When Dustin Alexander and his wife, Jessica, were searching for the perfect name for their new church, they had to look only as far as the Bible and the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son spoke to the Alexanders, who were wanting to build a church where the lost could find their way to Jesus Christ.
Found Life Church will open its doors to the Winter Garden community for its first service at 10:30 a.m. on Launch Sunday, Jan. 27.
“When we sat down and asked what kind of church did God want us to plant, it was that aspect of finding a place of home,” Pastor Alexander said. “That passage (about the Prodigal Son) jumped out at me. Even though he’s made mistakes, he’s lost his way, there’s still a home for him.”
His desire is to make this new church a place for people to find hope and to find life and then go out and share God’s message with others.
Alexander served as executive pastor at Sanctuary Church, in Orlando, for nine years prior to starting Found Life. He, his wife, and their two children moved to Oakland in September.
He said he and his church team inherited the property from Garden Cathedral Church of God when the Rev. Ray and Barbara Minger retired last April. Found Life is partnering with Church of God and the Association of Related Churches, which provides training and mentoring for church planters.
“We’re somewhat unique,” Alexander said. “Most church plants start off in a school … We’re very blessed, very fortunate to be able to come into this church building.”
For the past eight months the new church team has been renovating the building, which is more than 20 years old and had some physical challenges. The church now has a new roof and air-conditioning unit, as well as updated bathrooms, sound system, lights and Wi-Fi — all of which was paid for with fundraising dollars.
“It was all raised through other churches, financial support, business support, friends who are investing in myself, my wife and what we’re doing in the church and want to see something happen here in Winter Garden,” Alexander said.
The pastor said his goal is “creating a culture, not just a church” — not simply a building where people gather once a week.
“I think it’s far more powerful to create a culture where those beliefs are in the people and they carry them with them,” he said. “They go outside the church. We have seven culture statements who we want to be, not just who we want to be when we come together on Sundays, but when we are at work or our children’s ballgames. … We want to live out what we believe to people in a practical way.
“It takes the church outside of any physical location … and I believe it’s more impactful when people not of faith see you living it out,” Alexander said. “I think that can have a greater impact on the world.”
His purpose is to point people to Jesus Christ, he said.
“I can’t do that within the walls,” he said. “We teach it here, and we live it there.”
Alexander hopes to reach people who seek a relationship with God, people who might not feel at home in a traditional church, folks who want to serve their community.
He wants to create a pantry and an outreach center in one of the buildings on the church property. Even before the church was officially started, teams were holding a backpack drive for a local school and hosting a fall festival.
“I’m a firm believer that it’s built on relationships — everything’s built on relationships,” Alexander said. “With Christ and also with each other.”
At launch, the church will offer a Sunday morning service and a simultaneous children’s service. By summer, Alexander expects to start a variety of outreach groups and small groups for people wanting to read scriptures and experience life together.
“But we also want to have places for people who are interested in different things, maybe share a scripture and maybe go on a motorcycle ride or go out fishing,” he said. “Not everyone feels comfortable coming into a church on Sunday morning. That’s why it’s so important to create a culture. That allows our church to be anywhere. That allows our influence to extend beyond the walls.”
The church is forming service teams, such as worship, hospitality and outreach, and Dream Team submission forms are available on the website, foundlifechurch.com.
“We want to be who we say we are, and not just on Sunday but throughout the week,” Alexander said.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.