For more than 32 years, Allen and Diane Sparks have labored in the community spreading the love of Jesus Christ and helping others through their ministry at Liberty Chapel. After countless hours of sermon preparation, Bible studies, one-on-one counseling and reaching out to the community, Alan has announced his retirement from the pulpit, effective at the end of this year.
Allen and Diane built their ministry on developing relationships within the community. As a result, Liberty Chapel went from averaging 18 people on a Sunday morning to a thriving church. However, the impact the couple has had goes beyond the church walls.
Both Allen and Diane consider themselves partners in ministry. It is a concept that has worked well. Diane has led women’s and children’s groups and helped her husband in any way possible. Both agree there have been some trials but the positive results have been numerous.
Allen arrived at the rural church in 1983. Little did he know he was about to be blindsided.
“In the first year of being here my wife, Remona, suddenly died,” Allen said. “I was at a new church with Jon who was 5 years old and Mindi who was just 3. It was a shock.”
Despite the grief and hardships, Allen knew God had put him where he was needed.
“The church was so loving during that time,” Allen said. “It was not easy but here these people at Liberty Chapel took us in their arms and loved us like we had been here forever.”
Allen later met and married Diane in 1984. She had been working for the evangelical Christian group Campus Crusade for Christ. She quickly took on the role of mother to Jon and Mindi and started to build relationships at the church. The couple quickly learned the plans they had for the church were not on the same timetable as God’s.
“For the first seven to eight years at Liberty Chapel, Allen and I would go home on Sundays and take turns crying,” Diane said. “Nothing we tried seemed to be working, at least from our perspective.”
Then, their perseverance started to pay off. Attendance began to rise, and the church started making the spiritual strides Allen had hoped for. The addition of three more children and an emphasis on youth ministry seemed to jump start their efforts.
“The growth seemed to revolve mainly around kids,” Allen said. “Sometimes it was with older kids and sometimes it has been with younger kids.”
Through the years Sparks has led numerous mission trips throughout the United States and Mexico. He has had community-wide youth groups and Bible studies.
The influence the church has had on the Sparks children is obvious. Allen said the church has always cared for his family and that makes him grateful.
The influence Allen and Diane have had on their children is obvious. All five of their children are involved with youth and teaching. Jon is the boys varsity basketball coach at Southmont High School. Mindi and her husband, Jeremy Sarver, are pastoring a church in Ohio. Daughter Emily resides in Louisville, Kentucky, after graduating from Mooday Bible College and is a private nanny. Twins Katie and Sarah both graduated from Mooday Bible College. Sarah is a Christian recording artist and resides in Louisville. Katie married Joe Lab and they reside in Pennsylvania and are involved with ministry.
Allen has enjoyed watching the leadership team of Liberty Chapel grow.
One such leader is Tom Lutz. Lutz is an elder who also plays in the church’s worship band. He also helps in youth ministry. Lutz, who is the son of a long-time minister, has great admiration for Allen and Diane.
“Allen and Diane have chosen to faithfully serve this church for over 30 years; to have that stability and consistency in the position of pastor has been an incredible blessing,” Lutz said. “They have first and foremost loved the people of Liberty Chapel, demonstrating that love through teaching, prayer, encouragement, leadership and support in good times and in bad. When necessary, they have also been honest in telling us when we needed to change something in our lives, shown us tremendous grace as we’ve fallen short time and time again; they’ve rejoiced with us and cried with us.”
Lutz said his faith has increased while serving at the church and said the support he has received from Allen and Diane is unmeasurable.
The couple plans to stay in the community to care for Allen’s 95-year-old mother. However, they will stop attending Liberty Chapel.
“It would not be fair to the new pastor for us to hang around,” Allen said. “I will not leave ministry. I would like to start a Bible institute eventually and help teach lay people.”
For Allen and Diane, Montgomery County is where they want to be, except when they travel or visit grandchildren.
“This is home and we have loved being here,” Allen said. “I have found the community to be a very accepting place. I will continue to pray for a spiritual passion for the community as opposed to people just wanting to go to church rather then just when it is convenient.”
An open house will be 2-6 p.m. at the church, 3942 W. C.R. 500N. The public is invited.