A new church named Life Journey Church is forming in Crozet under the guidance of young pastor Walt Davis. “Spreading the fame of God” is the church’s mission (as well as motto), he said. So far the congregation has been meeting in private homes, but it is looking for a better meeting place and hopes to established somewhere by September. It held a Thanksgiving dinner at Misty Mountain Campground Nov. 13 and will host a Christmas celebration there Dec. 11 to which the public is invited. Western Albemarle High School head football coach Ed Pierce will speak at the occasion.
Discerning the will of God is very tricky business, even for the theologically well trained, but Davis said the process of listening for that still voice and observing for an invisible hand has led him to Crozet.
Raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of a preacher and now a part-time college professor, Davis went to Liberty University in Lynchburg on a football scholarship. He spent two seasons on the offensive line and two on the defensive line. (He prefers the defensive side.) He met his wife April there. After graduation he continued in graduate school at Liberty Theological Seminary and subsequently earned two masters’ degrees, one in religion and one in divinity.
“The basic doctrine is Baptist,” he said, “what they consider a Biblical basis. But even the Protestant reformers don’t agree on everything.
“We believe God is the one who ordains individuals, but in the process the church investigates those who profess [ordination] to see if they agree that God has in fact ordained. The Bible says the biggest qualification is the ability to rightly teach the word of God.
“We don’t make a huge deal about Baptist because that would turn some people off who would be an addition to the church. That’s the background, but we are sons and daughters of God, heirs of Christ, first.”
Davis next became the student minister at Thomas Terrace Baptist Church, just east of Lynchburg in Campbell County.
Davis said he knew at age 16 that he wanted to be a preacher.
“I was at a summer church camp and I just knew that God had big plans for me, as he does for everyone,” he said. “and through prayer I thought that God wanted me to serve Him full time. Every believer is a full time minister; I knew I should do it as a vocation.”
He established himself in a house and had prospects of eventually taking over as pastor at Thomas Terrace. When he decided to move to Crozet, his folks took over his relatively new home while his father teaches at Liberty.
Davis and his wife, a nurse, had a plan mapped out for their life and it involved starting a family. “Life was good. We were ready to have kids. We lost our first baby to miscarriage. It was the most painful thing we’ve ever experienced. For 18 months we came to medical clinics in Charlottesville. I got a disdainful feeling for the place,” he admitted. “Then we lost our second baby. We cried ourselves to sleep. We were hurting. I’m a pastor; I’m supposed to have answers. God was teaching us to depend on him.
“My wife got into a Bible study at a different church. As a pastor’s wife you always have to look strong. She broke free from the anger and the pain. We got pregnant again—and lost the third baby. But there was such a change in her. We began to look into adoption.”
Then came the fourth pregnancy. “It was very exciting. She looked at me and said, ‘This is the one.’”
Gwyn Pearl Davis was born Feb. 11, 2011. The date coincides with some predictive calculations based on sevens Davis did that when he first learned of the pregnancy. He said he does not believe in coincidences.
“We saw all our plans as God’s laughter. We plan. He laughs. So we took our plans off the table and asked Him for His plan. We committed to 40 days of fasting and prayer. We started in June of 2010. We met every morning at 6 a.m. We fasted from food, TV, other things. We focused intently.
“In that 40 days it became crystal clear that God was calling us to plant a new church in a community that is growing and where growth is putting pressure on community bonds. That was a criteria we were convinced of. Plus, we wanted to be in a location where we could help other churches. I used to think that we didn’t need to plant new churches, we just have to get the ones we have on fire.
“We looked all over Virginia—Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville. Greater Charlottesville has the greatest un-churched population in the state. It’s also true going north of Charlottesville toward northern Virginia. We looked at the area around the airport, but other churches are working there. We got some advice to look at Crozet. I looked at the Crozet Master Plan and met the local pastors and saw dirt is being moved.
“We prayed over Crozet for one month. Four families that moved here with us began praying. Then I went back to Liberty and took a course in church planting. I called [WAHS athletic director] Steve Heon and asked if I could volunteer as a coach for the football team. Coach Pierce called me for an interview. At the end of it he said, ‘I’ve been praying for five years for someone to come help me show Western’s young men that there is more to life than girls.’”
“We moved in June with two other families.” They now live in Highlands.
“A burden of ours is to serve businesses in the community and we have tried to help them by distributing flyers.” They called the Crozet Arts and Crafts Fair organizers to see how they could help and organized a kids’ games area that fair planners said was needed.
“This isn’t a massive leap of faith for us. This is a friendly, open community. But there is more need [for us] to depend on God now than ever before. What if no one shows up for our events? We had no one show at one. But we had 58 people come to our Thanksgiving dinner. God is sending good people to us. It’s amazing and humbling that God is providing not just what I want, but the very people He wants. Our job is to be obedient and depend on Him.”
Davis has talked to local pastors again since moving here. “We’re all on the same team,” he said. “We aren’t competing with them. We’re not here because they are not doing good. We believe heaven is real and hell is real and our job is to make disciples of all the nations. Our goal is not to ‘trade sheep,’ but to reach people who are far from God and need a relationship with him. We ‘spread the fame of God’ by loving people who are far from him and training them how to live out their faith in daily transformation. God is calling all husbands to love their wives and all wives to love their husbands. So we mean to send people into their own homes to love their families and God. We want to build the Crozet community.”
Davis is adept with digital technology and the church has a website, lifejourneyva.com. He can also be reached at 434-218-2552 or by emailing him at [email protected]