tampabay.com

New church gets first pastor

By SHERYL KAY
Published March 23, 2007


Two years ago, Randy Dietz and 60 of his fellow parishioners ventured out from Van Dyke United Methodist to start a new church.

They left on good terms, seeking a smaller, more hands-on worship experience, and formed Keystone Community Church.

They made the move with no pastor, and no imminent plans of hiring one.

"We were a close group with a lot of faith that God would show us the right man at the right time," said Dietz, 44, a business owner from Odessa.

That time has now come with the hiring of Lyle Wells, who joined Keystone last month as the full-time pastor with part-time hours as he continues as a leadership training consultant in the secular world.

Wells, 44, came to the ministry while serving as a college basketball coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He said he knew throughout his adult life that the day would come for him to answer his religious calling.

He began taking courses at Palm Beach, where he eventually completed his bachelor's degree in ministry in 2004.

"I love the whole process of disseminating and acquiring knowledge," said Wells, who is married and the father of two. "It's what drove me as a coach, and it drives me now in the ministry."

The process of hiring a pastor began at Keystone almost five months ago, said Dietz, who chaired the search committee. The current membership felt the best way to grow the church would be to retain full-time leadership rather than hosting guest speakers and visiting pastors as it had in the past.

After placing an online ad detailing the church's Bible-based philosophies, Dietz received more than 700 resumes. Even after limiting the field to Florida residents only, the number of candidates was so overwhelming that a decision was made to review only those candidates living within about 100 miles of Tampa.

Finally the field was brought down to 30 potential pastors. Candidates were invited to submit sample sermons, and five individuals were called in for interviews, with four of those brought back to the church to guest preach.

"That's when we picked Lyle," Dietz said.

Wells, he said, has a knack for not only quoting the Bible, but for sharing it with anecdotes and humor.

Then there's his personality.

"He's very caring, loving, warm, and he's easy to talk to," Dietz said. "He's very astute, yet he's very down to earth."

Dietz also said the church membership is keen on doing community evangelical work, and that's in line with Wells' vision, too. While at Palm Beach Atlantic, the former coach was involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and led several sports-related missions.

For now, Wells said, his focus is to engage all members of Keystone so that they understand what talents they have and which ones are needed by the church.

"We're not a place for spectators," Wells said. "There's a hunger in our congregation and a great sense of eagerness to embrace new challenges."

Wells also hopes to continue with the church's involvement in musical and drama productions, and with developing a strong youth program.

"More than 60 percent of evangelical Christians said they accepted the Lord before they were 18, so we'll always be looking at opportunities to impact our younger people," Wells said.

Contact reporter Sheryl Kay with any religion news at skreporter@hotmail.com , or 813 230-8788.

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Keystone services

Keystone holds services every Sunday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Walker Middle School, 8282 N Mobley Road, Odessa. For more information, call the church at 962-4522.