Beverly Shores Church of Christ

Most of the church family at the Beverly Shores Church of Christ are in their golden years, and from what we can tell, are quite happy about it. This state of mind is certainly not uncommon among many seniors, by the way. Neuroscientist David Levitin studies happiness and a quick Google search will reveal his research that indicates we, on average, become less happy in our 30s, but our happiness begins to pick up again around age 54, and for most people doesn’t peak until we’re 82! If that isn’t good news, I don’t know what is, and can testify that the older I get, despite what fades in our golden years, I’m happier than I ever been in my life. 

After several days visiting with some of our church family in and around Leeward and “The Villages”, who worship at Beverly Shores, it seemed quite clear that this congregation specializes in breaking a lot of stereotypes around being aged — starting with the way they somehow make their 65 voices sound like 120. 

During the time of our visit, they were starting each worship service by singing an upbeat song with the the lyrics, “This is the day; this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. We will rejoice. We will rejoice, and be glad in it, and be glad in it”, and just about lifted the roof off the building. The songs that followed were each introduced by the song leader by first reading aloud the corresponding scripture that inspired the writing of the hymn — a nice touch to help worshippers focus on what God says on the theme they are about to sing.  I also enjoyed how the song leader had enough volume that no one could successfully sing off tempo if they tried because they’d be overtaken by the rest of the congregation singing the tempo of the spirited song leader.

Allow me to back up a little bit. The story behind our visiting Beverly Shores goes back to when our friend, Joshua Gurtler, contacted Mark one day years ago, asking if he could fill in for him on the online live Facebook / Youtube Bible program called Answering Religious Error. Mark filled in and was immediately asked by Bryan Garlock, who ran the show, if he could be “a regular” on the program. Then in September of 2020, Bryan also asked me if I’d be interested in doing a similar program for younger women alongside an older woman who, because of her years of experience in education, had been especially helpful to him in his preaching career. My answer was an immediate, “Whatever I can do to help”. So Ila King and I had been working hard on that project together for about six months at the time of our visit to her congregation, the Beverly Shores church of Christ.  The King’s warm hospitality was my first opportunity to personally meet in person, this executive producer and cohost I’d spent so many hours on the phone with, creating this weekly program she named “Older Women Likewise”. It has been well-received on Facebook, Youtube, and eight podcast platforms such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify that distribute the audio versions of our programs. It’s a ton of work, but we both love having something so meaningful to offer! 

Ila and her husband, Wallace, a deacon at the congregation, adore their church family, and gave us an inside scoop as to why they love it so. As those reasons surfaced, I began to realize what a good job this congregation does to break the stereotype that is not always true: That the younger the average age of a congregation’s membership, the more active the congregation will be for the Kingdom of God. 

For example, this congregation realizes the value of keeping up with the advances in technology that help shout soul-saving truth into the soundwaves. Ila and I have learned first-hand how hard it can be to find women who are open to LIVE internet programming as a venue for fulfilling God’s mandate to “... encourage the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible and pure, to manage their households, to be kind, and to submit themselves to their husbands” (Titus 2:3-5). There are certainly countless ways to fulfill the will of God in this passage, but it was this retired school principal at Beverly Shores who was willing to take on the duties of being executive producer, which includes, among other things, finding and scheduling guests to come on the program to help us help younger women. 

Another example of this congregation’s willingness to learn how to use every resource to the glory of God, is that the members at Beverly Shores church of Christ know how to utilize Zoom like there’s no tomorrow. Ila told me that one of the wonderful things that has come about during the pandemic has been this use of Zoom for their classes. They not only offer Sunday evening and Wednesday evening classes for everyone, but also offer Monday, Tuesday and Thursday classes for the ladies, which are always well-attended.  Those who have participated have felt quite connected, and I noticed during our visit that many signed on early and stayed on afterward for family news and lots of laughter. A recent newcomer to their congregation commented on how easy it has been to learn all the new names at the congregation from seeing those names on Zoom, which she said, helped her feel like a part of the group right from the start. Ila and this new sister-in-Christ are studying The Big Picture workbook every week, and other volunteers set up individual classes using Zoom for those who want to have a more in-depth study on a particular subject.

The church has a website that is well maintained, and in addition, the good preacher, Tommy Hagewood, puts much thought into his PowerPoint slides as a visual aid, and even has his own YouTube program with about 100 five-minute videos called Search, Serve, Share.

Clearly, seniors are not necessarily slow on the technology uptake; in fact, this was one of the first congregations who ditched paper church directories, for the online option available at Congregations may pay $75 per year for this service and sync their secure church directory right to an iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini or Android device to email, call or text — right from their device. Pictures are easily updated and directions to member’s homes are easily shared. When needed, members can submit a suggested update to one of the volunteer editors.

Just one more final mention as to what a blessing it is that these older Christians are so unafraid of learning something new. I learned that in preparation for Ila and Wallace’s postponed 2020 trip to Switzerland, Wallace had contacted two men, Christoph and Boris, who are preachers in the churches there. In an initial Zoom meeting with Boris, Wallace discussed live-streaming as well as evangelism using social media. The men there were interested and wanted to learn more, so Wallace contacted Bryan Garlock to present information to the group. Fifteen men met on Zoom, four in America, one in France, one in Germany and nine in Switzerland, to remotely attend the informative presentation, during which Bryan gave a thorough, and much-appreciated explanation on the use of Facebook and YouTube in spreading the gospel. Sometimes all you really need is a “middle-man” to connect Christians with such skills to other Christians in order to teach them the ropes! 

Many are involved in various ways in this vibrant congregation. At the time of our visit, there were four elders and five deacons to spread out the church’s workload.  They genuinely like to interact with each other; in fact, several take the time to pray through the membership list, and in addition, several members have a habit of checking in on the well-being of each member regularly. I found this active congregation to be a living testimony to the truth in 2 Corinthians 4:16 that “... though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day.” Like Caleb in his old age, they are still ready for battle with that same ageless spirit that Caleb exhibited when he said, “Now then,  just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then” (Joshua 14:10-11).   

Beverly Shores Church of Christ
1318 Griffin Road, Leesburg FL 34748
Phone: 352-391-6400