May 26 • 04:07 AM

Spreading vines of faith

Many changes lead family on path to inspiration and fulfillment

Before delving into their studies and weekly topics, Vineyard Church Bible study group members take a moment to pray. The students meet for discussion and fellowship at the Almont High School. photo by Catherine Brakefield.

January 16, 2008
No matter if it is a loss of career, divorce or separation, there is someone who cares.

"It's not what you've done in the past, but what you're going to do in the future," says Pastor Brad Standfest of the Almont Vineyard Church, who says he was inspired by the Lord to use this as their church's motto more than a year and a half ago.

"We all make mistakes in our lives," Standfest says. "Jesus Christ gives us a new start, it's not about our past. He gives us the peace so we do not need to hang onto that baggage we carry."

Standfest and his wife Margaret, their three children Bradley Joel, 16, Ezekiel Peter, 12, and Faith, 10, have lived in Lapeer County all their lives—first in Imlay City, then Dryden and now Almont. A former Ford Motor employee, Standfest explains that back in the early 90s while living in Dryden, he felt called by the Lord to pursue a life in ministry. He was certain that God had something planned for him. He continued with his job, however, enrolled in Rochester College and placed his home up for sale. It didn't sell. It wasn't until 2005, after he completed his ministerial classes, that the Lord told him Almont was the place to plant his new church. Obeying, Standfest placed his home up for sale again.

Pastor Brad Standfest and wife Margaret in their Almont home. photo by Catherine Brakefield.
"We sold the house in three weeks without a realtor," he says.

They bought a house in the village and Standfest continued in his steps of faith linking up with the Vineyard associations of churches.

"There are 650 Vineyard churches in the United States," Standfest says, "and there are more than 900 churches overseas."

Standfest explains that every Vineyard Church is uniquely different, yet is similar because of The Vineyard 'genetic code' which is the common denominator that identifies this church family.

"The Vineyard genetic code really cuts to the chase and helps define what we are about."

Parts of the 'genetic code' include: Commitment to worship and serve Jesus Christ; clear and accurate biblical teachings (2 Tim. 3:16); gifts of the Holy Spirit (1Cor:12); serve the poor, the lost, the sick and those who are broken (James 1:27).

Standfest explains that Almont Vineyard Church has the flavor of a non-denominational church, but the title that best describes Almont Vineyard is "charismatic Evangelical."

"We believe that the Lord heals and restores. We anoint with oil and we believe that the gospel is still living and that we, as Christians, need to carry it on," he says.

That is what inspired Martha McCarthy, Almont Vineyard's youth minister, to start a ministry at Almont middle and high schools on Thursday and Friday afternoons. A mother of three, with one who graduated last year, she felt that was where her faith was leading her to go. McCarthy's Bible study is held immediately after school.

At 2:25 p.m. every Thursday in room 22 at the high school and at 2:35 p.m.on Friday in the middle school library, students meet to study.

"We can't do it during classroom time, but at lunch break, there is freedom to talk about Jesus," McCarthy says.

Participation in the after-school Bible study is based on the student's free will, she says. The main point of McCarthy's introduction speech is simple.

"God has a plan for their life and He loves them," says McCarthy.

The Bible study is a great venue for students to get to know one another and questions the students ask often turn into discussions.

"Where else can you sit with an adult and ask questions?" McCarthy asks.

At every Bible study, McCarthy provides snacks and a time for teens to sit back and enjoy an informal moment and through word of mouth the group has grown to about 15 to 20 students.

"Kids are really interested," McCarthy says. "They want to know about the real God and know about him in a real way. I teach with stories in my life and show them with my life what God has done."

McCarthy explains that the Bible study is open to anyone who has questions about God. This month, McCarthy will begin "Dating 101" and will talk about relationships.

"I want to have an open forum on dating," McCarthy says. "What does God think about it? We'll discuss relationships and dating." Students aren't assigned homework, and they can come as they are when they can make it. Nothing about the Bible studies are ever posted on the bulletin boards, the only way McCarthy acquires her students is by word of mouth.

"I do love them," McCarthy says of her students.

The Almont Vineyard Church is open to anyone interested in attending. Sunday morning services are 10:30 a.m. at the Orchard Primary School cafeteria. For more information call 810- 706-0062 or log onto

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