Grace Community Church was born out of the desire of a few families to passionately learn and apply the Bible to everyday life. A staircase in the home of Bill and Rickey Fisher served as pews for children on Sunday mornings in 1964, the year Evangelical Methodist Church of Tyler (now Grace Community) was formed.
If it were a crowded Sunday, children would line the stairs all the way up to a loft. Their parents below listened to Pastor John Morris preach from the Bible. All the furniture would have to be removed from the living room.
“But that didn’t matter – we didn’t have much of it back then,” says Rickey, who still lives with her husband Bill in the house just up the hill from Grace where that little Methodist church began. “All the while, the whole city of Tyler was probably taking bets on how long this crazy group of people were going to last,” remembers founding member Dolly Eikner.
As time passed, more people came. They had to create Sunday school classes in bedrooms. After three months of packing a growing group of young families into the Fisher home, it was obvious they needed more space. Besides, as the morning moments ticked by, the enticing aroma of a roast in the oven was too distracting for mere men and women to endure Sunday after Sunday.
“So, we traded the smell of roast for dirty tennis shoes and sweat,” Rickey jokes, remembering when the church moved out of her living room and into the YMCA. “We were a little less distracted.” For the group of young believers, the YMCA was home from January until July of 1965.
That was the year when the church completed construction on its first building on a piece of donated land on Old Jacksonville Road. That building cost $40,500. Bob Rossman recalls the addition of that building, now called The Refinery.
“That was going to take care of our needs forever,” remembers Dr. Bob. But it didn’t. And the church experienced its first organizational death: the death of being a small church.
But God’s perfect timing brought the birth of a larger church with new ministries and new ideas. “…And there is a time for every event under heaven – … A time to tear down, and a time to build up.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1b,3b)
And build up we did.
The church began a Christian school in 1973, which was dedicated to expanding the kingdom of God through educating and equipping children. One year later, the Evangelical Methodist Church officially changed its name to Grace Community of Tyler. And by 1984, the large Auditorium on Old Jacksonville Road was completed.
“When we started a service in that large Auditorium, we didn’t realize it wasn’t as full as it could be,” says member Pat Shelton. Little did she realize that with time, more and more people would eventually fill that very Auditorium to its maximum capacity. As God brought more people to Grace, we had to make room for their children. In 1993, a nursery and youth building was added.
Today, the Auditorium and children’s classrooms on Old Jacksonville Road are packed. Since then, the church has launched new campuses to reach new communities in East Texas. Our church’s 42+-year history is a series of events based on God’s special timing of birth and building.
Grace Community Church is dedicated to making disciples of Jesus Christ. We are also one church with many locations… in fact, Doug Clark, Senior Pastor has said, “I’ll tell you where the church is going, it’s going where you go.”
1964 | Establishment of Evangelical Methodist Church (now Grace Community Church) in the home of Bill and Rickey Fisher .
1965 | Church growth was on the rise and moved into the YMCA until the construction of the first building (The Refinery) was complete.
1973 | Grace Community School was formed.
1974 | The Evangelical Methodist Church officially changed its name to Grace Community Church of Tyler.
1984 | The large Auditorium was completed.
1993 | A nursery and youth building was added.
2001 | Found GCC with a need to expand and grow. It was during this season that the leadership chose to pursue a multi-site model. Our University Blvd. campus was started as a result of that need and the desire to bring the church building a little closer to the people it serves. For a while we met in the gym, but upon completion of the fine arts center moved into that facility. 2001 also found us opening the downtown center in the heart of Tyler. This property is home to our Women’s ministry and counseling center. Several ministries partner with us out of that facility such as Christian Women’s Job Corps.
2003 | Athens began meeting in the Cain Center in January of 2003 and in May of 2007 we moved into the existing facility.
2004 | There was a realization that numerous people were attending our Old Jacksonville campus that lived north of I-20. Eleven small groups met north of I-20 and so we began to have discussions and those groups formed the nucleus of what has now become our Lindale campus. For quite some time they met in the E.J. Moss auditorium before moving into the current funeral home. We began construction spring 2008 on a new campus for Lindale.