said. “And it's not our own power, but there is absolute hope.”
It is this hope that White shares with his congregations, from Pennsylvania, where he began his first-time ministry, to Delaware to Florida.
The pastor was born in Mississippi, raised in Texas and graduated from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.
He and his wife, Rebecca, are the parents of 5-year-old Clive, whom everyone calls Trooper because of his fighting determination in the hospital. Clive has congenital central hypoventilation syndrome, a breathing disorder that results in a shortage of oxygen and a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. When he was 5 months old, he was placed in the care of the Whites, who later adopted him.
“Something that's important to me (is that) not just Heaven is important — but what about now?” White said. “What about the world now? Do I love people? What am I doing to make this world more of what God wants it to be?”
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].