By Meg Daradanova
Pastor Nolen Rollins believes that every person has an innate interest — a built-in mission — that needs to be discovered, developed and harnessed for the good of the community, our nation and the world. A recent celebration commemorating the 10th anniversary of Legacy Church drew more than just the typical Sunday crowd; many community leaders gathered to attest the impact this core belief has had on the entire Estero community.
When Rollins conceived the idea of Legacy Church in Estero, he had been a pastor for close to 40 years. His experiences had taken him across the United States — from tiny, local churches to urban, mega-churches — and eventually to help start Summit Church in Estero. Legacy Church started out as a plant of Summit but has evolved via Rollins’ distinct vision for a new type of church. The difference between all his previous commitments and Legacy Church lies in the approach to discipleship, which leads to missional work that’s often very close to home. Following Pastor Nolen’s GPS Life Journey, people are led to discover their passions.
“Once they discover God’s purpose for them,” says the pastor, “people are naturally drawn to fulfill that purpose and thus engage in the church and the community more, according to what this purpose is.”
The unique discipleship concept that Legacy Church espouses gives opportunity for congregants to turn their passions into their own, personal missions. Some turn to helping children, like volunteering in local schools, tutoring, mentoring and childcare. Others look toward helping adults in senior care, or through family counseling, veterans’ assistance or disaster relief.
“The challenge Nolen put out was to be the kind of church that, if we cease to exist, the community will actually miss us,” said Orlando Cabrera, pastor at Summit Church and Rollins’ mentee, during the 10th anniversary celebration. “And we can honestly say that, because of the faithfulness and goodness of God and its people, if Legacy Church ceased to exist, the Village of Estero and the greater community would miss it.”
The people of Legacy have been involved in missions and humanitarian work in more than 20 countries. Some are also committed to nationally significant efforts, such as human trafficking rescue. But most of the congregants’ passions lie locally, aimed at serving Southwest Florida and the Estero community.
Leading the way is Rollins himself, who serves as president-elect of the Estero Chamber of Commerce. For his continuous efforts to better Estero, he earned the chamber’s 2018 Person of the Year recognition.
“As a great leader, he designed and deployed an impact partnership with our chamber that provided funding we needed to move forward, properly support our business members, and grow our chamber,” said Judi Gietzen, Chamber president. She also noted Rollins’ leadership in organizing Estero’s third anniversary celebration, as well as the Veteran’s Day celebration.
Pastor Nolen has also done much to engage other Estero churches in uniting to serve the greater community. As a founder and president of Estero Houses of Worship, he organized the first National Day of Prayer service in Estero. Now Estero churches take turns hosting the annual community event. This year’s Day of Prayer will be hosted by Living Waters Church on May 2.
“We are trying to pull all the churches together to work for the betterment of the community,” Rollins explains.
In its first 10 years, Legacy Church has become a spiritual and physical cornerstone of Estero as the first church to move into the heart of the Village after its incorporation in 2014. The spacious building at 21115 Design Parc Lane sits directly across from the Village of Estero offices and Estero Community Park. It provides a home and safe space not only to its congregants, but also to local organizations who meet there, including Better Together, homeschooling associations, foster parent groups and more. Village Manager Steve Sarkozy adds that Legacy Church has hosted numerous meetings, public events, focus groups and training programs for the Village.
“The Church has also been fundamental to community building by being part of Estero’s Chamber of Commerce,” he says. Pastor Nolen confirms that Legacy has five church members who are part of a Quality of Life focus group at the Chamber, contributing ideas on improving the standard of living in Estero.
While increasing its membership from 30 to 130 during the last 10 years — and shifting its demographic to a younger congregation — Legacy has remained a small, local congregation focused on personal growth through volunteerism.
“Volunteerism is so important to this community,” said Don Eslick, founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Estero Council of Community Leaders (ECCL). He gives examples of the tremendous community volunteerism in the development of Coconut Point Mall and Lee Health Coconut Point and in the Village’s incorporation effort. “Nolen’s approach to finding your interest and applying it to volunteerism really works. We are a unique community with so many talents, and there is a lot of room for civic involvement.”
“Local government and churches have the same mission: to interact with people and make their lives better,” added Estero Village Council member and former Mayor Jim Boesch. “All churches should have as their goal to relate to the community as much as Legacy Church does.”
A church designed around not just helping people, but helping its own congregation discover their talents and passions, seems singularly positioned to lead the way in community initiatives. Instead of developing programs, Pastor Nolen affirms: “Our programs are the purposes of our people.”
As Legacy Church celebrates its decade of community involvement, its unique philosophy ensures that it will remain committed to helping Estero through whatever changes and challenges the community faces in the decade ahead.