In the last year, Alliance Christian Fellowship (ACF) in Eagle River, Alaska, has grown significantly. Pastor Brian Cook estimates that in September of last year about 600 people attended the church; by September 11, 2016, that number had increased to 1,097.
A suburb of Anchorage, Eagle River is home to roughly 26,000 people. Military couples who have not been stationed anywhere previously make up the majority of the community. Many attendees of ACF are unchurched or had a negative experience at church in the past and never went back. ACF has become a haven for these people.
A Safe Place
People are drawn to ACF because of Brian’s welcoming attitude. “You don’t have to believe [in Jesus] to belong at ACF,” he often says from the pulpit. “You don’t have to agree with me to listen and ask God how He might help you live a better life.”
Brian continues to pray that unbelievers who come to ACF are affected from hearing the gospel, but he also encourages them to explore their doubts instead of hiding them. “I want the people in my congregation to know that it’s OK to not be OK when you come to church,” he explains.
Not only have more people come to the church but also in the last year there have been 176 professions of faith and 117 baptisms.
ACF holds four baptismal services a year. During the service, people who desire to be baptized are interviewed by elders to ensure proper understanding of salvation and baptism. “If it’s a go, they’ll get in line,” Brian says. At the last service more than 50 people were baptized.
“I’m Waiting for You”
One ACF member named Bekah grew up in a Christian home but had searched for truth through other religions such as Buddhism and various Native American traditions. She came to ACF for the first time during a baptismal service.
As Brian preached about this church ordinance, Bekah felt God was telling her, I’m waiting for you. What are you waiting for? She obeyed His call to be baptized that day.
The next day she was full of strength and peace about many trials with which she had struggled for months.
Outdoor baptisms have taken place as well. Dave, who had attended ACF for months, was on a run in early August and decided to run to ACF’s parking lot. “I just felt a gravitational pull to the church,” he said to the pastors he found there. “I tried to leave the parking lot, but God kept calling me back.”
“I feel like I’ve been running from God, and I want to get baptized,” Dave said. “Is there any way I can?” A baptism service had occurred a few weeks before, and one wasn’t planned for quite some time. But Dave was adamant.
Because the church was closed, staff members and their families gathered with Dave at Eagle River. He and Pastor Stuart entered the freezing water, and Dave was baptized that day.
Pray that all those who have been baptized at ACF, including Bekah and Dave, will continue to grow in their relationship with Christ. Also pray that God will call more people to Himself in this community.