LAPEL, Ind. — Don’t be fooled by the sandals and the relaxed demeanor, Tyson Priest has a laser focus. The pastor of Lapel’s young church, theRiver, has a mantra that includes three words: transform, renew, pursue.
Never mind there’s no steepled building outfitted with pews. After founding the church less than two years ago, theRiver is a going thing with about a hundred members turning up each Sunday. They meet in the auditorium at Lapel High School, where the congregation sets up and takes down each time.
“We wanted to create an environment for people not in church, that’s welcoming for everybody regardless of their walk,” said Priest, 39. “We just love loving on people. ... The difference really is just saying, ‘We’re here for you. We don’t want anything from you.’”
Priest grew up going to church in Anderson. “I always felt like I had a close connection with God,” he said.
Priest earned a bachelor of arts in social work from Ball State University, and a masters in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University. In 2006, he earned his doctorate in Christian ministries from Master’s International.
Along the way, Priest got married. He and his wife, Lynn, a teacher at East Elementary, have been married 12 years. The couple has two sons, Jeremiah, 8, and Isaiah, 6.
Priest’s career path took him into project management. He was a senior project manager in the health insurance industry when he had some realizations.
“Sitting in my cubicle is not what I was designed to do,” said Priest. He began to pray and ask God what it was he wanted him to do. “I began to feel God’s call to step out.” Priest and his wife started a Bible study at their home.
“It got too large for our house. We sat back as a group and asked what was happening,” said Priest. “We really felt led by God to start a church.”