The History of Fellowship of Believers Church
The history of 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, gatherings were moved into the South Gate Community Center and began meeting on Thursdays. It was at this time that Don Lafler was asked to Pastor 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 a vibrant small group ministry began, complimenting the weekly Sunday morning service. Friends met in eachother’s homes midweek, sharing a meal, building relationships and growing closer to God together. The foundation and direction of this body were beginning to solidify and 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 years of renting various spaces for our services and ministry, God put on our hearts to put our roots down and purchase our own property. The church family rallied together and after several years of fundraisers, miracle offerings, and God’s tremendous favor, we acquired the property at 3333 12th Street in Sarasota. Working hard together the land was prepared for construction, and as we had the cash the building was built. The building was completed with no long term loans, completely debt free to the Glory of God and with the sacrifice and hard work of our church family! Our first official meeting in our new building was in December 1992.
FOB has always been a very active church with many ministries, small groups and events. With the ministry increasing, the Lord spoke to us to increase the size of our sanctuary and provide more space for our kids and youth ministries to meet. In 2001-2002 with the Lord’s blessing and our church family’s support the funds were raised to increase the size of our main Sanctuary, adding over one hundred seats and also adding a second Sanctuary upstairs for the kids and youth which seats 150 people.
As the building was approaching its 25th year, some major renovations were in order. With prayer and confirmation, we made plans for a modern Sanctuary that was centered on the cross. Once again, God’s amazing favor and an amazing church family came together to raise the funds for this project. Countless hours of volunteer labor were put in by so many to keep costs low, and in 2015 we completed our main Sanctuary renovation, including many upgrades such as LED lighting and modern media capabilities. We praise God that we are still debt free!
As we continue with our initiative to renovate, we have begun making plans and raising funds to renovate our lobby and restrooms. The current lobby floor plan has limited space for fellowship, so we will be knocking done some interior walls and opening this area up, creating an intentional place to gather and build relationships. The new floor plan will be a great place for fellowship, and also used for small group meetings throughout the week. In addition to that, we are also installing landscape pavers in the outdoor courtyard located at the East entrance to the main building. A shade covering over the area will be added with seating for many, giving even more area to gather with friends. We are currently raising funds for the lobby and courtyard project, your partnership is invited, and appreciated! We are blessed to have so many hard-working givers at FOB!
Tom & Rhoda Wilhoit
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 were asked to be Associate Pastors in 2002. In 2010-2013 Pastor Don and Pastor Tom began a transition where they shared the preaching role.
In May of 2013 Pastor Tom and Rhoda became our Senior Pastors. It is their heart that the church would be as 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.
Don & Diane Lafler
God has a great plan for all of 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, steadfast leadership, and a wonderful body of believers.
What a pleasure to work side by side with others in serving God! Join us as we ask the Lord build His Church through us!!