Downtown Community Church
Downtown Community Church History
By Giavanna L. Haseley, Fall 2015
Based on the life teachings of Jesus Christ, Christianity is one of the most influential religions in history. Today, there are over 2 billion followers worldwide and more than 350,000 churches. Christianity is extremely popular in the U.S. as well as in Brazil, but it can be found on all corners of the globe. Over the years, reformers have challenged the basic practices of Christianity. The most well known reformer was Martin Luther. In 1571 Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Thesis to the door of the Roman Catholic Church. He challenged the idea that salvation was not based on personal deeds alone, but on an individual’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as savior. Since then, different denominations have sprouted based on the various teachings of Christianity including; Catholicism, Baptist, Methodist, and more. Tallahassee is home to numerous Christian Church denominations including Downtown Community Church (DCC). DCC is a small non-profit, non-denominational Christian organization, located on 464 FAMU Way. DCC recently came about in 2012, making it one of the newest additions to the religious community within Tallahassee.
Despite DCC’s short period of time that it has been around, DCC has relocated to new spaces several times. DCC’s first building was located in French Town at Grace Mission. In 2012 DCC initially conducted service at Grace Mission Episcopal Church, but soon relocated to The Mary-Brogan Museum of Art and Science. The DCC congregation only met there for a few months until they moved to the Civic Center’s ballroom for about seven months. Finally, DCC’s congregation found their permanent home in a renovated warehouse by FAMU. Before DCC could officially call this place home, they had to wait on the renovation for about two months. From April to June of 2014, the congregation of DCC hosted church services in the parking lot of this warehouse. Despite the hot summer weather, DCC was able to keep a loyal group of members.
DCC’s new location is a prime place for people young and old to gather. Since it is in the heart of college town it has a large population of college age students. The church has grown due to its student population especially amongst the Greek community. During my interview with the Pastor, he mentioned that he has seen an overwhelming increase of Greek affiliated students attending DCC. In addition to DCC’s prime location, its non-denominational religious affiliation may be another reason for college students to flock. Christian non- denominational institutions are for those who are not formally aligned with an established religious denomination, but are historically Protestant. DCC gives students the opportunity to attend a Christian church without declaring a religious denomination.
As I mentioned before, the institution itself is still fairly new, but the traditional Christian practices are deeply rooted in time. The inside appearance of the church building includes a stage for the pastor to speak on and a place for the worship band to perform. Worship is a huge tradition among most religious communities and has evolved over the years within the Christian church. DCC offers a contemporary style of worship, including a drummer, guitar player, bongo player, and singers. There is not a traditional choir or hymn books to follow along with. Rather, members of the church are provided with a screen located above the stage to read while singing along with the band. Similar to traditional Christian Churches, DCC if filled with extra Bibles for people to borrow or take home with them. Depending on the Christian denomination, the Bible provided may vary in format.The Bible at DCC is the New International Version (NIV). Although a coffee bar is not typical in Christian churches, it is a focal point of DCC. The coffee bar provides a chance for members to voluntarily serve the congregation as well as greet new attendees. DCC also follows the Christian tradition of fellowship. Fellowship is offered in multiple ways. Church services are offered on Sundays at 9:45am, 11:30am and 5:00pm. These times allow people to come together once a week. DCC also offers community groups, which allows members to meet more than once a week to converse about certain Biblical topics. Proverbs:27 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The Christian religion wants to make sure believers have access to other believers so that they can learn from one another; likewise DCC encourages the same tradition. Also DCC follows the historic tradition of communion. This is done in remembrance of the Lord’s last supper before he was crucified, as discussed in Matthew:26. The bread symbolizes the nourishment that sustains life and the wine symbolizes the blood shed for the sin of mankind.
The current lead pastor and worship leader are the men that originally founded DCC. I had the chance to interview Pastor Ben Kaempfer and ask him about the background of this institution. Pastor Ben started off his interview with an inside look to his original idea of DCC. Before Ben became a pastor he was a youth leader for several high school summer camps and was a member of FSU’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes. During this time Pastor Ben said that he was hired as the youth minister at Deer Lake United Methodist Church. While there he was able to receive mentoring from Pastor Dean who is currently the Pastor at City Church Tallahassee. “The initial idea for opening my own church came about while eating lunch at Sonny’s BBQ with my three close friends. Two out of those three friends were currently youth group pastors and the other one was a worship leader” said Pastor Ben. The worship leader, William Colle, ended up being the only one out of the three friends to completely follow through with Pastor Ben’s idea of opening a new church.
When DCC was originally founded it had limited seed money. Historically, most churches that expand have a parent church to lend them a helping hand. Since DCC was the first of its kind, Pastor Ben’s only funding was a $12,000 loan. “No strategic plan was put into creating DCC, most of what happened up to today has been more of a prayer answered,” said Pastor Ben. Still to this day, DCC does not have much outside financial support, but it does have several Co-institutions that it partners with. These Co-institutions are the heart of DCC’s program called Project Tallahassee. Project Tallahassee is a monthly service ministry that works alongside non-profit organizations to serve and share the gospel. Some non-religious organizations include the Phi Center and the Ability First program. The Phi Center is a pregnancy help and information center that offers services to women who may be pregnant. Ability First is an institution whose mission is to offer persons with disabilities the opportunity to achieve, maintain and strengthen their level of independence. ECHO, is DCC’s one main religious organization that also partners with for Project Tallahassee. ECHO is a Christian human-service agency providing essential goods and services to those in need within Leon County. When Pastor Ben first opened DCC his goal was to cater to the poor and marginalized within the community. This goal continues to drive the decisions that Pastor Ben makes which can be seen through the impact that Project Tallahassee has made in Tallahassee.
When I asked Pastor Ben about the future of DCC he responded with this story; “When Trudy Cathy was attempting to expand Chick-fil-A he was competing with local food places such as Boston Market. As his Board was trying to figure out the best way to expand Trudy made a statement that changed everyone’s perspective; If Chick-fil-A can focus on getting better, the customers will demand that it gets bigger.” Likewise, Pastor Ben’s goal is to focus on the current members and community so that DCC will naturally expand. Pastor Ben also stated that William and he are paying more attention to details and long term planning so that DCC will make an impact in the community over the coming years.
Kaempfer, Ben. Personal Interview. 20 October 2015.