Much of this increase may be attributed to the vision of Pastor Tommy FiGart, a Roanoke native.FiGart
grew up in the Mount Pleasant area, playing football at William Byrd High School
and wrestling during his
early years there.While attending Roanoke College
and considering football at Emory and Henry College
faith renewed through a religion class at Roanoke and College and attendance at Household of Faith (now Grace Christian Church) in southwest Roanoke - after not really attending church through high school: "[That] brought me back to some of my roots," he
finally decided to attend Rhema Bible Training Center
in Oklahoma and studied strictly biblical classes, graduating from the evangelist group.At that point, he returned to Household of Faith and acted as their children's outreach director for two years (along with being their youth director for a short amount of time).
In the early 90s he
started Thomas FiGart Ministries and traveled the United States for another two and half years, holding seminars on evangelism and "how to minister the Gospel to folks through a relationship as opposed to just cramming it down their throats". Around 1992 and 1993, FiGart
deactivated his ministry and moved to Greenville, South Carolina in order to help some people start a church, later named Grace Christian Church.
The final point of Grace Family Church's
vision is the concept of free and liberated worship, a concept that FiGart
took from scripture."The Bible says to enjoy yourself when you worship the Lord so we believe in providing that type of atmosphere…" FiGart
says that if the church feels like pursuing something new they check it against those five points and see if it fits one of them.If it doesn't, says FiGart
, then the church must reevaluate the situation.In addition to youth and children groups at the church, there are also "life groups" for specific interests within the church.So far, there are just separate groups for men and women but FiGart soon hopes to set up a support-care unit for those struggling with terminal illness.The church also participates in nursing home and mission outreach.A large percentage of the church's income goes into supporting missions and ministries outside the area.FiGart
says that this year the church will target and support a specific missionary.He
sees Vinton as a place to establish a lasting ministry and a settled home for his
wife and three children: "We're here for the long haul…I plan on growing old and grey here."