In the mid-1950s a group of Mennonite families from the Conservative Mennonite Conference had a burden to see communities reached for Jesus. In a desire to plant a new church, a group of folks were sent “scouting” and decided that the Blountstown/Bristol area of North Florida was an ideal place to plant a church. So, in 1952, some families relocated to Blountstown to plant what would be Bethel Mennonite Church. The majority of these new settlers came from the mid-west and north eastern states. This process was called “Evangelism by Colonization,” and the thought was that these families would move into the area and live and work in a community as a way of reaching that community with the Gospel. The idea was great, but because the Mennonite way of life is a little bit “separate,” the process moved very slowly.
Property was acquired on Hwy 71 North of Blountstown for construction of a church building. In 1957 a concrete block structure was completed. At that point the church became known as Bethel Mennonite Church. This property is the current location of RCC Blountstown Campus.
Most of the growth of the Bethel Mennonite Church during the decades of the 60s, 70s, and 80s was the result of biological growth and the influx of ethnic Mennonites from other states. The members of Bethel Mennonite were respected and were known as thrifty, hard-working people, but the majority of the community had the perception that it was difficult to become part of the Bethel church unless an individual was born a Mennonite. While early members were known to cry out to God and pray that this church be one that reached the community for Jesus Christ, Bethel Mennonite Church failed to reach one of its original goals – reaching the unchurched in our community.
In 1993, Paul Smith was asked to become Senior Pastor. Immediately, attendance dropped from 100 to 30. It was in this transition that God began to birth a vision inside the leadership—giving them a picture of what a church could be and should be, and then began the process of “doing things a little differently.” The leadership of Bethel Mennonite Church made a strategic decision to reach the unchurched in the community.
The church continued to grow and reach the unchurched, but over and over again people were very hesitant to come to church at Bethel because of the name – MENNONITE. So, the decision was made to remove that barrier and adopt a new name using RIVERTOWN and COMMUNITY. At the same time, the church became independent of the Mennonite affiliation.
RCC then decided to commit to giving back to the community, providing relevant and practical teaching about Christ, embraced the model of family ministry, and focused on growing personal relationships within the context of Small Groups.
In 2010, by starting a new campus in Marianna, RCC took that original commitment of reaching the community to a whole new level by going multi-site. God has called RCC to take its organizational model and launch campuses in rural areas throughout Florida. It has been demonstrated that a growing and thriving church can prevail and reach the unchurched, in rural communities across the US.