A new beginning

Russell Epperson helps start the new Central Montana Church of Christ
By 
CHARLIE DENISON
Senior Reporter
Friday, February 7, 2020
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Russell Epperson stands by the fire at the newly formed Central Montana Church of Christ.

Photo by Charlie Denison

“Even through conflict you can work toward finding peace and finding unity.”

After some internal conflict, Russell Epperson and his members have discovered a renewed passion for ministry by creating the new, nondenominational Central Montana Church of Christ.

“I’d served eight years with a group here and recently experienced conflict that I feel ultimately people are at peace with and can move on from,” he said. “You go through times when you might not see eye to eye on everything, and, when that occurs, you do your best to work it out. If you can’t, you move forward, wish a blessing on them and go about the business of Kingdom work.”

After almost three months of worshiping with his congregation at his home and at the TORCH building, Epperson moved back to his old church’s space on Main Street and turned it into the Central Montana Church of Christ. It is affiliated with other Church of Christs in the state, but it is its own entity.

Epperson held the first service on Jan. 3, and he’s been pleased with the response.

He’s also grateful for the journey, as it’s strengthened his faith and strengthened his relationship with much of the congregation.

“Worshiping at home was one of the best things that could have happened,” he said. “It felt very much like how the first century Christians would have felt. Meeting in a house, worshiping in that kind of environment was just wonderful. It was neat to sit around on couches and chairs facing each other.” 

“Usually we are all sitting with our backs to each other. It brought us closer. It brought us a real feeling of unity and peace.”

This experience inspired the new congregation to make some changes to the place of worship.

“We want this experience to be comfortable and want it to have a feeling of home,” Epperson said. “That’s why we have couches, tables, the fireplace, the rugs. We hope it adds to a more genuine experience and a reminder that this is a family.”

And the family is growing, as Epperson said attendance is up since he started the new church.

“We had 35 last week,” he said, “which was great to see. We had probably 20 for our first service back in the building, and only seven chairs. We brought camping chairs from home to accommodate.”

Beyond attendance, Epperson said there is community support on a number of levels, which has made him more grateful than ever to be in Lewistown. 

“My family and I know this is where we are supposed to be,” he said. “We want to be right here. It’s an awesome place to live and I enjoy being involved in the community. I enjoy working with the people and volunteering. There are so many people trying to better this community, and I love that about Lewistown.”

Epperson said he is continually amazed how much Lewistown has to offer, and he wants to do his part. He welcomes any and all to come to a service at Central Montana Church of Christ, which take place every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at 506 W. Main Street, also known as the old Flament building.

“Come as you are,” he said. “Come in your blue jeans, your dirty boots, we don’t care. We just want to share the word of God with people and hope it is a positive, uplifting, encouraging experience for you.”

Epperson said he is constantly encouraged by the services and is thrilled with the people who stand by his side and continue to share the Word with him.

“We have a good crew,” he said. “They are passionate about serving.”

Although excited for the new beginning, Epperson admits it’s been a hard time, and he’s grateful for all the support, particularly from the congregation, his friends back east and the community.

“This has been a very spirit-affirming journey,” he said. “So many from the community have said ‘this is where you are supposed to be.’”

Beyond the community support, Epperson added it was his wife, Allison, who really held him together.

“She’s been so faithful, encouraging and very busy,” he said. “There are a lot of nights she is here until midnight building and painting. She’s been tremendously active and has been a big part of making this space what it is today.”

By no means was this an easy experience, but Epperson said he’s certain it’s turned out how God intended, and he’s ready and willing to continue doing the Lord’s work. 

“There are blessings in everything,” he said, “even disagreement.”

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