‘Simplistic transparency’ helps New Image Christian Center’s growth

Church of the Year

Dr. Margret Eggleston (left) has been a staunch supporter of her husband, pastor David Eggleston before he started his mission.
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Pastor David Eggleston delivers a sermon before the pandemic.
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By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

When David Eggleston left Donaldsonville, Ga., about two decades ago, he simply wanted to find a job. His mother encouraged him, believing he would find plenty of opportunities.

He did. First as a construction worker then as a student loan processor with the Department of Education.

It was on the latter job that he began to attend prayer sessions with a group of co-workers. That eventually led to Eggleston meeting pastor Claudette Barber, who would set him on a path that has become part of his testimony.

Little did I know that she was training me,” said Eggleston, who is now pastor of New Image Christian Center.

Eggleston has taken the church from one with a handful of members to a place of worship that stands out among the leading non-denominational churches in the city. Located in a remodeled furniture store building at 1140 West Tharpe Street, New Image Christian Center was named Church of the Year by the Capital Outlook.

During its early years, New Image was in two smaller locations off Apalachee Parkway. Its current location is a sprawling 13,000 square feet space with a Concierge-styled entrance.

Membership in the church is well over 300, but while that might signal the effectiveness of Eggleston’s teaching, he doesn’t read too much into the numbers. Instead, he said he is following instructions from a higher power.

“God said to me, ‘son if you don’t count the people, I won’t limit you to the people you count.’ ”

And, the church grew. In part, that’s because Eggleston’s services are aired on Comcast Channel 21 and streamed online. New Image Christian Center has also undertaken  several community projects, including supplies to students at Griffin Middle School with a back-to-school drive.

Assisting to provide food for the needy or even visiting someone in prison are common for Eggleston and the church.

“We were able to do tremendous things with a small amount of people because I never (count) them,” he said. “God would have people from other cities blessing the ministry, giving to the ministry to put us in position to do all the things we were able to do.”

Some of what the church does is solely Eggleston’s initiative. A board of directors help to make other decisions, especially those that require spending.

The board had a lot to say when the decision was made to purchase the old furniture store building, said board member Michael Gordon. They were also a part of the decision-making on how to renovate the building.

But they didn’t miss their sense of purpose in making it someplace where people could find answers, he said.

“We get a lot of people who are confused when it comes to the Bible and how they were brought up,” Gordon said. “As a matter of fact, my mother enjoys the service and she is from that era back then so for her to actually enjoy listening to the service online is an important thing. People feel so comfortable in the teaching and its simplicity.”

The congregation is diverse and members take on responsibilities on Sundays. For example, Brittany Sims works with hospitality and often is one of the first to greet visitors to the church.

She joined the church 12 years ago because she found what Eggleston preaches to be “easy applicable teaching.”

She added: “The thing that I find appealing is the teaching. As simple as it may seem, when I became a believer the one thing that I was missing was someone telling me how to live my life now that I’ve been saved.”

Part of her assignment with the church includes teaching youth classes that are held in a designated side of the building. She doesn’t limit how much the children can discuss, Sims said.

“I feel like a lot of times when you teach, you’re just telling them what you want them to know instead of asking them what they do know,” she said. “That helps me gauge their understanding and see where their foundation is. 

“If you’ve been around kids, I’m sure you know they have a lot to say and sometimes it’s really surprising. My goal as a teacher is to help them establish at a young age a foundation that I began establishing in my early 20’s.”

The children’s classroom is situated adjacent to a dining area that is known to church members as Brother Mike’s Café. Members congregated there after Sunday services prior to the pandemic. Members can purchase from a menu that includes hamburger, hot dogs, snacks and drinks.

The Café is a common gathering place for LaRhonda Johnson and her family. Having it closed during the pandemic leave her feeling “like something is missing. A huge part if missing,” she said.

Johnson has been a member of New Image since 2016. She’s invited others to experience what she calls “simplistic transparency.” 

Not everyone finds it a fit, but those who stay are made to feel like family, Johnson said. She even has encouragement for those who falter.

She does that by “picking them up, dusting them off and get them going back in the right direction,” she said, adding:  “That’s one thing that’s tremendously different from my upbringing and from other churches that I’ve been a part of or just visited. There is so much freedom in knowing that it’s OK that we are not perfect.”

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