Forty years ago, David Simpson was a 20-year-old attending Atlanta Christian College (now Point University), when he was chosen to lead Lanier Christian Church.
Earlier this year, Simpson celebrated 40 years as minister of the church. He said he couldn’t have done it without his wife, Faith.
Married since 1976, David and Faith have seen several changes in the church. But nothing surprised them more than when they returned from their honeymoon.
In one weekend, Lanier Christian’s first building on Browns Bridge was erected with the help of Mount Carmel Christian Church. Before the facility was built, the eight to 10 congregants met in their living rooms as the church organized.
David would now head the church with Faith by his side.
“They took a chance on us. Those eight people. And it’s a blessing to me,” David said.
Faith, who works in administration for Banks County Schools, assists her husband at church. David described her as a true workhorse, explaining she rarely gets a break because she works during the week and helps lead Sunday services.
“It’s just been a fascinating journey. It’s gone by too fast,” David said. “I feel like I’m just now getting comfortable being a minister.”
During his tenure, David has seen the church’s culture change. When he first started, congregants attended church almost every week, maybe missing a few times each year. Now, he said, more people attend once or twice a month.
To accommodate this shift, he has altered his preaching style. It tends to be more relational and comes from a teaching point of view.
Advances in technology also have transformed the services. David regularly uses a projection screen, Power Point presentations and video clips from Youtube in his messages.
After 40 years, David sat down with The Times to talk about his time with Lanier Christian Church.
Question: What’s your favorite part about being a minister here?
Answer: I think the favorite part of ministry for me has always been developing the relationships, being part of people’s families.
I just like to feel like I’m a part of each person’s family. I go through the mountain tops and valleys with families.
I was there when (our associate minister Mack Hill) was born at the hospital. He’s 29. So I was there when he was born and that’s the blessing, when you can experience life with families.
His mother passed away last year and I was able to be there for that and be a part of that process. So, I think that’s the part I like.
Q: What are some of the strengths of Lanier Christian?
A: I think the strength for us is that we are an extremely friendly and relationship-oriented church. People here generally love each other, but also love new people when they come to worship with us.
I think there is wonderful grace shown here, sincere love (and) sincere kindness. Any service that’s performed by the church in our community in a missions-oriented way, it’s always in a giving, loving nature. People generally love each other here. This church is the family for so many people. It’s their family.
Q: Looking back, any moments or memories that stand out?
A: I think one of the highlights for me is to see lives changed and improved by the power of Christ at work in their lives and his church. Just to see people grow up in their faith and their involvement in the church and to know people going back for 40 years is just incredible to me.
My highlights are around people, the stories I would tell are about people. It’s just the stories of people (who) have touched my life and touched others and affected the work that we do here for Christ. I could just tell you a story about every person here over the years.
Q: Are there any areas you’d like to see improvements or growth within the church?
A: Always, I think the Lord’s church is meant to move forward. We were never meant to be stagnant, none of us as Christians. There’s always opportunity to grow and move forward.
A new ministry we’re about to explore and perhaps undertake is helping out homeless families here in town. We just started that process, but that’s an example of moving forward and doing something new.
I would say we could always serve more. So our team group is serving more. They have service Sundays now where they meet the needs of others.
We can pray more. We just started our new prayer ministry. Every Thursday at noon we pray. We felt like we needed to be more active in our prayer life.
I’m real excited about our lake service. We are reaching more people through that. It meets at 10 o’clock every Sunday at Gainesville Marina. This year, it’s going to be year-round. We’re going to meet at Skogies restaurant over the winter.
Q: What are your hopes for Lanier Christian?
A: I’ve always had a great vision for the church, even from the first day. Beyond buildings and beyond programs (we) have a people (who) love the lord and love others. And the more people we can have do both the better, of course. But I think that’s what it’s all about.
One of my all time favorite versus in the Bible is Galatians 5:6: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
To me, that sums up ministry. That’s what I want to be known for. That’s what I would want my legacy to be, one of just sharing love.
I had a critic one time (who) said he preaches on love too much. My response to that ... was you know what, that may be the greatest compliment I’ve ever received. I hope someone will put on my tombstone. “He preached on love too much.”