It all began in the early summer of 1979. I had been serving the Evangel Presbytery as an evangelist with the charge of beginning new works. Frank Barker, the pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church and Chairman of the Committee on Mission to North America in our presbytery, requested that a man in his congregation and I look at the Alabaster area as a potential site for planting a PCA church. We saw that there were housing developments springing up all over the area and reports indicated that Shelby County had the highest growth rate in the state. It was perfect! All the new families moving into the area and the nearest PCA church at least fifteen miles away made this a prime place to begin a church plant. We gathered development maps, produced invitation brochures with information on our first study, and with the help of people from Briarwood, Covenant, and Faith churches, we left brochures at every house in our area. All the while we PRAYED.
The Bible study began in the home of a couple who attended Briarwood but lived in the Navaho Hills area. We met in their family room in the basement, and several couples were at the first meeting. The numbers grew so quickly that we had to move to a larger house. We continued to meet and pray for the Lord’s direction and blessing. I remember great times of fellowship and covered dish dinners. We all tried to decide what to name our budding new church. We had some interesting names suggested - Pinewood, Southwood, and Deadwood - to name a few, but one evening the name “Evangel” was suggested, and that settled the matter. Everyone was excited; we were going to be a church!
About this time, the men began meeting on Thursday mornings for Bible study at the Triple J, and the women began meeting for Bible study on Tuesdays at the home of Wiley and Jeanette Thompson. Elder and Deacon training also began. We had grown enough by this time that we were ready to begin a Sunday School and worship. We started this at the home of Frank and Marie Crowson who had joined our group. The Lord continued to bless us and we grew more. Finally, we had to move out of their home. The Alabaster Community Center (the old depot) was provided for three months by the city. It was now the summer of 1980, just one year after it had all begun. Those of us involved signed a petition to the Evangel Presbytery. A commission was appointed and in 1980 Evangel Presbyterian Church was officially made a local church in the PCA. Reverend Frank Barker conducted the service and preached the message. It was quite an occasion, to say the least. Mike and Sondra Beck invited the church to meet at their home until property and a building could be found. Soon, the land Evangel currently occupies was located and purchased. A construction site trailer was purchased from Briarwood Church, and we began meeting where we worship today.
We moved into our new “modular building” and soon took on the support of our first missionary family - Dick and Meg Ackley in Nigeria, West Africa. We had our first annual Missions Conference in 1981 with Jimmie Lyons as the speaker. We added the support of Garry and Anita Chambers in Haiti. We still support them today - only now they are in Belize, Central America. Since then, Evangel has grown to what it is today. Oh, we have had our bumps in the road along the way, but the Lord has continued to abundantly bless us and has led us to the brink of even greater service for His great Name. I particularly thank God for Jeff and his faithful ministry to this body. To God be all the glory and all the praise!
Evangel Church P.C.A. was founded in 1980 by a group of believers committed to the truthfulness of the Word of God, and a desire to be a Reformed witness in the Alabaster, Helena area. They began as a Bible study in an Alabaster home with Rev. Grady Simpson as the founding pastor. His ministry established the church, giving it a solid commitment to discipleship, to evangelism and especially world missions. As Evangel grew, it moved from a home into a community center, then purchased ten acres of property and two modular units on Hwy 95 in Helena. In 1983, Rev. Simpson and his wife, Leta, were called back to foreign mission service in Africa.
From 1984-1989, Rev. Davis Johnson served the church as pastor. During Rev. Johnson’s ministry the church deepened its sense of body life and community. The church took church wide retreats and the ministry among the saints grew in its mercy and care for one another. In 1989, the church began building its first permanent facility, a two-story structure situated in the center of its hilly property.
This building was completed in 1990. That fall, Connie Reynolds became the pianist. Also that same year, around forty members of Evangel voted to call Jeff Lowman as pastor. In 1991, the downstairs of the facility was completed by the men of the church, saving enough to have the church’s driveway and parking lot paved. Evening evangelism visits began on a weekly basis in the winter of 1991.
That fall, the church began having two services of worship with some members participating in both services for the first month or so. In 1993, Evangel hired Mrs. Sue Talbert as church secretary and as the first staff member. In 1994, Mark Wallace became the church’s first youth director. The church’s growth continued.
In 1996, after two years of planning, the sanctuary and educational area were almost tripled in size. Additional parking was added in the following months. An ongoing emphasis on evangelism through the ministry of Evangelism Explosion, a very healthy young couples’ ministry, a well attended mid-week service, a continuing focus on caring for the hurting and a solid emphasis on Biblical teaching and preaching were the marks of the church.
In 1997, a Mother’s Day Out program was begun. In that year, Rev. Grady Simpson, having returned from the mission field, came out of retirement to serve the church on a part time basis in the areas of missions, administration and general pastoral duties. The missions program at Evangel renewed life. In 1999, we hired David Maginnis on as Youth Pastor. In 2000, a number of couples involved in the young couple’s ministry started Evangel Classical Christian School. Mrs. Pam McKee was hired to be the school’s first principal. In response to continued growth in ministries and members, three trailers were placed on the property for the next four years. A soccer field was completed and a large homeschool tutorial group also began using church facilities for classes. The church was in use on a near-daily basis.
In 2002, Connie Reynolds established an orchestra to further enhance weekly worship services.
In early 2003, the church leadership considered adding a larger sanctuary and educational structure on the Hwy 95 location. Due to land elevations, a substantial addition with tiered parking became impractical. As a result, a search for another location began.
After a lengthy search, Evangel was approached by the Westwood Baptist Church. Westwood had outgrown its relatively new facility and was seeking to sell this in order to relocate across I-65. In the fall of 2004, Evangel purchased the former church campus of the Westwood Baptist Church on Thompson Rd. in Alabaster. The new facility gave Evangel over 65,000 square feet of ministry space. The facilities have over fifty classrooms, needed sanctuary seating and a gymnasium. Also in the fall of 2004, Evangel Christian School, a church based covering for home schoolers, started. It began with 100 families enrolled and a full sports program.
In the summer of 2005, Rev. Alex Goodsell was called as Evangel’s first full time Assistant pastor. In 2004, the UK was designated as an area for missions’ emphasis. In 2005, Evangel began partnerships with two churches in Scotland, The Free Church in Livingston, outside Edinburgh and The Church of Scotland Church in Collace and Cargill outside Perth. In the fall of 2005, Evangel gave thanks to God for its twenty fifth birthday with Dr. Paul Kooistra as the special speaker.
In March of 2006, Evangel moved into its new facilities on Thompson Road. The facilities have given Evangel needed space to expand its ministries to the community and to the world through missions.
Evangel is family oriented, a nurturing, genuinely friendly congregation of all ages, from many different denominations and backgrounds. Through the years Evangel, as a Reformed Church, has held to the historic Christian faith. Our faith is expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which teaches that the Bible is without error; God is in complete control of all things including the salvation of the believer; God is faithful to believers and their children through His covenant of grace; and the world needs the saving message of the gospel of Christ.