EAST COUNTY — The Rev. Jason Smith believes love changes everything.
The realization he came to as a teenager is one he hopes to share with the East County over the coming years, as well.
Smith and his wife, Beth, recently started Good Life Church, which meets Sundays, at Tara Elementary School.
“Our ultimate vision is believing that love changes everything,” Smith said. “When my life really began to change was when I understood God loved me. He loved me before I did anything good and despite of everything I’d done bad.
“It changes the way you look at yourself, the value you place on your own life and the value you put on other people,” he said. “It gives you a whole new purpose.”
Smith aims to share the Gospel in a simple, yet creative, way and also to show newcomers to the church that his family and other church members are real people, with real issues and problems.
“We want to share our lives with authenticity and accountability,” he said. “I want them to know my wife and I have fights; we’re normal people. We’re supposed to be real together. No facades.”
The church, which has held two services since October, will host its first back-to-back Sunday services Dec. 9 and Dec. 16. It officially launches Jan. 13.
“At that time, we’ll start meeting weekly,” Smith said.
Smith also said the church is passionate about investing in the community, focusing largely on its home base, Tara Elementary, where church members helped renovate the front office, plant landscaping and other maintenance projects.
A military veteran, Smith began serving in ministry positions in 2000, serving in Nebraska and Mississippi, and also helping to start a church in Hollywood since that time.
His journey to the Bradenton area began more than two years ago, when leadership at Smith’s former church, Pinelake Church, in Mississippi, called him into a meeting for what Smith believed would be a chance to become the church’s teaching pastor.
Instead, he was offered a chance to start a church plant wherever he liked.
Smith spent about two months praying about the decision, before turning the opportunity down and sticking with his student ministry position. At that time, he was afraid of failure and didn’t feel a clear calling from God to start a church, and he also could not agree with his wife on a potential location.
“A year later, we realized it was time,” Smith said. “God had prepared us for it.”
Smith says he prayed the scripture Isaiah 41:10 over his son every day since he was born, and while praying one night, he knew his direction.
“If I really believe there is a God and he’s called (me), am I really going to let being afraid of not having resources or of failure keep me from doing something that is daunting?” he asks.
Beth Smith had begun feeling the same way, and she and her husband began to talk about starting a church plant again. This time, however, they shared a location for a future church site — Bradenton.
“It was neither of our hometowns, but there’s a lot of (familiar elements),” Smith said, noting both he and his wife are from Florida.
Smith approached his church leadership about the idea and, with its blessing, began eight months of training to prepare him to launch Good Life.
The couple moved this summer to the East County.
The Smiths have three children: Rayna, Silas and Josie.
For information on Good Life, visit its Facebook page, or goodlifefl.wordpress.com.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].