About Jesus Reigns Fellowship
Jesus Reigns Church began in 1991 with Jerry Dunn as the first pastor. Chet and Debbie Murrell were the worship leaders when Jerry died suddenly in 1995. The elders asked Chet if he would consider taking the church as pastor. Initially Chet declined, as he didn’t feel qualified to take on the role of lead pastor, but over the course of a few months, God began to deal with him in dreams about pastoring the church. The dreams troubled him, as he had no experience or schooling, and he was happy doing worship, singing, making records and building. But finally, he went back to the elders of the church and said that he would do it. It turned out that they had known all along that Chet was the next pastor of Jesus Reigns but were waiting until Chet knew.
The church had been meeting in rented facilities until that point. They met in City Square Shopping Center, Maples Club House and shared a building with Rivergate Baptist Church on Centerpoint Rd. Chet and Debbie had an investment property on Pee Dee Branch Rd. where they had bought an old farm house that was falling down, renovated it and were renting it out to a couple. They had built their home behind it, up on the hill. At the time, they were considering selling both houses and moving on to another real estate deal, which was their means of income.
One day, the Lord stopped Chet “dead in his tracks” as he was thanking God for the property and asked him “What if I required it of you?”. Chet responded “Well, God, I’d give it.” He thought that it was “kind of like the Abraham and Isaac thing”, where he just had to be willing. However, within a day, his father, who is a prophet, asked Chet to come to his house, where he told Chet that God said that he was supposed to take that little red house and that little acre of land and build a church there.
After Chet and Debbie talked and prayed about it. They agreed that they would put a ‘fleece’ before the Lord; “Of the mouth of two of three witnesses that every word would be established”. This was on Tuesday, so they prayed “Lord, by this Sunday, (which was 5 days), we want two people to say something about building a church on that property.” They told no one about this. Wednesday they asked for an “unspoken” prayer request. Thursday at a church in Kentucky, a preacher who they had never seen or met before stopped in the middle of his sermon, looked at Chet and Debbie and said “You have prayed and asked the Lord ‘What shall we do?’ The Lord said ‘you take one step, I’ll take the next’.” At dinner on Friday evening, one woman from the church said “I know what the request was! You are thinking about building a church where your little rent house is!” Chet was stunned. “How did you come up with that?” She just said “I asked the Lord to tell me!” They told her not to breathe a word to anybody and she agreed.
That Sunday on the way home from a youth rally in Waverly, the ladies were asking Debbie how things were going with getting a building for the church. They had been renting a place which they needed to be out of before 1ock clock every Sunday, which then had to be cleaned each week afterward, which was less than ideal. But the finances just weren’t there to be able to do anything else. Just before midnight on Sunday, one of the ladies, Cindy, said “Debbie, would there be any way that you guys could build a church on the property where your rent house is?” And so that was it, Chet and Debbie had said “Two people before Sunday night”.
It was put to a vote at the church and all were in favor. Nobody had any trouble with having to drive all the way out into the boonies to get there. It was actually kind of centrally located. The only problem now, although it was never a problem to God, but there was no money.
The county wouldn’t issue a building permit because they hadn’t established the elevation as it relates to the 100 year flood plain. They were told that they would have to spend about $15,000 to have a survey brought from Long Hollow Pike all the way out. Clearly, that was out of the question. So Chet repeatedly went to the county and called the building commissioner asking what else they could do. The building commissioner finally became a little exasperated with the calls and said “Mr Murrell we are out of options, I cannot issue you a building permit. You cannot build a church on that property”. Chet said “OK I’ll call you next week!” “OK Mr Murrel, but why?” Chet told him “Because God said to build a church on that property and you say we have to have a building permit, so I’ll call you next week. Somethings gotta happen.”
In the course of the next few days, a friend of the Murrells, named Rocky, who was a surveyor, said that he had told someone he knew up near Washington DC about the situation. The man in DC went to the national archives where they hold all the past records, surveys, topographies that had been done on the area and found a topography of a survey that had been done in the 1930’s which had the number on it that the county was looking for. The man phoned Rocky, and Rocky called Chet and told him “I’ve got good news, we have an elevation!” Chet took it to the county. The man at the county asked “Where did you find this?!” They got their building permit!
There still wasn’t any money, so they held bake sales, walkathons and brownie cook offs, rock a thons, raising $500 at a time, where they needed thousands to build.. But God sent people who could work, and he sent a few people who donated a little bit of money, $500 here a $1000 there. God sent a man who worked for a lumber company. He donated trusses, floor joists, wall panels. Labor was donated. Materials were donated. Some used materials. People in the church would say “Hey I’ve got some old tin laying out behind my barn.” It was taken, beaten it straight, holes filled with caulk and painted. Broken trusses were put together and patched on the sides. They said it was the way God took broken people and put them back together.
There was more revival that happened during that period of time. It was just awesome. There were people who were getting saved during work days, sitting on top of walls asking about how to get saved. Chet remembers “leading one guy to the Lord and he was sittin’ on top of a wall and I was standing on the floor with my tool belt on and just led him in the sinners prayer. At the end of work days they would say ‘Teach us something’. So we’d clear out a circle in the middle of the floor and we’d all sit on the floor and I’d open the Bible and we’d start reading and we’d start talking and teaching. I didn’t do all the teaching, others did. Ken and several others in the church that could teach.”
At Easter time in the year 2000, the plan was to have Sunday service at the new property. At that point there was only a foundation in place, no walls, and there wasn’t enough room in the little house, so an outdoor event was planned, with an Easter play across the creek. An empty tomb was built for the set. The plan was to put chairs on the lawn, but that Saturday, the forecast said that there was a 100% chance of rain for Sunday. The weather report warned of a bad storm, telling people not to plan any outdoor events. Cancelling the event was considered, but after praying about it, Chet decided to move forward with the service as planned. Saturday night, the weather man again reported that there was a 100% chance of rain, that it would rain all night, through the morning. Chet went down to the property at about midnight on Saturday night and prayed. He prayed “God, they said they’re forcasting rain, but all they can only forecast what you decide, so I’m asking you to hold off the rain so we can have our thing here for Easter service, I’m asking for your favor.” The rain started at about 1:00 am, and poured down in buckets all night. But about 5 in the morning it stopped raining. Chet remembers “We got to the church and set out the chairs, which all kind of sunk in the mud when you sad in them, but you could look up and the sky was just as blue as it can be right above us.
Now every direction you looked it was pitch black, it almost looked like night in every direction you could look and I kid you not, there was a perfect circle of blue above the church a perfect circle of blue. All morning while we had our Easter service. We had put a cross up on the hill and the sun came up behind the cross. We didn’t know that was going to happen. We didn’t place it there on purpose thinking that’s where the suns going to come up. From where we stood you could see the sun come up behind the cross, and there was that perfect circle of blue above us through the entire play and the sermon. We ate, cleaned up the last of the dishes and the clouds folded in and closed up that circle and it just poured rain the rest of the day. That was awesome.”
Another aspect of God’s provision was that the property had originally been represented to be from the road where the church is. But when we got to closing the sellers didn’t know that the property boundary line was actually the creek, so the property was landlocked. The property actually belonged with the property across the street. The house which was remodeled to become the church building had been moved there in 1929. It was originally an old 2 room school house that was moved there in 1929. When they started tearing things down to rebuild they found old newspapers in the walls from 1929, articles in it about Al Capone and Charles Linburgh. They found school items, little kids shoes and papers, all of which they saved.
The first Sunday service in the building was in August first of 1999. Starting out with maybe 10 or 15 on a Sunday morning. Chet remembers “When Jerry died a lot of people left. Attendance had about 80 and went down when he died. A good Sunday the first year I was pastoring we might have 40 people.”