By Robert Lucke
Have you seen the cross atop the Fifth Avenue Christian Church, lighted and brilliant against the dark Havre night sky? Well, talk to Rowlie Hutton, Fifth Avenue's co-pastor, and in a moment you will see that same brilliance beamed out in love for all those around him!
Fifth Avenue Christian Church is having their opening day service this Sunday and Hutton is excited!
"This is an exciting day for everyone in the community. I told someone I will allow everything in except for the lutefisk," said Hutton smiling. "I feel like a walk-on on the Nebraska Cornhuskers and I get to start."
Commenting on the momentum that a new building provides, Hutton said, "Momentum is a God thing and we don't want to change that. But we do need to seize the opportunity that it provides. In fact, there is a song that we are using. It says Come in, there is a place for you.' That is for the whole community."
Hutton and his wife painted the word Grace' on the roof of the church around Father's Day this year. They did it for a purpose.
"We wanted everyone to know that this place is covered with grace," related Hutton. "You know grace is that there is nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make God love you less. We are not the only Christians in this community, but all we want to be known as is Christians."
Hutton doesn't take but a moment to describe his own personal mission statement.
"The way I look at life is like the cross hairs of a scope. Where your talents and your heart line up, that is where you should be," added Hutton. "God has gifted me in the area of preaching and I love living here, so I am just where I want to be. In other words, I could be preaching in South Dakota or somewhere, but I wouldn't be in the cross hairs."
Hutton said that since he has only one life to give, he wants it to be used for the Kingdom. Something that is going to outlast him.
"A phrase I like to use a lot is that I just want to help introduce people to Jesus and then get them better acquainted. That is what I am all about," said Hutton, smiling again.
Hutton is proud that in a new church plant costing $1,600,000, a million of it is already paid off due to his whole congregation sacrificing for this new building. His church is a team effort.
In that effort, he explains his team approach.
"Another slogan I use is that we think that everyone is a ten in at least one area. We want them to find their spiritual gifts and get plugged in," said Hutton.
Hutton described his associates in the church.
"There is Chad Leathermon, our associate who handles the music and young adults. He is a great person. So humble. So talented and he has great job security. He is the only one who can run the computers."
"Then, there is Jack Rampleberg," continued Hutton. "I consider him the senior preacher. He is an incredible individual and a wealth of wisdom. He is one of the freshest looking preachers I have ever seen. At 79, he is always looking for new ideas."
"My own role," described Hutton, "is that of point guard. I am the vision caster for the church. Someone said that if you see the future, it is too late. You have to create your future."
Hutton said he has a great group of elders who have been very supportive of him and his family along with a tremendous asset in his secretary, Meg Lippy.
Hutton credits his wife, Suzette, with 95 percent of his success.
"You know, it is tough to be a preacher's wife. You have to live with him all week, and then listen to him on Sunday morning being the voice of God," Hutton said, laughing.
Hutton has five children - Heidi, Caleb, Levi, Isaac and Beccy.
Originally from Turner, Hutton arrived in Havre at his church in 1997 via Brookings, S.D., Minot, N.D. and Huron, S.D.
He is here to stay. As far as he ever wants to stray from Havre is back to Turner some day.
"You know the only piece of land that I own is in the Turner cemetery," said Hutton, again laughing. Hutton laughs a lot!
So this Sunday, he starts in a new church building with a congregation that averages around 275.
All of his friends and neighbors wish him well!