The vision of Grace Church began in the mid-1970’s in the heart of Dr. Charles Davis, a former Southern Baptist pastor and foreign missionary. He became convinced that there needed to be an alternative to traditional denominational churches in Tuscaloosa. The model for this alternative church was based on the early Christians in Scripture who met from house to house during the week and gathered together “on the first day of the week.” The original idea was to have smaller groups (or cell groups) meet in homes during the week—these groups would serve as the primary and foundational units of the church. It was in these cell groups that prayer, mutual care, discipleship training and outreach would take place in and from the homes. Then on Sunday, there would be a celebration meeting where all the cells (like cells in the human body) would come together for worship and in-depth teaching of the Scripture. This new model also embraced the concept that the pastor was freed to seek the Lord in prayer and the ministry of the Word and the people were equipped to do the work of the ministry.
Several families began meeting weekly in homes and then on August 6, 1978, the first worship service was held at the Masonic Lodge on Hargrove Road with 40-45 people attending. Dr. Davis became the pastor and the church was named “New Life Fellowship” during the first business meeting on September 17, 1978. The Constitutional service was conducted on November 5, 1978, with 37 charter members. Three elders were ordained and several deacons were added. On November 24, 1978, the church was renamed “Grace Covenant Church” to better indicate who we would become. Later, the word “Covenant” was dropped to avoid confusion with other churches and we became “Grace Church.” As the church continued to grow and change from a cell-based church to a church with cells (what we currently call Shepherding Groups), it became obvious that larger facilities were needed. Over the years, God continued to faithfully provide these facilities. From 1980-1988, we rented the Shelton State building, formerly located on Skyland Boulevard, for worship services and had office space in other locations. Then in 1988, we moved into a rented building on 17th Street and for the first time Grace Church was under one roof with space that we could use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Grace Church rented this building for 18 years until God moved us again. In 2003, God provided an amazing piece of property for us to purchase on Hargrove Road and three years later we moved into our first permanent building. Grace Church ended up where we began—Hargrove Road.
Through the years, Grace Church has definitely seen God’s provision when it comes to providing places to worship, but the primary focus of Grace Church has never been about the building. The focus of Grace Church has always been about relationships—our relationship with God and our relationship with people. There have also been other constant threads that God has woven into the story of Grace Church. God has used this body of believers to extend love and grace to hurting people, minister to internationals and college students, serve the city, and support missionaries. Our slogan expresses the purpose God has given us from the beginning: “We are worshipers in community, engaged in ministry.” We are committed to meeting together for corporate worship to become equipped for ministering and serving in the world, here and abroad.