You’ve seen him at UCF venues, such as the football field and basketball court, with a microphone in his hand and black and gold hat on his head, but this emcee is about to pick up another mic as pastor of a new church.
John R. Evans, the UCF Athletics emcee and director of UCF’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, is the pastor of Renovation Church, a non-denominational Christian church, which is launching Sept. 20 at 10:10 a.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel across from campus.
“In January of this year, I did some soul searching and felt like God tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘OK, John. Now it’s time; it’s time for that church that’s been in your heart and that’s been in your mind,’” Evans said.
He said the idea has been brewing for seven years.
“I just saw this platform to pour into and invest in students here, who then, when they graduate and take off, they go back across the country and then literally around the world,” said Evans, a 2000 UCF alumnus with a bachelor’s in interpersonal communication.
His connection with FCA and student-athletes has been the perfect vehicle to reach people on campus, Evans said.
UCF Athletics Department Director of Event Operations Matt Oberlin, who has helped facilitate the technical side of Evans’s vision, said that UCF student volunteers, many of whom are in FCA, have been instrumental in the planning process for Renovation over the past five months.
“It is amazing to me to see people that are young — people that are age 18 to 22 — step into leadership roles in a faith-based ministry like that,” Oberlin said.
UCF students lent helping hands for set up, tear down, parking, welcoming and more at the two preview services on Aug. 2 and Aug. 30.
“As soon as [Evans] mentioned starting a church I was on board and willing to do whatever it took,” said Brooks Morgan, a UCF baseball player and junior business management major who got to know Evans through FCA.
Evans became emotional at the first preview as he saw volunteers buzzing around preparing.
“In that moment, I was reduced to gracious tears because it’s one thing for me to have a vision, but when you look around the room and you see 50 other people that have owned the vision and are doing something with it, that is humbling and incredibly empowering and wonderfully encouraging,” he said.
Evans said the church’s name is inspired by the Bible verses Isiah 58: 9-12, which he said is a concept explaining, “If you stop looking down your nose at the faults of others and deal with your own heart then your life will shine, and you can be used to renovate the city in which you live.
“And so our tag line is ‘I am a renovation project’ — like it’s OK that I’m not OK, but I’m in the process of getting better. I’m in the process of growing toward God.”
Jade Hayes, a UCF student pursuing her master’s in exercise science, said she loves Renovation’s family atmosphere.
“Being able to worship [God] in a safe and loving environment and to just come in your brokenness — that’s kind of what I see as a renovation project,” said Hayes, who met Evans when she was on the UCF volleyball team during her undergraduate years.
Shelby Foyer, a UCF volleyball player and junior interdisciplinary studies major, said Evans’ influence in the lives of student-athletes and non-athletes will continue to grow through Renovation.
“It’s one thing for someone to tell you that, ‘Hey, come talk to me whenever you want,’” Foyer said. “But it’s a whole other [thing] for someone to come to your practices and pray circles around the venue or the field or the court that you play on and to actually, physically, be seen as someone who is making a difference and someone who’s changing lives for eternity — and I think that’s what John does.”
Paige Wilson is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @ByPaigeWilson or email her at paigew@CentralFloridaFuture.com.