The history of this local church, Fellowship of Believers, dates back to a small home meeting that began with four families in the spring of 1979. Throughout the summer of ‘79, with 40-50 people, we moved into the South Gate Community Center and began meeting on Thursdays. It was at this time that Don Lafler became the Pastor of this fellowship. We were at the Community Center only a short time when the decision was made to begin our first Sunday morning service because of our growing needs. Another change of location took place, and we began meeting at the George Potter Building in December of 1979. During our eleven month stay at this location, we initiated our first home fellowships. The foundation and direction of this body were beginning to solidify at this point. New families were being added, hearts were being knit together, and a core leadership was being raised up.
Our next move was to take place in November of 1980, when God made available the Sarasota Girl’s Club. This was a multipurpose facility that made allowance for growth and diversity in classroom needs. We remained at this location for six years as the body grew from 75 to 200 people. God impressed upon us, during this time, the need for appointed elders. In 1982, Gerald Derstine and Richard Reneau, Diane Lafler’s father, ordained Willis Derstine, Nick Serino, and Terry Critchfleld to the office of Elder.
God added gradually to our church during these years as character and vision were being developed. By the fall of 1986, we were literally bursting at the seams with no room to put people on Sunday morning. Out of necessity, we began looking for yet another location. We again found God to be faithful in his abundant provision. On December 1, 1986, we moved to the Florida West Coast Symphony Center. Our attendance increased from 200 to 350 the first Sunday! We met at the Symphony Center for several years.
After several years of fundraisers, miracle offerings, and God’s tremendous favor, we acquired property at 3333 12th Street in Sarasota and began construction on our own debt free facility. Our first official meeting in our new building was in December 1992.
n 2001-2002 we increased the size of our sanctuary, adding several hundred seats and a new Sanctuary upstairs which seats about 150 people. Several years later we also did some major renovations to our building including a much needed new roof, and new paint on all of the building exterior. The office was also updated. We praise God that we are still debt free! We are now planning major renovations for the entire building interior which we hope to take place in 2014 and 2015.
Pastor Don and Diane have served our church well, pastoring FOB for over 35 years! Together they worked with many other leaders to build a solid foundation and a church that pursues God with a passion. We love and appreciate the many years of labor that Pastor Don and Diane have poured in FOB. They are both still very involved in FOB. Pastor Don continues to serve FOB on staff as the Pastor of Counseling and Visitation. In August of 1993 Pastor Tom and Rhoda came to FOB as our first full time Youth Pastors. They continued serving as our Youth Pastors for 9 years until they became our Associate Pastors in 2002. In 2010-2013 Pastor Don and Pastor Tom began a transition where they shared the preaching role and in May of 2013 Pastor Tom and Rhoda became our Sr. Pastors. It is their heart that the church would be a big family, loving and serving one another, while always reaching out to the community and the world to reach people for Christ. Their children, Chandler and Summer are also very involved in the church. The sky is the limit for FOB! That’s because God has a great plan for us. Our responsibility and honor is to remain humble before Him, to hear His voice, to see where our God is at work and join Him. We have a great foundation to build upon thanks to our God, Pastor Don, Diane, and many other great leaders. Someone once said, “Those who drink the water must remember those who dug the well”. That’s so true! What a pleasure to work side by side with others in serving God! May the Lord build His Church through us!!