The Story Behind Discovery Church’s New Facility In Sauk Rapids And God’s Undeniable Involvement

By: Scott Noble 0 Comments   8/17/2012

SAUK RAPIDS — The Rev. Art Cotant, senior pastor of Discovery Church [formerly First Baptist Church in St. Cloud] in Sauk Rapids, believes God has a sense of humor.

Why else would He place someone born and raised in Michigan whose first church was in the San Francisco Bay area in St. Cloud, Minn.?

After attending Taylor University in Indiana and then Denver Seminary in Colorado, Cotant and his wife, Judi, took their first church in Los Altos, Calif., a city on the south end of the San Francisco Peninsula.

Even while in California, the couple began to talk about where they would live if they ever moved.

“And I always said Fargo,” Cotant recalled jokingly. “And so when we were being considered [at Discovery Church], we flew into Minneapolis and [when] we were driving up the freeway, we saw the sign that says ‘Fargo, 146 miles’ or something like that and we’re going, ‘Well, it’s not Fargo, but it’s close.’”

Yet the couple knew that the St. Cloud area was where God wanted them, and so they made the move in 1999.

Decision to relocate 

Upon arrival in St. Cloud, Cotant said the church had some initial plans about expansion at its former site. The historic church held its first service on Christmas Day in 1855, thus cementing its position as one of the area’s oldest and most prominent churches.

“As we began to evaluate and do cost evaluations and just things that needed to be even fixed, that really wouldn’t get us anywhere,” Cotant said. “We began to sense that maybe something totally different would be a better way to go.”

That “something total different” would ultimately be a new building—in a new city. But that was yet years away.

During this time, some of the church leadership attended the Effective Church Forum at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie. At that event, where several churches discuss and imagine their futures, “we determined that the best course for us would be to relocate,” Cotant recalled.

The church eventually made the official decision to relocate in 2004, but several more years followed—filled with rejection and uncertainty.

New building, new ministry

During the intervening years, the church made three different offers on the same piece of property. The third offer, Cotant said, was laughed at by the property owners in 2008.

“Nine months later,” Cotant said, during the beginning of the economic downturn, “the property owners came back to us to see if we were still interested, which was the way it had to happen because we had determined among us that either God would put this property back on the table, but we weren’t going to get hung up on it anymore. We ended up being able to purchase it for 60 percent of what our previous laughted offer had been.”

Because of the circuitous purchasing process, Cotant believes “God was doing some guiding there.”

Moving into a new facility, with a contemporary feel, gives Discovery Church some fresh ways to reach the community. Church leadership had determined that it had been trying to accomplish 21st-century ministry using a 1960s model.

With the new facility and its contemporary features—like few straight lines and many open spaces—Cotant said people are more drawn to the church and that should open up new opportunities for ministry.

Life Tree Café 

One of those new opportunities includes the Life Tree Café, which, according to Cotant, is “designed for people who are presently un-churched, de-churched, have questions [or] are skeptical. Every session starts where you’re welcome just as you are, your questions are welcome, your doubts are welcome. And that’s stated right up front at each session.”

People are invited to engage in conversations based upon where they are at and with the questions and doubts they may have. At the end of the conversation, Scripture is introduced and discussed as to what it has to say about the issues raised.

“To me, it’s very exciting, and this does provide a great venue in which to do that—where you come in and sit down with about four people around a table … and you talk,” Cotant said.

This approach—meeting people where they are at and letting them bring their questions and doubts without being judged—is an entryway for many outside the church to get a look inside.

“People essentially are not looking to go to church anymore,” Cotant said. “When they begin to think that there must be some answers, church may not be in [the] top five on their list as far as where they are turning to be able to get the answers to the questions they do have.”

That’s what Discovery Church is hoping to accomplish at its new location: providing a space—be it physical and spiritual—where people regularly come to find hope, healing and the way to God.  

Photo's By Jan Ophoven

-- Addition, 8/19/2012

Discovery Church will be hosting their Grand Opening Celebration on September 15th, from 10am to 4pm, food, games and activities for the whole family!

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