With auction Saturday, LifeWay raises more money toward its new church

Published 12:01 am Friday, June 1, 2018

SALISBURY — Pastor Danny Dillard and members of LifeWay Church probably passed this piece of property thousands of times through the years, never realizing it would lead to this.

But by next spring, hopefully on or near the April 14 anniversary of the church’s formation in 2002, the LifeWay congregation will be worshiping in a new 10,000-square-foot church off U.S. 601.

A big part of completing that journey will be held this Saturday — a 10 a.m. fundraising auction on the church property at 5075 U.S. 601. All the items for sale have been donated — even a powerful bass boat and Pastor Dillard’s vintage 1986 Toyota truck camper — with proceeds going toward finishing the inside of the church and paying for its furnishings.

“The congregation really gave quality merchandise,” Dillard said, looking at the stuff still coming through the front doors Thursday.

LifeWay Church definitely has been deliberate about this whole project. Through the years, the congregation has raised close to $800,000 toward the land purchase and building.

When it’s done, Dillard said, the property will have an appraised value of $1.5 million. But more important to the congregation is that when members start worshiping here next year, the project will be debt-free.

The new building, complete on the outside, was erected by Whiteheart Construction of Lewisville. It stands on 14.5 acres that already has a wooded, half-mile walking trail, complete with a bridge and creek.

About every 150 feet, there’s a trail sign with a Scripture passage.

“I love, as a pastor, seeing the land already being used,” Dillard said, noting his youngest son got engaged to be married at the bridge.

The entrance to the trail says, “Welcome to Lifeway Walking Trail. Experience God’s peace as you enjoy His creation.”

Dillard said he was camping at Dan Nicholas Park in October 2011 when he was overcome with the impression, feeling, vision, God’s reassurance — call it what you want — that LifeWay would soon find and buy the land for its new church.

“It was very supernatural,” Dillard said of the experience. “It floored me.”

But it proved providential. By the following March, LifeWay had purchased the land off U.S. 601. Dillard and others heard about the property when they were looking at an existing building just up the road that didn’t fit the church’s needs.

No one with the church had realized the 14 acres was available.

“The Lord was hiding it for us, not from us,” Dillard said.

Before the building went up, the land had to be cleared of pine trees and graded. Culverts had to be installed, ditches dug and a driveway built.

Work will still have to be done next year after the congregation moves in. The generously sized parking lot and most of the driveway from U.S. 601 to the church building will have to be paved — but that’s minor compared to what the church will already have accomplished.

LifeWay Church offers a nondenominational, contemporary service. Dillard said he teaches verse by verse in a casual atmosphere. LifeWay has 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday services, along with 7 p.m. Wednesday gatherings.

On one side of the 325-seat sanctuary, the new building will include a kitchen and coffee shop, a prayer/conference room and two offices. On the other side will be spaces for youth, elementary, preschool and nursery rooms.

LifeWay averages 150 to 180 people on Sundays, Dillard said.

Since Feb. 3, 2008, LifeWay Church has worshiped in what many Rowan Countians will remember as Wink’s S&W Fish Camp, a low-slung building at 7621 Old Mocksville Road, not far from U.S. 601.

Dillard said LifeWay has had a reasonable monthly lease on that 8,000-square-foot building, owned by Jim Shoaf.

Fred Shoaf and William C. “Wink” Wansley opened the fish camp in 1973, and it operated into the 1990s.

LifeWay Church might be one of the few, if only, churches in the country with its own train. An International tractor fashioned into the likeness of a locomotive pulls a string of metal passenger cars around the church property.

Dillard said LifeWay currently runs the train for children of the church once a month and during church festivals. The new property has a small outbuilding close to U.S. 601 that may be converted into a train depot, Dillard said.

That will allow the children to be dropped off on Sundays so they can take the train to the church.

Branching out from Agape Faith Church in Clemmons, Danny and Bebee Dillard started Agape Faith Christian Center on April 14, 2002, at the Ellis Park community building. The couple saw 36 people at that initial service.

Within four months, the new church moved to some of the former offices of Fuchs on West Innes Street. The name eventually changed to LifeWay, reflecting how a person can experience new life through Christ, according to the founders.

Then came the move to the old fish camp in 2008.

LifeWay Church member Bryant Harshman pulled up to the new church’s front door Thursday and unloaded items that will be sold at Saturday’s auction. He offered greetings to Dillard, then hopped on a Ford tractor to mow the expansive church property.

For Dillard, it was just another example of the team effort behind everything at LifeWay.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.