Part of the appeal of JCI, in addition to Frease’s quirky humor and unique preaching style, are the other ministries that have blossomed over the past five years or so. The Sounds of Joy Praise Team and the Acts of Joy Drama Ministry, are two such ministries. When they began, the praise team consisted of Anne Frease (the pastor’s wife) accompanying herself on the piano while two or three other members helped out with vocals. Today, the praise team consists of two teams of 10- 12 members each and includes electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and saxophone. In 2010, the team began writing a lot of its own material for worship and last year released its first original praise CD: Revolution Worship, which is being distributed by Christian music giant, EMI.
The Acts of Joy Drama Ministry has always written and produced its own video skits that illustrate principles related to the pastor’s sermons. Three years ago, the team really raised the bar, purchasing a high definition camera and lighting equipment and upgrading their props, and now many of their videos can be found on Youtube.
Frease expressed that it has been amazing to watch how God has drawn many professional music and theater people from the congregation to participate in the ministries. Paul Wright, for instance, a veteran music producer and composer who piloted the WOW Worship CD series, now plays piano for the Sounds of Joy and, along with wife, Lisa and other members of the praise team, composes many of the group’s songs. Drummer Sam Kallaos played drums for Japanese violinist Shoji Tabuchi in Branson for many years before coming to JCI. Erik Garcia, a professional thespian who toured with musical theater groups and has been featured in many national television commercials, performs in many of the Acts of Joy videos. All are written and performed by AOJ members, including Ed Wilson (one of the founding members of JCI), Jaye Rocchietti, Cassie Thompson and Chad Davis, who has worked as a videographer with a Fox network affiliate.
“The old axiom ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ really is true,” Frease said. “I have found that while Jesus was certainly wonderful with His words, He also took the time to paint a picture. He said, ‘If you want to know about faith, let me show you this mustard seed. If you want to know about what it means to be a servant, let me show you this little child.’ A lot of the multimedia we use has a sense of humor attached to it. We try to incorporate a lot of humor because it breaks down walls and barriers, and humor has a real healing effect on the human soul.”
Dave Goldner is the Assistant Pastor at JCI. His wife Paula oversees the child care ministry at the church. Youth Pastor Robb Simms and his wife Abby lead the Real Joy Youth ministry, which meets on Wednesday nights for junior-high and senior-high aged students. The wise financial stewardship of JCI would make Dave Ramsey proud. Despite having over 1,200 members, the church still only has four paid staff members. After renting their current facility for two years, they purchased the building and paid it off in just two years. When they purchased land recently for a new building off Benders Ferry Road, they paid cash. When they move into the new building two years from now, Pastor Frease wants to walk in with a clear title to the building.
“We really don’t like debt,” Frease stated. “We don’t want our finances to be going toward interest; we want our finances to go toward serving people. As a result, we put a very high priority on excellent financial stewardship here at Joy Church. I watch so many churches that are overly dependent on the paid staff of the church, and therefore they are robbed of their own personal destiny in God.
We are really big on developing volunteer leaders here that can make a big difference for Jesus Christ. Here at Joy Church, you don’t have to be in full time ministry to make a major difference for Jesus Christ.”
One of the keys to the church’s growth has been its ministry to the community through such events as the annual free yard sale in the fall and the gas card and school backpack giveaways the church does each summer. Last year the church purchased a mobile kitchen, the Joy-To-Go Mobile (paid with cash, of course), and in 2011, it served 1,634 free meals to people in Wilson and Davidson counties.
“I believe it is really important for Christians not to play church or simply have what I call ‘country club’ Christianity. I think it is really important that we understand that on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, we have our church services. But Jesus lives in us, and we are the church, so when the church service is over, it is so important that we go out and reach and really touch a hurting world. At Joy Church we don’t want to just play church; we want to actually be the church.”
JCI is non-denominational church and plans to remain so. “A lot of people just have distaste for organized religion. Well, we do too, and so did Jesus! We are not about organized religion; we are all about an organized relationship with a loving heavenly Father through His one son, Jesus!”
Frease points out that, although his delivery style may be atypical, his church is uncompromising when it comes to preaching the Word of God. “The methods are always changing with the times, but the message never changes,” he declared.
Solid teaching served up with a healthy dose of humor combined with great worship music and entertaining videos: it’s a combination that is hard to resist. “We say all the time, we are the perfect church for imperfect people,” Frease added. “Whether you are a work in progress or a whole construction site, we really try to develop in Joy Church a very loving and encouraging atmosphere where people can grow and thrive.”