Ephrata Community Church began in 1977 with 12 people. It moved into a converted barn in 1979. In April 1981, Barry Wissler was installed as the pastor. Since then, a growing team of elders and pastors has been raised up to help lead and pastor the church.
At a church retreat in 1990, the congregation adopted the ancient church of Antioch as its model for development. This vision expanded to become a sending and receiving church that has a regional vision and a heart for missions and community transformation. In 1993, ECC planted its first sister congregation, providing a foundation for the relational network of churches, ministries, and kingdom businesses born out of ECC in 1994 and called HarvestNET International.
Also in July 1994, during a special time of corporate prayer and fasting, the church began to experience a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Many area pastors and churches enjoyed the outpouring; the renewal meetings and conferences impacted the whole region.
ECC grew and in 1999, plans for a new building were developed for the site adjacent to the barn. In 2005, the new facility—including a 750-person auditorium, a café, a children’s ministry area, and banquet rooms—was opened, ready to accommodate the harvest. The new building also houses HarvestNET’s headquarters and hosts many of its conferences and events.
The desire to transform the region and a larger campus also gave birth to several multichurch ministries under HarvestNET’s banner. The Kingdom Ministry School, originally known as the Equipping Institute, launched in the fall of 2005 to train leaders for ministry in the church and marketplace. KMS has served over 1,100 people from over 140 churches who have taken classes. Gateway House of Prayer began in 2006 to honor God with prayer and worship and went 24/7 in November 2008. The prayer room is staffed by volunteers from over 40 local churches. The Gift International was launched in 2009 to coordinate mission’s partnerships that minister to the poorest of the poor in several nations by caring for orphans, installing clean water systems, and feeding the hungry.
Ministries within the church also continued to grow during this time. Although missions have always been an important part of the work of both ECC and HarvestNET, between 2004 and 2006 there was significant increase. In February 2010, ECC hosted its first international missions conference for missionaries to share with the congregation what God was doing in their region. They continue to hold these conferences every year and a half as well as send several mission teams each year to different countries around the world. ECC continues to look for new places and ways to expand their mission efforts both locally and internationally.
In 2009, ECC also expanded its youth ministry by hiring their first full-time youth pastor in order to prioritize reaching the younger generation, and then added a part-time children’s pastor in 2011 to shepherd their growing flock. Each year the church puts on a kids camp, a youth retreat, and a variety of programming aimed at connecting the younger generation to the heart of Father God. ECC has also participated in birthing counseling ministries such as Breathe of Life Ministries International and Deeper Still Lancaster County to help bring others into a revelation of the Father heart of God as well.
Both ECC, HarvestNET, and their ministries have continued to grow, both in the number of those connecting to their visions and in their influence in this region and beyond. They have also continued to plant churches while still seeing grown at a rate of 10% annually in the last few years. Looking forward, in 2011, ECC purchased three lots next to the existing building to prepare for future expansion. In 2012, they also widened their tent pegs by adding a third service each weekend to make more room for whoever may come.
Ephrata Community Church’s heart is to connect people with God and others, and everything they have done and will do—in their congregation, in their community, in their region—flows from that core desire.