finding a church and a purpose

Finding a Church and a Purpose

May 5, 2022
Gary Kneezel
Gary Kneezel

I had never really needed to search for a church. While growing up my parents brought me to church and in college I attended my older brother’s fellowship. Then in graduate school, my new wife, Dean, and I quickly found a body of believers that a friend recommended. All three were excellent churches and had helped form in me a spiritual foundation and a desire to serve.

But when Dean and I moved to Webster in 1980, we didn’t know anyone. About to have our first child, we decided to explore and ended up trying out Sunday services at nine different churches not too far from our home. In some ways this was a good experience for us. We learned that there were a number of sound churches in the area, even if we didn’t feel that some were the best fit for us. Still, after about six months, we felt we needed to stop evaluating and start committing to one church.

Around this time I stopped by the office of a colleague (Ray Drews) at Xerox to discuss a research problem. I noticed a New Testament on Ray’s desk and our conversation took off in a new direction. When I mentioned that we were looking for a church, I was impressed that he not only invited me to Browncroft (then known as Brighton Community Church) but also recommended another local church for us to check out. I felt welcomed without being pressured.

I wasn’t sure how God might use my gifts and desire to serve, so I volunteered to help in small ways.

I soon found that Browncroft offered much of what we were looking for – sound Bible teaching, a sincere commitment to worship, a nurturing children’s ministry, classes and small groups where we could fellowship and learn, and a focus on global and local missions. I wasn’t sure how God might use my gifts and desire to serve, so I volunteered to help in small ways. I joined the choir, played softball, learned in small groups and classes, and participated in work days to renovate our present Browncroft site into a church building. And then I began to learn ways I could take on greater responsibilities.

I have been privileged to serve in many leadership positions at Browncroft over the years, including 24 years on the Elder Board (14 as chair), chair of a senior pastor search team, and current lead of Browncroft’s missions and Wolof teams. Any positive impact is due to God — I will take credit for the missteps. My prayer before congregational meetings when I chaired the Elder Board was, “Lord, help me to be your servant tonight.”

While I have had influence in Browncroft’s direction for the past 40 years, the decisions made have not always gone the way I would have preferred. In retrospect I can see that was probably a good thing at times. But there were periods when I became disenchanted with the way Browncroft was operating. In those times I needed to re-evaluate whether the fundamental priorities I had when first arriving were still present and whether God could still use me here.

Yep, still here.

I have found a caring home with meaningful relationships at Browncroft, but I believe that the nurture we receive through our local fellowship is not primarily intended to make us comfortable.  Rather, it provides a supportive base for our outward focus, both locally and globally.  That outward focus has had significant impact for God’s kingdom, and I have experienced some of that impact first-hand.  I believe that our emphasis on transformational outreach in our community and around the world is a key factor that has helped our church to be a viable place of life-change in Jesus for 100 years.  I look forward to what God will do through Browncroft in the coming years.

About The Author

Gary Kneezel
Gary Kneezel

Gary and his wife, Dean, raised five kids at Browncroft – two sons, two nephews and a niece. They now enjoy spending time with grandchildren. Gary received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois. Having worked for 24 years in research at Xerox followed by 12 years in intellectual property at Kodak, Gary believes he is not solely responsible for the decline of either of those companies during his tenure.

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