Lee Brookins - Senior Pastor
I grew up in Jacksonville in a strong Christian home where my parents were deeply involved in a Southern Baptist Church. I attended in protest until I was 18 and left home. My protest was based on the fact I didn't want to go to any church because I didn’t want to live as a Christian. I wanted to party like most teenagers and that was my primary pursuit until my junior year of College.
In the summer of 1972 the Jesus Movement was sweeping our country. I knew nothing about it but while on college break a young couple from the church invited me to come one Sunday. Out of politeness I accepted and reluctantly went in order to keep my word. It was there that I met my future wife (now of 34 years). She was a brand new Christian and the young people she was hanging out with were a different kind of Christian than I had experienced. They seemed to really love Jesus and were serious about their walk with Him. On a February night in 1973 I made the decision to follow Christ with my whole life.
Pat and I were married in August of that same year and returned to School at the University of Florida for me to study Entomology. I soon passed my state certification exams and returned home to take over the family business which I ran for the next six years.
In 1979, having been raised Southern Baptist and holding the position of Deacon and High School Sunday School teachers, we found ourselves in an uncomfortable position because of our belief in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It did not fit with the doctrine of the church we were serving in. As result we were moved to join Emmanuel Christian Fellowship, a charismatic Baptist church of similar faith. It was there I eventually left the business world, was ordained and began serving on their pastoral staff. During those years our son, Jeremy and two daughters, Anna and Kristen, were born.
In the meantime we had built a relationship with a group called People of Destiny in the Greater Washington, DC area. In 1983, in faith, we packed up everything we owned along with our two young children and a newborn and moved north to learn to be church planters with a goal of being sent out by them. Instead, after 22 months, the Lord sent us back home in 1985 to pastor a small church of 40 adults and 40 children called Manna Christian Fellowship.
Shortly afterward we were introduced to the Vineyard Movement and knew we had finally found our “fit”. Manna Christian Fellowship was officially adopted into the Vineyard in 1987. By 1989 I was serving on the national counsel of the Vineyard overseeing the state of Florida which consisted of 24 young churches. I pastored this church and the state until 1997 when, for almost 3 years, I was disabled by Lyme disease and as a result, resigned all my positions of leadership.
One summer day in 1999, as I began to recover, yet still very limited by the damage from the disease, the Lord spoke to me very clearly, “You are to no longer have the mind of a victim. You can plant another church and the beach is ready.” Steve Rogers, an elder at the Jacksonville Vineyard, along with his wife, Jeet, lived at Jacksonville Beach. They had spent years gathering several small groups in anticipation of being the next church plant sent out from the church. When they heard what the Lord had said to me, Jeet called to say she had been asking the Lord if He would possibly send Lee as pastor.
October of 1999 the Jacksonville Beach Vineyard was birthed with a team of 60 adults and children who were fully aware of my limited health. Since that time the Lord has continued to heal me. We have grown as a church family and my own family has added Nathan and Mike as son-in-laws and two grandsons, Ryden & Koren, and most recently Jennifer, our daughter-in-law. He also continues to reveal His heart for the beach community He loves.
Byron McWhirter - Associate Pastor
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas during the 1950s and 60s. After becoming a Christian as a teenager, and meeting my high school sweetheart, Marcy, I went on to receive a degree in chemical engineering from Lamar University (a pre-requisite for all pastoral ministries!). I worked in the chemical manufacturing business for over 20 years in Houston, and learned a lot about people and about leadership. Marcy and I were married in 1973, and we have two children, Laura and Scott. Laura is a college graduate and housewife in Houston, and Scott just graduated from Embry-Riddle University here in Florida, with his sights now on a career back in Texas.
During the early 80s, we joined a church in Houston that eventually became the first Vineyard there. Marcy and I were immersed in a powerful, remarkable move of God in the Vineyard in those years, as we learned to serve and minister in His kingdom. I was formally trained and ordained as an elder in the mid-80s and we went on to plant a Vineyard church just north of Houston in 1990. After returning to the chemical business in the late 90s, I was laid off from two management positions and God opened the doorway for us to eventually end up in Jacksonville, empty nesters with our hyper-active dog, Ally. In late 2005, with the Spirit of God at work in my life, I resigned from my position here with a water services company. In response to His call, I eventually joined the Beaches Vineyard staff in March 2006 as associate pastor.One thing that Marcy and I have learned, as we look back over our years together, is to never try to predict where you will be next month or next year. God has rocked our world several times in His attempt to show us His way for us. The Proverbs say, “In his heart a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps”. We have both endured and enjoyed ministering together for the past 33 years and we fully expect that “the best is yet to come”.
Joe Vieira - Student Ministries Pastor
I was born and raised in Sanford, FL and lived there until 2000. With the encouragement of some long time friends and the desire to escape a destructive environment, I moved to Jacksonville and I have been here for the past 7 years. I was brought up in a Catholic Church and even attended its private school through 8th grade, but from the time I can remember, I wrestled with its teachings of God and the Bible and sought only to rebel against its message. I remember a time before my confirmation when all the students had to sit down with the head priest and tell him why you thought you were getting confirmed into the church. This was a meeting that took 10 minutes for the rest of the kids, but mine took over half an hour as I had many disputes and questions for the priest. Ironically, it ended with him telling me I was going to be a priest and me adamantly denying his claim.
My first 2 years in Jacksonville were not much different than my years in Sanford. I was focused on one thing and one thing only, partying. At that time it was the only way I could cope with the emptiness and anger I kept inside for so long. During this time I made a couple of attempts at trying to find out who God was, and I know He even tried to get my attention once, but my ears were closed to His voice. Little did I know, God had an agenda and there was nothing I could do about it.
Right at the peak of my partying days, I met a girl and despite having no interest in dating someone, I felt compelled to do so with her. To my surprise, God used both my relationship with her and the conversion of one of my closest partying friends, Dan, to speak into my life dramatically. After a Jacob-like wrestling match, I found myself finally at the feet of God begging Him for the blessing of a relationship with Him. Shortly afterward, I started going to Celebration Baptist Church where I met some cool folks and developed friendships. Later, Dan told me to check out the Beaches Vineyard after he had attended one of their services. I still remember walking through the doors and being greeted with a hug by Steve Rogers and thinking to myself, “this is the place”.I’ve been a part of the Vineyard for 4 years now and have loved every minute. At first, I was just a part of the audience and was happy with that position until I felt the Lord call me to get active in His ministry. In 2003, I talked to the Youth Pastor and asked if he needed help. He assigned me as camp leader and in 2005 he approached me about taking over as Youth Pastor. After much prayer, I accepted. While at the Vineyard, I met my wife, Michelle, and she has been working by my side ever since. (Praise God!)
Bruce Sedelmeyer - Worship Pastor
I grew up in northern Ohio, the third of five children. I was close to my family though we did not attend church and had no spiritual life. My mother was the real anchor of the family and the glue that held things together. I am extremely close with her to this day and believe it was her influence that helped shape my early life and kept me from getting too far “out there”. My childhood was as normal as could be and my teen years were not as bad as they could have been. I graduated from High School in 1969 and immediately joined the Navy. From there I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan and worked at a foreign car dealership. It was there that I met my sweet wife and better nine-tenths of 34 years. It is there, also, that I met the Lord and turned my life over to Him.
We have four children, two boys and two girls, and three incredible grandchildren! We started attending the University Vineyard about ten years ago and I was asked to come to the Beaches church plant as Worship Leader seven years ago.
Dave and Sarah Lashbrook - Vineyard Kids - (1st-5th)
Dave and Sarah have recently agreed to lead the children’s ministry for our 1st through 5th graders. For the past six months, they have been planning and teaching one of the 4th and 5th grade classes on Sunday. Previously, they had been involved with a number of different youth and young adult ministries and foreign missions as well. During the past five years, Dave has worked with Young Life (an organization devoted to ministering to teens) and Stop the Spread, an HIV prevention ministry outreach in Zambia. Sarah is a teacher and has worked with children ages 4-14 over the past five years. Both Dave and Sarah have felt called to working with children and youth (here or overseas) long term.Their hope for the children’s ministry is to continue the growth already taking place. They would like to help build a program and a team that shares Christ’s love with kids in a way that is fun, exciting, and meets kids at their own level. Dave and Sarah would love to meet you and your kids, so stop by and say hello!
Mike Townsend - Missions and Education Pastor
I was raised in the sticks, south of Ocala on a family farm. Family was life. We lived together, worked together and played together. We were “church regulars,” and looking back, I think every time the doors opened we were there. As a young man, my own self-confidence ala arrogance made me turn from the Lord early. I decided I would go my own way and likewise reaped the fruit of that decision. Life became a blur. “Friends” became those that enabled me in my own addictions. Addictions became the focus of my life. Family was shoved aside.
I moved to Jacksonville in 1996 to attend the University of North Florida. In 1998 I moved to the beach, and its “burn-out” sub-culture expedited my downward spiral. Through the mercy of Jesus, I hit bottom and out of necessity, gave Him the reigns of my life. It was a sovereign experience. I was a dead man walking and He became my Lord. In response, I became whatever He wanted me to be.
I have watched the Lord slowly reconstruct me. He continually allows the world to beat my pride and impatience out, and as hard as it has sometimes been, it’s also been quite miraculous. In 2000 I met my future bride, Brooke, and she pulled me into the Beaches Vineyard world. At the Vineyard, I discovered how much the Lord can do with the weak and foolish ones, especially when they choose to truly live in community. Not community in name only, community, but in the trenches of life with each other, community.
After years of chasing an intimate knowing of Jesus, this country boy has had his eyes opened about the fantastic adventure of following Jesus. Even though this pursuit can sometimes be difficult or confusing, I often think, “To whom shall I go? He has the words of eternal life.” After all, I’ve been a dead man walking and I never want to go back.