FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS…
To the glory of God, Florida IPC is now in its 37th year of ministry in Central Florida. The Church of Jesus Christ is not made up of buildings, cement, and mortar. The Church is a living organism, made up of called out ones (ecclesia), the body of Christ, finding their place in a local fellowship in Lakeland, FL. Having begun humbly in 1981 as a Bible study in Winter Haven, God has faithfully led this church through the years, under the guidance of his servants, Pastors P.S Philipose, Joy Abraham, Philip Joseph Sr, Jacob Koshy, K.M Varghese, James George, Sam Nina, and Pr. C. P. Varghese. The desires of our fellowship are to worship and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, equip the body to do the work of the ministry, locally and worldwide, challenging them to be salt and light beyond the 4 walls of the building, encouraging the hurting and needy and faithfully passing on the baton of our faith to the next generation…and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
We believe in the Holy Bible and accept the Holy Scriptures as the revealed will of God, the all¬sufficient rule for faith and practices, and for the purpose of maintaining general unity; it shall adopt the statement of Fundamental Doctrines, namely:
- The Scriptures Inspired. The Bible, consisting of the SIXTY-SIX BOOKS, is the inspired Word of God, a revelation from God to mankind, the infallible rule of faith and conduct, and is superior to conscience and reason, but not contrary to reason. (Heb. 4: 12; II Pet. 1: 20,21; II Tim. 3: 15-17)
- The one True God. The one true God has revealed Himself as the eternally, self-existent, self-revealed” I AM” and has further revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association of the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10,11; Matt. 3:16,17; 28: 19; Mark 12:29; John 14: 16, 17)
- Man. His Fall. and Redemption. The man was created good and upright, for God said, ” Let Us make man in our image, after Our likeness”. But man fell by voluntary transgression and his only hope of redemption is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Gen. 1: 26-31; 3:1-7 and Rom. 5:12-21)
- The Salvation of Mankind. (a) The condition of Salvation: The grace of God, which bringeth Salvation, hath appeared to all mankind through the preaching of repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ- His Life, Death, and Resurrection. Mankind is saved by the washing of The Blood, which brings regeneration, and the renewing of the mind by The Word of God, and being justified by grace through faith, he becomes an heir of God, according to the hope of eternal life. (Luke 24:47; Rom. 10:13-15; Titus 2:11,3:5-7)(b) The Evidence of Salvation. The evidence of Salvation is to confess with the mouth that Jesus is Lord and Savior and to live a consistent life of righteousness and true holiness. (Rom. 10:9; 6:22)
- Baptism in Water. The ordinance of baptism by a burial with Christ should be observed as commanded in the Scriptures by all who have genuinely repented, an in their hearts have truly believed that they have died with Jesus and that they have also been raised with Him, to walk in newness of life.( Matt. 22: 17-20; Acts 10:47; Rom 6:4)
- The Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements of bread and the fruit of the vine, is a memorial of His suffering and death, and a prophecy of His second coming, and is enjoined on all believers” until He comes”. (Luke 22; 17-20; I Cor. 10:16,17; 11:23-32)
- The Promise of the Father. All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father – The Baptism of the Holy Spirit- according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit gives the power for life and service and bestows the gifts for the edification of the Body of Christ. (Luke 24: 29; Acts. 1: 8; I Cor. 12: 1-31). This wonderful experience is distinct from, and subsequent to, the experience of new birth.(Acts. 2:38; 10:44-46; 11:14-16; 15:7-9; 19:2)
- The Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The full consummation of the Baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is evidenced by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, and by the subsequent manifestation of Spiritual Powers in public testimony and service. (Acts. 1 :8; 2:4,42,43; 10:44-46)
- Sanctification. The Scriptures teach a life of Holiness without which no man shall see God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to obey the command, ” Be ye holy, for I am Holy”. Sanctification is the will of God for all believers and should be earnestly pursued by walking in obedience to the Word of God. (Rom. 8:3,4; I Thes. 5:23,24; IPeter 1:15,16; I John 2:6; II Cor. 7:1)
- The Church. The Church is the body of Christ, the habitation of God, through the Holy Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of His Great Commission. Each believer born of the Holy Spirit is an integral part of the Universal Body of Christ. (Eph. 1 :22,23; 2: 19-22; Heb. 12:23)
- Divine Healing. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement and is the privilege of all believers. (Isa. 53:4; Matt. 8:16,17; Mark 16: 18-20; James 5: 14-16)
- The Blessed Hope. The Pre- Millennial Second coming of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ, and their translation, together with those who are alive in Christ, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, is imminent and is the Blessed Hope of the Church. (Rom. 8:23; I Cor. 15: 51,52; I Thes. 4:16-18; Titus 2:13)
- The Millennial Reign of Jesus. The revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ from Heaven, the salvation of all Israel, and the Millennial reign of Christ on the earth is the scriptural promise and the world’s hope. (Rom. 11:25-27; II Thes. 1:7; Rev. 19:11-16; 20:1-.7)
- The Lake of Fire. The devil and his angels, the beast, and the false prophet, and whosoever is not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, shall be cast into everlasting punishment into the lake that is burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Rev. 19:20; 20: 10-15) The New Heaven and the New Earth. We,” according to His promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”. (II Peter 3: 13; Rev. 21: 1 )
A BRIEF 30 YEAR HISTORY OF I.P.C. CHURCH, LAKELAND, FLORIDA
If there is any glory, if there is any honor, if there is any praise in this report, let that be to our Lord Jesus Christ who is the founder and architect of the Church. Last 25 years of this church is truly a miraculous evolution of history. In 1981 a small prayer and Bible study group got started at the residence of Bro Philip Joseph in Winter Haven, Florida. The only Pentecostal group at that time was a small gathering in Hollywood, Florida, where we used to go to have fellowship with other brothers. This went on for about 2 years. At about this time in 1982, Pastor Philip Joseph Sr. was visiting his children in Winter Haven and he insisted the need for a Malayalee Church in this community. Till that time we were attending local American congregations.
In June 1982 Pastor P. S. Philipose and family moved to Winter Haven from New York and organized a small congregation of believers and in October of 1983, a church was Registered under the name India Christian Church. This church slowly grew in membership as several Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal families started to migrate to Central Florida. We had about 50 to 75 in attendance and we were meeting at Lake Wire Church of God Fellowship Hall in Lakeland.
In August 1985 Pastor Philipose went to be with Lord because of a Heart Attack. He was truly a humble and sincere man of God pioneered the Malayalee Pentecostal movement in Central Florida.
Pastor Joy Abraham
In November 1985 the congregation decided to invite Pastor Joy Abraham and his family from Oklahoma to come and be the pastor of our church. By then Lake Wire Church was too small and we were forced to find a place for worship. We met with the Pastor of Trinity Assembly of God on 540A in South Lakeland and they gave us permission to meet at their fellowship hall. In May of 1987, the congregation voted to purchase one and a half acres of land with two buildings on Naomi Road in Lakeland, and a down payment was given to the landowner. In November of 1987, Pastor Joy Abraham decided to move to Orlando to join some of the families already moved from Lakeland church. Incidentally, most of the pioneer members of the Orlando IPC and Eben Ezer IPC today used to worship with us at Trinity church when Joy Abraham was the pastor.
Pastor Philip Joseph Sr.
After Pastor Joy Abraham left, the rest of the believers continued to worship at Trinity for few more weeks under the leadership of Pastor Philip Joseph Sr. Then we had to move our place of worship to Bartow Civic Center. Pastor Philip Joseph Sr. led the worship and continued the services both at Trinity church and Civic Center until Pastor Jacob Koshy took charge of the church.
Pastor Jacob Koshy
Pastor Jacob Koshy was the Pastor of Houston IPC accepted our invitation to move to Florida with his family in January 1988. He did an outstanding job of rebuilding the church. When Pastor Jacob Koshy took charge of our church, our general body unanimously voted to change the name of the church from India Christian Church to India Pentecostal Church of Florida, Inc. and we registered this church with the State of Florida. At that point, India Christian Church was totally dissolved and all the assets and liabilities were absorbed by the new church viz. IPC Florida.
Thereafter, we actively started our church building program at our Naomi Road property. With the leadership of Pastor Koshy, liberal contributions of a lot of our friends, faithful church members and other churches from all over the United States, we raised enough money for down payment and we borrowed the balance from South East Bank in Bartow, Florida. On Thanksgiving Day 1988 we dedicated our new church building with a beautiful sanctuary, baptistery, and seating for about 200 people with enough Sunday school rooms and a small fellowship area.
Since then every year new families and guests started coming to church and our youth became very active in English worship and several revival meetings and conventions were held every year. During the 10 years, Pastor Koshy was the Pastor of Florida IPC, he was interested in developing lay leaders to do different ministries. Pastor Koshy recommended Bro. Philip K, Joseph, and Bro. Mathew Joseph to be ordained under India Pentecostal Churches at large. Pastors T.S.Abraham, K.M. Joseph, K.V.Kurian and several other senior Pastors in New York ordained both of them and were given ministry credentials.
Soon after the ordination Pastor, Koshy encouraged Pastor Mathew Joseph to start an outstation work in the in the Brandon/ Tampa area. That is the Zion Worship Center of today.
Pastor K. M. Varghese
Pastor K.MVarhgese and family came to Florida IPC and took charge on January 19, 1998. He was the pastor of a large congregation in IPC Hebron, Dallas. His arrival in Florida IPC was definitely a turning point in the history of our church. During his 7 years of ministry in Lakeland, he took our church to a higher level in attendance and spiritual commitment by all believers. His Bible teaching and total commitment to the local church definitely made all believers work together.
Our believers and Pastor Varghese felt that our Naomi Road facility was getting crowded and we started looking for a suitable property. At the right time God arranged this property of 10 acres for us to purchase first, and then we started actively raising funds for a New Church Building. Because of the sacrificial contributions of several members of this church and friends we raised enough for down payment. About that time God brought us a Spanish Church Group to buy our Naomi Church facility. Along with our total down payment and a loan from Colonial Bank we were able to construct this beautiful worship Center and parsonage.
The dedication service of our new worship center was an exciting celebration. Rev. Ray Popham and Dr. Mark Rutland, President of Southeastern University, were the main speakers along with Lots of local church leaders, Polk County commissioners, Sheriff Crow, and his top police officers attended the event. All the speakers challenged our church regarding the need of reaching out to this community with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
At present we are using only 5acres of land, and if God willing we have the other 5acres left for future expansion. Everyone will agree to the fact that it is because of the strong leadership of Pastor K.M. Varghese we were able to accomplish this building project.
Pastor James George
The transition from Pastor K.M.Varghese to Pastor James George was very smooth. As the grandson of one of the founding fathers of IPC and a well-known convention speaker Pastor James George was well received by everyone in the church. When James George took charge he challenged all church members to take 21 days of fasting and prayer. The entire church was totally revived during those days. Pastor James George definitely made a strong effort to unify all the churches in Florida by revitalizing the efforts of Southern Region of IPC. At present, he is the Secretary of that organization.
Pastor James George also took a special interest in mobilizing all the resources to start a mission station in Orissa India. He also encourages all the church members to contribute, to visit and organize mission trips to Orissa. At present we have a small Bible Training center called Massi Bhavan Bible School, under the Massi Bhavan Samati which is the extension of Florida IPC mission project. In 2007 we were able to train and graduate 7 local evangelists for village evangelization. Also, our church helped to purchase 3acres of land for future growth.
Highlights of the Silver Jubilee year 2008,
Florida IPC church had three associate pastors for the last several years: Philip K.Joseph, P.A.Kurian, and Sam Ninan
- This year the church board and general body unanimously voted to have Pastor Sam Ninan to be the next pastor of Florida IPC after the term of Pastor James Geroge is over. Pastor Sam had served in different capacities of our church, especially with a youth of Central Florida several years. We felt that is only appropriate to give him the opportunity to be the main pastor to lead and develop our church tomorrow. This decision was also taken based on his personal desire and conviction.
- Bro. Finney Varghese (eldest son of Pastor K.M. Varghese ) with his young family made a total commitment and dedication for Lord’s ministry by resigning his well paying job and go to Dallas Theological Seminary for ministerial training and hopefully go for full-time ministry. Our church truly rejoices with a decision of Pastor Sam Ninan and Bro. Finney Varghese, to serve the Lord in full-time ministry for our next generation of churches.
As we all know the Church of Jesus Christ is not made up of buildings, cement, and mortar. The Church is a living organism. What we have accomplished in the last 30 years is only a fraction of what we are able to accomplish. Our Lord is coming soon, Harvest is truly plenty, and Laborers are very few. If the coming of the Lord tarries, let us gird up our loins and go out to the byways and highways to bring souls into His Kingdom and fulfill the “Great Commission” of our Lord.
Report Prepared by Philip K. Joseph (Associate Pastor)
Sources: 1. Diary of Pastor P.S. Philippose
2. Diary and notes of Pastor Philip K.Joseph
3. Info. From old pictures and reliable people.