Cycling to a goal

By Angela Spencer Published April 12, 2015 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Angela Spencer

New Life Church-Cabot currently meets in a refurbished warehouse, but the church is planning a new building to accomodate the church’s recent growth. Pastor James Bennett said he was trying to think of a creative way to help raise money, and he decided on a cycling campaign, during which he will ride his bike 420 miles across the state to raise funds.

James Bennett knows that being a good leader means leading by example. That’s why he has come up with a creative way to raise funds for his church’s new building.

Bennett is the pastor of New Life Church-Cabot, a local campus of New Life Church, which is based in Conway. Bennett has been with NLC for 10 years and has been the Cabot pastor for three years.

The Cabot campus currently meets in a refurbished warehouse behind the new library building off of South 10th Street. There is little parking and low street visibility, and the congregation is quickly outgrowing the space.

Plans are in the works to construct a new home for the church off of West Main Street toward Arkansas 5, and the church is raising the funds before breaking ground on the project. That’s where Bennett’s Tour de TAGS enters the picture.

“We don’t have big buildings for the sake of big buildings. We have buildings for the sake of reaching our city and community and making a difference,” Bennett said. “As I was praying about it, I felt like the Lord was challenging me to consider a creative way I could use other strengths and abilities I have to inspire people and encourage people in regard to the vision.”

NLC’s lead pastor Rick Bezet’s has said his goal is to reach the state of Arkansas for God, and the church’s vision has been branded with the phrase “The Arkansas God Sees” — or TAGS — to remind members to be Godly influences in their communities.

Bennett said that as he was praying about what he could do to tie in the TAGS vision with the church’s fundraising efforts, he thought about cycling. Bennett has taken part in triathlons and thought he could use his physical abilities to endure long bike rides to raise money for the church.

Using cycling in his ministry is nothing new. Bennett said he used to lead a discipleship school, and he wanted to challenge his students in all areas of their life, including physically. He would train interested students to cycle long distances, and they would do the rides together.

In order to raise funds for the Cabot campus, Bennett has developed the Tour de TAGS, a road-bike trip of 420 miles that will include all 10 campuses of NLC. His goal is to finish in no more than five days, starting the first week of May. In order to make this a fundraiser, Bennett has asked those who feel led to give to sponsor each mile with a specific monetary amount. For example, 1 cent a mile would yield a donation of $4.20, and $10 a mile yields a donation of $4,200. He said every cent helps with the building campaign.

“I just feel like God gave me the idea to do the ride,” he said. “I hope I can help raise some money, but I think it’s important in leadership that if we’re asking people to give everything that we are to something, that we need to set the example first.”

Now that the Tour de TAGS has come to light, Bennett said other members have started thinking creatively about how they could raise money for the new building.

“I’ve talked to a couple people who have told me since they saw I was doing the ride, they’ve had ideas,” he said. “They are selling crafts and things like that.”

The current worship center at NLC-Cabot holds 500 people. The church runs three services on a Sunday morning and is averaging 1,200 people every week.

The plans for the new building are ready to go, but the church has to have a certain amount of money in the bank and a certain amount of pledges before construction can get started. Bennett said the church is more than halfway to its goal with pledges and is getting closer to having what it needs in the bank to break ground for the new building.

“We want to be in a wise position financially,” he said. “We will have to take on a little debt to start the building, but we want to be responsible with that.”

Once the money is raised, the building process will take eight months. Bennett said he hopes to be in the new building by next Easter.

While the building will obviously house Sunday services and church activities, Bennett said it is importantto know that the church continually seeks to be a positive influence in the community. In the past, NLC-Cabot has hosted free festivals and a Christmas mall for families who may not be able to afford gifts for their children, and the new building will aid in those community-focused activities.

“Our church is about helping our city and community as much as it is about anything,” he said. “We don’t want to be introspective. We want to be a church that’s always thinking outside the four walls of our building. It’s just that people like to meet in buildings. We’re not going to build a super-extravagant building. We’re going to build what we need, and at the end of the day, it’s going to be a place where, hopefully, we cannot just have church services for our people but be a place to help our community as well.”

For more information on the Tour de TAGS, including a way to donate to the fundraiser, visit app.managedmissions.com/MyTrip/tourdetags.

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or aspencer@arkansasonline.com.

Zoned Editions Staff Writer Angela Spencer can be reached at 501-244-4307 or aspencer@arkansasonline.com.

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