An up-and-coming church in Darien is looking to help people encounter God, experience community and to have a greater impact on the world.
Encounter Church was founded by Landon Reesor and his wife after the couple realized their "purpose in life was to create more disciples of Jesus." That vision brought them to Stamford in the fall of 2005 where they established their first church.
"I was raised as a preacher's kid and unfortunately began to see Christianity as nothing more than a set of rules and rituals to me," Reesor said. "That didn't have as much meaning to me, and as I researched the Bible for myself, I realized Jesus never intended for Christianity to just be a list of do's and don'ts."
That realization completely changed Reesor's life and became the fundamental building block of Encounter Church.
"Our goal is to help people experience Christianity in its purest sense," he said. "This is not something new. We're helping people move beyond seeing Christianity as simply a religion. We want them to see it as a relationship with God though faith in Christ which is what Jesus taught."
After starting Encounter Church in Stamford, Landon then moved to Darien with his family where he transitioned the Encounter congregation to its new location at the Calvary Baptist Church. One of the more memorable moments for Reesor since moving to Darien was when a young woman attended one of his services for the first time.
"She returned the next week and she told me the reason she came back was because the minute she walked into the room she felt a genuine sense of community and love here," Reesor said. "Now she is continuing to come back and investigate the message and life of Jesus."
Making sure members of his church understand the message he is trying to spread is one of the most important tenets of his church. Reesor said one of the major issues he sees facing traditional religion is the lack of context given with the message.
"Our goal is not to make the story of Jesus more acceptable -- it's to make it more accessible," he said.
In order to make that message more accessible, Reesor has been implementing social media into the church.
"Social media is a major part of the local community. We're spreading an ancient message through modern technology. We want to communicate our message in a way people can understand," Reesor said.
Reesor explains services are conducted more like a conversation in a coffee shop than a traditional church service. The willingness to make the church more accessible and less formal played a large role in convincing Chad Wade, who serves as the music pastor for the church, to join.
"I was working in a church in Tennessee and through a mutual relationship between the pastor, Landon and Landon's dad, it was suggested a take a youth group on a trip to help an up-and-coming church," Wade said. "When I met Landon and heard his passion it was so captivating to me and my wife. That's what we were looking for and after that week I wanted to be on board."
Encounter Church also draws strong support from a younger demographic, namely people age 20 to 38, which is a demographic traditional churches typically lose. Reesor attributed his church's popularity with younger generations to the fact the church isn't based solely on lists and rules.
"Religion tends to reduce our interactions with God to an experience of nothing more than rules, rituals and regulations," Reesor said. "Our passion is to help people move past that perspective of religion and (we) genuinely want people to discover God for themselves."
For more information about Encounter Church visit www.encounterchurch.info.
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