The video above shares some of the early days at FOB. We are looking forward to the future at FOB and we’d love the opportunity to have the chance to meet with you. Please feel free to stop by or give us a call at the office at 941.957.3333. May God bless you and your family!
The history of this local body, Fellowship of Believers, dates back to a small home meeting that began with four families in the spring of 1979. Throughout the summer of 1979, with 40-50 people, we moved into the South Gate Community Center and began meeting on Thursday evenings. 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 Girls 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 Laflers father, ordained Willis Derstine, Nick Serino, and Terry Critchfleld to the office of elder.
God added gradually to us 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.
Finally, in December 1992, we began meeting at our newly constructed facility at 3333 12th Street, Sarasota, Florida. In 2001-2002 we increased the size of our sanctuary, and a new Youth Sanctuary upstairs which seats about 150 people. We praise God that our facility is debt-free!
On Sunday, May 5th, 2013, we had a “Passing of the Baton Service” as Pastor Don Lafler and the Elders commissioned Pastor Tom Wilhoit to become our Sr. Pastor. Pastor Tom and Rhoda began serving as Youth Pastors at FOB in 1993 and became the Associate Pastors in 2004. We are blessed to have had such a great transition over the past few years and are excited about what the Lord has for FOB in the future. Pastor Don will continue serving as a Pastor in the areas of Counseling and Visitation and continue to be a source of inspiration and counsel to the church body and leadership.