Some churches are ornate. Some churches are simple. Some churches are in strip malls. Some churches stand tall with steeples and bells. But one local church is different — its congregation is meeting in a nightclub.
Just one afternoon of praying led Lake Community Church teaching pastor Chad Harrison to approach The Rodeo Club and Lake Martin Event Center owners Ed and Marge Shikoski in December as Harrison’s church was losing its meeting place.
“We were at the Creekside Lodge,” Harrison said. “Then the Creekside Lodge got bought out and they are doing major renovations. I was just praying. We want to stay in this area ’cause that is where all our people live.”
Harrison is a practicing attorney in Dadeville and needed a new home for Lake Community Church. While representing a client, he visited the Fifth Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office and struck up a conversation with an employee who also happens to be a member of the church.
“I was saying, ‘Where is a place where we can move and grow (and has) plenty of room?’” Harrison said. “I was in the DA’s office talking to Renee and the Holy Spirit said, ‘Go to the Rodeo Club.’ When the Holy Spirit did that, I left there and came (to The Rodeo Club). It was about 4 p.m.”
Ed Shikoski wasn’t there but his wife Marge was.
“(Ed) has been praying for about five years about a church,” Marge said.
For Ed it was a no-brainer.
“They sprung it on Marge one afternoon and when I came in, they said, ‘You aren’t going to believe this,’” Ed said. “I’m excited. I’ve always said this is the perfect place for Jesus. I love it. I haven’t been to a church in 40 years. It was an answer to my prayers.”
Now the Shikoskis have found a church and it happens to meet in their nightclub. During the services, the Shikoskis sit on the aisle and hear the word of God instead of taking orders for libations.
Now a church is serving up the Bible at a bar.
Lake Community Church executive pastor Terry Herron and Harrison paced the floor before Sunday’s service going over the details just like many pastors. The difference is only this church has neon lights hanging from the walls and whiskey still in the well. And that is just fine with Harrison.
“It is still a club, but it's perfect for church and the Holy Spirit is here,” Harrison said. “Not only that, we are bringing hope to where there might be hopelessness.”
Harrison said it doesn’t matter where a church meets but congregating at the Rodeo Club has advantages.
“It’s not the building; a church is God’s people who are willing by faith to trust Him and give hope to other people,” Harrison said. “Anywhere we could meet, where we got air conditioning or heat or out of the weather, is better than meeting outside. But if we could only meet outside, that is where we would be, but what a great place to be. Everybody in the county knows where it is.”
Now on Sundays this church congregation isn’t meeting under a church steeple sitting in pews.
The congregation of Lake Community Church walks past the bottles and stools at the bar. Sunday school classes gather around pool and card tables to hold religious discussions. But church member Bill Sanders is more than fine with the meeting place.
“There is something special going on here,” Sanders said. “This will do for now; we will get there someday and get a building of our own.”
During the service, there’s also a Children’s Church offered. The youngsters retreat to the same tables pool cues and balls collided the night before and Harrison actually enjoys the extra noise coming from the other side of the wall in the makeshift church.
“Don’t be sending no text messages back there about keeping the children down,” Harrison said as he paused his sermon for a moment. “I done told you I want a thousand kids (here). If we have a thousand kids, it’s going to be loud.”
Harrison preaches from the dance floor and the worship leader and other members of the praise team play their music from the same stage where Mickey Gilley, T. Graham Brown, Billy Ray Cyrus and John Conlee have performed. The singing on Sunday was in tune but quite different than the karaoke of The Rodeo Club the night before.
Churches in Tallapoosa County have met in many different places. “The History of the Tallapoosa Baptist Association” has the first documented services of the First Baptist Church of Alexander City at “under a bush arbor on a hill” in 1872. Beulah Baptist Church first met at the local school in 1843. First Baptist Church of Dadeville began its congregation in the home of James Smith in 1838 before moving to the Masonic Lodge. Slaves were allowed to worship with whites. The church first constructed its own building on Lafayette Street in 1854 but is currently on Tallassee Street.
According to Harrison, a bar becoming a meeting place for a church congregation doesn’t bother the rest of the local religious community.
“From the spiritual people I know who are members of other churches, there are a lot of them I’m in contact with and everyone of them that I have talked to said that it is a fantastic idea,” Harrison said. “They don’t have a problem with it.”
During service, Harrison told the congregation Christians worship in the “Hermit Kingdom of North Korea.” His message was alluding to the fact it doesn’t matter where a church meets as North Koreans are arrested for holding Christian services.
“They are walking in a boldness you will never understand,” Harrison said. “They are walking in a hope with a taste (of God) you will never understand. The life they are living in, the hope they are living life in, is greater than anything you can imagine. I’m guessing someone in North Korea professing their faith is going to sit closer (to Jesus) than I am.”
Harrison preached from Mark 9 on how Jesus had the ability to change God’s plan but chose to follow it. Harrison said he too had plans growing up.
“My plans when I was 18 was to graduate from Princeton, which I barely did; to go to the law school at the University of Alabama; have a pretty good law career for three, four, five years, to run for office and be a United States Senator,” Harrison said. “That’s what I wanted to do, be in the Army and be a United States Senator from Alabama — that was my plan. That’s not His plan. On this side of the plan, I like His plan better. It would not do for a Harrison to be in Washington right now. Can you imagine me being in Washington right now? I’d be in jail somewhere for sure.”
Harrison told the congregation he is following what he believes is God’s plan for him.
“Notice, He gave me the desire in my heart, just not when I wanted it,” Harrison told the congregation. “I am an attorney now. I’m not winning those big cases; I’m serving people on a regular basis — exactly where I ought to be.”
Harrison’s sermon to the congregation also answered questions about why a church should be hosted at The Rodeo Club.
“It’s time for God’s people to quit living in Disney World heaven, quit trying to join the lollipop guild,” Harrison said. “I wouldn’t be any other place than where I am right now. I would not want to be anywhere else but in this building with these people worshiping the God I worship any other place than where we are right now.”