Pastor Truston Baba has worked hard to build up his congregation at Living Church from nothing to more than 800.
The fun, Jesus-centered church is celebrating several milestones this month, including opening a new children’s center and hosting a city-wide worship event at The LOT Downtown to mark seven years as a church.
On any given Sunday, the church’s two services will draw 500 people.
But the stress and long hours have taken a toll on Baba’s body, too.
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“Starting a church is like starting a business, it’s very stressful,” Baba said. “I haven’t managed my stress very well. I have allowed food to become something for me that’s very unhealthy. This has been a vice for me, my diet has been something that’s been out of control.”
This prompted Baba to start the LC Health Challenge at the church for the final three months of 2017, with the goal of losing a combined 1,000 pounds by Dec. 30.
The church has 195 people signed up. Everyone has been weighed and measured so they have a baseline for their health. They will be checked again at year’s end.
A person’s health and weight are personal issues but Baba is hoping that by baring his soul, talking about his insecurities and bad decisions, he can create a safe place for people to talk about it.
He’s set of a goal of losing 30 pounds right in the middle of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. On Oct. 1, the church did a 5K and plans to continue encouraging healthy living and exercise with free one-month memberships to Camp Gladiator.
The story of the Living Church
Baba started Living Church from the ground up by renting space at the Aristide, a wedding chapel on Walnut Creek Drive. He hosted his first service Oct. 10, 2010. The congregation grew quickly to the point that Living Church needed a permanent home.
But finding a space is a challenge. Most churches take over former grocery stores or theaters.
“In Mansfield there really aren’t any old facilities or if there are they’re being torn down so a bigger, newer structure can come up,” Baba said. “There aren’t any big empty boxes that you can find.”
What they did find was the former Herb’s Family Sports Grill space on Matlock Road. The moment he stepped inside, Baba saw the vision for what this sports bar could become.
He demolished the front patio and extended the front of the building out to make a lobby for people to meet and mingle before and after services.
The church moved in about two years ago with all remnants of the building’s former life gone.
The 1,600-square-foot children’s center opened Oct. 8, the same day the church took over The LOT Downtown for a city-wide worship event.
The church donates a monthly gift to The Caring Place, a nonprofit that provides medical, dental and vision care to adult patients.
Teresa Washington, the new developmental director for The Caring Place, said their contributions allow the clinic to stay open more hours to treat more patients.
The story behind the asterisk
Baba does church a little differently.
He wants to make worship entertaining and fun, as evidenced by the giant Mr. T banners proudly displayed on the church’s exterior.
“Our heart is that church shouldn’t be boring but that we should be able to come in and worship a fun God and that’s what we do,” he said. “We believe in preaching the whole Bible, even the parts that can be tough.”
The formula has worked, as he said the church is continuing to attract new families.
But people driving by the Living Church are often confused by the asterisk symbol and the absence of a cross on the exterior. Baba gets asked about whether Living Church is a Christian church and what they believe.
He decided to settle that recently by erecting a 30-foot, 5,000-pound cross in front of the building.
And he also explains what the asterisk symbolizes.
“An asterisk means there’s more about this thought somewhere else,” Baba said. “No matter where you are in your walk with God, there’s more to know. We know what the asterisk means to us, it means there’s more, but externally, that’s why we put up the cross so people will see what our real logo is. Jesus is King.”