In what two local pastors are calling a divine moment, two of Tooele County’s churches have decided to join forces and become one church.
New Life Christian Fellowship of Tooele, along with Church at Water’s Edge in Stansbury Park, have decided that on Easter Sunday, they will combine to become one church with two locations. The church will have one name: New Life Christian Fellowship.
Pastor Mark Runyon of New Life Christian Fellowship, will take over as senior pastor, while Pastor Pete Kirchoff, of Church at Water’s Edge, will become associate pastor, along with New Life’s other associate pastor, Trevor Rickard. All three pastors will have offices at New Life’s building at 411 E. Utah Ave., Tooele.
“It was just something that was a divine moment,” Runyon said. “With all the outreach and services we provide here [at New Life], we just don’t have space. I talked to Pete about the issue of us not having space. We’ve been friends for four and a half years, so it’s natural for us to get together and share our hearts. He came to the place in that same conversation with a way that gave us more space and more people to help with our ministry.”
Runyon said he and Kirchoff came to the conclusion that the two churches would be a lot better together rather than apart. Kirchoff said Water’s Edge was looking for the opportunity to get involved in the outreach New Life was already involved in, so it made sense for the two to combine.
“Jesus always taught about being united with one another,” he said. “This is one way to do that. It’s not the only way, but just one way. We want to encourage people to be one with each other.”
Even though the churches don’t officially become one until Sunday, Runyon said the two are already starting to work together in a cooperative way to reach out to the community.
At New Life, several various forms of outreach are available to the community, such as free laundry and shower services, a clothing closet, a food pantry, and a weekly community breakfast.
“We want to share the love of Jesus,” Runyon said. “We want to help people, not just get more people to come through our doors.”
When the two churches combine, there will be four different worship services on Sundays: 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at New Life, and another service at 10 a.m. at Stansbury High School. During the week, there will be a youth night on Tuesdays, a kid’s program on Wednesdays, as well as various Bible study groups for both men and women. All of the outreach services New Life currently offers will continue, but now there will be more volunteers to assist with the various programs.
Runyon’s main duties will be to lead sermons during the church’s four different Sunday services, while Kirchoff’s will be to oversee the worship service held in Stansbury Park, equip other leaders in the church and take on some of Rickard’s duties.
“We’re looking at this like a marriage,” Runyon said. “We will take one name, all our finances will come together, and we will all be working as one.”
Although the church in Tooele is at capacity, Runyon said there are no immediate plans to build a new church or a second church. The Stansbury Park members will continue to attend worship services at SHS.
“We won’t ever move out of the church here,” he said. “This is our outreach center and people know we’re here. We love being in this area and a lot of people can walk here, so we won’t ever leave this neighborhood. Some of the people who come here but live in Stansbury will now have the option to worship in Stansbury.”
Currently, New Life has an average of 350 to 400 members who attend the three Sunday services. Water’s Edge currently has about 75 to 100 who attend the service at SHS.
“Joining together has nothing to do with us wanting to build our own kingdom,” Runyon noted. “We just want to see God’s will done in this area and reach out and help people. We really do with all our hearts believe outreach is the way that God is opening doors, and a lot of people are coming in.”
Kirchoff and Runyon said both of their congregations have been open and receptive to the two churches joining forces.
“I’ve been very surprised,” Kirchoff said. “So many people respond by saying, ‘God must be doing this.’ They are at peace with it and are excited about it.”
Kirchoff said Easter Sunday is a great day for the churches to join together.
“Easter is a prime time to join together because a lot of people like to go to church on Easter,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we had ample space for them. It’s also a great time to reinforce New Life and tie it in with the new life Jesus offers us.”
Over the last two years, Water’s Edge has been known for putting on its Fun Sports Kids Camp during the summer. This event will continue under the direction of New Life.
“Now as a whole church we’ll do that together in June,” Kirchoff said. “Then the week after that we’ll do a kid’s camp called Summer Explosion. Those are things the church will lead together and can be involved in together.”
Runyon and Kirchoff are excited for the new chapter of the church as they join together, and hope to see it continue to grow in the future.
“I see us being able to spread out and give people the opportunity to worship in Grantsville, Stockton, Lake Point, and have different locations for people to go to,” Kirchoff said. “A lot of what we do is outreach, which is a huge part of why people want to be a part of us. That’s the kind of attitude and atmosphere we want to create and the most obvious way to do that is to have multiple campuses. However, that could change in the future. Sometimes God wants us to go a different way.”
For more information on New Life Christian Fellowship and its outreach programs, visit www.nlot.org.