August 9, 2016


The NewLife Sparta Free Methodist Church, once called the First Free Methodist Church, was established in Sparta, Michigan on August 15, 1884. The church was constructed upon the faith of four men – George W. Reed, Gilbert Bettes, Daniel Smith, and Israel Smith. Services were held in Israel Smith’s house until a parcel of land was procured on Grove Street in Sparta – this would be first location of the church. In 1886, the church was fully established and would move to the northeast corner of Grove St. and North Union St. The church would further be dedicated in 1890 when all the debts were paid off. The church continued to grow with “classes” in Kent City, Ravenna, Tyrone, and Grand Rapids First. “Classes” were branches of the church until they could be properly organized into the circuit. Furthermore, a tithing system was put in place in 1886, which would help support the maintenance and the pastor of the church. Throughout the years, the church would go through renovations, which would include an expansion to add classrooms and restrooms.

In 1943, that fate of the church was put into God’s hands when a fire broke out. The church was extensively damaged, so the congregation met in the old Sparta High School gym until the church could be repaired. A “bell fund” was set up by a junior class to help repair the once beautiful bell that hung in the belfry- this fund accumulated three hundred dollars, which was used to remodel the church and rebuild the belfry. By 1957, the work was completed, and the church continued to prosper. The church continued to expand, and music would be introduced with an electric organ, chimes, records, and new hymns. Between the years of 1964 and 1965, Rev. Rudy Potter’s ministry split the congregation by half – this new church would be the new United Holiness Church. Due to this split, attendance has fluctuated since then. In 1996, Rev. Jennings Johnson was sent to the church to prepare for closing. The Rev. and congregation chose to do otherwise – the churches doors would remain open, even if the finances were tight. Rev. Jennings Johnson also established a “Praise Band,” which would help lead worship during services. For 132 years, the church has faced times of prosperity and times of tragedy, but with God’s will, the NewLife Sparta Free Methodist Church will continue to spread the word of our Lord Jesus Christ.